Yes, my friends, it is that time of year again. The eating season is fast approaching, so it’s time to start thinking about big family meals, gift giving and general holiday merrymaking. Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, with the rest of the annual end of year festivities following close behind.
At this time of year visiting family, friends and business associates all demand more than just your time and attention. They also want to be fed, and alongside something tasty to eat they will want a refreshing glass of something festive with which to toast your hospitality. With this scenario in mind I offer you version 1.0 of our holiday wine buying guide. As the season progresses we will offer updates and new suggestions, always with the aim of supplying you with the best wines for whatever holiday plans you may have.
This week we focus on some basic requirements for the season; sparkling Cava and top shelf reds.
Cava is such a welcome and well priced wine that I feel it would be a disservice to you if I do not suggest that you pick up a mixed case of this Spanish bubbly to have on hand for organized as well as impromptu holiday get togethers. The prices are right and the wines go with just about anything.
Also popular at this time of year are rich red wines from top notch producers. Few gifts are as welcome as a great bottle of excellent red wine and bosses, clients, coworkers, friends and family members will well remember your thoughtful generosity long after the bottle is empty. And, if you work it right, you may even get to share in the joy of consuming these critically acclaimed celebrity wines (I suggest showing up for dinner with the wine in hand).
Meanwhile, here is a little recipe from my new favorite cookbook to get you warmed up for even more fun in the kitchen as the season progresses.
Calabaza Rehogada-Fried Pumpkin (adapted from 1080 Recipes by Simone & Inés Ortega)
Serves 6 as a side dish
3 medium sized leeks
3 lb. pumpkin or butternut squash
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3-4 slices of bread
3 cloves garlic
Cut leeks into 1 inch pieces and rinse well to remove sand. Peel and deseed pumpkin and cut in 1 inch cubes. Tear bread into 1/2 inch pieces. Cut garlic cloves in half. Simmer pumpkin in salted water until tender. Heat oil in large cazuela and fry bread until golden brown. Remove bread from oil and drain. Pour off all but a few tablespoons of oils and reheat cazuela. Add garlic and fry until brown (but not burnt). Remove garlic from oil and discard. Add leeks, pumpkin and fried bread to cazuela and cook over medium heat stirring often until leeks have softened and pumpkin starts to brown. Remove cazuela from heat, adjust salt and serve.
Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado $14.99 I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Few wines make as welcoming and attractive a cocktail as a tall crystal flute full of this dark ruby colored wine. This rosado cava is a Brut wine so it’s quite dry, but a residual aroma of fresh berries adds youthful liveliness to this wine from one of the oldest Cava producers in Spain.
1+1=3 Brut $14.99 A traditional blend of Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo grapes creates a crisp sparkling wine with yeasty aroma and bright citrus fruit character. This wine with a funny name is a bit richer in fruit than some (though still a dry wine) which makes it particularly well suited to serving with food.
Montsarra Brut $15.99 You may be familiar with this wine as served by the glass since it has long been a favorite of local restaurant and bar owners (they know quality when they taste it). This traditional Cava offers rich, leesy complexity at a very reasonable price. Assertive bubbles, toasty aroma and bright acidity are what you want in a top notch Cava and this one has them all in abundance.
Alto Moncayo 2005 $43.00 Garnacha is the most widely planted red grape in Spain but you won’t find many as good as what Alto Moncayo makes in D.O. Campo de Borja just south of Rioja. Deep ruby color, extracted aromas of ripe berries and a bright, spicy character that is a perfect match for red meat. Parker gave the 2004 a 94 point score, but has not yet reviewed the new vintage. Tanzer gave the 2005 a 92(+?) point score. Her at The Spanish Table we don’t do point scores, but we do rate this one as muy tasty.
Alion 2003 $75.00 Vega Sicilia Unico is THE iconic Spanish wine from D.O. Ribera del Duero, but with the current 1996 vintage clocking in at $387.00 many of us will never try it. On the other hand, Vega Sicilia also makes Alion, and the new 2003 vintage of this wine is stunning. It’s rich. It’s earthy, it’s complex and powerful and balanced. Parker gave this wine 94 points and Tanzer gave it 91. You can decide for yourself since we just got the wine last week. It’s waiting for you.
Termanthia 2005 $195.00 This has to be one of the biggest of the big reds of the season. The 2004 vintage received a perfect 100point score from The Wine Advocate, a publication known for its appreciation of big red wines. The 2005 has just been released and, due to high demand, we got just a precious few bottles for our modest little store. Think single small parcel of 100-150 year old ungrafted Tinto de Toro, miniscule yields, extensive barrel age (20 months) in new oak and you start to understand what’s going on here. The 2005 vintage produced just over 4000 bottles of this wine, so demand will be high and quantities will be scarce. Act now if you want some.