Monthly Archives: January 2008

Football Wine

Are you planning on watching football on Sunday?  If so, what will you be drinking?

You know where I’m going with this, right? I’m about to suggest some new and interesting wines to pair with a traditional Superbowl Sunday menu, but if football is not your thing (hey, that’s OK) keep reading anyway because these new arrivals are worth knowing about and trying even without any official justification.

This week we have a trio of new wines from Chile made by Bodegas Montes. The Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère blend will all compliment a wide variety of party foods, from chips and dip to chicken wings as well as more traditional accompaniments like fresh ceviche or dry cured chorizo. Montes also makes wine in Argentina under the Kaiken brand. We have the new Kaiken Malbec this week for all you Malbec fans out there (which seems to include pretty much all of us).

Speaking of Malbec, we have another new one to try, this time from the well known Achaval Ferrer winery. Their 2006 Malbec is a top shelf selection at a very reasonable price.  If meat is on the menu this weekend then by all means pour this wine with the meal to taste it at its best. 

Meanwhile, back in Spain new vintages are being shipped our way. The latest arrival here is the 2003 vintage of one of my favorite Priorat wines, Odysseus Tinto. The news here is very good indeed. Not only is this an excellent wine but the 2003 is actually a bit lower in price than the previous vintage (how often do you hear that these days?).

Finally, if your Sunday plans mandate beer rather than wine, I understand. Old habits are hard to change and that’s fine because you can still add an Iberian twist to your beer appreciation. We have excellent Spanish, Brazilian and Portuguese Lagars as well Portuguese Bock and Argentine micro brewery Ale, already chilled and ready to enjoy. 

Now, before we move on to the wines, I have a few event notes to share with you.

My Paella And Wine class on Feb. 25 is still open for enrollment. Check out kitchenonfire.com for all the details.

If you would like to venture further a field (a lot further) to learn about the wonders of Iberian wines you can join Steve Winston and his wife Sharon Baden (the founding owners of The Spanish Table) on a spectacular 15 day cruise. Steve and Sharon have been invited to present a series of wine tastings during a Lindblad Expeditions cruise from Morocco to Portugal, Spain, France and England.  Every evening at dinner, complimentary wines will be served focusing on a particular region of Spain, Portugal or France with brief discussions of the wines, the regions and the grape varietals. April 28, 2008 is the departure date. The details are all here: http://www.expeditions.com/Treasures437.asp

 

Now, on to the wines:

 

Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2007 $13.99 This crisp, refreshing white wine from the Leyda valley in Chile is ripe with tropical fruit aroma. Bright, citrusy acidity and a bit of grassy background flavor make this an excellent cocktail wine. Serve this with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing, and okay, a few chicken wings too. Racy, refreshing, remarkable.

 

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2006 $13.99  This Pinot Noir, made in small quantities from fruit grown in the Leyda Valley as well as the Casablanca region of Chile shows bright cherry color and fresh berry fruit character right up front. The light oak note comes from eight months of barrel age and becomes more apparent as the wine opens.  If you think that all Chilean wines are big and bold, this lighter style may surprise you in the best of ways. Chips and salsa will go great with this wine.

 

Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère 2006 $13.99 This wine is a good example of how, when done right, Chilean Carmenère can be distinctly spicy and rich. The winemakers at Montes blend this traditional grape with a large proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon to achieve a structured complexity that compliments the peppery Carmenère. The fruit comes from the Apalta Valley, one of Chile’s best grape growing regions. Serve this wine with spicy pork ribs or carnitas tacos for a bold and hearty game day treat.

 

Kaiken Malbec 2004 $11.99 Kaiken is a Mapuche word for a particular Snow Goose that migrates across the Andes between Chile and Patagonia, just as Bodegas Montes has crossed the mountains to start making wine in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This dark, rich red wine is 100% Malbec from the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza. Inky dark purple color and concentrated sweet fruit aroma. Ripe berry and spicy pepper flavors will compliment grilled meats and any food that is at last a little bit picante.

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2006 $22.99 This young winery was founded in 1998 but has achieved great success in a short period of time. This wine, the entry level product for the winery, is 100% Malbec from the high altitude Vistalba region. Obvious care has been taken to produce a rich and opulent wine that still retains a certain level of finesse and detail. The ripe berry fruit character balances foundational minerality which, in turn, compliments a bit of spicy/herby background aroma. This is beef wine, from burgers to porterhouse steak. There is really no other option, but would you want it any other way?

 

Odysseus Tinto 2003 $41.99 Wines from the Priorat region in Catalunya have gotten pretty pricy of late, so I am very happy to offer this new version of one of our favorite small production Priorat reds at a better than usual price. Composed of a blend of 35% Garnacha, 35% Cariñena and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon with the last 10% composed of Touriga Nacional, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Caladoc, this unique and intriguing wine offers abundant pleasure for those know to ask for it. This is a plush wine that exhibits dark color, ripe fruit character and that distinctive mineral element that makes Priorat wines so interesting. If you want a big red for the big game, this is it.

 

Cerveza Estrella Galicia $10.99 (6 pack) Fresh, hoppy lagar from the north of Spain.

Cerveja Sagres $6.99 (6 pack) Another tasty lagar, this time coming from Portugal.

Super Bock $7.99 (6 pack) A strong beer (technically, malt liquor) from Portugal. Hearty!

Cerveja Skol $7.99 (6 pack)  One of Brazil’s most popular beers.  This lagar will remind you of Rio.

Jerome Cerveza Rubia $5.99 (660ml. bottle) The first micro brewery in Argentina makes this Belgian style ale in Mendoza. Hoppy and rich, this proves that Mendoza is good for more than just wine.

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Chile, Portugal, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Paella Class

Paella Class is back!  You heard it right friends. This most popular and always delicious Spanish rice dish is the subject of our upcoming Paella and Wine class at Kitchen On Fire Cooking School in North Berkeley. We will delve into the history and origins of this fascinating dish, exploring the many regional variations that have been handed down through the years from generation to generation. Then, working together, we will create a mixed seafood/chicken/pork Paella that we will all share.  In addition to cooking up a big Paella I will also be offering hands-on experience at whipping up some classic tapas to nibble on as the Paella cooks and, since it is me teaching the class, I will be pouring a selection of my favorite Spanish wines to accompany the tasty food.

The date for the class is Monday February 25th. We will start at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person. Registration for this class is through Kitchen On Fire.  The class is limited to 30 participants. You can sign up for the class on the Kitchen On Fire website.

Meanwhile, we have some important wine news to share with you. Once a year we get a small allotment of one of Spain’s most popular wines. I am talking about Clio, the Jumilla region Monastrell that has been an object of intense desire for wine lovers from coast to coast in recent vintages.  This inky dark, plush, opulent wine will definitely satisfy those in search of a Big Red with a fine pedigree and an almost cult-like following. But wait, that’s not all.  We will also be getting a tiny amount of Clio’s elder sibling El Nido, which, though less well known, is every bit as distinguished if not more so than the less expensive Clio. I suggest you call right away if you want some of these wines as they tend to disappear quickly from our shelves.

We also have some new white wines this week as well as some of my favorite reds for under $20. The descriptions are all here right after my latest classic American recipe with a Spanish accent.

 

Kevin’s (Not) Fried Chicken ‘al ajillo’ (serves 4 as an entrée)

1                    Organic Chicken (approx. 4 lb)

1                  Pint Buttermilk

5                     Garlic cloves

½ cup                     Kosher Salt

3 cups       All Purpose Flour

2 tbls.                     Pimentón de la Vera Dulce

1 tbls.                     Ground Black Pepper

 

This recipe for fried chicken is actually made in the oven. The end result is delicious and very similar to the fried version, only without the pot of messy hot oil.

Cut the chicken up into 10 serving sized pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings with wing tip removed, 2 breasts cut in half crosswise). Crush garlic cloves lightly with the flat side of a knife. Combine chicken pieces, garlic, buttermilk and ¼ cup of salt in a large heavy duty plastic bag. Seal the bag and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, combine flour, pimentón, pepper and remaining ¼ cup salt in a clean, dry plastic bag (I use leftover produce bags from the market). Remove each piece of chicken from the buttermilk and (without wiping off any remaining liquid) shake them one by one in the bag of seasoned flour and then place each piece skin side up on a wire rack, on a baking sheet (use 2 racks and baking sheets so as not to crowd the chicken pieces). Let the chicken pieces rest for 10-20 minutes while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cook the chicken pieces for twenty minutes skin side up, then turn the oven down to 300 degrees and finish cooking the chicken on the second side for another twenty five minutes.   

 

Martin Fierro Blanco 2007 $8.99  In the San Juan region of Argentina, Bodegas Bórbore makes this white wine from a blend of  80% Chardonnay and 20%  Torrontes. This unoaked wine blends the crispness of Chardonnay with the more floral Torrontes (the indigenous white grape of Argentina). The result is a refreshing wine with enough body to stand on its own as a cocktail wine. It would also pair well with poultry or rich seafood meals.

 

Tajinaste Blanco 2006 $14.99 This interesting new white wine, our first from the Canary Islands, is made from the local Listán Blanco grape grown in volcanic soils at high elevation on the island of Tenerife. Pale straw color and mineral foundation frame aromas of white peach and lemon zest.  This gentle yet lean white will compliment subtly flavored vegetable dishes and cold seafood appetizers.

 

Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas 2006 $35.99 We are thrilled to have just received an entire case of this extremely rare Albariño produced from vines reputed to be over 20o 0years old.  Considered by many to be one of the best Albariños, even one of the best white wines in all of Spain regardless of varietal, this firmly mineral wine will evolve over time (2-3 years) an will release more aroma and gentle fruit character as it ages. For immediate gratification this is a white wine to decant and serve with raw shellfish. As pure an expression of Albariño as I have yet tried. Simply stunning.

 

Convento Oreja Roble 2005 $19.99 This 100% Tempranillo wine from Ribera del Duero was aged in oak for a brief 4 months before bottling. Dark color, typical for the region, is matched with ripe berry fruit and just a hint of toasty oak. This smooth red will compliment red meat and hearty winter stews.

 

Pago Florentino 2004 $19.99 This opulent La Mancha region Tempranillo has a loyal following which grows as the wine becomes more well known. Jay Miller reviewed this wine for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. He rated it 89 Points, saying: “Serious efforts are being made to elevate quality in La Mancha and this is one signpost. The 2004 Pago Florentino is an estate bottled wine composed of 100% Tempranillo from young vines. It was aged for 12 months in new and used French and American oak. Dark ruby in color, it offers up attractive fruity aromas of plums, blueberry, and licorice with smoky, toasty notes in the background. This is followed by a lush, medium to full-bodied wine with a supple texture, ripe fruit, and good flavors in an easy-drinking, user-friendly style. Drink this hedonistic effort over the next 2-3 years. It is a very good value.”

 

Clio 2005 $46.00  Old vine Monastrell from Jumilla is what Clio is mostly made from (along with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon). These thick skinned grapes are picked at full ripeness and treated with great care at every step in this wine’s elaboration. The end result is a dark, full bodied red that will best accompany a full-flavored meaty meal. Josh Raynolds recently reviewed the new vintage of Clio for The International Wine Cellar. He rated the wine 93 points saying: “Inky purple. Vibrant red and dark berries on the nose, with sexy vanillin oak, Asian spices, fresh flowers and bright minerality. A silky, graceful midweight, displaying vivid raspberry and blackberry flavors and slow-building tannic grip. More tangy than the 2004, and at least as elegant, finishing with outstanding clarity and persistence.”

 

El Nido 2005 $140.00 The flagship wine from this celebrated Jumilla region winery is made from the same fruit as the Clio but the proportions are switched around. El Nido is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% old vine Monastrell. Josh Raynolds also reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated it 94 points, saying “Opaque violet. Seductively perfumed bouquet of red and dark berry liqueur, graphite, Asian spices and incense. This saturates every nook and cranny of the palate with flavors of sweet raspberry, boysenberry, candied licorice, cinnamon and vanilla. Impressively fresh for such flavor impact, thanks to gentle tannins and vibrant finishing minerality. A lingering, subtle strawberry quality underscores this wine’s impression of elegance over brute force.

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

Personal Favorites

Spanish wine can be a hard thing to define in general terms. Just about every region in Spain makes at least a little bit of wine and the regional variation, numerous grape varieties and the personal styles of individual winemakers can cover an almost infinite range of possibilities.

At The Spanish Table we take pride in offering a wide variety of wines from all across the Iberian Peninsula, and reading this newsletter is one of the best ways to learn about these exciting, enticingly new wines.

My normal habit is to put aside my own personal preferences and to promote new and interesting wines regardless of whether or not I plan to add the wine to my personal collection, but for you, the reader of this newsletter, it might be helpful to calibrate my perspective (for all wine writing is, after all, a matter of personal perspective) by sharing some of my personal favorites with you. 

I tend to take home younger wines, though you will find a few more mature bottles in the list below. I, like you, love a wine that delivers excellent quality at a great price, so you won’t see any expensive icon wine on this week’s list (not that I don’t love these wines as well, but a shopkeeper’s budget has certain limitations). What follows are some new items as well as some well loved favorites, all of which have found a place at my dinner table in recent weeks.   

Also, since I’m going ‘first-person’ on you this week, here is a recipe from my past that has caught up to me in the best of ways.

I grew up in the south where traditional recipes and regional specialties are more respected than in many other parts of the country.  One of the traditional foods I grew up with, and hated, was the dreaded Pimento Cheese Spread. Usually made with ‘American’ cheese, mayonnaise and tasteless pimentos from a jar, this was not a dish that I looked back on with great fondness. Recently, I found myself longing for the flavors of my formative years in Georgia and since nostalgia and food memory are sentiments only barely tethered to logic and reality, I decided to re-try some recipes from my younger days. Not satisfied with simple replication, I wanted to use my more recently acquired Spanish cooking habits to update these traditional southern standbys. I upgraded the ingredients, added a bit of Spanish flair and, well, all I can say is y’all are going to love the results.

 

Kevin’s Pimentón Cheese Spread (serves 6 as an appetizer)

½ lb.                Manchego Tierno Cheese (the youngest Manchego)

½ lb.                 Idiazabal Cheese

5             whole Piquillo peppers

6             pitted green Manzanilla olives

¼ cup   Ybarra mayonesa (made with 100% olive oil)

½ tsp.                 Pimentón de la Vera Dulce (smoked sweet paprika)

1 tsp.     Salt

 

Cut rind off cheeses and grate finely. Dice piquillo peppers and olives. Combine grated cheese, diced peppers and olives in a bowl with mayonesa, pimentón and salt. Mix completely and refrigerate for an hour before serving on bread. Melt the cheese spread on toast under the broiler for a hot version of this updated classic.

 

Aviny0 Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 Without a doubt, the white wine I take home most often is this spritzy, dry Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya. This refreshing grapefruity white wine is low in alcohol but big on taste. It makes a welcoming aperitif for guests and a perfect Sunday afternoon cocktail after yard work or washing the dogs.

 

Puerta Novas Crianza 2001 $12.99 My wife and I were recently surprised by this wine. When first released, Puertas Novas was quite firm and oaky, but time has been kind to this Toro region red.  With dinner the other night this proved to be a supple, rich, balanced wine (made from the local version of Tempranillo, appropriately named Tinto de Toro). No longer strictly a ‘steak wine’, Puertas Novas now has an elegance that reflects both the wine’s pedigree (2001 was an excellent vintage) and the skill of the winemakers (for those who still want the bigger, more structured version, Valpiculata Reserva 2001 is also still available for $23.99).

 

Viña Valoria 2005 $14.99 Many of you have come in looking for the perfect red wine to serve with paella and I very often recommend this young Rioja. A few scant months of barrel age lend the slightest touch of barrel character to this blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano. The pure, plum-like fruit character is juicy and refreshing, never overwhelming lighter foods such as rice or pasta dishes (paella specifically!).

 

Servilio Roble 2006$15.99 This new arrival from Ribera del Duero is bold and ripe. Dark color and a hint of meat locker aroma hint at what to serve with this young red wine. Grilled lamb chops, carne asada, crispy fried Morcilla or whatever meaty meal you prefer will taste even better when accompanied by this wine.  At home we love to serve this wine with the Berkshire pork chops we get from Café Rouge here in Berkeley.

 

Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating. 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. Braised beef brisket with pearl onions and potatoes was what I served with this wine.

 

Raspay Tinto “Brut” 2001 $19.99 In the Alicante region along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Bodegas Primitivo Quiles are best known for a fortified wine called Fondillón, made from the local Monastrell grape in a style similar to Sherry. The same old vine Monastrell also goes into this traditionally styled red wine.  The ruddy, brick red tint and savory tannic aroma give way to dried cherry fruit character. This is no fruit bomb. The old-school Spanish style is very well represented in this bottling that wins my vote for best label art too.  I served this with a selection of embutidos from The Spanish Table such as Lomo Embuchado, Jamón Serrano and dry cured Chorizo.

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

“We Want Bargains”

In the time that I have worked here at The Spanish Table, certain trends have become apparent as we move through the calendar. In the post-holiday period our desire for excellent wines at very reasonable prices grows exponentially in comparison to the rest of the year. Holiday extravagance is done with and a more austere, restrained (I hesitate to use the word sober) style of cooking and eating is in order. Extravagant multi-day preparations with rich, cream based sauces are out. Quick soups and simple stews featuring winter vegetables and lighter flavors are in.

So, to accompany the current desire for economy, I want to point out some really tasty wines at prices that will put a happy post-holiday smile on the face of even the most frugal of shoppers. We have a few new items to share with you as well as some trusted favorites that will compliment your table without busting your budget.

Perfectly in tune with the current mood, I (and many of you if the amount of smoked paprika we have sold today is any indication) noticed that in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, Amanda Berne offers up a recipe for just the kind of hearty but simple food that I crave at this time of year. Here is the link to the article on the SFgate web site that includes this recipe which I am reprinting here:

 

Smoky Chickpea Soup (Serves 4-6)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

3 celery stalks, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon saffron

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

5 cups vegetable broth

2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, drained

— Kosher salt, to taste

— High-quality olive oil

Instructions: Heat oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion and celery and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft.

Add garlic, saffron, cumin and smoked paprika, and cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly. Add broth and chickpeas, and season to taste. Simmer for 25 minutes, turn off heat and cool for about 5 minutes.

Puree in batches in a blender until very, very smooth. Season to taste. To serve, swirl a little drizzle of very good olive oil on top.

 

Dibon Brut Reserva Cava $8.99 I brought a first few cases of this wine in during the holidays and it sold well without any promotion at all on my part. The new shipment is arriving this week and we hope to keep this one in stock as long as possible. This traditionally styled sparkler is made from a blend of Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo grapes. Aromas of grapefruit and toasted brioche encounter assertive bubbles and bright citrusy flavor in the glass. An excellent example of a well priced Cava that can turn any simple meal into a special event.

 

Arribeño Roble 2003 $6.99 ($5.99 by the case) Arribeño Roble is a young Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero that fully expresses the character of the region. Dark garnet color, loamy forest floor aroma and firm grape skin tannins. Light oak aroma comes from a short 4 months of barrel age. Black cherry fruit character and a smoky finish round out the picture. This wine is one of The Spanish Table’s ‘House Wine’ selections. These great bargains are all $6.99 by the bottle with a special (mix & match) discount of $5.99/each with full case purchase.

 

Barbadillo Palomino Fina 2006 $6.99 ($5.99 by the case)This is one of Spain’s most popular whites as well as one of our favorite ‘house wines’ here in Berkeley. Palomina Fina is a grape that mostly gets used for Sherry production, which makes sense as Barbadillo is a well known winemaker in the Jerez region.  This white table wine is medium bodied and floral scented with a fresh, clean finish.

 

Mano a Mano 2003 $6.99 ($5.99 by the case)This Tempranillo from La Mancha in central Spain is typical of this  hot, arid region where grape vine and olive trees stretch to the horizon, interspersed with the occasional windmill.  This wine displays dried cherry fruit with background oak tannins, making it a perfect ‘house wine’ to have on hand for a wide variety of needs. It will taste fine with a pizza, but will really shine with traditional Spanish foods such as Jamón Serrano and sheep’s milk cheeses.

 

Justino Henriques Full Rich Madeira $9.99 Sometimes a little glass of something rich and delicious can be just as rewarding as a big glass full of an ordinary wine. If you are in this kind of mood, I suggest this wine as a perfect way to end a cold winter’s day.  This dark, sweet dessert wine from the island of Madeira in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is redolent of raisins and butterscotch.  A hint of smoky complexity is present in the background.

 

Porto Pocas LBV 2000 $18.99 Another excellent sweet wine to serve at this time of year is the ever-popular Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV for short).  Akin to the (much) more expensive Vintage Port, LBV ages in barrel for four years (twice as long as Vintage port) before bottling.  The final result is a wine with dark ruby color, assertive pomegranate and cranberry fruit character, lively acidity and underlying minerality.  Unlike Vintage Port that ages and develops over many years, LBV is intended for near term consumption. Sip this in front of the fire (or television set) and experience contentment.

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