Tag Archives: Txacoli

Rooftop Afternoon, Navy Yard, Brooklyn

euskadi

laburu

veggies

lines

I brought Begonia and Rich a bottle of Urki from the Basque country via Rockridge.  We put it in the freezer for a half hour and then enjoyed it on the roof with the Euskadi cocktail picks I found in a little store in Hondarribia.  We baked in the sun, waited in anticipation for the occasional breeze, and misted ourselves over the kiddie pool with the hose.  No better way to spend an impossibly hot Augest New York day.

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Urki Txacolina

Ah Urki.  Some of you might remember that I wrote about a great afternoon I spent with Urki some time ago.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune to actually visit the place where this dreamy liquid is produced.  Many of the vineyards are close together, and just outside of Getaria. We drove around exploring a bit before arriving at Urki.

hillside

Clouds had covered the sky by this time, so we had no guilt or sadness about leaving the coast to go inside and have a tour of the winery.  Cypress hedges divide sections of vines to protect them from the coastal wind.

vines

You might be able to tell from this picture that the vines are trained differently here.  While in France and other parts of Spain the vines are allowed to grow in a more bush-like formation, the grapes for Txacoli are trained to grow about five feet tall on stakes, vertically, and then are spread out across wires in between the tall stakes.  My tour of Urki was conducted exclusively in Spanish, because the owner speaks Euskara dominantly and Spanish as a second language, so I understood bits and pieces, and a bit more with the aid of our co-tourers who were Spanish-speaking French (we had French in common).  Through these somewhat complicated linguistic avenues I understood that Txacoli, a young wine that is aged for only a few months, needs a lot of sun as a grape in order to cultivate enough sugar to balance the natural acidity of a young wine [Wikipedia states “the grapes for this txakoli are grown according to the treille (or trellis) system (called parra in Basque) system. In this system the vines are cultivated at a greater height above the ground, with the foliage forming a continguous canopy to improve the microclimate”].  Many “Txacoli” producers add elements of sweeter grapes such as Chardonnay, Reisling, and Muscat, in order to increase the sugar content of Txacoli.  But, it is essential to note that any wine that has any content of the aforementioned grapes is not authentic Txacoli.  Txacoli is 100% Hondarrabbi-Zuri grapes.

house

This is an old house in the area I found on the way to Urki.

driving up better

Above:  the building at the end of the road ahead is the Urki winery.

urki's uvas

These are the uvas of Urki.  Some other wineries might use grapes from elsewhere, but Urki only uses the grapes they cultivate themselves.  In the fall of each year (approximately October) Urki employs forty people for ten days to hand-harvest all of their grapes for that year’s vintage.  The grapes are harvested and then pressed and processed by an impressive array of French machinery (the French and the Italians make higher quality winemaking machinery, typically, than do the Spanish).  While I didn’t understand much about the machinery, I enjoyed taking some pictures.

machinery

machinery2

galaxy bottler

galaxy

vats

In this relatively small row of eight tanks, all the Txacoli that Urki makes each year is aged.

It is currently late in the Txacoli season.  The 2009 vintage is running low, and the 2010 is months away from completion (Getaria hosts an annual Txacoli festival for the first Txacolis of the season in January each year).  But some Txacoli is kept in tank #5 for visitors, and we got to have some straight from the tap.

tasting

Urki’s Txacoli is 100% Hondarrabi-Zuri grapes.  The effervencense in Txacoli is a natural occurence, which I understand is caused by the reaction of the sugar and acidity in the aging process.  Many inauthentic Txacolis contain a greater appearance of frizzante, but this is caused by an artificial injection of CO2.  It is the custom in Spain to pour Txacoli from a great height, thus increasing the aroma and frizzante qualities.  Do not be fooled.  If you are drinking authentic Txacoli, both effervecense and aroma will occur without your server pouring from a two or three foot height.

Visiting Urki was a truly special experience.  Though this vineyard has only been in operation for two years, they have a clear devotion to the cultivation of a unique specialty from the Basque region.  Muchimas gracias a Kristian para su ayuda y la visita.

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Getaria!

Getaria is a short, beautiful drive on the N-634 from San Sebastian/Donostia.  Right away as we drove into town we knew we’d come to the right place.  Visible from the coastal road you take into town is a storefront bearing the name of the controlled wine region Getaria-Txacolina–I was in heaven.

getariako txakolina
I met a young woman there who gave me a map with the locations of all twenty-one wineries whose wines qualify for the Getaria-Txacolina designation.  This is an incredibly small region, and these winemakers aren’t like those in California.  There aren’t huge tasting rooms open seven days a week–these are mostly family-run businesses based out of people’s homes.  These wineries typically only make Txacoli, which is a unique wine in and of itself–a young wine produced in limited quanities once a year, and meant to be drunk within the coming year.  The woman secured a reservation for me that evening at Urki, a new operation, but one that produces incredibly heavenly Txacoli, and we were off to explore the town.

getaria

The picture above shows the main street of town, facing from the coastal highway towards the ocean beyond the church.  The Church of San Salvador was originally erected in the fourteenth or fifteenth century over an even older temple, of which nothing remains.  Getaria is a point of great archeological interest since it has been inhabited for centuries, and the street you see above has always been an important corridor used for defense from the inland to the sea.  A small tunnel runs under the church still to this day, in order for townsmen of old to defend their homes from seaside invadors.

After some pixtos (or tapas) from one of the bars (I think that one with the red awning in the picture) we decided to hit the beach.

getaria beach

It was a truly picturesque afternoon.  I took a dip, laid in the sun a bit, and when I got too hot, I retreated to a beach cafe and had a bit of Txacoli.

getaria sign

Entering Getaria and the Monument to Juan Sebastian Elcano (J.S.E. was the first man to sail around the globe.  This monument was erected in the 20s after the Winged Victory of Samothrace).

getaria from the top

The view from atop J.S.E.’s monument

getarian kids jumping

Getarian children jumping from the port into the bay!

Next up, a report on my visit to Urki winery.

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We Made It To Spain

Of course between Paris, Marseille, Lourmarin, Guéthary, and Hondarribia (Hondarribia is the Basque, but the town is also known as Fuenterrabía in Spanish and Fontarabie in French), much is missing from my typically daily entries here.  That noted, we are very happy to be in Spain.  This part of Europe is especially striking due to the stark constrast in food, language, and terrain found just across the border from one country to another.  A twenty or thirty minute drive from Biarritz and we’re in a whole other world.  We landed in Hondarribia, in the old quarter of town at an amazing hotel called Obispo, housed in what was a 15th century palace.  I love this place.  It’s charming–old yet comfortable, and impeccably kept including all the amenities a modern girl could want (WiFi!  while it was fun to be liberated, it is fun to reconnect too).

We arrived slightly exhausted from all the fun we had with our friends, the vacationing Parisians, in Guéthary (is it possible to have too much fun?) so we did the unthinkable and sat down to dinner at 8:30 (does it count that it hasn’t been before 10PM or finished before 12AM for the last week?).  The Hotel Obispo recommended Sebastián, which happens to be just around the corner (no walk or drive to the new part of town necessary).  It looks beautiful from the outside, so it wasn’t hard to draw us in.  Here is our meal in pictures and a few words (I was too relaxed to remember to take any establishing shots, but the restaurant’s website has a good virtual tour and great historical photographs too).

sebastian window

The restaurant’s website states that “[the space] was a grocery shop several centuries ago [and] the most representative elements of the shop are still conserved, such as the window displays and glass cases once displaying the groceries which supplied numerous generations of residents of Hondarribia.”  Here are various bottles (age unknown) in the window display case.

our view

We ate upstairs.  This was our view; a window box planted with purple amaranth and ivy.  Across the street are window boxes with red and white geraniums.

upstairs

The upstairs dining area.  Note that we are among the first present for dinner…there was one other couple across from us.  The benefit of the early hour is great photographs.  I loved the alternating colors between the beams on the ceiling.  Only a Spanish chef/restaranteur could pull that off.  Honestly.

chefs suggestions

These are the beautiful cards containing the chef’s suggestions for the evening.  Qué bonita!  Las ilustraciones sólo!

tablecloth

An essential component of any fine dining experience: fine linens for the table.  I found Sebastián’s particularly soothing due to a delicate pique.

txacoli

Txacoli: it has become as essential to my existence as Almodóvar.  Sin txacoli lo que es la vida?  These tall cups (unlike the shorter versions I am used to drinking Spanish wine in) are very cool.  It is like drinking liquid ambrosia, the liquid of life.  The wine is produced in the countryside outisde of Hondarribia.

txacoli autentico

Don’t be fooled by any imitations; the “Getariako Txacolina” sticker across the foil is as essential as any Bordeaux A.O.C.  It is an extremely limited area in which these special grapes are grown, and the special wine produced.

gazpacho

Ah gazpacho, con una anchoa y algún aceite de oliva bueno

monkfish

Monkfish and shrimp–preparation unknown, rather forgotten, in a good bottle of Txacoli

tuna

The “taco de atun rojo de Hondarribia a la parilla.”  With my limited Spanish I have little clue what I ate (sorry).  I half expected some tuna in a corn tortilla.  Wrong.  What came was 1,000 times better.  It tasted like the most beautiful tuna steak seared in a deep seasoned pan of pork fat–there was surely a strong bacon-ish element that was delicious.  On the side are some crispy onions and a drizzle of parsely-seasoned olive oil.  Amazing.

brick of chocolate

I can’t be sure because I forgot to photograph the menu, but I am fairly certain that this dessert was advertised as the “chocolate brick.”  It delivered as advertised.

Overall an extremely successful first night in Spain.  We will indubitably return to Sebastián–did I mention the service is impeccable?  If, for nothing else, the fine pique linens!  Salut!

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