Chez Joselito

As an almost obsessive addict of the Joselito’s Pata Negro (Iberico Bellota), I made a special trip out to his storage facility about ten miles outside the historic city of Salamanca. After a detailed explanation of the aging process from owner José Gomez, who is affectionately called “Joselito,” which is the brand name for his extraordinary products, we sat down for a lunch prepared by his chef from Madrid, Alberto Cuesta, who runs his tapas bar in Madrid, called Sula, where I ate last November. He pulled one of the oldest hams from his inventory, a ten-year old Iberico Bellota, which was remarkable. While I actually prefer his three-year old Iberico Bellota because the meat is sweeter, the quality of the fat of the 2001 Iberico Bellota was amazing. The fat content of these amazing hams contains high levels of oleiric acid, which is actually good for you as hard as that may be to believe. They literally melt on your palate from your body temperature and will blow away any American ham as well as any of the Italian prosciutos or French Bayonne jambons. We also had a selection of his extraordinary chorizo, salchicon (my personal favorite) and his lomo. These remarkable delicacies were washed down with a wonderful bottle of 1996 Louis Roederer Cristal and a wine I loved even more for its purity, freshness, lightness and extraordinary perfume, the 2010 Botani, a wine from visionary Spanish wine importer, Jorge Ordonez, whose family owns this vineyard. Essentially dry, the Botani is made from the Muscat grape. An exquisite rarity, it retails in the United States for about $18 a bottle. We followed that with another indigenous white Spanish varietal, the 2009 Godella from a bodega called Avanthia. This impressive effort possesses the texture of a white Burgundy and was a much richer, fuller, more honeyed wine than the Botani. We next moved to a great value that I would unquestionably drink as a house wine, the 2009 Volver from La Mancha. Made from 50-year old Tempranillo vines, it sells for an astonishing $16-$17 a bottle. With that we had an assortment of fresh seafood as José Gomez is obsessed with fresh seafood (almost all of it was served within 24 hours of being caught). All Gomez had the chef do was briefly boil the seafood minimally, so it was almost like eating sashimi. We enjoyed so much red shrimp from Alicante, langoustines and cigales that I thought I might need a forklift to get me to the car. Next José Gomez grilled chunks of his Iberico Bellota pigs, including the tenderloin and part of the back muscle called presa. The latter is incredibly flavored pork that is cooked medium rare, which may turn some people off, but it is actually healthy. With that we had a spectacular wine, the 2007 Alto Moncayo, a 100% Grenache from 7-year old vines. Although still a baby in terms of development, it is a remarkable wine that should last 20+ years. We finished with the 1999 Vega Sicilia Unico. Mature tobacco, cedar and Pauillac-like notes of black currants, herbs and licorice jumped from the glass of this complex, classy red that seemed relatively mature for a young Vega Sicilia.

The next day, this memorable lunch was followed by an equally memorable special tour of one of the oldest libraries in Europe, the special inner sanctus santorum of the University of Salamanca (Europe’s second oldest university) and a look at their sanctus sanctorum, where I saw a Hebrew Torah from around 50 A.D. I also saw a wine book written in Latin around 100 A.D. that contained many references to Spanish wine regions such as Rioja, Toro and Catalunya.

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