After returning from a trip I was brought on by one of our suppliers I am left with a feeling of humble pie. Taken by my wine supplier Terra Food & Wine, Juan Calljero has a selection of stunning wines in his catalogue. We met at the gates of the plane in Dublin airport and the seven of us were on a journey. When we arrived in Madrid and got the hotel stuff out of the way, we set off on a guided tour of Madrid as this was Alberto Mendozas back garden. Living in Ireland for 17 years and being part of serious achievements for restaurants, Albert showd us amazing food culture in the Spanish city centre. We went to a food jungle is the only way to describe where we were brought, the Platea. A hall set with the backdrop of a stage with a Dj that later became a band. In the middle there was a gymnastic display and on we went. The next place was the city council building where the rooftop had been turned into a viewing, relaxing lounge area. As the night grew late and the feet got tired, we ended the tour and the centre of Madrid and we took our final photo of the evening, no one could imagine what was to happen in the morning.
Up and a’tem early Saturday morning and with the sat nav on, we headed off to the vineyard. 3 hours out the road and we arrived at a discrete location, with stunning gardens, doors, fountains and grape fields as far as the eye could see. Welcomed by Manuel who introduced us to his wine maker Pedro, the tour of this amazing vineyard began. A beautiful tour at the fields in a horse drawn carriage, we got to see all the grape varieties your merlot’s to Syrah’s and the mapping and planning that goes in. They keet stallions, ducks and also host weddings. After the tour of the grounds we were brought through the wine making process and first shown maps of the land and all they harvest. Almonds, olives for oil, pistachios and of course several different types of grapes from reds to whites and rose. Brought through the great halls where the wine is stored in giant 1.5million litre worth of tanks, it was incredibly impressive. After seeing unfiltered chardonnay that had the resemblance of cloudy beer to beautiful blends of stunning fermented grape juice. We had a break then for a couple of hours where food and wine was consistently represented. It seems the culture is built around food and the enjoyment of company and spending time. After a midday siesta Manuel brought us to his private cellar where he showd us some amazing personal possession. Wines from the years his kids were born, wines served at his sister’s wedding and the first wine produce by Manuel. A 15 year old bottle of priceless wine. With very little left and it not being sold you could see the passion in Manuel’s face. Manuel wanted to show us a local village called Chinchilla so we headed there after for an evening meal. At the table we ate some traditional Spanish pinchos and tapas and Manuel had brought a few bottles of wine to taste which included one from the first batch. The liquid inside the bottle hadn’t seen the world in 15 years and as Manuel decanted the beauty I began to feel this amazing feeling of community and enjoyment. The conversation was flying the food was so tasty, no frills no spills just really nice local food. The place was packed, it wasn’t a huge place but it was full. An early night after the long day around 2.30am and I can honestly say one of the best days ever. Breakfast the following morning and a short tour of another part of Madrid where the palace is, we found ourselves in another huge market where every type of person hangs out. From young to old the culture seems to be, I’d rather live with my people then live without my people and the whole thing revolves around food and spending time together. A lot can be learned from cultures like that and being able to visit such places is an honour and a privalage. Trying to make the feeling of being at home is something I want people to feel in our restaurant I guess from spending time abroad in Spain the answer
The answer a Spanish person would give you is “well, what kind of a relationship do you have with yourself, what kind of relationship do you have with your people?” and at the end, they would say, “eating with your people is the only way to be”. When around restaurants and food in Spain you can’t help but feel like you belong or apart of, a beautiful community spirit full of soul, depth and history.