Author: Kerri Lesh (page 1 of 4)

Wines of the Basque Country: “Springing” for a bottle of Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli

Spring time is approaching (believe it or not), and for me one of my favorite warm weather activities is sitting on a patio with a refreshing rosado or rosé wine.

As promised, I intend to share some of the benefits of doing fieldwork in a place that is world-renowned for their gastronomy.  I am excited to share that I had an interview with one of the most prominent txakolineros here in the Basque Country.

Txomin Etxaniz, as I have been told by many, is considered a founding father for the Getariako Txakolina Denominación de Origen.  I was therefore thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Mikel, who’s grandfather is the nephew of Txomin Extaniz himself.  Mikel’s father was one of the men responsible for starting the Denominación de Origen (Designation of origin) in 1989, which originally grew from the seven families that were involved.   It was much earlier, however, that the family was written into the history of viticulture in the region.  In 1649, the Gipuzkoa Protocol Archives mention Domingo de Etxaniz as being linked to growing vines in Getaria.  The family and team still produce this relic of Basque viticulture that started well before Basque gastronomy became world-famous.  From my personal experience, it is one of the most popular labels you can find in the United States for Getariako Txakolina D.O.   

I don’t know if there is anything better than drinking this rosado on a hot summer’s day.  This is the Basque version of the label, while it is translated into English in the United States.

(Txakolin Gorria, translates tored” txakoli, versus the txakolin beltza which means “black” txakoli-much like the French use of “noir” in Pinot Noir).  The acidity seems to be perfectly balanced by the fruitiness that results from mixing the hondarrabi beltza varietal with the better known white hondarrabi zuri (white varietal).  Take it a step further by pairing it with seafood, a creamy brie, or strawberries, and your tastebuds will jump for joy.

While this is a fairly easy find in the United States, which demands much of the rosado production, there’s nothing like drinking this beauty here, close to its roots in Euskalherria.  Did I mention this place comes with a view?

To find this young, zippy wine in the US, you can check out websites like: Wine Searcher

Check out the producer’s website: Txomin Etxaniz

Here is a line-up of all their delicious fermented grape products: 

Stay tuned for more wine and food recommendations fresh out of the Basque Country.  Still to come is this family’s espumoso and late harvest wine (pictured above)!

Cheers, or as they say in the Basque Country, “Topa!”

Basques abroad

It is hard to believe I am finally here in the Basque Country.  I’m tempted to say that I’ve waited a long time to get here to Euskalherria to start my fieldwork, but that wouldn’t be a completely accurate statement.  I could even say with some certainty that this year’s work and life in the Basque Country will represent both a reduction and culmination of my life’s interests and experiences, however, that would be limiting to the extensions of those same interests which lead me here:  languages, culture, wine, travel, food, diversity, and making connections with people around the world.  So, before sharing the amazing experiences I’ve already had while studying here, I would like to highlight those which were had before my arrival to the Basque Country this January.

Knowing I would be conducting fieldwork here for a whole year, I wanted to take advantage of the time and opportunity to travel to South America with my father.  In 2014, I spent an amazing time learning about the production and wine-making process in Casablanca, Chile.  With so much Basque heritage there, I was delighted to discover that the Basque diaspora still held its roots firmly planted in this South American country.  Finding the popular Basque wine called Chacoli was an adventure I won’t forget (see previous blog to read more about Chacoli in South America), discovering the ways in which a culture can change and be maintained across the globe.  But before returning to Chile, my dad and I checked out some Basque culture in Argentina.

I had come to know of a Basque restaurant from a man who had wandered into the Center for Basque Studies  before my departure.  He told me about his family and how one of them had started a restaurant in Buenos Aires.  I mentioned I’d be heading there soon, so he gave me the information to find Leiketio.  The food and drink which combined aspects of both Basque and Latin American cuisine were amazing. However, the most satisfying part of the meal was being able to use the little Basque I had acquired from the previous summer to speak to a server who had recently moved from the Basque Country.

My second encounter with Basque culture in South America happened after my dad had returned to the US, and I had moved on for my second visit to Chile.  I was in the beautiful, historic town of Valparaiso, listening to music and enjoying the warmer weather when a couple had passed me speaking Basque.  I started talking to them and found out they were the band Niña Coyote and Chico Tornado (and very well known I might add in the Basque Country! See below for a clip of their music).  Also turns out the family of one of the members lived on the same street that I currently live now here in Euskalherria!

Just goes to show that si, el mundo es un pañuelo! Hau bai mundu txikia! It’s a small world!

I hope to keep making these cross-cultural connections over the next year here.  Stay tuned for more adventures in fieldwork from here in Euskalherria!

 

Our newest edition to the CBS: Time to pass the torch

For the last year and a half, I have been the “newbie” PhD student at the Center for Basque Studies. Well, the time has come to pass the torch along, to someone who has lived in the Basque Country for quite a while. On behalf of the Center for Basque Studies, I would like to welcome our newest edition, Edurne Arostegui. In her own words:

“After six years living abroad in the Basque Country, I will return to the United States at the beginning of August. My plan is to spend the first couple of weeks planning my move to Reno while spending time with my parents in my home town, St. Helena, CA. I was very lucky to have received a travel stipend last year to spend a month at UNR, where I not only researched but got to know the professors, students, and staff. The library was truly wonderful, with everything you could imagine at hand. This experience encouraged me to apply for the PhD assistantship in order to focus on my studies.

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I’m currently a PhD student at the University of the Basque Country but must work full-time, making it difficult for me to dedicate myself to my dissertation. After writing my master’s thesis on Basque stereotypes in Western literature, particularly the novels of Harry Sinclair Drago, I realized that I wanted to expand on the topic by broadening my scope to the creation of Basque-American identity. My research aims to understand how Basques were perceived by American communities in the West and the stereotypes and imagery associated with them. Once Basque-American identity was established, these same stereotypes were transformed to create positive markers of identity as well as providing a sense of belonging. Overall, my research will trace the experience of Basque migrants to the United States and the creation of an identity that differs from that of the homeland while maintaining links to its past.”

Congratulations, Edurne!  We can’t wait to have you in Reno!

 

The Reno Basque Monument

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It has finally come to the time of semester when projects and deadlines are are among us and the end is in sight.  I, along with a few other students in the Center for Basque Studies, are preparing to head to the Basque Country.  Iker Saitua has graduated (and is now Dr. Saitua), Ziortza is returning home for the summer to be with family, and I am heading over for some intensive language learning in the small town of Lazkao, Gipuzkoa.

In addition to getting out with my dog Mowgli in the nicer weather we’ve been having here lately, I thought it would be appropriate to visit the Reno Basque Monument in preparation to bridge the gap from where I’ve been living and studying for the last year and a half, and the real deal.  On the way to hiking to the “N” which can be seen from many parts of Reno,

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I stopped to see the map of settlements, the monument itself and the list of names …

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Nestor Basterretxea Arzadun was the Basque artist who helped design the Basque Monument titled Solitude.  He also worked closely with other Basque artists, largely on the topic of emptiness within Basque culture and identity.

Emily Lobsenz captured Nestor’s story shortly before his death, on video in her film Song of the Basques.

 

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Living in Reno and seeing the local Basque-American culture has prepped me for the next year when I finally am able to experience first-hand all that I’ve learned since starting the program here at the Center for Basque Studies.  While I expect there to be many similarities between the two spaces, I know there will be a world of difference.

Here’s to the Basque Country-see you soon!

 

 

 

The terroir that creates Txakoli

 

As I was wandering through my Facebook, I came across a post by Mikel Garaizabal, enologist at Mendraka Winery.  For anyone that knows me, I’m a little obsessed with Basque wine–in particular, Txakolina.  Although I have not visited the Basque Country in over 10 years, and what I did see of it was only San Sebastian, I hope to visit these fields during my upcoming trip there this summer. This video covers the grape varietals used in producing Txakoli, and even goes into detail to describe the terroir with picturesque views with the ocean in the background, the cycles according to season, and the green hills on which these vines thrive.  Take a look below and check out the Bizkaia Denominacion de Origenes.

 

Dr. Sandra Ott’s Presentation of Living with the Enemy at University of San Francisco

Wednesday, March 23rd, Professor Sandra Ott from the  Center will be presenting her new book Living with the Enemy, from 2:00-4:00 pm in McLaren Conference Center at the University of San Francisco.  Professor Ott has spent significant time in Pau, France, performing research and as one of her students, I have learned much more about the Nazi occupation of France during World War II and the various roles that the Basques performed during this time period.

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We congratulate Sandy on her publication and all the work that goes into it! So please attend if in the area, enjoy some refreshments, and enjoy learning about this particular time in Basque history.

 

 

 

Amaia Iraizoz presents on “The Diaspora and the Perception of the Basques in the American Press”

On February 25th, Amaia Iraizoz, a grad student at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies, presented at the Universidad de Navarra‘s Tecnun campus in Donostia-San Sebastian (that has an exchange with the University of Nevada, Reno).  She spoke on the Diaspora and the Perception of the Basques in the American Press.

The presentation was given within the class of Basque Language and Culture, which is offered by the Department of Basque Language and Culture at the University.

Amaia will be returning to write her dissertation next school year after completing her fieldwork.  We miss you Amaia and hope you are doing well!

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CBS students and faculty to participate in the Annual CLAGS symposium

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This weekend, February 26th and 27th, both students and faculty will be involved in the College of Liberal Arts Graduate Symposium (CLAGS).  The presentations will focus on “Re/Considering (In)humanity/ies”. All four of us, Iker Saitua, Ziortza Gandarias, Horohito Norhatan, and myself will be presenting while some of the faculty will help in moderating the panels.  This is an exciting year for the symposium as we have Prof. Beauvais Lyons as the Keynote, presenting  “Prank Theory” on Friday night from 7:00-8:00 pm (reception prior to and following presentation) which is open to the public.  He will also be putting on a workshop Saturday morning from 10:30-11:30 am on the main floor of the Knowledge Center.

Check out the weekend schedule and more information by visiting:

CLAGS homepage

 

New CBS visitor from the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia

This month we welcome our second visitor from the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia (the Provincial Council of Bizkaia), Nieves Pereda Chavárri.  In order to find out more , check out my interview below with Nieves:

Where are you from in the Basque Country, Nieves?

I come from Bilbao, in Basque Country. I have been working for the Tax Department of Bizkaia (one of the seven Basque provinces) for more than 30 years. Currently I am in charge of the tax collection area and I mainly manage bankruptcy procedures, installment payments, as well as tax levy and lien procedures.

Our department tries to help pay taxes for those who want to and tries to act very fast against those who don’t want to pay them… I am totally in favor of our financial system called “Basque Economic Agreement,” that is, a fiscal pact between the Basque Autonomous Community and Spanish state in order to collect our own taxes and to finance our public expenses (mainly education, health, police, roads, and social welfare as well as local services as well) and to pay the proportional part of  the expenses related to goods and services provided by central Spanish government (via a cupo or quota). In 2014, UNR (the CBS) and the Tax Department of Bizkaia signed an agreement to collaborate in the promotion of Basque Economic Agreement. Two tax workers would visit UNR for 80 days to research on U.S fiscal federalism and the Basque Economic Agreement. The first person, Gemma Martinez Barbara, came last year and this year it has been my opportunity. Our Tax Department thinks it is important to let others know about our specific tax system. It can be described like a desirable integration between different tax jurisdictions.

And how long will you be here?  

I’ll be here till April 21st.  On April 11th we´ll have an event to speak about our papers.

What things would you like to accomplish/see while here in Reno/U.S?

For me the most important thing is to know how the CBS works, what they do, and to meet people there. I feel really interested in learning more about the importance and the influence of Basque people in the background of Nevada. I would like to visit some beautiful places around Reno and to know a little bit more about life in the university. I already had some opportunities; for example, last Friday in a meeting with the Provost and teachers at the university.

Tell us about your yourself-family, what Basque town you grew up in or where you live now in the Basque Country, what you like to do in free time, etc.?  

I was born in Bilbao and live there. My family comes from Bizkaia and Nafarroa. The thing I enjoy doing the most is spending time with friends and family–we usually have two or three special meals a week. I also love to invite friends home. In summer time I like traveling, sailing, and spending extra time with friends in the countryside. In general I am interested in reading, listening to music, and walking for a while everyday.

We welcome Nieves to the CBS family and are grateful to have her here!

 

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Getting ready to “Euskaraz Bizi” in Lazkao

This semester, I have entered the second year of coursework at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies.  Part of my current goals before finishing the PhD program are to learn the Basque language.  So, this semester, I have started making plans to spend the summer in Lazkao, which is in the Goierri region of the province of Gipuzkoa, located in the Southern Basque Country.  It is here where I will spend approximately two months trying to “Euskaraz bizi”.  This is a phrase that, according to The Hammer of Witches author Begoña Echeverria ( in her article titled “For whom does language death toll?  Cautionary notes from the Basque case”), means “Live in Basque,” is something that I am approaching with optimism, but also a little anxiousness.  After all, as the schedule reads, I will be spending approximately eight hours a day learning Basque in an immersion-style house called a barnetegi.  I will also eat, sleep, and hopefully start to dream in Euskera.  As of right now, I am using some of the Center’s books for learning Basque, including our English-Basque and Basque to English dictionary.

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Maizpide Basque School, Lazkao, Gipuzkoa.

While there, I hope to travel north about an hour (depending on mode of transportation) to visit Donostia-San Sebastian, seeing as how it is a European Capital of Culture for 2016. Hopefully I will be able to share my experiences upon my return…wish me luck!

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