I look forward to January’s dark tranquility. It’s a welcome interlude following December’s hustle-bustle and a fantastic excuse to catch up on some reading, or take in new music.
I’m an escapist at heart and if I can’t actually leave town, armchair travel is the next best thing. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia is the classic insider’s memoir about the Spanish Civil War. Gripping and immediate, Orwell beautifully captures the confusion and violence of 1936 Barcelona.
The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax is epic in scope and a gripping story. The protagonists are top professional musicians who tour and perform in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The details about music are fascinating and informative.
Desert Queen by Janet Wallach introduces Gertrude Bell, an intrepid English woman who helped create modern-day Iraq along with T.E. Lawrence. Bell’s travels across the Arab world after her education in Oxford in 1886 are simply incredible. A fearless traveler, she rode camels across the desert but took along her china and crystal. Along the way, she got to know powerful desert Arabs who would be instrumental in carving up the Middle East after World War II.
When I’m in the mood for music, I often put on a CD by Paco de Lucia. Cositas Buenas and Luzia are perennial favorites – this child prodigy flamenco guitarist reveals a touch of jazz in his playing. When in a lighter mood, we listen to one of the Putumayo compilation CDs. Baila! and Salsa! are perfect for parties, or on evenings when you feel like dancing around the living room. Brazilian Cafe is a blend of samba, bossa nova and jazz. We’ve got all of these books and CD’s in stock.
Our holiday staff party last week featured a competitive tasting of four red wines. This year’s selections and winners:
2008 La Planta (Ribera del Duero) $15.99 La Planta is the youngest red produced by Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro, whose wines are full-bodied and suave. 2008 La Planta has fresh aromas with notes of cedar and high fruity notes of blackcurrant, licorice and toasty notes from noble woods. A meaty wine with ripe tannins, it has a fine-tuned texture with a persistent and smooth finish.
2004 Marques de Griñon Caliza ($18.99) Named after the caliza (limestone soils) on the property, this is the first pago (appellation) ever granted to a single estate. 65% Syrah and 35% Graciano, Caliza is rich and complex with flavors of boysenberry liqueur, coffee, menthol and mineral. Full-bodied, it is velvety and elegant; vibrant acidity keeps this wine fresh on the palate. Absolutely delicious!
2007 La Montesa Rioja Crianza ($15.99) Alvaro Palacios is one of the top winemakers in several Spanish D.O.s, most notably Priorat and Bierzo. Palacios consults in the making of La Montesa on his family’s estate in Rioja. “Sexy red berries and cherry-vanilla on the nose, with a spicy quality that gains power with aeration. Sappy, sweet raspberry and cherry flavors are complemented by smoky oak spice and a touch of licorice. Open-knit and smooth in texture, with good finishing clarity and slight jammy persistence. This is drinking well now.” 89 points Stephen Tanzer
2009 La Cartuja Priorat ($14.99) Aromas of vanilla and juicy red berry fruit have hints of mineral and dried herbs. Medium-bodied with ripe tannins, it is aged in French oak for 8 months. La Cartuja has a rich finish with spice and black cherry notes which linger on the palate. This red really over delivers for the price!
It was tough to choose between these wines, and we ended with a tie between La Cartuja Priorat and La Montesa Rioja.