Halloween Pairing: Tarot & Wine

tarot wine

I love tarot and have since I was a twenty-something in Seattle. I lived in a sweet bungalow replete with a mini garden of Eden bursting with flowers and plants, just off lake Washington. We were a gaggle of offbeat young ladies who didn’t fit in anywhere.  If memory serves, it was RB who got me into tarot, that and the I Ching, unleashing a life long passion for beautiful visual renderings of the unknown.  Divination was our thing but we stayed for the clarity and insight the cards brought.  We wanted to capture what was in the air, what we had no words for and could just barely sense.  

My first deck was a Rider-Waite deck and in those early years I read all the time for anyone and everyone.  I knew I wasn’t predicting the future just teasing out the elements and unspoken influences that surrounded the person and their experiences.  The cards are beautiful, chock full of mythology, religion, history and mystery, their realm is the hidden depths of life.  Reading tarot is like having Halloween every day.  So when Halloween comes around there is no better way to celebrate than by pulling out a deck of cards and some wine to enjoy that one moment of the year when the veil is thin and the two realms of life and death fuse into one.  


The Cask of Amontillado

Edgar Allen Poe is one of my favorite writers of all time.  His stories helped to kindle my lifelong fascination with horror, not gory stuff but macabre, disturbing tales of ghosts, madness, jealousy, revenge and murder.  Each one of his stories is indelibly marked into my consciousness like the exacting, inexplicable (it seems even to the protagonist himself) revenge of Montresor in “The Cask of Amontillado”.  It was not until many, many years later in my career as a professional Spanish wine educator that would I come to learn about amontillado.  Firstly, it is a type of sherry, an aged white wine from Andalucia.  That ageing and oxidation gives the wine its deep golden color and rich nutty flavor (almonds). It is absolutely delicious! Poor Fortunato did at least die in pursuit of something wonderful.  We tend to think of sherry as some beverage trapped in the 18th century or it reminds us of grandma’s overly sweet tipple. While it´s fame has extended far and wide over the centuries it has been largely ignored in recent years, at least some of that might have to do with the misconception that sherry is a sweet wine.  While there are many out there, the truth is, most sherry isn’t sweet but beautifully dry.  One classy way to celebrate Halloween is by paying homage to this macabre tale of revenge by enjoying a glass (or two or three) of this wonderful wine.  

Not familiar with “The Cask of Amontillado” or just itching to revisit that classic tale, then check out Vincent Price´s (the prince of darkness himself) excellent rendition or click here for a cool Spanish short film version of the story.

Halloween is for wine lovers!

CATA DE VINOS DE HALLOWEENSome people get psychotically amped about Christmas, other people freak out for Easter but for me the best holiday that ever was or ever will be is Halloween.  This may or may not have something to do with my family´s over the top celebrations, when our suburban home became a haunted mansion with aliens, mad scientists, dead bodies and monsters.  If you could make it through our gauntlet we were very generous with the candy (only the best candy) and so a good time was had, more or less, by all.

Halloween can be scary, funny, campy, ridiculously over the top or all of the above and it is the only holiday that invites us to be as outrageous as our hearts desire.  This is no slight to Carnival, which does have it over Halloween as a multiple day celebration, but I like my outrageousness and costumes mixed with blood and at least a hint a of terror a la “The Mask of the Red Death”.  Also wine. Especially red wine.  Wine and blood are inextricably linked, from the Roman Catholic Church to vampires, once we left the realm of the literal we entered the realm of the metaphysical where blood was transmuted into wine. Talk about an improvement, let’s face it not all blood is equally delicious and blood sacrifice was unsanitary, not to mention unethical? Also depending on the grape variety and the temperature you can get something close enough as to not be able to tell the difference. While both are pretty messy,  one gets you tipsy and the other doesn´t although it may give you superhuman strength.

So let’s raise a glass of full bodied, bloody red wine to Halloween and take our moment to embrace all things macabre, mysterious, bloody, funny, weird or just plain terrifying. And come join me this Saturday 28 October at Opalo Gastropub for a four wine and tapas tasting with tarot!  20-21:30, 15€.

Space is limited, to sign up please call Opalo Gastropub, 910 578 880.

For more on the wine blood connection check out my post Blood and Wine.   


Spanish Organic Wines

When I talk with most people about organic wine, the response is nothing more than a polite nod followed by silence.  I suspect people are afraid and feel a bit guilty.  With unprecedented attention given to the environment and our negative impacts on it, we all feel like we should be doing a bit more to improve things.   But who wants to sacrifice great taste for Mother Earth? The fear is that these will be strange tasting, unpalatable wines that they know they should like, but don´t.

Even if you were inclined to purchase organic wine, right next to it you might find a bottle of natural wine or even biodynamic wines.  So then what? How do you know what to choose?

Before we rightfully brag about Spanish organic wines, let’s clarify some terms.

Organic wines = Earth-friendly wines

Organic wines are wines that have been certified by the European Union and hence, follow their rigorous 2012 guidelines.  These guidelines cover the entire process from cultivation to processing to aging.   What it means is that at no point have pesticides, fungicides or herbicides been used.  Show your love for Mother Earth by enjoying one of these wines.

Natural wines = Time travel wines

While natural wines adhere to the no -cides policy, they take it a step further by only employing traditional techniques and technology for their winemaking. These include collecting grapes by hand, aging wine in amphorae instead of barrels, only using natural corks, and not filtering the wine.  The idea is to maintain an unbroken continuum of taste from the past to the present, every sip an opportunity to travel back in time.

Biodynamic wines = Cosmic wines

Biodynamics is a holistic agricultural practice that seeks to harmonize the life force of the land by generating fertility and health.  This is done utilizing a whole host of practices such as planting a bull´s horn filled with fermented manure and minerals and using the moon cycle as a guide to cutting and harvesting crops.  These farmers believe that by syncing their land to the rhythm of the cosmos they are unleashing the full potential of the natural world to grow their crops. Therefore, to taste this wine is to connect with the power of the universe.

Now back to bragging.

Spanish organic and biodynamic wines are the world standard.  Spain boasts the largest surface area of organic vineyard in the world and produces some of the world’s best organic wine.  They consistently kill it in international wine competitions for doing what Spain does best: combining traditional practices with modern winemaking techniques. The reason why there is so much interest in organic, natural, and biodynamic wines may surprise you.  These techniques are seen as the best way preserve land and culture. By offering the drinker as true a taste, and therefore a sense, of the land as possible.

Okay so what about the taste?

Some winemakers are looking for consistency.  To maintain that consistency, they do whatever it takes to ensure their wines always taste more or less the same.  Others view their wine as an extension of the land and go to great lengths to make sure they don’t impede the way that their tierra influences taste and even highlight those characteristics that make it unique. These are wines that have character and individuality with something particular to share.  This is especially true of natural wines.  If you want something out of the ordinary, then these wines are for you.

At the end of the day, very few people can tell the difference between a good organic wine and a good regular wine.   There is no reason for you to not try for yourself.

So what are you waiting for?  Whether you want to show your love to the planet, sip the past, or connect to the universe, you are only one bottle away from doing something great for yourself and the planet!

Bar La Gloria

The top three reasons why I love Bar La Gloria.

Number one: I’ve personally never met a Gloria who wasn´t la gloria.  

I may be a little biased as it´s also my mother´s name.  This bar is named after and dedicated to the owner’s grandmother. It is her style that lends itself to the bar´s blend of old school decor with a minimalist, Scandinavian touch.  Generously decorated with black and white photos of Gloria la abuela, a gorgeous, outgoing woman. Bar La Gloria is a loving homage done with class, style and humor.

Number two: The bar has a wonderful mix of regional tapas not normally found in Madrid and a small but wide ranging selection of wines. The tapas, with a focus on the south,  all feature locally sourced ingredients from smaller producers.  Asturian Cachopo de cecina, a meat eater´s delight straight outta Oviedo, flamenquines from Córdoba, and remojón de naranja a delicious orange and salt cod salad from Andalucia just to name a few.  Accompanied by Galician beer, red wines from La Mancha and Extremadura or white wines from Galicia and Cadiz. If you want to get a nice slice of Spain Bar La Gloria is a great place to stop.

And number three: The people!  Nothing makes a space more inviting and more fun than the people. Come for the wide ranging home cooked Spanish comfort food, stay for the great wines, cocktails and wonderful atmosphere.

Intrigued? Come join me and Eat Out Madrid as we co-host Spanish Wine 101: Spain is Different, Saturday 20 May 19:30-21.  Purchase tickets here