I am a strong aficionado of Spanish wine, so I was pleased to bring home from this year’s Newport Seafood and Wine Festival two Oregon winemakers’ versions of wines whose grapes historically originated in Spain. Eugene’s J. Scott Cellars 2021 Albariño took a gold medal for this crisp, citrusy white wine that retails for $24. And a favorite red of mine, Mourvedre, which is native to Spain where it is called Monastrell, won a silver medal for the 2020 vintage made by Chris James Cellars from Carlton. Smokey, peppery, with flavors and aromas of tart blackberry make this wine a good choice with paella. The grapes were grown in the Columbia Valley; the price is $42.
Spain was actually on my mind before going into Newport Seafood and Wine Festival weekend. Christina and I have been taking advantage of OPB’s TV archives by binge-watching excellent European dramatic series such as “La Otra Mirada,” which is set in a girl’s boarding school in 1920s Sevilla, Spain. This charming family-oriented series deals with such issues as murder, lesbianism, rape, racism, abortion, the stigma of mental health problems and the valiant struggle of strong teachers to teach the girls that women can be strong and equal to men. The time may be 1920, but the issues are very contemporary. The series title translates to “A Different View.”
Memory took me back to my wanderjahr after college and the army, when I first entered Europe through Gibraltar and Spain. Heading north to Sevilla took me through the town of Jerez de la Frontera, where Sherry was invented. (“Jerez” became “Sherry” after the British bent the pronunciation of the word out of shape.)
I arrived in the city from where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sent the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus to see what he could find in 1492. Anxious to use my college Spanish, I fell in with some University of Sevilla students who put me up in their student quarters for a week. They took me to the great cathedral of Sevilla, where I casually leaned against what was pointed out to me to be the sarcophagus that contained some of the remains of Columbus. My fellow students also took me to class with them in the great stone university building that had once been the actual cigarette factory where Bizet’s Carmen once worked in the opera that bore her name.
But the most interesting gift from my student friends came when they took me to a performance at a school that trained young flamenco singers and dancers for jobs with international touring troupes, such as the José Greco Flamenco Company. What a smashing performance! After which, we went to the corner restaurant where I spotted the beautiful 17-year-old señorita who was the headliner. I said I wanted to interview her for my UCLA classmate’s fledgling arts and cultural magazine, and I handed my business card to my Sevilla colleagues. It had the magic name “Calif.” printed on it. I was then hurried down the ancient cobblestone street to a three-storied building where the male flamenco students lived.
We went up to the third floor, each floor cantilevered out over the narrow street by several feet. There, I was taken out on a balcony where I found myself only six or seven feet from the corresponding balcony of the identical building across the street: the residence of the female students — and there she was. Safely chaperoned by the distance between balconies. I got my interview. I hoped that some day she would be able to sing the role of Carmen ... and I would have given anything to be her Don José.
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