Fire Up The Grill

As we have passed the official beginning of grilling season (Memorial Day) we devote this week’s newsletter to the joys of red wine paired with food cooked over an open flame. Something about this combination really sings. The tannins in the wines accent the smoky flavor in the food, whether it’s grilled beef steak or grilled zucchini. In turn, food on the grill really needs something bold like red wine to stand up to the charred flavors.

In Spain and Morocco, a common feature of the table is a grilled vegetable salad. In “Casa Moro: The Second Cookbook,” ($35.00) the authors, Samuel and Samantha Clark, owners of Moro, the popular restaurant in London that fuses culinary traditions from Spain and the Muslim Mediterranean, feature a grilled aubergine (sounds so much nicer than eggplant) salad mixed with coriander and cumin seeds, tomato, sweet paprika, parsley and lemon juice.

“This cooked aubergine salad is wonderfully intense, not only because of the spice, but also because of the aubergines, which are grilled beforehand for a smoky taste and then slow-cooked to concentrate the flavours,” write the Clarks. This delicious side dish can be prepared ahead of time and is quite a delightful burst of exotic textures and tastes.

The Casa Moro cookbook (many Bay Area chefs have come into the store buying this treasured cookbook as well as the first cookbook, simply called “Moro”) also features Lamb Mechoui with cumin and paprika salt, which the Clarks discovered at a bustling outdoor market in Marrakech. The chops are simply sprinkled with a mixture of cumin, salt and paprika, all grilled over an open flame.

Here are some new arrivals to accompany and inspire your next backyard barbecue:

Arbanta 2005 $10.99 An excellent young Rioja produced from Organic fruit.  Recently rated 89 Points by The Wine Advocate, Jay Miller reviewed the wine, saying “The 2005 Biurko Gorri Arbanta offers superb value, among the best in my Spanish tastings. It is 100% Tempranillo, tank fermented and aged. Medium ruby in color, it exhibits remarkable aromatic complexity for its price point with cherries, red currants, and spice in evidence. The wine is elegant, balanced, and fruity right through the lengthy finish. Drink it over the next 1-3 years.


Ique Malbec2005 $11.99 From Enrique Foster in Argentina, this young tank fermented Malbec is ripe and spicy. Eric Asimov recently mentioned the 2004 vintage of this wine in his wine blog for The New York Times, saying “I found this to be a really interesting wine, with aromas of fruit, flowers and licorice, and a really nice earthiness.

I think this would make a fine pair with some grilled peppers.


Rubens Tempranillo 2005 $11.99 This traditional unfiltered Tempranillo displays youthful character and ripe fruit as well a dry earthy quality that is typical of the La Mancha region where it is produced. Serve Rubens Tempranillo with burgers on the grill to turn the simplest of meals into a sublime experience.


Eguren Tempranillo 2005 $11.99 (1 Liter) My newest candidate for Sangria wine is this Tempranillo from Central Spain. Lively, red cherry fruit character, bright acidity and mellow tannins make this wine enjoyable all by itself, but this big 1 liter bottle inspires me to start slicing fruit and calling friends to come share the bounty.


Valduero 1999 $14.99, 750ml (was $ 21.99), $39.99, 1.5 Liter (was $55.00) Okay, this one requires a little explaining.

The current vintage of Valduero Crianza, 2001, is delicious. It currently sells for $24.99.

Troy Smith from Bibulous, the importer of Valduero, found a few cases of the 1999 Crianza in his warehouse. As he has moved past the 1999 vintage he offered the remaining cases to us at a very reasonable price. We in turn are selling the wine at a significant discount.

This full-bodied Ribera Del Duero wine displays dark garnet color fading to brick red at the rim. Slightly oxidized aromas of cedar and tobacco blend well with brandied cherry fruit character and fully integrated tannins. The mature flavors in this wine have benefited from several extra years in the bottle.

Give this one lots of air before serving (its gets even better the next day)and you will be rewarded with a deeply layered combination of aromas and flavors that only come from skillfully produced mature wines. Available in magnums as well as regular 750ml bottles.


Celeste Crianza 2004 $23.99 The well known Torres winery has been a fixture in the Spanish wine world for many years. In Catalonia, they are one of the predominant wineries, but have never ventured outside the region, until now.

Celeste is the product of significant investment by the Torres group in D.O. Ribera del Duero in Northern Spain. This 100% Tempranillo wine sees 12 months of barrel age prior to bottling. The final result was recently described in The Wine Spectator, where Celeste was rated at 90 Points. They say “This 2004 red is harmonious though a bit brooding, with dark flavors of coffee, anise and black plum backed by firm tannins. Mineral and smoke notes linger on the finish. Drink now through 2012.


Clio 2004 $44.99 It’s back! Everybody’s favorite cult wine from D.O. Jumilla is making a second appearance in our market. We just received four more 6 packs of this highly sought after Monastrell wine. In case you are wondering what the fuss is all about, I refer you to Jay Miller’s review in the March 2007 issue of The Wine Advocate, where he rated Clio at 97 Points.

The consulting winemaker at Bodegas El Nido is Chris Ringland of Barossa Valley fame. The 2004 Clio is 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 70% Monastrell (from 63-year-old vines) which received malolactic fermentation in new oak followed by 26 months of aging in new French and American barriques. A glass-coating opaque purple, it exhibits a sensational nose of earth, mushroom, leather, blueberry, and blackberry jam. On the palate the wine is supple-textured, complex, with vibrant flavors of spicy blue and black fruits and a big-time WOW factor. This is a totally hedonistic effort with exceptional length and balance. It is remarkably light on its feet for such a powerful wine.


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