World Wine Guys discover the long history of winemaking, culinary treasures, the culture of Navarra and the annual “Fiesta de San Fermín”.
Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, are wine, spirits, food, and travel writers, educators, and hosts. They are award winning journalists as well as best-selling and award-winning authors. They are also sincere food and wine lovers of Spain and got the insider’s experience of Navarra during San Fermin, learning more about the region’s history and culture and meeting the people responsible for such wonderful wines and dishes.
Navarra’s long history of winemaking dates back to the Romans, which can be appreciated by visiting Villa Romana de las Musas (Arellano) Fast-forward to the 13th century and we find winemaking still plays quite a role, this time to supply wine for the Royal Court and the Monasteries during the reconquest.
Today, winemaking continues to be important, quite evident when visiting the medieval town of Olite just 30 minutes south of Pamplona, where the headquarters of the region (Denominación de Origen Navarra) is located and surrounded by vineyards. Mike & Jeff had a chance to taste through the wines of Castillo de Eneriz, Bodegas Escudero, Bodegas Piedemonte, Quaderna Via, Bodegas Marco Real and Nekeas.
During their visit, they were able to get a better idea of the diverse terroir the region has to offer by visiting the wineries in the various sub-zones:
- Bodegas Ochoa (Olite) – Ribera Alta
- Camilo Castilla (Corella) – Ribera Baja
- Bodega Asensio (Sesma) – Ribera Alta
- Bodega Inurrieta (Falces) – Valdizarbe
- Castillo de Monjardin (Villamayor de Monjardin) – Estella
- Bodega Otazu (Echauri) – Estella
Of course, a visit to anywhere in Spain isn’t complete until having a long dinner and perhaps the most traditional way to enjoy the array of dishes is to sample an assortment of small plates (“raciones”) and pinchos (tapas). Here are some recommendations for award-winning restaurants in Pamplona we visited:
La Cocina de Alex Mújica – www.alexmugica.com
Restaurante Enekorri – www.enekorri.com
Pinchos & Tapas:
Bar Fitero – www.barfitero.es
El Gaucho – www.cafebargaucho.com
The Navarran cultural, history, food and wine experience aren’t over as we approach the festivities of the famous San Fermin, one of the patron saints of Pamplona (the other official saint is Javier). On the 6th of July at 12 PM on the Town Square thousands of people gather for “Chupinazo”, the official “kick-off” of the week-long celebration of San Fermin, this is when all of Pamplona gets dressed in white and puts on their red “pañuelo at 12 PM when the rocket goes off announcing the beginning of San Fermin.
On the 7th, the first “encierro” takes place at 8AM when the rocket blasts and the bulls run from the corral to the bullring through the streets of Pamplona. If you’re not a runner, the best idea is to get a view from a balcony as we did.
After watching thousands of people run in front of bulls and steers it’s time for the traditional “Baile de Alpargatas” at the Casino de Pamplona where you can watch families of all ages dance and refuel on the much needed “chocolates con churros”.
After dancing (8:30 AM – 9:30) it’s time for brunch “almuerzo” and one the best places to really experience a Pamplona tradition is by getting invited by a member of a “sociedad gastronomica” a private culinary club and lucky for us David Palacios, President of D.O. Navarra got us an invitation to enjoy a typical meal of ham, eggs, and potatoes at Napardi, and of course enjoy more wine from Navarra. Just as we were finishing up our meal we ran outside to watch the parade of “Gigantes & Cabezudos” and get a close-up view of the throne of San Fermin giving his blessing, a family favorite.
Afterward, we continue the celebrations at El Caballo Blanco to join the international group of generations of devoted San Fermin fans – “Los Amigos de Pamplona” – where David Palacios gave a toast to them thanking them for loving his town, Pamplona. Now we have even more #NavarraWineLovers. Gracias!