I know things are getting rough when I start desperately pining for my June vacation in January. I think that this actually happens every year as I hear myself saying how badly I need a break while looking longingly at the calendar and the many months between now and then. When these days of rest in a far away place are truly so far away, I often find myself trying very hard to imagine what I would be doing on said trip, and I attempt to recreate it at home as a form of fantasy escapism...a pre-trip cultural immersion, if you will. This way, I can trick myself into thinking that I'm just a little closer to where I'd rather be.
At this very moment, I find myself in the post-holiday moment of getting back to normal life. Of course, normal is a relative term in the restaurant world, since there is never really a time one can call business as usual. Each day at work literally brings a new crisis, a new drama, a new adventure. It could be the ever-glamorous plumbing problem, the overly intoxicated and therefore irrational guest or the random computer crash that can set my mind desperately searching for escape. So today, right as the local neighborhood crazy woman attempts to steal one of our water glasses and then proceeds to punch our bartender in the stomach, I feel my mind wander off to the mountains and villages of Spain, my family's summer destination. I imagine myself walking down a cobblestone street or dining in a charming sidewalk cafe. Of course, this dreamy moment in my mind also includes a glass of wine. In fact, one of the first things I usually think about when it comes to travel, is what wine I will be drinking on my trip. Whereas most normal people think about the sights and the adventure, I think about the wine.
This happens to be the perfect moment to be wondering off to Spain for me because I'm in the middle of an all-out Spanish wine obsession. I just can't seem to get enough of those yummy white Riojas and earthy, concentrated wines of the Priorat. So it seems fairly appropriate that after dealing with yet another not so normal moment, I eagerly reached for a glass of 2005 El Castro de Valtuille Bierzo Joven, a recent addition to the Tavern wine list. This is a wine made from 100% Mencia that is so delicious, I can't seem to stop drinking it.
Mencia is sort of an underdog variety, one that's gotten less attention than the more well-known Spanish grapes Garnacha and Tempranillo. Though Mencia is grown in a few different regions in spain, Bierzo is without a doubt the most famous. Castro Ventosa, maker of Valtuille, is owned by the Perez family of who have been farming 75 hectares of old vine Mencia since 1752. This is one of the top producers in the area and although this wine is called "joven" or young vines, these plants actually range from 20 to 40 years-old. I love anyone or anything that considers 40 years-old young!
The wine's nose shows intriguing black fruit notes of amarena cherries, cassis and black raspberry along side a delicate brininess that I often associate with Spanish reds. On the palate, the dark berry notes continue along side touches of anise, black tea and tarragon. It has a silky texture with firm tannins and a general softness that makes it a pretty easy-drinking, yet complex wine.
When I close my eyes, breathe in the aromas in the glass and finally take a sip of this wine, I am literally transported to Madrid, to a place where business comes to a civilized halt in the middle of the day and where long, lazy dinners last until late in the night. My body instantly relaxes and the tension just seems to melt away. It's enough to help me deal, if only for a few minutes, with the craziness that is my reality. If only June wasn't so far away.