Now we're at the good stuff. Drinking wine in San Sebastian. After the conference I contemplated staying around the area to visit bodegas but I was after old Rioja at a cheap price because I wanted to go back and revisit a memory. Years ago I was in the Pyrenees with Ms. Clark. We were in the lobby, opened up the wine list with low expectations and there was Muga. I think we had the 1980 and it was 35 euro? Ever since I've been on a mission. I adore old Rioja and when it's cheap it tastes like I robbed a bank and no one got hurt. So, when I asked people where I could hit up an old cellar, where I could drink fine old Rioja at a steal, they said Rekondo in San Sebastian. I did a little research and almost everyone else who wrote about the place talked about the Burgundy or Bordeaux at great prices, never the less, I trusted I would find Tempranillo heaven if I went North to the sea. Tom Perry, the ex-export director of Rioja---check out his new blog and then a quick lunch at an unexpected highlight, Bar Ganbara to sustain me through a Hongo fix. Along with the marzipan perfect porcini-esque mushrooms (set off by a brilliant saffron egg yolk for extra dipping pleasure) I knocked back an inch of shockingly good Txacoli--yes acidic, assertive, slightly fizzy. What was shocking about it? All of the Txacoli I've had stateside has been aromatically yeasted, and you know how that goes down with me. Down the drain. This one, and I did not get its name, was not. It was austere and lively. Yum. Those hongos-- fatty and as pure as lardo. Ah, funghi are magic and miraculous, don't you think? Who needed more heaven than this? Me. A bonus for this journey was a visit with my friend Linda MV, past sommelier of Charlie Trotter present sommelier/wine director at Mugaritz (molecular cooking anyone? it was great as long as I stayed with vegetable. (and as a bonus that has nothing to do with anything) James Blachley (morris dancer, early musician) John Dexter (in the corner) Morris Dancer, Violist, great man. Ian Robb, Morris Dancer (Thames Valley) folk singer and concertinist, and John Roberts--singer, musician. The song is English (or is it Scottish) but not Irish. Who knew salsify could be delicious? and one of the sweetest white potatoes I've had in a long time. And also got to taste the gelatinous cod necks cooked, like creme catalan of the sea. ) Sunday, after a spin at the Guggenheim, lunch at the Guggenheim (quite delicious) Linda and I bussed back to San Sebastian to work up another stomach for dinner. First more Pinxtos (not as successful, I'll never go anywhere else but Ganbara every again--then a long walk to the other side of the clamshell shaped beach. We got lost. Called a cab. And finally wound up at this old fashioned place, not hip, not molecular but full of pride. The wine list is 87 pages long. Rekondo. And it is as mythic as it sounds. The place was opened up in by 1964 by Txomin Rekondo, a former matador with a jonesing for wine. Now his daughters Lourdes and Edurna help to buy the restaurant over 100,000 bottles in its cellar Let's just call this the Manducatti's of Spain. And it is still not picked over. You know the feeling when you're at a flea market and there are still wonderful, vintage pieces? Right. Exactly. I could have been happy with the evenings specials. Get that? 18 euros for a 1986 Muga? Muga. Poor Muga. I miss Muga. Why did Muga get cleaned up! What was the matter with the old Muga! And I really wanted to try that 86 but it was not meant to be. Linda and her friends, also from Mugaritz, beat me down. If it was going to be Muga, it had to be Prado Enea. As we ordered the 1968 Tondonia Blanco, (110 euro) we stayed with the 60's, ordered the 1969 Enea at 60 Euro. While the 1969 Prado was lovely, it did not thrill, (but it had that chicken soup, tamari of authentic Rioja and that made me nostalgic yet happy. HOWEVER! The 1968 Tondonia was on par with the 1986 Le Montrachet DRC I had years ago. It was juicy. It was ethereal and it was sexy. The only hint of wrinkles in its youthful face was caramel. And honey nectar and melon and still not beginning to evolve. I just wanted to move into that glass and smell it for days. I am still in shock that we only ordered two bottles of wine. A travesty. I should have insisted. Bar Ganbara 21 Calle de San Jerónim San Sebastián, Spain 34-94-342-2575 Rekondo Paseo Igueldo 57 San Sebastian Phone, 94-321-29-07.