Piemonte a 30th June -3rd July 2015
We went and have to say that Il Cascinone is a gem. It`s exclusive to the wine trade and definitely not a tourist destination. We know that sitting on the terrace with a good glass of wine, looking at the rolling hills packed with neat rows of vines, and watching a sunset. It`s magical. Now for the details
Although we had a short stopover in Munich it was still quicker than flying to Milan and then having a difficult drive. Turin airport is quaintly small and you can walk from arrivals across a road to the hire car company. All very simple, fast and straightforward.
We then had an hour‘s drive to La Morra which offered great picturesque views of the rolling countryside featuring Barolo and Barbaresco. La Morra is the centre of growing Nebbiolo. Years ago it was illegal in La Morra to cut down a Nebbiolo vine. The penalty for this offence ranged from a fine, to having a hand amputated to hanging. This will give you the first impression of the undulating vine packed slopes. Its incredible. We dined outside on the terrace sampling some of the local Arneis and Barbera wines. We had a carpaccio of veal that was a delight , which was then followed by another 4 courses. Suitably refreshed we headed for Il Cascinone.
As we drove through the valley, surrounded by vines and then began to climb up and up through twisting roads giving breathtaking sights. At the peak was our destination, Il Cascinone. Fantastic 360 degree views, top class restaurant, with fabulous wines and well furnished bedrooms adjacent. This could be our version of heaven
We dined in their restaurant on both nights. The restaurant even mid -week is packed with locals and no wonder. The setting is unique and to be on the restaurant terrace (pictured) in the evening is an incredible atmospheric experience that words do not do justice. They offered a four course menu including the local speciality steak tartare. We tried to do justice to their fabulous range of wines but we failed – just too many and not enough time!
Araldica’s is run by Claudio Manera, who runs the business with his wife. They want to make the best wines that they can. They do and with some style. They are masters with Barbera and their Rive and Conan wines, excel as do their Riesling, Sauvignon and Arneis. The quality of these wines are outstanding Claudio understates it by saying “ Quite simply, wine for drinking and enjoying.”
The restaurant , wine shop and bedrooms are on the top of a range of hills called Il Cascinone. They have been restoring these vineyards for the last 10+ years. The views from our bedrooms of the vines that cascade around the undulating hills are so peaceful and relaxing.
,After breakfast we drove to nearby Alba (45 minutes) and visit a very friendly winery Poderi di Colla. This family run business simply want to make the best wines that they can. Their enthusiasm and drive is incredible. Their wines are great. We had a tasting of 8 wines and what they called a light lunch. The hams, charcuterie and cheeses were all mouthwatering as was the simple melon – so ripe and full of flavour. Before lunch we looked at the vineyards with Pietro, the son of Tino Colla. He runs the winery with Federica, who is the daughter ofTino`s elder brother Beppe (born in 1930),is the definitive authority on the Langhe appellations. Beppe was one of the founding fathers of the Alba DOCs in the 1960s, and is said to know every vine in every vineyard around Alba! Beppe’s daughter, Federica now runs the business with her uncle , They make 150,000 of very high quality wine a year and specialise in Nebbiolo with some Dolcetto and Pinot Noir. They also make a dry Riesling capable of good aging. Their flagship wine is Barolo Bussia, Dardi le Rose and this is gorgeous and sells for around £30 a bottle.
We then went to the mail winery in the village of Castel Boglione for a full tour of the winery, that was surprisingly high tech.. Automated bottling lines and packing cases to stacking them on to pallets and then being wrapped in cling film. Although they produce a high volume of wine, they are extremely meticulous in their attitude to their winemaking. Nothing is left to chance. Bottles are tested by pressurising with an inert gas (a broken bottle on the bottling line causes chaos- stopping to remove shards of glass and the delay in bottling). Corks are tested besides the wines being constantly checked.
We then returned for a tour of the winery at Il Cascinone followed by another tasting of their wines
That evening we dine again at Il Cascinone with different wines and dishes. The restaurant at Il Cascinone is highly regarded and Jamie Oliver wrote about his very pleasant experience there. Again another 4 courses …. sophisticated, elegant and stylish – so Italian
Thursday morning we went to the nearby thermal spa town Acqui Terme where we will lunch and just maybe try some more wine. Acqui was founded by the Romans 2150 years ago and then it became a market trading town. It is steeped in history . It is well off the beaten track and no English is spoken. The old buildings from cathedrals, aqueducts combine with the narrow cobbled streets to make this a most memorable town. We dined in a local brasserie. They were so helpful in offering to split large plates of food into smaller portions so that we could share more of their great dishes. In fact the first course, a cheese salad with fruit was declared as one of the best salads we have ever had.
We left for an hours journey to Barbaresco and the home of Marchesi di Grecy where we shall taste some of their wines. There is a fabulous vineyard called Martinenga. It is considered to be the greatest single vineyard for Barbaresco in the entire area. This might explain why some of their wines sell for over £60 a bottle. We had a tour of their immaculate winery and tried 8 of their equally exquisite wines. This is top notch quality. Really great wines
We left Barbaresco for a short drive to Alba where we stayed at hotel San Lorenzo. It is in the old town, behind the cathedral. We dined at a local Osteria that was recommended by the winemaker Jeff Chilcott who joined us for dinner and very generously brought some more of his wines.
In the gastronomic heaven that is Italy, Alba is a leading player courtesy of its black truffles, dark chocolate and wine. Eschewing the modern penchant for junk food, this once-powerful city-state has redirected its energy into showcasing the fine art of real cooking, with ingredients plucked from within spear-throwing distance of your restaurant table.
On top of this Alba is a charming authentic town. On Friday we had a leisurely day and lunch in Alba. We had found another little gem. A small hidden and quiet restaurant that included a take away deli . This gave us the opportunity to buy before heading off to the airport which is 90 minutes away.
We loved this trip and think you will!
Bilbao to Barcelona
Depart Monday 22/04/2013 — Return Monday 26/04/2013
We offered a four day trip to inland Spain. Namely, Antequera – Andalucia, where we have a house. Quite often we have said that so many of our friends and customers would be surprised by the charms and attractions of Antequera. We have been travelling there for the last 6 years and we know the best places to visit from bars, restaurants to whitewashed hilltop villages etc.
A visit to this historical Andalucían town is a journey almost 5,000 years back in time, beginning with the Bronze Age and the native Iberians. The timeline is there to be followed in this fascinating city’s profusion of burial mounds, dolmens, Roman baths, a Moorish Castle, Gothic churches, Renaissance fountains and baroque bell towers.
We left early Friday morning on a Monarch flight from Manchester to Malaga, where we collected and took you to the Hotel Coso Viejo (www.hotelcosoviejo.es) in Antequera to stay for 3 nights. Having checked in at the hotel we drove up to our house which is behind the castle that you can see from the hotel. There we enjoyed a welcome lunch and cava. A quick rest in the hotel and off to the Spanish lake district. There were fabulous views with huge dams, great limestone mountains to paraglide from (not on this trip), caves and an incredible historical past.
We arrived at Campilllos, and dined in a restaurant that we think is one of the best in Andalucia. They arranged a 7 course tasting menu. We had a venison dish, on a bed of garlic potatoes with a Moscatel & orange jus. It was absolutely brilliant. We have never been disappointed with our meals and the owner Javier is the most amiable and enthusiastic host. We returned to our hotel for a well deserved rest.
On the Saturday morning we wwent to the El Torcal Nature Reserve. It is located in Antequera and has the most impressive & beautiful karstic landscape in Europe.
The first impression was that you have landed on the moon. It`s fantasy-like rock formations cover an area of 12 square kilometres. This impressive limestone complex was thrust upward from the bed of the sea about 150 million years ago as the result of geological folding. There was a choice of 3 routes. We picked the green route which is the shortest walk and easiest, 1.5 km. and takes about 40 minutes.
Having worked up an appetite, we visited a local ham and cheese shop that also specialises in wine, where we hade a tasting and enjoyed the magnificent dried hams or better to say Iberian jamon. Bernardino,centre of picture, the owner showed a tasting of 3 styles of jamon,reserva, iberico and bellota, accompanied by 6 wines and 2 cheeses. Previous guests have said that this is the highlight of the trip and again this was repeated.
A short rest in the hotel and we walked from the hotel around the corner to the restaurant Coso San Francisco, an ancient house from the 17th Century. A cosy place in a warm and homely environment, blessed with delicious cooking made from Andalucian produce and run solely by women.
On Sunday, we headed to the Lobo park, an estate devoted solely to wolves.. Each of the four sub species at the park, Timber wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis), Alaskan Tundra wolf (Canis lupus tundrorum), European wolf (Canis lupus lupus) and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus), are kept in huge enclosures laid out in the countryside with trees, open spaces and pools. The family packs in the enclosures have acres of space to hunt, play and relax. Each enclosure has a viewing platform to which the wolves are drawn by the promise of a small meaty snack. Apart from this daily contact with humans the wolves are wild and behave as they would in the wild.
We then travelled a short distance to a nearby Cortijo for lunch. This is an old farmhouse where they rear all the food that they cook. Simple but brilliant, all the meals are cooked to local recipes.ie Pork with tomato, Rabbit and herbs etc. We returned to the hotel for a short rest and then we tried some tapas at the hotellater that evening
The next day, we drove to Malaga, stopping first at the botanical gardens that are a true haven even in very hot weather. Then, we took you to the centre giving you a choice of shopping,the new marina and port complex, the fabulous cathedral and fantastic views from the castle. The investment in Malaga is incredible and they are making great strides in improving beaches and refurbishing the old buildings.
The newly planted gardens by the port made a convenient resting point to gaze over the new marina. Then for a late lunch at La Cosmopolita. A new restaurant where they are re- inventing classic Spanish dishes. Then we strolledto El Pimpi. It is one of the oldest bars in Malaga, a former convent, lined with old barrels and huge historical posters. This bar oozes atmosphere and is Malaguenos favourite meeting points in Andalucia. Finally, we returned you to the airport for an evening flight back to Manchester.
Just writing about this trip makes my mouth water with the knowledge of the food and wine that we will be partaking.
Thursday, we took you from Malaga airport and drove to Antequera (45 minutes). We then had a welcome lunch in our house. Then set off for Jerez which took 2 hours. We checked in at the 4 star Palacio Garvey where we stayed for 3 nights. The hotel has 19 bedrooms offers impeccable service and is a true delight to stay there . It was the former home of the Garvey family. We took a short walk to a nearby restaurant Juanitos. A restaurant just off the main square.
On Friday you were free to explore the town until midday when we have organised a tour of a small independent sherry house,
Fernando de Castilla . They have a great reputation for producing the finest sherries and brandies. Even the sherry vinegar is potable. Jan Petersen (pictured) showed how sherry is made and cellared and you had the chance to taste the sherries in their younger stages before they are fully developed. Then the bodega offered a selection of hot and cold tapas matched with their wines. A rest was be needed afterwards in the hotel and in the evening we walked to a nearby restaurant specialising in roasting meats, Meson de Asador.
Saturday visited to another sherry house bodega Tradicion which also sponsors many artistic projects. In the evening wel dined at a restaurant that is creating fantastic dishes, La Cruz Blanca. We can still taste the ciabatta, layered with caramelised onions, a tangy goat’s cheese, walnuts and a sweet PX sauce drizzled over the lot. Scrumptious
Sunday, we left Jerez for the white washed village of Zahara de la Sierra. It is one of the most stunning images in the Province of Cadiz. As you neared Zahara, you could see a castle built high on a rocky mountain peak and scattered below it are the whitewashed houses, which led down to a man made lake at the foot. Zahara was once described by Richard Ford, the romantic British traveller, as a “Moorish eagle’s nest”
We then carried on to Campillos and dined at what we consider to the best restaurant in the region. We have been there several times and always been impressed with the presentation and the exquisite flavours of the dishes. Previous travellers have said that it is simply one of the best meals they have ever had. The owner Javier is very proud of his wines and food (rightly so), he presented a 7 course tasting menu with wines to match. It was truly memorable. Then we travelled back to Malaga to catch the evening flight back to Manchester
This 4 day, 3 night trip includes the cost of flights, minibus use, all meals and wines. We have worked on the basis of 2 people sharing a bottle of wine with their meal (lunch and dinner).
The cost of this trip was £750.00. Bearing in mind that this covers flights, transport, all meals and wines. There was a £95 supplement for a single traveller.
28th June – 1st July
We offered a four day trip to inland Spain. Namely, Granada in Andalucia. The Alhambra has been described as ‘the Jewel of Moorish Spain’ and visitors will be overwhelmed by its beauty. Quite often we have said that so many of our friends and customers would be surprised by the charms and attractions of inland Andalucia. We have been travelling there for the last 7 years and we know the best places to visit from bars, restaurants whitewashed hilltop villages etc.
Around midday on Friday we met you at Malaga airport and took you to our house in the centre of Antequera. It was a short journey of under an hour and there we hade a welcome lunch washed down with cava. That afternoon we headed off to Granada , which took 90 minutes . We stayed in Granada for 3 nights. We checked in at the hotel Macia Plaza which is central and handy for exploring the Moorish Albaycin area. We dined at Mirador de Morayma which had excellent views of the Alhambra The dinner was perfect and the views truly memorable.
More information on Granada can be found on this website http://granadainfo.com/granadabasic.htm .
Granada is a world World Heritage Site, the complex of the Alhambra and the Generalife is the most emblematic, known and visited monument of Granada The palace and gardens have to be one of the must see sights in the world .There is so much to see in and around the Alhambra from the Alcazaba fortress,which was the first structure to be built, followed by the royal palace and residence of members of the court.
We thought that it would be better for you to have a free reign and go at your own pace, so we did not include lunch for Saturday
You were able to visit the most important halls and courtyards of the Alhambra, including the Alcazaba fortress, the Serrallo, the Patio of los Arrayanes (Myrtle Courtyard), the Hall of la Barca, the Salon of the Embajadores (Ambassadors Hall), the Patio de los Leones (Lions Courtyard), the Hall of the Abencerrajes, the Royal Baths and the Palace of Charles V. Continuing to the Generalife Gardens, next to the Alhambra, you’ll visit the retreat of leisure and recreation for the Moorish kings of Granada. The beautiful gardens feature abundant and varied flora and stunning water features. .
Besides the Alhambra and the Albaycin is the Park of Sciences To visit the Park of Sciences is to enter a different world. A world where the visitor will have the knowledge of the science history on the tip of his fingers.
We dined in the centre of granada in one of thier opulent squares watching the world go by.
On Sunday afternoon, there was an option of an hours drive to Guadix. The cathedral town is well off the beaten path, on the eastern edges of Granada. It is a large, bustling country town with a personality all of its own. Its history dates back to Phoenician and Roman times. The most interesting feature of the Guadix area is that almost half of the inhabitants of this town live underground, in the southern part of the town, in caves. The jagged ochre terrain and the dazzling whitewashed chimneys and doors of the caves contrast dramatically with the snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada, which loom above. The cave district is signposted on the main street of the town as the “Barrio Troglodyte”
Most of us dined inside a fabulous restaurant with another great selection of wines. It was arelief to be inside out of the sunshine.
Monday morning we strolled through the Arabic quarter, looking at their shops, tearooms and cafes and reluctantly left there at midday to drive to the charming village of Riofrio (cold river).
The willow lined stream leading up to the 16th century footbridge offers great photographic opportunities. Only 300 people live here but they are outnumbered by trout. It has an organic trout and sturgeon farm. (the latter being the only one in Europe) we are told that a pregnant sturgeon is worth £10,000. The speciality here was trout with almonds. Hopefully there should be plenty on the menu. Then we drove off to Malaga, including a visit to El Pimpi It is is one of the oldest bars in Malaga, a former convent, lined with old barrels and huge historical posters. This bar oozes atmosphere and is Malaguenos favourite meeting points in Andalucia. Then we took you to the airport which was only 20 minutes away. to catch the evening flight
Tuesday 4th June
A panel of travel writers and food critics put together by consumer champions Which? looked at the greatest gastronomic resorts all over the planet. And they gave top marks to San Sebastian, for a combination of its food culture, the range of restaurants and its qualities overall as a holiday destination
Parte Vieja (Old Town), is said to have more bars than any other quartier (neighbourhood) in the known world, and the Centro Romántic, with its pedestrianised shopping streets, lined with the handsome façades of Art Nouveau buildings
San Sebastian occupies a bay formed by the mountainous Cantabrian coastline. The Sacred Heart statue on Monte Urgull (statue of god), the bay’s eastern headland, towers over the Parte Vieja . This district of narrow streets is the main hub, squeezed between the mellow La Concha beach to the west and the mouth of the Urumea river as it flows into the Bay of Biscay.
The food and wine is so different from the rest of Spain. The local wine is Txakoli, a young white wine typical of the Basque Country, is served extremely cold and poured from a height to force fizz into the liquid. It’s deliciously acidic.
We left Manchester at 07.40 and arrived at Bilbao airport just after 11am then we drove for 90 minutes to San Sebastian. The drive was magnificent. An array of mountains and forests that rivalled Scotland. The Hotel Zaragoza Plaza is ideally located near the beach and only 5 minutes walk to the old town
For our lunch, we enjoyed an introduction to the unique tapas of San Sebastian or as they call them pintxos. With pintxos, the idea is to eat one or two of what each bar does best, before moving on. Ask at the bar for crockery and you’ll get plates the size of car tyres. Don’t feel self-conscious when taking only one. The perfect pintxo should have exquisite taste, texture and appearance, and should be savoured in two elegant bites; it transcends the commonplace by the sheer panache of its culinary campness. In San Sebastián especially, Basque chefs have refined the pintxo to an art form.
Many pintxos are bedded on small pieces of bread or on tiny half-baguettes upon which towering creations are constructed, often melded with flavoursome mayonnaise and then pinned in place by large toothpicks. Some bars specialise in seafood, with much use of marinated anchovies, prawns and strips of squid, all topped with anything from chopped crab to pâté. Others deal in mushroom delicacies, or simply offer a mix of everything
After lunch.there was a choice of resting, swimming as the beach is only 2 minutes away, shopping or check out the numerous bars in the old town. In the evening we explored the 2 exciting streets of Parte Vieja, – Fermin Calbeton and Treinta de una Agosto where we dined in Gandarias restaurant, having a full traditional Spanish meal with a vast selection of wines at very reasonable prices. We were a group of 14 so able to have the chance of tasting 8 contrasting wines..
Wednesday 5th June
We have enthused over the wines from Senorio de Sarria for many a year. When we went to the winery it was even more impressive. We arrived at the main entrance and it then took another 15 minutes driving to arrive at the winery. This estate is on the same scale as Lyme Park but with sunshine! The home as you can see is quite impressive. Equally so is the bodega. It is spotless and the wines are fantastic. They also have a top class restaurant which offerer a gourmet lunch with matching wines. Their generosity was fantastic An excellent lunch with a sea of wine! We returned to San Sebastian for an evening of pintxos at La Cepa, where we managed to force more food and drink finishing with their famous cheesecake.
Thursday 6th June
The following day we had an early start to head off to Bodega Muga in Haro. Their tour in English started at 10 am.The winery is a bewildering labyrinth of interlocking rooms. The winery tour includes a full description and then a tasting of their wines. Pictured was the the unfortunate man, cleansing the inside of the barrel, you can just see his gloved hand. We have a 3 minute drive to the centre of Haro and enjoy eating in their restaurant Beethoven. Again there was another comprehensive wine list and we enjoyed tasting 3 different white Riojas. Oh! and the food was superb.
Friday 7th June
Reluctantly we head off to Bilbao for the airport for midday flight back to the UK,
20th – 23rd September 2013
More details coming shortly