Updated: Aug 3
Every great hero has an origin story. And our famous Sangria is no exception.
A few years ago, my wife and I were staying at the Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Elciego, Spain. The hotel was designed by the creative mind of the Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry. This is the same architect who, among his other noted accomplishments, designed the world-famous Gugenheim Museum in Bilbao. The museum is a must see if you ever get to visiting Spain.
Our hotel was nestled on the grounds of a sprawling winery and was conveniently located in the Rioja region of northern Spain. This is the region that is renowned for growing the full-bodied Tempranillo grapes that sets the flavor foundation for traditional Sangria. In the evenings, after a long day or touring, we sampled the traditional small plate dishes that the locals call Tapas and washed them down with the most luscious Sangria I had ever tasted. In contrast to the Tapas, the Sangrias were served in massive proportions. I think they were closer in size to a soup turine than to a normal glass. One taste and I was in love with the dark concoction crafted by our very talented bartender. Silky smooth and imbued with multiple levels of flavor this was a mind-blowing experience for me. Kind of like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time.
Over the next few days, each time we dined at the hotel restaurant, I made it my mission to strike up a conversation with her with the hope that she would eventually reveal to me the alchemy that she performed in the creation of the Sangria. She resisted my efforts until the evening before we checked out. I told her that the Sangria she created was magical, transformative and the best I had ever tasted and that I wanted to make it for myself and for my friends back at home. Whether it was due to my dogged persistence or my boyish charm, she agreed to share with me her secret formula. But there was catch: she would share the ingredients but not the proportions. What the heck. Half a loaf is better than none. That evening, as I left the restaurant, I felt as though I had just won the Golden Ticket.
After returning home, I spent the next few weeks experimenting with the ingredients , trying to rebuild the flavor profile of the Sangria I had so enjoyed in Spain. True, confession: this was the best homework assignment I had ever done. With each blending of wine and other ingredients I would get closer to the ideal. Happily, many batches later, I finally hit on the right proportions. You too can experience a bit of Spain when you order our Sangria for your party. Sit back, relax, enjoy a plate of Patatas Bravas and sip on a Sangria that you too may find to be magical and transformative.