It’s party season. Parties at the office, parties at friends houses, parties at home. It can get overwhelming if you are not prepared. Long festive luncheons with old colleagues, slow Sunday suppers with relatives from out of town or an impromptu potluck in the break room at work can all be accomplished with ease if you have a well stocked pantry and/or wine cellar.
Foods that require little or no preparation are essential, as are tasty wines in a variety of styles. A jar of our exclusive lemon stuffed olives, a wedge of 12 month aged Manchego cheese and a frothy bottle of Cava can go a long way toward creating a fun and celebratory atmosphere any time, anywhere. Silky and elegant red wines set the perfect tone at the dinner table and are perfect accompaniments to traditional slow cooked simple meals like Fabada made with genuine Asturian white beans, Chorizo and Morcilla sausage. Little ivory wedges of Almond Turrón and crumbly Mantecado cookies are well matched to aged, dark amber colored Amontillado or Oloroso from Jerez and make a perfect end to any holiday get together.
For a quick and tasty appetizer, try this recipe that I cobbled together after tasting an amazing version of this dish at my favorite local Portuguese restaurant, La Salette in Sonoma. I served this at a Port tasting that I put together a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve had several requests for the recipe so I am printing it here for those who would like to make it at home.
Patê de Sardinha (Sardine Paté)
(serves 4 as an appetizer)
1-can Matiz sardines, drained
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup diced onion
2-tablespoons extra virgin cup olive oil
1-tablespoon chopped cilantro
1-tablespoon chopped parsley
1-tablespoon Piri Piri hot sauce
Put everything in the food processor and pulse to blend (should end up with a consistency somewhere between chopped liver and hummus). Adjust lemon juice/Piri Piri/salt to taste. Chill for one hour (or over night) and serve with crusty bread.
D’Abattis Gran Cava 2004 $17.99 This bone dry vintage sparkler, made from 100% Parellada (one of the traditional Cava grapes) is toasty and green apple crisp with fine bubbles and yeasty aroma. California winemaker, Master Sommelier and Bay Area resident Emmanuel Kemiji is involved in this traditional Catalan winery. Serve this wine with a mix of fried lemon slices and tiny fried anchovies. Let the festivities ensue.
Mont Ferrant Blanes Nature Cava 2003 $17.99 From one of the oldest Cava producers in Spain, this traditional blend of Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo is bright, lively and very dry. Mont Ferrant also makes the ever-popular Brut Rosado Cava that many of you know and love. This wine is more traditional in style and makes an elegant cocktail as well as a dinner wine. Try it with oysters on the half shell.
Can Blau 2006 $17.99 The new vintage of this well loved red from the Montsant region has just arrived. This dark, opulent blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too. Previous vintages have all scored highly in the press and the new vintage is right up there quality-wise. For a soul warming winter meal, pour this with a traditional Cocido (the Spanish version of Italian ‘Bolito Misto’, or for you New Englanders, ‘Boiled Dinner’).
Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 Here’s an odd one for you. This is the only Reserva Rioja wine made from the rare Graciano grape. Usually Graciano, which accounts for a mere 5% of the annual harvest in Rioja, is used to blend in with the lighter Tempranillo. Graciano lends structure to blended Rioja. On its own, Graciano can be quite firm and tannic, but with 24 months in barrel followed by another two years of bottle ageing, the wine has become quite elegant and mature. If Crown Rib Roast is in your holiday plans, this wine will add the perfect Spanish accent to the meal.
Maestro Sierra Amontillado $21.99 (375 ml)
Maestro Sierra Oloroso $15.99 (375ml)
Maestro Sierra was founded in 1832 by Jose Antonio Sierra, who, as a master carpenter, was responsible for building barrels for all the major Sherry bodegas. Recognized as one of the top coopers in the area, he longed to become involved in the Sherry trade itself. As this business was dominated by the nobility, a start-up such as his was not very welcome. After many hardships he was able to establish and grow his business becoming one of the top Almacenistas (stockholders) of high quality Jerez wines. Poking fun at his struggle, the label depicts an allegorical fox hunt with the “Nobles” hunting the fox (Maestro Sierra).
Pilar Pla Pechovierto currently owns Maestro Sierra. Doña Pilar is a widow whose husband was a direct descendent of the Sierra family. She respected her husband’s wish that the winery remain in operation after his death and over the last thirty years she has kept the winery open, selling very limited stocks of wine to a few of the large bodegas. Because the wines have virtually remained unmoved due to the almost non existent business, the stocks at Maestro Sierra are some of the oldest in Jerez. The soleras at the winery are easily over 60 years old and some maybe close to 100 years old.
Maestro Sierra Amontillado is amber gold in color with a rich aroma of almonds and fresh hay. A very gentle note of raisin-like fruit character is present here. This wine pairs well with aged cheeses and cured meats. The Maestro Sierra Oloroso is dark amber with flavors of walnuts, butterscotch and figs. Serve this wine in a small glass to your special someone, after a big meal, on the bear skin rug, next to the roaring fire, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.