South America 2016

One of our guests on this year’s trip to South America (Laurel) has kindly written up an account of her experience and, being a photographer, has done so with some fantastic images of the tour.  Click on the image below to experience the trip through the lens of her camera.


She has also been good enough to share some tasty South American recipes she cooked up that were inspired by the many, many meals we ate:


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Camino de Santiago

Last week Simon took a trip to one of his favourite parts of the world, Galicia, to do a little research for a private tour in June. Part of this involved a 7 hour trek on the French Way of the Camino de Santiago. O Cebreiro in the snow covered mountains where El Bierzo meets Galicia at 4300ft was a treat, offering spectacular views over the countryside.

O Cebreiro

The walk from Triacastela is not too difficult but it is long, and no amount of 1 hour walks with the dog can prepare the legs and feet for the sheer scale of this route. However, with the good company of Diego and Yvonne, things didn’t seem quite so difficult early on. Being blessed with sunny weather and a cooling breeze also helped, as well as wonderful vistas like the washing place on the river at San Cristobal.

The washing place, San Cristobal

One of the highlights of this part of the Way is the Monastery of St Julian of Samos. After three hours walking through forests and fields, following the yellow arrows that mark the Camino, the monastery can be seen from above and it is a wonderful sight. School children from Sevilla pass us as if they are on a stroll through their city, while our slightly older legs are starting to feel it a little.

Samos monastery from above

Dating from the 6th Century the monastery is Benedictine and its foundation is associated with Martin of Braga. Its cloister is a temple to solitude and calmness, the inner sanctum a world away form the myriad of pilgrims outside.

Samos Monastery, inner courtyard

Walking around we meet with a monk still living here who shows us some of the pictures adorning the walls, including one of a certain well-known Galician, General Francisco Franco and his wife, paying a visit after the monastery was restored following a fire in 1951. Just around the corner from the monastery is the lovely 9th Century Moorish style church of Salvador, known as the Chapel of the Cypresses.

Chapel of the Cypresses, Samos

Three more hours, much ‘digging deep, the beginning of many blisters, more wonderful views and many laughs, we reached Sarria. As always there are many great memories made and friendships forged on a difficult walk. The ‘delicious pain’ eventually subsides and the joy of finishing a difficult journey takes over.

The Camino can be done in many different ways and for many different reasons. I look forward to returning to do more of this magnificent route in the near future.

Simon at The Mount of Joy, overlooking Santiago de Compostela


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Wine of the Week – Luis Canas Reserva, 2009

Doing a little pre-tour research we have been tasting wines from one of our favourite producers in Rioja, Luis Canas. In October we are going to Spain with Jessica Bell from My Wine School ( and Luis Canas will be one of the places we visit (along with several other fantastic wineries). You can still squeeze into the last couple of places if you hurry (; Spain at harvest time is an amazing sight to behold so don’t miss it!


Luis Canas Reserva, 2009

All of the Luis Canas wines are truly tasty in a modern Riojan style. We’ll be sampling a selection when we visit, but for an honest and stylish wine at a very reasonable price we suggest you try the 2009 Reserva. 18 months in French and American oak and 18 months in bottle, this wine is made from vines averaging 40 years old. Ripe red fruit and smooth, balanced tannins, this is a Rioja well worth trying.

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Galicia 2014

Jeremy and Simon recently visited Galicia in NW Spain with a wine loving group from QBE.  We were fortunate to encounter some fine weather and equally fine wines.

On the steep banks of the River Sil

On the steep banks of the River Sil, Ribeira Sacra

Close to the top of the list of the exceptional wines was the very tasty Pazo Senorans Seleccion de Anada 2007 (this week’s Wine of the Week). Drinking this Albarino from the Rias Baixis in the magnificent surroundings of the 16th Century country house, one time refuge for the King of Portugal, was a memorable experience.

Tasting the Pazo Senorans Seleccion de Anada

Tasting the Pazo Senorans Seleccion de Anada

The style of trellising in Galicia is quite unique with the vines raised on pergolas supported by granite slabs to protect the grapes from rotting in the morning mists.

Granite supported trellises at Pazo Senorans

Granite supported trellises at Pazo Senorans

From the coastal Rias Baixis we travelled inland to the Ribeira Sacra to taste some top Mencias and Godellos (amongst others) from Adega Algueria. Jeremy and Simon caught up with winemaker (philosopher and poet) Fernando Gonzalez and we were treated to a Galician beef lunch. Superb!

Jeremy & Simon with winemaker Fernanado

Jeremy & Simon with winemaker Fernanado

After lunch we took a walk in the sunshine and had time to take in the views from the top of the valley almost 2000ft above the river.


Views of the River Sil

Then it was a short drive to the river itself and a boat ride with a tasty glass of ice cold Algueira wine. We’ll be doing a trip like this next September so keep an eye out on the website.

On the River Sil

On the River Sil




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Wine of the Week – Finca de Villatuerta, Chardonnay, Chivite, 2012

In wine terms Navarra is a region struggling a little with its identity, placed as it is beside Spain’s most famous wine region, Rioja. It is a beautiful place however, and one which we visit quite often. One of the stars of the region is undoubtedly Bodegas Julian Chivite. A family owned winery that dates back to 1647 it produces a range of high quality wines, many of them with equally high prices. This wine from Villatuerta doesn’t cost the world but still is a classy Chardonnay with lovely aromas and flavours. It is aged on its lees and partially fermented in barrel giving it a fine texture and complexity. Try it!


Chivite Finca de Villatuerta Chardonnay, 2012

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Wine of the Week – Ramey Syrah 2010, Sonoma Coast, California

We were fortunate to have the company of the Associate Winemaker of Ramey Wines, Alice Sprouse, on our recent Gourmet and Whiskey trip to Ireland & Scotland. At a dinner at Jeremy’s parent’s house she shared some bottles of Ramey Wines, the standout bring the Syrah. Packed with black fruit and cool climate, Northern Rhone in style, (and 95 Parker points to boot) this was a beautifully crafted, delicious wine. If you can get your hands on some snap it up!


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Wine of the Week – Vina Gravonia, Rioja, 2004

Spanish whites are coming to the fore once again with the vanguard being led by crisp, easy drinking varietals from DO’s like the Rias Baixas and Rueda. However, this week we are going back to an old classic from Rioja stalwart Lopez de Heredia. The Gravonia is made from 100% Viura and shows how wonderful this grape can be. Aged for 4 years in barrels it is a complex wine giving a slightly oxidised, hazlenut flavour with good acidity. We love it!


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