Among the many reasons to love living in the Bay Area are the numerous outdoor concerts, plays and other performances that reappear each year like seasonal fruits and vegetables when the weather gets warm.
Last night I was at the California Shakespeare Festival pouring samples of a few Argentine wines we carry. Several theater patrons commented on how the fragrant Sur de los Andes Torrontès white wine was a perfect match for the cool twilight hour before the performance.
This weekend I’ll be packing a picnic for an outing (on public transit, of course) to Stern Grove in San Francisco to see Os Mutantes (legendary Brazilian psychedelic band from the 60s) and Los Amigos Invisibles (unique and super-danceable Venezuelan jazz/funk). A dry, spritzy, low alcohol Portuguese Vinho Verde will surely be among my pic-i-nic basket goodies (‘Oh Yogi, this wine is dee-licious’).
The San Francisco Mime Troupe is celebrating their 48th season of free political theatre in the parks around the Bay Area (this weekend in Berkeley at Cedar Rose Park). Usually, as we wait for the show to start, I spread a blanket on the grass and open a bottle of Spanish rosado. The wine pairs beautifully with tuna stuffed piquillo peppers and other light fare (it’s a good match with progressive politics too).
Some of these events take a bit of advance planning and preparation. When you see that an event is ‘free admission’, as many are, you will always need to plan on arriving early and claiming a space for your group or be prepared to enjoy the performance from a distance (sometimes a very long distance). Bring food of course (including wine and extra water), but also a newspaper or magazine to read while you wait and an extra sweater or blanket for the always unpredictable Bay Area weather. Also, though these events are often free and open to the public, a cash donation of some sort helps insure that these cultural events continue to reappear in years to come (don’t worry about the where and the how…the volunteers with the collection buckets will find you).
These events only last until the start of the rainy season so it’s important to get out there and enjoy the cultural cornucopia while it lasts. Here are some trusty favorites as well as some new arrivals from The Spanish Table’s wine department to jump start your pre-show picnic plans.
Jerome Cerveza Roja $6.99 (660ml)
Jerome Cerveza Negra $6.99 (660ml)
Just in time for the heat of summer comes this lineup of microbrewery ale from Argentina.
Named after the family German Sheppard (who’s profile is featured prominently on the label) Jerome Brewing Company is a pioneer in the production of small batch (and I mean really small, as in 5 barrels a day) Argentine ales. We currently carry the Roja, a bold, hoppy ale that reminds me of some of our local bay Area brews, as well as the Negra, a dark and creamy version of a british stout.
Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 The Avinyó Cava that we carry (the traditional Brut Reserva As well as the new Brut Rosado) is always top notch. This small winery also produces a traditional summer wine called Vi D’Agulla (translates literally as ‘needle wine’). This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but only gently sweet. The light bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.
Barbadillo Palomino Fino 2006 $6.99 It’s back! The most popular white wine in Spain has returned in the new vintage. Made from the local Palomino Fino grapes, blended with a bit of Viura so I’m told, this young white wine from Cadiz in the south of Spain is refreshingly simple and bright. Add some melon and citrus and you have the makings of an excellent Sangria blanco.
Sur de los Andes Torrontés 2006 $11.99 For an Argentine version of Sangria blanco, try using this ripe, Viognier-like white wine from Mendoza. Rich, floral aromatics and peachy fruit character call out for some stone fruit and sparkling tonic water.
Granbazan Ambar 2005 $21.99 This excellent top shelf Albariño displays a flinty mineral foundation underlying bright citrus fruit and slightly oxidized complexity. Very popular in Spain, but almost unheard of in the USA.
Artazuri Rosado 2006 $12.99 The newly arrived 2006 vintage of this dry rosado is made from 100% Garnacha grapes grown in the high altitude vineyards of D.O. Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This perennial customer favorite displays gentle fresh berry scent along with a bright citrus fruit character. The finely detailed aromas and flavors blend effortlessly in this excellent summertime wine.
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.”
Torremayor Crianza 2004 $12.99 Viña Santa Marina is an innovative winery located in the far flung Extremadura region in western Spain. They make a popular wine called Gargola as well as this barrel aged crianza wine made from 100% Tempranillo. Bright cherry-like fruit with firm but well-integrated tannins. An excellent value.
Peique Mencía 2006 $13.99 One of my favorite young Mencía grape wines from D.O. Bierzo has just arrived in the new 2006 vintage. Vibrant fresh cherry fruit character encounters dry oak leaf aroma and flinty background mineral aroma and flavor. Perfect for summer cookouts in the back yard or wherever you may be.
Hacienda Monasterio 2003 $42.99 Peter Sisseck of Pingus fame makes this dark colored and deeply flavorful D.O. Ribera del Duero wine. It is a perennial favorite that we receive limited quantities of once a year. Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave this wine 92 points, saying “Deep ruby. Explosive, sexy aromas of cherry, plum, incense, freshly ground coffee and succulent herbs. Focused and deep, with red and dark berry flavors complicated by candied violet, smoky bacon and cracked pepper. A ripe, weighty wine with a dense, chewy texture and compelling freshness, especially for the year. Finishes with a note of sweet cherry preserves, fine tannins and excellent length.”
Hacienda Monasterio Reserva 2001 $72.00 The Hacienda Monasterio Reserva from the phenomenal 2001 vintage has just arrived. Using the same carefully selected fruit as the younger crianza wine, this Reserva sees longer barrel maturation to smooth out the tannins and bring out the dark berry fruit character. This very special wine is very limited in availability. We have one 12 bottle case to share with you, so act soon if you want some for your cellar.