POSTED ON September 19, 2007 | IN Spain's Wine Country | BY Joe Becerra

We drove north on the A6, one of the main routes to Santiago De Compostela in Galicia. We stopped for lunch in the charming town of Astorga. As in the case of most very old cities in Spain, they are divided into the old section, El Centro, and the newer residential areas, and finally the industrial areas. We always follow the signs for the old section of town.

We stumbled on El Capricho, a busy restaurant crowded with Spaniards. We had a leisurely lunch, as is the custom in Spain. The gambas al ajillo and ensalada de la casa were just what we needed. The gambas (shrimp) were served steaming in a bowl of olive oil and roasted garlic. The salad was a chef’s salad large enough for two.

After lunch we strolled past the Bishop’s Palace, which was begun but not completed by Gaudi. We then toured the Cathedral and adjoining museum and were glad we did. The Cathedral has a magnificent altar designed and created by Gaspar Becerra, a pupil of Michelangelo’s. In photo above, I was able to capture only the lower portion of this magnificent altar that extends all the way to the high ceiling of the cathedral. What a fabulous altar, the best we have seen so far.

Later, we settled in for the night in Ponferrada, a small town famous for its twelfth century templar castle and for the grand Plaza Ayuntamiento. We found a room at a small hotel, the Hostal La Encina. In many of these small towns, the wine list is not very extensive. One of the wines we see most of is one we see at home, Marques De Caceres Crianza. It is from the La Rioja D.O. It is made from the Tempranillo grape and is very good and very reasonable in price. We can’t go wrong ordering this wine and this was the best they had to offer in vino tinto, but we would rather be more adventurous.