Poor Colorado Snowfall inspires Spanish Wine Adventure

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Funny thing happened on my way to Colorado for some spring skiing. Somewhere around Omaha I took a wrong turn and ended up in Spain. Now before any of your call into question my map reading skills, I will only say many factors were at play:  Poor snowfall, nagging back injury, enticing invitation, major urge to break my travel rut, all spun way into a mad vortex, spitting me out at Bilbao Airport, with barely a word of Spanish to show for myself. Its these unexpected junkets that so often produce the best adventures.

Most of the week-long tour was spent traversing the famed wine regions of La Rioja and Ribera del Duero, capping off the last couple of days in the Basque fishing village of Lekeitio, along the Northwest Coast. My motives for the trip werent entirely leisurely. By placing myself in one of the world’s leading food and wine regions, I would massive jumpstart my soon-to-be-launched project documenting artisan food producers and winemakers (stay tuned for more details). On that account it was a great success, providing a slew of contacts, ideas, and inspirations.

On that account it was a great success. I made a few key connections in the wine industry. We’re talking colorful wine makers with a passion for their craft, producing wine that is second to none, who were very eager to open connections into new markets.  Food was amazing, nearly across the board.  There’s something to be said for tapas, the way they’re done in Spain: simple ingredients naturally compliment one another or the other extreme of greatly contrasting ingredients, producing a cacophony of flavors. If there was a bottom line to Spanish tapas, its about the quality of ingredients used. Spain’s fabulously diverse landscape holds such an abundance of good food.

Great food and wine, friendly and colorful locals, warm and sunny weather. NO wonder Spain is such a magical travel destination.  Errrrghh, ok. Let’s be honest for a minute about the weather. Let’s just say I was caught seriously off guard. I packed my bags on a warm spring evening in Michigan, dreaming of blazing Mediterranean sunshine while obsessively striving to fulfill a goal that had eluded me on so many European journeys before: to travel light. It was, as I soon discovered, a recipe for near disaster. For we arrived into a cold and blustery landscape, persistently swept by blustery squalls and rain showers. If only I had thrown in the down coat and ski hat, I’d have been a happy traveler. So I issue this word of caution to anyone hoping to visit la Rioja region in April. The Rain in Spain is a f*&king pain.

Though the camera often played second fiddle on this trip, given the gloomy weather and various other “distractions”, I somehow managed to expose some 1,100 photographs, some of the best I share with you in the following slideshow. I adore that feeling of walking through a new landscape with camera in hand. As a photographer its a vital way to recharge my creative energy. I will try to write up some more specific notes from my journey, but for now I wanted to at least show a few images for friends and family who’ve already been asking.  Enjoy!

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