Fernando & his Camino de Santiago

A lovely gentleman named Fernando Rojo (the star of this show!) sells Jens several lines of Spanish wines for J. Strecker Selections, our local import company. For the last couple of years he has made parts of the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, a lifelong dream of mine. I had so much fun following him this year on Facebook, that I decided to do a blog post of his trek with a little about the nearby wine lands as a side note.

[By the way, Fernando will be visiting the Seattle market from October 31-Nov 2, so stay tuned for tastings so that you meet him, hear his stories and taste his wines!]

UNESCO_World Hertiage_Camino de Santiago
For background on this historical pilgrimage>

In 2003, Fernando walked from O Cebreiro to Santiago de Compostela (7 days // 190 kms). Last year, he started in France (Saint Jean Pied de Port) and finished in his hometown of Burgos (10.5 days // 290 kms). This year, he did the middle section: Burgos to O Cebreiro (12 days // 360 kms), for a total of 29 days & 840 kms (approx 522 miles). Wow!

Here’s is story in pictures and a few words:


August 12 // Day 1:  Burgos – Hontanas (approximately 30 km)
“Here I go again. Hoy no aparqué mi polo en una zona no regulada para salir corriendo con las maletas y coger el autobús 🚌 con destino el aeropuerto. Hoy comenzó el tercer y último capítulo…”

Translation: Here I go again. Today I didn’t park my Polo (it is my car, my 21 year old Volkswagen Polo) in a unregulated area to run out with the bags and catch the bus 🚌 with the airport as my destination. Today started the third and last chapter…


August 13 // Day 2:  Hontanas – Boadilla del Camino (~ 30 km)

“Hoy me duele todo, pero aún no me he preguntado: pero qué coño hago yo aquí? Hoy con un campo de visión de más de 50 kms me he sentido el único ser vivo del planeta 🌍🌎”

Translation: Today everything hurts, but I haven’t asked myself yet: What the fuck am I doing here? Today with a field of vision of more than 50 kms, I felt like I was the only living being on the planet 🌍🌎


August 14 // Day 3:  Boadilla del Camino – Carrión de los Condes (~ 30 km)

“Al que no madruga Dios le da ración triple de vitamina D. Me compraría el paseo junto al Canal de Castilla. Qué bonito puede llegar a ser el silencio.”

Translation:  I didn’t wake up early, and sadly I didn’t catch the worm. I now have to walk many hours under the sun. But this may be God’s way of giving me a triple vitamin D ration. I would pay to walk next to the Canal de Castilla. How beautiful silence can be.


August 15 // Day 4:  Carrión de los Condes – Ledigos (~ 30 km)



August 16 // Day 5:  Ledigos – Bercianos del Real Camino (~ 30 km)

“No vuelvo a quejarme por la estar 12 horas sentado en un avión…”

Translation: I’ll never complain again about sitting 12 hours on a plane…


August 17 // Day 6:  Bercianos del Real Camino – Mansilla de las Mulas (~ 30 km)

“Ya vamos a más!”

Translation:  I feel better, I feel stronger!


August 18 // Day 7:  Mansilla de las Mulas – Valverde de la Virgen (~ 30 km)

“Primera semana completada. Que mal empecé el día, que dolores. Ya superé los 200 kms…”

Translation:  First week completed. How badly I started the day, what pains! I’ve already walked more than 200 kms…”


August 19 // Day 8:   
Valverde de la Virgen – Santibáñez De Valdeiglesias (~ 30 km)

“Hoy el radar me cazó…”

Translation: Today the radar hunted me…


August 20 // Day 9:   Santibáñez De Valdeiglesias – El Ganso (~ 30 km)

“Día amargo y no por el sabor de los antiinflamatorios: mi compañero tuvo que parar y visitar urgencias. Ya queda poco.”

Translation:  Bitter day and not for the taste of anti-inflammatory drugs: my partner had to stop and visit the ER. I am near the end.


August 21 // Day 10:   El Ganso – Molinaseca (~ 30 km)

“Si hay purgatorio hoy lo he cruzado. Más de 30 kms, con 18 bajando puro barranco. El demonio vino a visitarme…

Translation: If there’s purgatory today I’ve crossed it. More than 30 kms, with 18 down pure ravine. The Demon came to visit me…


August 22 // Day 11:   Molinaseca – Villafranca del Bierzo (~ 30 km)

“Si Dios quiere mañana completaré el Camino. 29 kms y un desnivel de 1.000 metros faltan”

Translation: If God wants tomorrow, I’ll complete the way. 29 kms at 1,000-meters still to walk.


August 23 // Day 12:   Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro (~ 30 km)

“Día 12 de 12. Hoy es nuestro día. Estuvimos juntos en 2003, 2017 y 2018…”

Translation: Day 12 of 12. Today is our day [talking to his t-shirt]. We were together in 2003, 2017 and 2018…

Fernando_Camino de Santiago_t-shirt_2018IMG_2930IMG_2931IMG_2932IMG_2933IMG_2934IMG_2935

“Gracias Camino!”

Translation: Thank you pilgrimage!

And thank you, Fernando, for sharing your trek with us! See you at the end of the month in Seattle!

Here are the wine regions along his “camino”:

Wine Folly_Spain_v3_square

Navarra and Rioja in orange, the northern part of Castilla y León in green including Bierzo and then Rias Baixas (home to Albariño) in pale blue on the Atlantic Coast. If the best you can do to experience the trek is learn about and drink wine from the lands from whence they came, then we support the effort!


Julie, co-owner with Jens
Portalis Wines & J. Strecker Selections


Holiday Suggestion: Spanish Sherry

We haven’t come across many Seattleites who are really into sherry.  We agree that it tends towards the esoteric, but you don’t have to turn into a sherry nut to have a general idea of what sherry’s all about and you certainly don’t have to know a darn thing about it to enjoy sipping a little glass of it, whether that be before your meal as a little dry aperitif or after your meal with dessert.

On November 20, we hosted a tasting with the San Francisco Wine Exchange’s local sherry expert, Brian Patterson (he’s also their Northwest Division Manager) and he gave me a very helpful little overview of sherry which was done in such a charming way that it a) stuck with me and b) I was itching to try the stuff with the pairings he suggested. Thus, I decided that you might feel the same way:

All sherry starts out dry and then it’s fortified, with all resulting types of sherry falling into one of two categories:  fino (lighter, drier sherries) & olorosos (which are a varying range of dry to extremely sweet sherries).  There is a third category of very sweet Sherries that are produced from the Pedro Ximenez grape that has been allowed to dry into raisins.  Our tasting featured 1 oloroso and 2 Pedro Ximenez’s:
Gonzalez Byass NV Dry Oloroso Alfonso ($21 | Case $16.80) was dry and nutty, a more versatile oloroso in that it could easily be paired with savory, autumnal flavors.  Brian said that traditional pairings would be sliced ham, manchego with quince, lots of little fried tapas such as a ham & cheese croquette or boquerones … “the Spanish are master fryers”.  Brian suggested that another nice NW pairing would be a mushroom dish such as braised barley with chanterelles, smoked salmon as well as various cured meats, and game dishes such as venison, pheasant, wild boar and foie gras. Serve this sherry room temperature. 
Gonzalez Byass NV Pedro Ximenez Nectar ($21 | Case $16.80) was 100% PX and was young (aged 7 years in barrels).  It has simple, sweet flavors of maple, dates & earth and would be a delicious dessert accompaniment to an uncomplicated, simple dish such as vanilla ice cream, short bread or flan.
Gonzalez Byass NV VORS Noe  ($51 | Case $40.80) Brian explained that sherry is non-vintage because it’s aged in a solera, which is a process whereby the sherry is moved through the newest to the oldest barrels in a collection, potentially gaining contact (the longer it’s aged) with remnants of sherry as old as the estate.  The VORS designation indicates that a sherry has been aged a minimum of 30 years.  This beautiful drink is a lovely, slow sipper, where layers of chocolate, nuts, coffee, molasses, prunes and more unfold as you enjoy.

Other sherries that we carry at Portalis:
Bodegas Pedro Romero Dry Oloroso Sherry $14 | Case $11.20
Alvear 1927 PX Solera (375ml) $30 | Case $24

We’re considering having Brian back next year to do a sherry class in our back room, so please let us know if you’d be interested in joining.

Julie, Owner
Portalis Wines

Thanksgiving with Germans? It’s Spanish, of course!

How will the owners of Portalis spend their Thanksgiving? I spent a few minutes with Jens and Julie to ask what they’ll be cooking up for the holiday:

Portalis Wine Blog: So, how will you two be spending your rare day off together for the upcoming holiday?
 Julie: This year we will be celebrating at home with our two girls, Clara and Annelie, and we’ve invited another couple, both from Germany and their little daughter.  A nice meal, some wine with friends, all around a cozy fire. We are very excited.
PWB: I’m curious what’s on the menu?
 Julie: Well, Germans don’t eat a lot of turkey, it’s not a common food there. So we thought we’d switch it up this year and prepare something different. Jens suggested one of his special dishes, Paella!
PWB: That’s definitely different for Thanksgiving, but sounds delicious. So what will be your contribution to the meal?
 Julie: In keeping with the Spanish theme, I thought I’d prepare homemade brandade (salt cod) paired with a sparkling Cava from Casteller. Next will be a frisée salad with an anchovy vinaigrette paired with Palacios 2007 Remondas Placet, a white Rioja. Oh, and there’ll be a big plate of orange slices, a bowl of peas and lots of homemade bread on the table for the kids.
PWB: Jens, you’re in charge of the main course, Paella. Tell me how you like to prepare it and some of your secret ingredients.
 Jens:  I like to take my time, by prepping some of the ingredients the day before. The main secret is to cook the rice in clam juice. I like to put lots of different seafood and meat in it: dungeness crab, halibut cheeks, scallops, octopus, prawns, shrimp, chicken, sausage, bacon, bell peppers, herb salt, saffron and pepper. 
PWB: Sounds awesome! What wine will you be drinking with it?
 Jens: Well, we’ll do several…(We’re German!) Clos Les Fites 2003 Priorat, El Quintanal 2005 Ribera Del Duero, and then maybe Celler Tomas 2006 Vilosell Costers del Segre . These reds range from plummy and elegant to full-bodied and spicy.
PWB: …And for dessert? assuming you have room.
 Jens: Our friend Nickie is a trained chef and will be making flan as well as her specialty… apple tart tatin. I can’t wait!
PWB: Which dessert wine have you selected?
 Jens: Eiswein of course for the tart.  Then probably Moscatel for the flan.
PWB: Just one more question, “Do you have room for one more at the table?”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! For suggestions on wine pairings for your holiday meal, feel free to contact Jens (jens@portaliswines.com) for recommendations. Also, check out our Food+Wine page for a new spin on a traditional meal from Chef Tracey.