Monthly Archives: October 2007

Bargains from Portugal & Argentina

Do we love a bargain? Yes we do, and this time of year is perfect for stocking up on some value priced wines that will compliment your meals and spice up your leisure time. We have some new arrivals from Portugal in our ever popular ‘house wine’ section (remember that ‘house wine’ is what we call a special section of traditionally styled wines that we price at $6.99 per bottle with a better than usual discounted price of $5.99 per bottle with full case mix and match purchase). Also in the new, interesting and well priced category are a trio of Argentine wines from Valle de la Puerta that offer distinctive grape varieties and solid winemaking skill at prices that encourage experimentation.

We have not forgotten those of you who are looking for something elegant and rare. This week we received a few special items that you won’t want to miss if you have a taste for unique and hard to find wines. The 2005 Numanthia is available in miniscule quantities as is the new vintage of one of our favorite Priorat wines.

I am happy to report that the Cooking in Cazuelas class was a big success. I hope to repeat it in the near future for those who could not make it this time around. Meanwhile, here is the recipe from the class for my Buttermilk Flan. I cobbled this together from available ingredients to recreate a flan de queso that I had in Madrid a few years ago. The Spanish don’t use buttermilk (how do you say ‘buttermilk’ in Spanish?) but the flavor and texture are similar to the Spanish version I loved so much when I first tried it.

 

Kevin’s Buttermilk Flan (serves 5)

 

5 large eggs

1.5 cups cultured buttermilk

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract

1/3 cup sugar for caramel

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set a tea kettle of water on the stove to simmer.

Heat 1/3 cup of sugar in a dry 8” clay cazuela for approximately 5-10 minutes until the sugar is barely liquefied and golden brown (do not over cook or it will burn). Remove cazuela from heat and let cool fully. The caramel will harden.

Whisk together 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk with ½ cup sugar until smooth. Add buttermilk, cream and vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

Fill the cazuela with the flan mixture to ¼ inch below the rim (it should all fit). Place the full cazuela in a larger baking dish and place in preheated oven. Pour the simmering water around the outside of the cazuela (about 2/3 way up the side) to create a hot water bath. This will allow the flan to cook slowly and evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Check for doneness by tapping on the side of the cazuela. It is ready when the flan is just barely set.  If the flan mixture ripples like liquid, leave it in the oven for another 10 minutes.

When cooked, remove the flan from the oven, allow it to cool completely and then refrigerate until cold.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the rim of the flan to loosen it up, invert it on a serving plate and remove the cazuela. Serve with a sweet sherry or other dessert wine.

 

House Wines:

Gazela Vinho Verde $6.99 This perennial customer favorite from Portugal is the latest addition to our ‘house wine’ section. This is a crisp, flinty white wine with bright, refreshing citrus notes. Low alcohol makes this an excellent lunch or picnic wine.

 

Charamba 2005 $6.99 This youthful, fresh, fruity red wine from the Douro region of Portugal will pair well with spicy food and party snacks. It is also a fine candidate for using as the base of a tasty Sangría.

 

Alandra Tinto $6.99 From the makers of Esporão in the Alentejo region of Portugal comes this youthful, rich, fruit-filled red wine made from Moreto and Periquita grapes. This bright and spicy non-vintage red will compliment a wide variety of meals.

 

Primavera Bairrada Reserva 2003 $6.99 This earthy blend of 60% Baga, 30% Tinta Roriz and 10% Castelão is perfect for hearty meals. This Portuguese wine displays brick red color and smoky aroma with dried cherry fruit character and tannic foundation. Mature reserva wines don’t make it into the ‘house wine’ section very often so take advantage of this excellent value in red wine while it lasts.

 

From Argentina:

La Puerta Malbec 2006 $9.99

La Puerta Shiraz 2006 $9.99

La Puerta Torrontes 2005 $9.99

Valle de la Puerta is a new winery located in Northern Argentina dedicated to the production of value priced single varietal wines that represent the best of Argentine grapes.

The Malbec is a ripe, juicy red that will compliment red meat and spicy foods. The Shiraz is a bold, earthy red that pairs well with savory, slow cooked autumn stews and the white Torrontes is a rich aromatic wine that is perfect with crunchy vegetables and full flavored cheeses.

 

Numanthia 2005 $58.00 The Toro craze continues unabated and with good reason. The new wines from this region are blockbusters! They are big, inky, concentrated reds fashioned from old (ancient!) vine fruit grown on pre-phylloxera, ungrafted root stock. What they lack in subtlety they more than make up in depth of character.  Josh Raynolds recently reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He said “Deep ruby. A deep, youthfully brooding bouquet offers dark cherry, blackcurrant, incense and suave oak spices. Spicy cherry and dark berry flavors show an exotic anise quality and slow-building sweetness. This gently tannic, chewy, extremely persistent wine finishes with echoes of oak spice and floral pastille, not to mention excellent vivacity. 93 points.

 

Font de la Figuera 2005 $41.99 Clos Figueras, located in the Priorat region of Catalunya is a small estate owned by famed importer Christopher Cannan and managed by the equally famous winemaker René Barbier.  Font de la Figueras is composed of a blend of Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell. This opulent red is an excellent value from a winery and a region known for much more pricey offerings. 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Busy, busy, busy

It seems like everybody is really busy taking care of professional, family and personal obligations. We too are in the middle of bringing in new and delicious wines and specialty groceries while at the same time putting together wine dinners and food classes.

I am already behind schedule for this week’s newsletter so I will be brief.

We have some excellent new wines to share with you this week. Several spectacular and very traditional Rioja wines have just arrived from a small family winery that is just starting to gain attention from Spanish wine lovers. Some new white wines have come in that express a richer more floral element that I find especially desirable as we move away from summer. We are also receiving new vintages of some of our favorite late harvest dessert wines that are so appropriate to this early autumn season.  

Meanwhile, for those of you who have been requesting more wine oriented events, we are excited to announce that we will be hosting a winemaker’s dinner with some special guests from Spain. The date is November 13th at 7 pm. The venue is Zarzuela Restaurant located at 2000 Hyde Street in San Francisco.  Andy and Tanya Booth from our Mill Valley store will be leading up this food and wine extravaganza.  Here is what they wrote about this upcoming event:

This will feature a stellar lineup of wines from famed winemaker Eduardo Garcia, whose father is even the more famous Mariano Garcia.  We’ll try a couple of higher end offerings from Ribera del Duero, Toro and Bierzo, which is home to the grape Mencia.  Importer Aurelio Cabestrero will also be on hand to share several other wines that he has selected from Spain.  The cost for this dinner will be $80 a person.

In addition to a stellar line up of wines, the Zarzuela chefs will prepare a full meal of assorted tapas.  To reserve you places for this rare food and wine experience, contact us here in Berkeley at (510)-548-1383 or you can also reserve places at The Spanish Table in Mill Valley (415)-388-5043.

My upcoming Cooking in Clay Cazuelas class on October 22nd still has a few spots open. If you want to participate in this event, go to www.kitchenonfire.com where the details and the signup form can be found. I am very much looking forward to this new event that features some of my favorite recipes as well as some really tasty and well matched wines. 

Now, on to this week’s wines:

 

Vinos Blancos:

Valdelainos Verdejo 2006 $12.99 An excellent Rueda region white fashioned from the local Verdejo grape. Crisp citrus aroma, mineral foundation and just enough fruit character (guava, pineapple) to maintain the balance of flavors. An excellent cocktail wine.

 

Jose Pariente Verdejo 2006 $19.99 From Bodegas Dos Victorias (named after the two owners, both named Victoria) comes this aromatic Verdejo wine that showcases the fuller side of Rueda region whites. Aromas and flavors of quince and guava are full and ripe. Crisp acidity is edgy and refreshing. A perfect seafood wine, especially with scallops and crustaceans.

 

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 $28.99 It’s the time of year when a little late harvest sweet wine is particularly appealing. The new vintage of the celebrated Casta Diva is a lush Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart.

 

Ochoa Moscatel 2006 $23.99 In the Navarra region of Northern Spain (home to a wide range of grape varieties), Moscatel grapes are left on the vine to fully ripen before they are harvested for this gently sweet dessert wine. We just received the new vintage and it is one of my current favorite autumn wines. Serve it with a pear tart on a crisp fall afternoon. Ethereal.

 

Vinos Tintos:

We are very excited about our latest new arrivals from Rioja. Bodegas Hermanos Peciña is a relatively young winery. Founded in 1992, this family owned winery initially made only young wines from their own estate grown fruit but over time expanded to include increasingly mature wines as well. Located in the Rioja Alta village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, they have quickly earned a reputation for high quality wines that preserve the traditional style of barrel aged red wines that the region is known for.

Senorio de P.Peciña Cosecha 2006 $11.99 This joven (young) wine is produced from estate grown Tempranillo grapes with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano as well. This bright, youthful red is refreshingly uncomplicated.  Moderate alcohol content (12.5%) is traditional for this style of wine and makes this a perfect picnic or party wine.

 

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 $18.99  Also produced from a blend of mostly Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano, this Crianza level wine spends an extended period (2 years) ageing in French and American oak barrels, with an additional year of bottle ageing before release. The bright cherry-like fruit and resiny tannic barrel character that are typical of traditional Crianza Riojas are present here in a finely tuned frame. Serve this wine with sliced Serrano ham or cured Spanish chorizo for a classic flavor pairing.

 

Senorio de P.Peciña Reserva 1999 $25.99 The blend of  grapes for the Reserva is the same as for the Crianza, but the Reserva sees 3 years of barrel age before bottling and another several years of bottle age before sale. This long maturation period smoothes out all the edgy tannins and produces a silky, elegant wine that is perfect for special meals and cold autumn nights.

 

Torremoron 2006 $11.99 The new vintage of this customer favorite has just arrived. This well priced Ribera del Duero region wine is a fresh and full bodied wine fashioned from the local Tempranillo grape. Ripe fruit character and dark color combine with background earthiness. Serve with lamb burgers and green salad.

 

Primavera Dão 2003 $14.99 The Dao region was once among the most desirable sources of quality red wines in Portugal.  These wines were dry and earthy with rich but oxidized fruit character. Over time this style fell out of favor with the international market (the Portuguese still love the old style). Flash forward to the current day and we see some fresh, fragrant Dão wines that still retain some elements of the old style. This wine is a perfect example of how this region is blending modern style with traditional heritage.  Fashioned from a blend of Touriga Nacional Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, the garnet color and the dark berry fruit character balance fine tannins and background minerality.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fortified Wine, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Luna Nueva

Today is the new moon which, if you follow these things, indicates a new beginning, a new cycle of change, a fresh start.

Take, for example, our latest wine selections at The Spanish Table. Right now we have new wines that have never before been seen outside their respective regions of origin. We also have the most recent vintages from celebrated and well known bodegas. You can thrill your palate with untried new flavors and textures or you can affirm your sense of taste memory by re-trying a favorite wine in the latest vintage (the try-it-again-for-the-first-time concept).

However you construct your newness (perhaps you wear your new with a difference) now is the perfect time to experiment with wines that are familiar yet novel.

This week we have some excellent values from Spain and Portugal as well as some stunning collector’s wines that those of you with wine cellars will be wise to pick up while they last (down the road, these will offer that most rare sense of aged newness).

 

Cooking Class Update:

The upcoming Cooking in Cazuelas class (also a new opportunity) on October 22nd is mostly full (10 tickets left), but I want to be sure to encourage those who haven’t heard about it yet to go check out www.kitchenonfire.com where the details and the signup form can be found. I am very much looking forward to this new event that features some of my favorite recipes as well as some really tasty and well matched wines. 

 

Here is a quick idea for using up the end- of-season summer vegetables from the market.

 

Grilled Vegetable Escalivada

(adapted from Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by José Andrés)

Serves 4 as an appetizer

 

1 medium Japanese style (long not fat) eggplant (about ½ lb)

1 large Yellow Onion

1 large red or yellow bell pepper

3 large tomatoes

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Spanish olive oil

2 teaspoons Sherry Vinegar

1//4 teaspoon Pebrella (dried wild Spanish Thyme)

Salt and pepper

 

Coat the vegetables with a bit of the olive oil and grill them whole over medium hot charcoal (or roast in a 400’ oven) until the vegetables are soft and the skin is charred. Remove the blackened skins, de-seed the pepper and tomatoes and roughly slice everything up in long strips. Marinate the cooked/sliced vegetables for a few hours in a shallow dish with the pebrella, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with some bread and wine.

 

Vino Blanco:

Raventos Parfum de Vi Blanc 2005 $9.99 From the same winery that produces the excellent Raventos i Blanc Cava comes this blend of 60% Macabeo and 40% Muscat that is perfect for the season. Crisp acidity meets floral aroma in a ripe but restrained style that would pair well with butternut squash or end-of-season tomatoes.

 

Ostatu Blanco 2006 $12.99 White Rioja is another seasonal favorite and this fresh, unoaked 100% Viura wine is lean, bright and pin point precise. A hint of sesame seed is typical with Viura and is found in the background of this wine. A superb autumn white.

 

Lícia Albariño 2006 $15.99 From the same winemakers who brought us the exclusive single vineyard Albariño called Finca Arantei comes this well priced second label that is now available in the new 2006 vintage. Lícia is crisp and lemony, with a hint of floral richness held in check by the dry mineral component found in all the best wines from the region.

 

Nessa Albariño 2006 $14. From Adegas Gran Vinum in D.O. Rías Baixas on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Those of you who are familiar with the Albariño varietal will be happy to find such a well priced offering and those who have yet to try this refreshing Spanish white wine will be excited by the crisply bright flavors. Josh Raynolds recently reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He summed the wine up nicely.

Light yellow. Spicy citrus and pear aromas are brightened by white flowers and ginger. Racy, precise and pleasingly bitter, with strong lemon zest and pear skin flavors. This tightly wound albarino shows a lively, persistent finish. 88 points.

 

Vino Tinto:

Padre Pedro 2005 $8.99 Did you see the September 19th 2007 article in The New York Times titled “Happiness for $10 or Less”? The wine writer Eric Asimov was excited about his latest discovery, a little Portuguese wine called Padre Pedro. He said “Our No. 1 wine, the 2002 Padre Pedro from Casa Cadaval in the Ribatejo region of Portugal… had personality, with cherry fruit, spice and smoke flavors and enough tannin to give it structure… Portugal is an excellent source for good, inexpensive wines, especially those from the Douro and those, like the Padre Pedro, from the Ribatejo region…This wine is labeled Ribatejano, which is a wine that comes from Ribatejo but doesn’t follow the appellation’s rules. It’s made from an unlikely mixture of grapes, including cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, alicante bouschet and castelão, a Portuguese grape known in other parts of the country as periquita.”

 

Altos de Luzon 2005 $18.99 At last, the new vintage of one of our most popular D.O. Jumilla wines has arrived. This blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon is lush and full while retaining balance and structure. A perfect autumn red, just in time for the season.

 

Pardevalles Gamonal  2005 $21.99 Have you tried any wines made from the Prieto Picudo grape yet? Now is your chance to check out this interesting varietal in a wine that has been the favorite of many local restaurants since its recent introduction. Sourced from the newly demarcated  Tierras de León region and aged for 6 months in oak after fermentation, this ripe herbaceous red will add spice and interest to autumn meals such as  slow cooked white beans and chorizo.

 

Pintia 2004 $60.00 The new vintage of Pintia is now in stock (in very limited quantities). This is the Toro region project of Vega Sicilia. The quality level here is, as you would expect, extremely high. The old vine Tinta de Toro used for Pintia is ponderously dark and earthy, with abundant fruit character that will last for years to come. A 95 Point rating in The Wine Advocate will add to the demand for this robust autumn red.

Leave a comment

Filed under Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Back at Work

Were you were wondering what happened to this newsletter last week? I was on a belated summer vacation in the Sierras, but I’m back now, rested and ready to dive back into the exciting and ever changing world of wines at The Spanish Table.

While I was up in the mountains I couldn’t resist doing a Paella demonstration at a wonderful little restaurant in the Gold Country town of Twain Harte. The Prospector is a tiny place that specializes in wood oven cuisine including homemade breads and authentic Neapolitan style pizzas (the certificate from the Naples Pizza Authority hangs on the wall). The wine list is extensive and features many of the great Spanish wines you have come to know and love from shopping at The Spanish Table.  I had a great time cooking up a big paella out on the restaurant’s terrace under the pine trees and serving it to a sophisticated and knowledgeable group of food and wine appreciators. While you won’t find paella on the menu all the time, this hidden gem is well worth seeking out if you are in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, back in Berkeley we continue to receive new wines that are perfect for the in-between-summer-and-fall season that we currently find ourselves in. As I’m still getting back up to speed here, I’ll forego the recipe this week and cut to the chase. Here are our newest wines for your consideration:

 

Vale Da Torre 2005 $11.99 One of Portugal’s better known winemakers, Paulo Laureano, works with producers from all across Portugal. One of his recent goals is the recognition in the international wine market of indigenous Portuguese grape varieties. He has created a seal for wines featuring only Portuguese grape varieties, emphasizing the pride he feels for working with 100% national raw materials. The seal on Vale da Torre wines has a bunch of grapes with the Portuguese national shield pointing out the return to production methods that use the very best of local grapes. According to Paulo, defending indigenous grape varieties is the best way of promoting Portuguese wines in foreign markets. “To place our bets on our grape varieties” he says “is to bet on difference, and I believe that this is how our wines will succeed on international markets.”

Vale da Torre is composed of equal parts Aragonês (the Portuguese version of Tempranillo) and Trincadeira. Dark ruby color with initial aroma of black currant and oak followed by dark berry fruit character and firm tannins, that soften as the wine breathes. Serve this wine with Caldo Verde (Portuguese chard and potato soup), braised beef or roasted pork. Regular price: 11.99

 

Quinta de Bons-Ventos 2005 $11.99 Casa Santos Lima, located in the Portuguese town of Alenquer, north of Lisbon, is a family owned winery that has been operating since the end of the 19th century.  The 686 acre property is divided into several.  Wine grapes are the primary crop, covering 392 acres, leaving the rest of the land for the cultivation of apples, pears and plums. Currently over 50 grape varieties are grown, many of them experimentally. The winery building dates from the 1940s but has recently been modernized with stainless steel tanks and a new computerized bottling line.

Quinta de Bons-Ventos is a young wine composed of Castelão (also known as Periquita), Camarate, Tinta Miúda and Touriga Nacional. The wine is bottled after a brief 3-4 month period of barrel ageing. The end result is a gentle, young wine that displays youthful aroma of fresh berries, gentle fruit character and a soft velvety finish. This is a low alcohol wine (12.5 %) that works particularly well with pasta and rice dishes, composed salads and poultry. 

 

Obra Roble 2005 $10.99  Bodegas J.C. Conde makes the superlative ‘Neo’ in Aranda del Duero at the northern end of D.O. Ribera del Duero. Recently, this same winery created a line of well priced wines that display the traditional Ribera del Duero style. They call these new wines ‘Obra’.

Composed of 100% Tinto del País (Tempranillo by another name) harvested from 60 year old vines and aged in oak barrels for 4 months after fermentation, Obra Roble is a dark garnet colored wine with aromas of ripe berry and oak. Cherry and plum fruit character along with mellow tannins round out the picture. This young wine would pair well with grilled lamb chops and roasted potatoes wedges with rosemary and olive oil.

 

Mantonegro 2005 $18.99 We get a slim few wines from the island of Mallorca. This one is composed of 70% of the eponymous (and indigenous) Mantonegro along with another local grape called Callet as well as small additions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. This big, dark red is spicy, robust and more than a little bit wild. Josh Raynolds recently reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated the wine at 90 Points. He said: “Medium red. Vibrant, mineral-accented strawberry and raspberry aromas display wonderful purity and depth. Refreshing red berry flavors are surprisingly concentrated, but emphasize juiciness. I like the combination of sweetness and clarity a lot. Finishes with excellent thrust and precision, leaving clean red berry and baking spice flavors behind.

 

Niepoort Redoma 2004 $47.99 The new vintage of this celebrated Portuguese red wine is now in stock. Famous winemaker Dirk Niepoort crafts this wine from the same top quality fruit that goes into his spectacular Vintage Port. Still in its infancy, this earthy D.O.C. Douro wine will benefit from a few years in the cellar.  Mark Squires at The Wine Advocate recently reviewed this wine. He scored it at 92 Points and said: “This wine is made from a mixed varietal blend (principally Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca) from a 60-year-old vineyard, although some older vines were used as well. It was raised for eighteen months in French oak. Cool, refreshing, and beautifully balanced, this is friendly and charming. The sweet mid-palate is young and primary. It is mid-weight, with notes of herbs around the edges. With air, the wine, which seemed rather flat, becomes brighter and livelier as the acidity and ripe tannins appear, and the finish finally shows a little grip, along with some bursts of acidity that were not always as friendly as the rest of the wine’s demeanor. Still, this is very young and in need of settling down. Rather debonair, this is also nicely textured. It became more interesting and intense with air, showing more tannins, acid and earth.

 

Niepoort Vertente 2004 $27.99 The younger sibling of Redoma is composed of a typical field blend of traditional Douro grapes. More approachable and youthful than the Redoma, this is a fine example of a modern Douro red. The Wine Spectator rated this vintage at 92 Points, saying:  Dark ruby in color, Vertente is composed of 40% Touriga Nacional–from 12-60 years old vineyards–along with Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and 15 other varieties. The aroma is port-like revealing notes of black cherries and dark plums, underscored by minerality and dark chocolate. On the palate, the ripeness of the fruit really explodes and the wine shows a refreshing acidity.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Portugal, Red Wine, Spain