Archive for 2011

Ever since we came here my wife and I have visited Bar Turu which is owned and run by Ramon and his family.  Over the years we have dined there, gone for drinks after school or petanca and consider them our friends.   Each year at Christmas Ramon holds a raffle for charity, and each year the prize is highly sought after so you can imagine my wifes excitement when I won it this year.

My wife and daughter had gone into town for some shopping and called into the bar/restaurant for a coffee and were told by Ramon that I had won the raffle.  My daughter said it was so funny, my wife kept saying ‘oh my goodness its wonderful’ they had their coffee’s then Ramon and his son kindly loaded it into the car and they came home.

Now as you can see the prize is rather large Ramon has always done both the prize winner and charity proud.  Inside were: bottles of top Cava – Flexinet & Marques de Monistrol, sweets and sweetmeats, biscuits, nibbles, dried fruit, nuts, some top quality wines – Berberana, Legitimo Blanco, Penascal Rosado  and Marque de Grinon 2008. Then came two bottles of sparkling cider from Austuriana, a sparkling grape juice (non Alcoholic), and a bottle of the following: Martini, Whisky, Brandy, but in pride of place was a large Jamon (dried ham).  If I have forgotten anything  I am sorry

So I thought I would share the event with you.  To say I was pleased is an understatement, I was delighted and my wife ecstatic.

Bon Fiestas   and A Happy New Year everyone.

Read Full Post »

Although we live in the middle of a forest in a climate that means the growing and flowering season is totally different to that of the UK. There is a diverse and sometimes unusual variety of plants and bulbs which appear in English gardens, but actually grow wild here giving pleasure and a never-ending supply of amazement.  So I have pictured a few here which I hope you will enjoy, forgive any doubles, a little sunshine in midwinter

Read Full Post »

Father Christmas

Father Christmas.

Read Full Post »

Missing In Action

Missing In Action.

Read Full Post »

Today was the day of the Petanca Dinner.  This will be the first one we have been to since we joined the club as I am usually visiting the UK around now so I was really looking forward to it.

The dinner was due to start around 1.30pm so we arrived about 1.40pm, this is not late just Spanish time, and we sat down to eat dead on 2.00pm.

The dinner consisted of nibbles:  crisps, sliced meats, olives, cheese and small savory biscuits which were already laid out along with bottles of water, lemonade and wines. Then came the first course: ‘fideos blanca’ – very small pasta fried in olive oil then just before they go a dark colour stock is added along with shell fish  such as muscles, prawns, clams etc., covered and left to cook. As they do so the fideos soaks up the stock and the pasta curls up at the ends. It is then served with a cream sauce made from garlic, a little butter and mayonnaise mixed together, very tasty.

The second course was a complete place – lightly fried and served with a lemon wedge. The third course was a meat dish, a sort of casserole made from veal, beef and pork with mushrooms and tomatoes in a rich tasty sauce.

Pudding was a tasty layered pastry soft, creamy and topped with a wafer of rice paper decorated with a flower and the words Bon Nedal, served with cream and a dash of chocolate sauce served with Cava.

Then two of the waitresses did a sketch about two cleaning ladies chatting. The jist is this: one of the women was complaining about the effect – or non effect – of too much drink had on her husband. So the other one gave her some advice including actions.  Result… much laughter.

After this came the prize giving and big cheers for my wife.  One of my Petanca Partners was pleased to see my score in the competition was higher than my wife’s if only just.  But we were made to feel very welcome and really enjoyed the company and good food.  It is our wedding anniversary soon and I was thinking of taking my wife, daughter and mother-in-law to the restaurant for a meal it was that good.

Read Full Post »


The weather has been a little weird but nothing prepared any of us for the event that took place on Thursday.

In the early part of the afternoon some of the cliff face along river road collapsed, blocking the road in the form of a huge landslide.  Large rocks were thrown into and across the road where they ended up in the fields below.

Tons of rock and earth had slid down with one huge rock the size of a single-decker bus sitting across road.

So after Petanca this afternoon we took the camera and headed for the slide. We drove along the accessible bit of road then parked and walked the rest of the way.  As we approached the first thing we saw was what looked like the side of a house causing us to wonder if one of the houses at the edge had come down with it.  But getting nearer we realised it was not a house wall but a rock!

There are cliffs all along the road which overhang and in places you wonder how they stay up.

So when we arrived at the site I was really surprised to find it was in an area which I thought would be the last place to fall down. However I was really amazed to see the amount of earth and size of the rocks.

Here are some of the photographs we took.

I have a very nasty feeling that this is but the first….

Read Full Post »

As is the way of our life, nothing runs smooth or like clockwork, and today was no exception.  Every day this week I have been working on finishing the up-date to our Solar system. Everything had been going to plan, except I had run out of battery cable. Now this is a heavy-duty cable and very expensive. So after trying to find some in the local town without any luck, (well if I waited until Monday I could get it then) my wife had a brilliant idea.  Why not go to Reus and get it, after all there were large builders merchants there who sold cable should be no problem…..

So I had an even brighter idea, she could go shopping and I would play Petanca, as I had been working all week…  Around 3.00pm she dropped me off at the courts and headed out towards Reus and ‘the cable’ dum dum dummmmm..

Now not being there and she being a mere woman and English at that this is her story of what happened:-

“As I headed towards the mountain pass and the coast the grey skies that have dogged our days for the past week began to disappear.  Up into the pass and to my joy and amazement blue skies with a hazy sun were visible, not much traffic about so I could drive nice and easy along the twisting pass, through the gap between the ever-present wind generators so down onto the flat and towards Reus Industrial Park.   I was feeling in a good positive mood, then I came to where they are installing new bridges, on and offs to new roads.  There were signs saying this way to here, that way to there, total confusion for at least 3mins. I do wish they would not put the signs on ‘not finished’ bits, but at last I arrived at Leroy Merlins.

Now this, for the English among you is a larger version of B & Q, only here women are not assumed to know what they want or are talking about.  D.I.Y. has still not fully caught on.   I had some other bits to buy so after finding a bargain and armed with a small sample of what we wanted I headed for the cable section.  Lots there but not what I wanted, all small stuff,  plus when I asked if they had any the size we wanted this happened:  1) what did I want it for?  2) it was specialized and they did not sell it 3) was I sure that I had the right type of cable for the job? grrrrrr.  I know they were trying to be helpful but I was a WOMAN I mean hey, women don’t do this in Spain….

I next tried Bachouse the same result.  Then I visited two car/ tyre places but neither could help or suggest anywhere, so then I phoned Michael.  Go and ask Bridgestone was his suggestion, so I did.  Now ever since we have been here we have bought our tyres from the Bridgestone garage in Tarragona.  They have always looked after us and when Mitsubishi stopped making the tyres we were using they explained about how to get the new ones matriculated – here you cannot just put another set or even different makes of the car, as unless the paperwork matches you could be in for a few problems if you were stopped.

As the time was nearing 5.30pm I arrived at the garage, presented the cable and asked the question.  Ummm this is not for a car is it? No it’s for batteries, Solar.  Ummm momento!  off went the man out into the workshop to ask if anyone knew where I could get some cable from.  In a few minutes he was back, out came pen and paper, diagram drawn and instructions given I was on my way.  Well done Bridgestone!

I followed the diagram and for me, after two rounds of the large roundabout, and believe me that was really good, I eventually found the right road and, as described, at the end was the place I wanted.  I bought the cable and started home.

Back through Tarragona out past Reus and headed for the pass. As we – by now I was part of a convoy, three cars and a large lorry behind with more in front – headed up towards the start of the pass the wind picked up and what appeared to be sleet/snow began to settle on the window screen.   Ohhhh, memories of our last trip in bad conditions came back, and yes we do drive on Bridgestone tyres.  Anyway we all kept together at around 40mph and made it to the other side,  only to find the cloud had come down and was banking up against the range so now we had foggy sleet. Still it did not last long, once down on the valley floor the visibility was good and it had begun to rain.  Michael had told me he was in the Bar Somnis so I headed there to be greeted by a San Miguel and some patatas braves.”

Well I had to be kind as I said earlier no cable no TV….  We are now home,  fire is lit and I can complete the work tomorrow.  Just about to roast some chestnuts.

Cheers Bridgestone  and well done.

Read Full Post »

The first article I wrote on my exploration of the wines of the regions was about the Cathedral of Pinell de Brai. This was the first time I came across the original concrete vats used for the fermenting and maturing of the wines.  So when we were in Cornudella de Monsant in October I saw a small ornate building which to me, warranted further investigation.

Built in 1919 by architect Cesar Martinelli i Brunet who was a disciple and admirer of Gaudi, and who’s major work was designing wineries using traditional materials and techniques, has made for one of the wonders of the wine world in Catalonia.  The wines I found in this small delightful traditional Celler are to be savoured.

However, that is for later.  When I was driving to Cornudella de Montsant I began to wonder if my writing and the wine were worth it.   The road to Cornudella de Montsant is a tortuous one, a real mountain pass with bends so tight you can only drive in 3rd gear, and that is on a fine summers day.  So take last Friday.  The day in the valley was grey, overcast, cold but clear when I turned off the road from Falset to start the climb over the mountains.  But as I drove on the higher I went the more the clouds came down, until I was driving in ‘fog’ with visibility that was not good.  Now and then a vehicle would suddenly appear round one of the bends so that I jumped, to say it was un-nerving was an understatement. I had thought that when I descended into the first valley my visibility would improve, wrong!  With bends so tight and a road that snaked it’s way round the sides of the mountains it was hard going.  But  eventually I arrived on the valley floor and headed for my destination in, would you believe, beautiful sunlight.

Now the village of Cornudella Montsant is located in the high valley of the river Siurana in a Park Natural being around 550 meters above sea level, whilst resting in between the Montsant and Prades Mountains. On all sides are the vineyards, now turning subtle hues of reds, browns through to orangey yellows.  The old vines standing proud and free just as they have done for hundreds of years, producing grapes that take time to ripen thus producing some of the best wines around. Truely  a wonderful vista to be greeted by.

On walking through the entrance, one of the first things you notice is that the Cathedral still retains the original wooden roof tiles and concrete vats. Whilst pillars and arches are so expertly pieced together they seem to defy the laws of gravity. Add to this the use of fine ceramic tiles with motifs in their decoration,  and you have all the marks of a lovingly built work of art, where fine wines are skilfully blended to be sold and enjoyed everywhere.

So it is no surprise to find asiles of arched beauty, that take your eye down their length making you want to know what else is hidden down them.  Here you find more of the concrete vats of interesting structure and size, they can and do hold anything up to 400 to 430 litres of wine.  As is usual for this type of building,  wine was being made here before its construction was finished, with the original capacity of one million kilos of grapes.  If you take a careful look at these photographs you will see marked on the vats their litre capacity.

The vats can be round or square, these ones are large round concrete structures, and are still being used as they were originally designed to be.  Their main advantage  is that they maintain a constant temperature regardless of the time of year, and it was here that I saw exactly how they worked.

What you can clearly see here are the tops of the vats with the vent grills. But take a look at the ‘channel’ to one side of them, here the grapes are pumped along the gully untill they reach their allotted vat, then they are sent down a tube which is connected to the ‘pipe’ you can see sticking out of the side, all done in the traditional way. The wine which comes from these particular vats is white made from the Garnache grape. Up here on top of these giants you are in the secret world of the vintners.

The wines from these vats are turned into some of the very drinkable reds that are produced here.

Castle Siurana Rancio

From the tops of the concrete vats we walked out on to a flat part of the roof, where 20-liter glass bottles were arranged in rows.  These were around 1/3rd full and it is how this particularly tasty wine is produced. It is a mellow wine obtained from a high-alcohol rosé wine, which is made from the Grenache grape giveing it its sweetness.  These are then left on the roof to ‘sun and serene’ the natural oxidation process takes around about a year so the process is done about every 6 or 7 years. After this time it goes to mellow oak vats where it is mixed with around 5,000 liters of the oldest rancid vintages in the barrels, then it goes on to follow the solera system, and is finally put into oak barrels, where it ends its aging before being bottled.

They also use the Carbonic Maceration technique, only here the vats are upright instead of on their sides.  There is only a small amount of this special wine made, but it is definitely special.

The grapes grown for the wines produced here are  White Grenache which accounts for around -70% and the Carignan grape accounting for about-30%, both of which are from ancient gnarled vines with a very low production.  The vineyards are located below the Montsant mountain range along the rocky terraces near the ancient village of Siurana, which is an old village sitting on a mountain ridge a tourist spot with spectacular views. Here the grapes mature slowly, so  great wines with unique personality are obtained.
The Wines

Castle Siurana Premium 2004

This wine has hints of coffee and balsamic with notes of black fruits that start to appear after de-canting.  This is a wine that can be bought and laid down a good basis for the start of your own celler, as it can be kept around 10 years.  It is an ideal companion for such dishes as stews and cheese, but more to my liking it is perfect for enjoying alone or with good company.

Les Troies Les Trois

This is a young red made from equal amounts of the Grenache and Carignan grapes, planted to the south of the town, which has been an ideal place for grape growing for centuries.   There is an intense red color with hints of red and black fruit, which has a pleasant freshness.

The Black Codolar

This Semicriança wine is made from the varieties Grenache and Carignan which are selected from the vineyards in Montsant Cornudella. This wine is made in the traditional manner with a maceration of 12 days.  It is then aged in oak barrels for between 4 to 6 months.  It has an aroma that is both intense and elegant, with notes of vanilla, toast, eucalyptus. The taste is pleasant, and is yet another wine ideal for sipping, another of my personal likes.

El Codolar Rosat

This is a wine made from the Grenache and Carignan grapes the blend percentage being around 60/40. It is left to macerate with the skins for 24 hours until a color sufficiently intense and beautiful is produced.  Then they bleed the juice and let it ferment at a very low temperature for about 1 month. This helps to keep the fresh and fruity aromas of the grapes, and produces a lovely ruby ​​red color, this is one for my wife.

Castle Siurana Mistela

This is made with the juice of the Grenache variety, which is left to macerate with the skins for 24 hours then ‘s’encapçala’ with alcohol to prevent fermentation, thus they maintain their sweetness. Later the juice is put into oak barrels, where it will remain for at least one year.  This is a sweet wine perfect for after dinner sipping.

Siurana Grenache Red Castle

This wine is made totally from the Grenache Red grape, of which only a few strains remain in our village. These strains are usually found amongst the vineyards and are harvested separately at the end of October. The wine is fermented in its skins for 12 days and this stops the fermentation. Next it is put into oak barrels, French and American, for 12 months, after this it is bottled unfiltered, then left to age in the bottle for at least a year.

Read Full Post »



Read Full Post »

A Note to Joe Kernen

A Note to Joe Kernen.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: