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Spain’s Next Wine Region

Jose Bernad Alvaro Palacios and nephew Ricarado Pérez, at their winery

Photo: Jose Bernad

We visit Las Lamas, where vines are planted among purple wildflowers and river elms and fist-sized stones. We see Faraona, a tiny patch atop the tallest hill in the area, high above Corullón. We sit outside the Café Bar Alameda and drink champagne. At 11:15 p.m., with the day’s light finally gone, we head to dinner at Meson El Lagar de Montejos, an old stone house with a huge limb of a chestnut tree bisecting the dining room.

After lunch I feared I’d still be full at dinnertime. But now, seven hours later, I find my appetite has returned, right in sync with the Spanish schedule. I devour an omelette of mushrooms and sea urchin, one of the best egg dishes I’ve had in my life, along with three slices of angel food cake disguised as bread. We drink Las Lamas 2003. When lamb chops arrive, Palacios opens the La Faraona from the same vintage. Tannic but elegant, with lavender on the nose and a Burgundian complexity that is only beginning to show itself, it is not merely the wine of this visit, but also one of the finest Spanish wines I can remember. Palacios is enormously pleased by it. He breaks into a rayuela, a flamenco tune, by El Potito, one of his favorites. He stands up and sits down. He can’t contain himself. "This is what we are trying to accomplish," he says. "There it is!"

It is past 1 a.m. when we return to the parador. We linger in the lobby discussing the day, then grip each other in a hug. I enter my room and sit on the bed, suddenly exhausted, but filled with the satisfaction of having drunk an uncompromising and original wine that speaks of both its geography and the man who made it. From down the hall I can hear, distant but distinct, the soaring refrain of the rayuela.

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