Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The word “aficionado” was invented to describe my old friend Gerry Dawes. In his veins the blood of Spain flows at perpetual flood tide.
Gerry’s knowledge of Spanish culture is so encyclopedic that Don Quixote paid him a travel consultant’s per diem. Zurbarán painted his portrait (as a saint, which mystified his friends). Ferdinand and Isabella allowed him to run sherry, stored in the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, to the New World; all that sherry so impressed Dawes’s first customer, a Jewish merchant named Lehmann, whom the Inquisition had expelled, that he took the whole line and named his store Jerez-Lehmann.
No one is likely to call Gerry a shrinking violet. He is a man of opinion, strong opinion, strongly expressed; he does not tend to invest in understatement. If he had been a matador, Spain would have run out of bulls.
For Dawes, Iberia’s food universe is nearly as important as its multiple wine regions. He has crisscrossed Spain seeking out, relishing, photographing and publicizing small but stellar restaurants and their chefs --- un trabajo de amor (a labor of love).
All this explains why I welcomed spending a few hours in early April tasting Gerry Dawes Selections, imported by his new company, the Spanish Artisan Wine Group, at Despaña, a SoHo cafe and grocery steeped in Iberian specialties aromas, flavors and atmosphere. The 22 wines sampled, all of character and interest, were well worth the detour.