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Day 9 – May 10th
Today we went to see the research winery/center for the University. It is an amazing structure, very modern and new. I was really impressed with the architecture and lines of the design of the building. We were told that the entire building’s electricity came from green solar panels and was self-sufficient. We were shown the grounds, steel tanks and a lab where our yeast master, Professor Aaron Welch was really impressed. We then had an amazing lunch prepared by Rosie; tortilla espanola, chorizo, fresh bread and cheeses with treats for desert.
We decided that we had time to visit the old part of the city of Logroño, so we headed that way. We stopped at a gorgeous park and took pictures, then headed across the Ebro River towards the town. It was an old town still teeming with life; some parts had even been covered with graffiti, which I find very fun to photograph!
We headed to the University for our tour of the students wineries. I was interested to hear that the enology students, as a final class project, had to work together and create not only a wine, but they also had to market it with a label and name designed by themselves. They would then have to present their wines to a board of directors for their grade. It really made me appreciate how seriously they take wine making here in Rioja. I would love to be able to make wines and present them! I realized that these studies and courses are preparing the students to step into their “real world,” the wine world. I was seriously impressed (and a little jealous!). We also got to go into a room where we could see the finished products of these students, current and past. It was great to see the names they came up with and their designs! We were then taken by Javier and a few other people to a massive amount of land where all of their vineyards were. I was blown away by the amount of land surrounding us; I don’t think I had yet seen so much vineyard space. We toured the vineyards and learned about some of the techniques used by the university. We learned about the amount of spurs you need (2 per “arm) and the “head” or “bush” techniques. We learned that the suckers had to be removed because if not, they would take the little bit of water from the good spurs and leave them struggling. I loved learning about how the plants “live” and fight for water and life. Then we had a real treat; we got to see the Tempranillo Blanco vineyards! At first you could not see much of a difference but as you got closer and looked at the buds, you saw that they were white with a bit of yellow, where the regular Tempranillo vines threw reddish buds. It was so cool to see that anomaly.
After dinner, we had a great evening hanging out with Chip and Chris, talking and drinking good wine.
Day 10 – May 11th
Today we had our last language lesson with Marta from Cilengua. We wrapped up with ideas we had for tourists coming into La Rioja. She has been an amazing and patient teacher and we all clapped for each of the non English-speaking students when they recited something in Spanish. We have come to feel like a tight knit family and we fully supported each other during these classes. I worked mostly with Denis during these lessons and was so proud when he flawlessly and confidently read an entire paragraph in Spanish!!! At the end of our class she gave us each a gift, a pin that said Rioja with our schools colors! She is very thoughtful and was a great part of our trip.
We had a free day for the rest of the day until we headed out for a night on the town in Logroño. I know that this is something that I have really been looking forward to because I had heard of the festive nightlife and tapas that we would be experiencing and I love seeing the cultures of a town. We met with Javier and started off together in the first bar. We started with white wine and I asked for a codfish dish that was absolutely delicious! You could feel the energy of the town and it was filled with people enjoying life. Javier explained that in order to experience the tapas bars properly; we could not spend more than fifteen minutes at each bar! It was difficult to do because we were not accustomed to moving so quickly through a snack and a drink! We went to a few more bars and tried some more great food. Ozzie, Frank and I paired up and each bought rounds, so we shared plates of foie gras, goat cheese on marmalade toast and shrimp filled mushrooms. It was a wonderful culinary experience as well as nightlife experience! We headed back on the early bus home and Orestes, always good-natured and willing to share, bought a pink moscato that we all enjoyed on the way home. I loved that everyone was in great spirits and it was definitely my favorite night of the trip.
Journal written by Nicole Lindares vindepresse.com
Nicole Linares is a student at the Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality, USA, an active member of her schools Wine Academy and budding wine writer