Monthly Archives: February 2008

With Age Comes Deliciousness

‘Fresh’ and ‘young’ are desirable qualities in food and fashion. Everyone wants the latest new thing. But what happens when the hot new trend is celebrated for its age and maturity?

Try this little experiment. Say to your favorite person, “Wow, honey. That’s a fantastic outfit. You look ten years older.” Not such a good idea, right?

Now try this: “Darling, would you like another glass of 1964 Gran Reserva Rioja to go with your slow cured Jamón Iberico?”

Ah, much better!

You see, the food world rewards those who appreciate the complexity that comes with age (what else in life works like this?).

Several perfect examples of age equaling beauty have just arrived in our little store. I speak of course of the long awaited Jamón Iberico. This Spanish cured ham from the rare breed of pig known as Pata Negra (Black Foot) has finally landed in California, along with even rarer Paleta de Bellota made from the front leg of the same breed of swine, wild grazed on acorns to fatten them up before, um, processing.

A perfect accompaniment to these very exclusive cured meats is mature, aged Gran Reserva Rioja from an excellent but long past vintage. We are happy to report that a batch of some of the best Rioja from the past 60 years is arriving at The Spanish Table.

Another option: Cava, that delicious Spanish sparkling wine, ages for several years in the bottle before release. This too makes for a memorable combination when paired with some Jamón Iberico.

Doubt me? You can test this out for yourself on Thursday March 6th when we will be offering a Cava and Jamón tasting in our Mill valley store from 6pm-7:30pm. The cost for this exclusive tasting is just $12. Call the Mill Valley store (415-388-5043) to reserve you spot.

Speaking of our Mill Valley store, here is what Andy Booth, one of the owners who can often be found working in the Marin County branch of The Spanish Table, has to say about the impending arrival of some spectacular older vintages of Rioja from his good friends at Lopez de Heredia.

 

The family owned Lopez de Heredia winery has been making beautifully aged Rioja since it’s founding in 1877.  They pride themselves on continuing the tradition that Rafael Lopez de Heredia y Landeta started.  We have ordered a handful of these wines direct from the winery and they are scheduled to arrive at the beginning of March.  We are offering a presell on the wines before they arrive.  They are all extremely limited in availability.  If interested, please give us a call or email.  The presell price is available only until the wines arrive.
1942 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $840, presell price $750 (only 1 available)
1947 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $785, presell price $705 (only 1 available)
(The 1942 & 1947 Vina Bosconia are considered by many who have tried the wines extensively two of their best wines produced.)
1970 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $206, presell price $184 (12 available)
1970 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva: $206, presell price $184 (2 available)
1976 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $125, presell price $112 (12 available)
1981 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $89, presell price $78 (4 available)
1981 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva: $104, presell price $93 (4 available)
1976 Vina Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva: $120, presell price $107 (2 available)
This pairs perfectly with the chanterelle & gremolata pizza from Chez Panisse (as we did last weekend)
1981 Vina Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva: $89, presell price $78 (8 available)

 

Meanwhile, here in Berkeley we have some tasty new arrivals at all price ranges to share with you. The big news is the arrival of The 2005 Pago de Carraovejas Crianza and Reserva.  These hard to find wines from Ribera del Duero make an appearance each year, but supplies are limited so they sell out quickly. When we did our staff tasting of the Jamón Iberico this was the wine we paired it with.  The combination is sublime.

Also, for those looking for a bargain, we have some new ‘house wine’ as well as a new Monastrell from Almansa and the new vintage of a popular and, yes, youthful blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo from Navarra.

 

Infinitus Chardonnay/Viura 2006 $6.99 This white ‘house wine’ makes a repeat appearance here after a popular run in the last vintage. Infinitus, made by the same folks who bring you Finca Antigua and Conde de Valdemar, is a fresh and floral blend of Viura and the more well known Chardonnay. Crisp citrus flavors from the Viura encounter fuller melon flavors from the Chardonnay.

 

Valcanto Monastrell 2005 $10.99 This new Monastrell comes from Bodegas Piquera in Almansa. A bit fresher than the ripe, concentratedMonastrell wines from neighboring Jumilla and Yecla to the south, with lighter balance and leaner fruit character.

 

Ochoa Garnacha/Tempranillo 2006 $12.99 This is always a great wine for weeknight suppers and informal gatherings. The new vintage of this bright, berry scented blend from Navarra is refreshing and fruity but not cloying or sweet. A fine example of the ‘tinto joven’ style found in countless little bars all across Spain.

 

Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2005 $39.99

Pago de Carraovejas Reserva 2005 $64.00

They are back again! Pago de Carraovejas is the name of a single vineyard on the outskirts of Peñafiel in the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. Nestled in the shadow of the famous medieval fortified Castillo de Peñafiel, the 60 hectare estate grows mostly Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) along with small parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The Crianza uses all three estate grown grapes in the blend (85% Tinto Fino, 10% Cabernet, 5% Merlot). The wine ages for 12 months in mixed French/American oak barrels before bottling. The rich, dark berry fruit is backed by muscular grape skin tannins and balanced oak. With air (the more the better right now) the wine comes alive with loamy aroma and layer upon layer of ripe fruit character.

The 2005 Reserva omits the Merlot from the previous blend in favor of a 90/10 split between Tinto Fino and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Using hand selected bunches of very ripe fruit, this wine spends its first twelve months of life ageing in French oak. Currently less expressive than the Crianza, the Reserva is intended for long term storage. With time, it will reveal a core of sweet dark berry fruit which at present is cloaked in assertive tannins. For immediate gratification, decant this wine a full day ahead of when you want to drink it.

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Filed under Red Wine, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Last Chance Wine Sale

Good wines, like fresh fruits and vegetables, come and go with the seasons.

In this age of identical commodity products made in vast quantities we often forget that many wines, especially those from the small artisan wineries we love at The Spanish Table, are made in quantities determined by the amount of fresh fruit available to the winemakers and the amount of space they have to make wine from the fruit at harvest time. When these wines are gone, they are gone for good.

It is always a sad moment when one of my favorite wines runs out. Fortunately we always have new wines on hand just waiting for shelf space to open up and give these new products a chance in the marketplace.

This week I am making room for new wines by marking down some products that we are no longer able to re-order. These wines are the last of their vintage or are from distributors who no longer carry these brands. I have marked these wines down in price to give you more than ample reason to pick up a few while they are still available. The mutual benefit here is that you get some tasty bottles for not much money and I get shelf space to bring in yet more new products for you to try.

So come take a look at our new ‘get them while they last’ section and pick out a few of these beauties before they are all gone.

Speaking of almost gone, the last few spots in next week’s Paella & Wine class are getting claimed as I write. If you have some free time on Monday evening (6:30 pm – 9:30 pm)  click over to Kitchen On Fire  and sign up for this tasty hands-on event.

Here is an example of the type of seasonal dish we will be preparing in class while waiting for the paella to cook:

 

Blood Orange and Fennel salad with Black Olives

(serves 4 as a tapa)

 

4                             Medium sized Blood oranges

1                              large fennel bulb

1                              small white onion

12                           Oil cured black olives

2 tblspn                .                Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 tblspn.                Spanish Sherry vinegar

1 tspn.                  Flor de Sal

 

Peal the oranges with a kitchen knife and either fillet them (cut into skinless sections) or thinly cross cut them into rounds. Slice the fennel and onion into thin rounds (a mandolin slicer works well here, but watch those fingers!). Rinse the onion slices in cold water and pat dry with a towel.  Pit the olives and tear them in half. Mix everything together in a shallow dish. Add the oil and vinegar and any leftover blood orange juice and toss the salad. Sprinkle on the sea salt and let the salad rest for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Viña Alarba Old Vines Grenache 2005 $6.99 Our newest ‘house wine’ comes from the Calatayud region in Northern Spain. This bright, refreshing Garnacha is full of cherry fruit character with a touch of cranberry tartness. We got a great deal on this wine (normally $9.99) which we are sharing with you. It won’t last long so act now if you want some.

 

Sombrero Rojo Tempranillo 2006 $8.99 This is not a close out. It is a new arrival. Yes, it has a silly name but, hey, it just proves that I don’t judge a wine by its cover. This young Tempranillo is fresh and lively. Half regular fermentation and half carbonic maceration keep the youthful berry-like fruit in the foreground. A tasty wine for simple weeknight meals.

 

Casabayo Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 $8.99 Those dynamic young winemakers at  Mas que Vinos, makers of the ever popular and always delicious Ercavio Tinto and Ercavio Blanco, made this wine from a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. The hot 2003 vintage has given this wine with enough stuffing (ripe fruit, dark color, bright acidity) to last several vintages. We have just a few bottles left.

 

Gárgola 2003 $8.99 Extremadura is known for two things: Jamón Iberico and Vino Tinto.  We are still waiting for the Jamón Iberico to arrive, but meanwhile we can enjoy this red wine while we wait. I like this blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah for its restrained fruit and lean structure. It will turn any jamón deprived gargoyle into a perfect little cherub. 

 

Calina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $9.99 The Rapel Valley is the source of some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile. Rich aromas and dark berry fruit character. Calina ages this wine in oak barrels to create firm tannins which add structure to the wine.

 

Finca Antigua Syrah 2004 $9.99 In the heart of Spain, vineyards stretch to the horizons in every direction. Finca Antigua is a Castilla region winery producing several single varietal wines including this Syrah. This wine shows dark color and tart, savory fruit character and firm, smoky tannins. A fine bargain in Spanish Syrah.

 

Baranc dels Closos 2002 $13.99 Mas Igneus makes many well crafted wines in Priorat, including this lightly oaked blend of Garnacha and Cariñena. The rocky Priorat soil is evident in this firmly mineral wine. Dark garnet color.  Notes of pie cherry and Kirsch (cherry brandy). More rocks on the finish.

 

Pissares 2003 $14.99 A fabulous bargain from Priorat is a rare find indeed. Most of the wines from this region are on the high side price-wise. Stylistically, this one tips its hand right away with a photo on the label of the slate and schist soil that is typical in Priorat. Mineral aromas and flavors of wet slate are a distinct element in this rich red wine. Other elements include dark, almost opaque color, rich cassis (black currant liqueur) aroma and fruit character reminiscent of blackberries and blueberries.

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Filed under Chile, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain

Monastrell, Mi Amor

Yes, it’s true. I’m in love with a grape.

The object of my affection is the big, juicy, dark, thick skinned Monastrell grape grown throughout Mediterranean Spain (already well known in France where it is called Mourvèdre, this grape is seen in the wines of Bandol and Châteauneuf-du-Pape). In Alicante, Jumilla and Yecla the popularity of this varietal is increasing with each vintage.  Once used as a bulk wine shipped out to various parts of Spain to add depth to a thin vintage, many Spanish winemakers now bottle this varietal on its own or in blends where it plays a substantial, not a supporting role.

Monastrell has become extremely sought after here in the USA thanks to some high profile bottlings as well as some reliable young wines that have proved to be excellent values from vintage to vintage.

This week I remind you about the 2005 Clio, a Monastrell blend that has seriously impressed the wine world in recent vintages. We have also just received a second shipment of the 2005 Juan Gil, a 100% Monastrell that showcases the varietal all by itself. The 2005 Casa Castillo, one of the first Monastrell wines to be bottled as a single varietal wine is back at a better price.  I also have late harvest Monastrell from Alella (just outside of Barcelona) and fortified sherry-like Monastrell from Alicante, produced from stocks that date back to 1948. Now is an excellent time to try this very sought after varietal in all its permutations.

Also this week, we have some tasty bargains that offer big flavor at a small price. Check out the Bodegas Fontana wines below to see what I mean.

In other news, Paella Class is filling up fast, but a few spaces still remain for any of you who wish to learn about this most famous of Spanish dishes. We will be making and eating a big paella accompanied by some tapas to nibble on while the paella cooks. We will also taste five Spanish wines to go with all the food. The date is February 25th at 6:30 pm. The location is Kitchen On Fire cooking School here in Berkeley. The cost is $65 per person. Registration and details can be found at the Kitchen On Fire website.

 

Mesta Tempranillo 2006 $6.99 (was $8.99) Our newest ‘house wine’ comes from Bodegas Fontana in central Spain near Cuenca.

In Spanish shepherd-speak a ‘mesta’ is a meeting of shepherds to sort out intermingled flocks. This young Tempranillo from central Spain is a perfect red wine for all sorts of informal gatherings. Fresh berry fruit character and light tannins make this a well priced option for lighter meals as well as back porch sipping.

 

Fontal Tempranillo Roble 2004 $9.99 (was $11.99) This wine from Bodegas Fontana (like the previous wine) shows what a bit of barrel age does to Tempranillo. The fresh berry fruit character is now nuanced with gentle tannins and spicy aromatic complexity.

 

Casa Castillo 2005 $10.99 (was $12.99) This is a dark ruby colored wine with bright aromas of fresh red berries, and a medium to full-bodied cherry-like fruit character.  A brief period of oak barrel ageing (6- 8 months) lends a bit of tannic dryness to the wine, adding balance to the rich fruit and a bit of spice to the finish.

 

Juan Gil 2005 $16.99 We just got in a second shipment of this popular Monastrell from Jumilla, made by Miguel Gil, one of the pioneers of this grape and this region. Dark color and concentrated blackberry aroma create the first impression, leading on to sweet dark berry fruit character and a touch of grape skin tannin. A fine example of a pure Monastrell 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.  Serve this with a selection of embutidos from The Spanish Table such as Lomo Embuchado, Jamón Serrano and dry cured Chorizo.

 

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.

 

Dolç Mataró $33.99 (500ml) The long forgotten Mataró grape, a relative of the better known Monastrell is used to produce tiny quantities of this sweet dessert wine. Super-ripe late harvest Mataró is hand selected, crushed and macerated in its own juice to extract the maximum of color and flavor from the skins. After fermentation the wine ages for a scant few months in barrel before bottling with minimal filtration in stylish 500ml bottles.  The final result is a sweet wine with opaque purple color, the aroma of fresh violets and a sweet fruit character that for all its intensity still possesses a certain delicacy.

 

Primitivo Quiles Fondillón Reserva 1948 $63.00 Historically, Fondillón was called Vino Noble de Alicante not only because it was enjoyed by royalty (Louis XIV is said to have enjoyed the wine) but also as an indication of a winemaking style that achieves 16% alcohol by volume without resorting to fortification of the wine with spirits as is done in Jerez.

Late harvest Monastrell is picked at ultimate ripeness and the sugars in the grape convert to alcohol at a higher rate than normally. After many years in the solera the wine looses its red color and turns a ruddy amber. Nutty sherry-like aroma and flavor balance gentle but not cloying sweetness. Serve this wine with afternoon cookies and tea. A small glass after dinner is also nice.

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Filed under Misc.Wine, Red Wine, Spain

Valentine Wines

When I was a little kid at Briar Vista Elementary School in Dekalb County Georgia, Valentine’s Day was celebrated by all the school children decorating paper lunch bags with red and pink paper hearts and taping them up in ‘home room’ on the radiator by the window to collect the mostly pre-fab Valentine’s Day cards that would be purchased by the parents at the local drug store for all us children to distribute amongst our classmates.

These days, I like to concentrate my Valentine sentiments closer to home by cooking a special meal for my wife. Some fresh flowers set the scene. A few thoughtfully chosen courses and an excellent wine express my feeling better than words. A nice dessert rounds out my culinary love letter.

If this is your idea of a good way to spend Valentine’s Day, read on. We have a fabulous selection of special wines to woo your sweetheart with, and a simple recipe for a classic Spanish dessert (with a touch of my southern heritage) that will endear you to whomever you make it for.

 

Kevin’s Buttermilk Flan (serves 4 or 2 with leftovers)

6                              large eggs

1 & 1/2 cups       Buttermilk

½ cup                   heavy cream

1 tblspn.               Mexican Vanilla concentrate

½ cup                   sugar

1/2 tspn.              salt

 

Divide the sugar in half and add ¼ cup to a 9” clay cazuela. Place the cazuela on the stove and heat over a medium flame without stirring until the sugar has melted and turned a dark caramel color (it will start slow at first but do not walk away lest you burn your sugar). Turn off the heat and let the cazuela cool. You will have a hard caramel coating on the inside of the cazuela when you are done.

Beat 4 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks together in a bowl with the sugar and salt until blended. Add the vanilla, buttermilk and cream.  Mix well and strain through a fine sieve. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The flan needs to cook in a hot water bath, so place the caramel coated cazuela in a larger oven proof container (I use a 10 inch cake pan) and set on the middle rack of the oven. Fill the cazuela with the flan mixture first, then fill the outer cake pan with boiling water to surround the cazuela with gentle moist heat (do this in the oven so you do not have to carry the sloshing flan and hot water bath to the oven). Cook for 30 minutes and check for doneness. The flan should still be jiggly but not liquid when fully cooked. If still undercooked, allow ten minutes more in the oven (take the flan out of the oven before it sets completely or it will be dry and grainy).

Remove the flan filled cazuela from the water bath and allow to cool completely (refrigerated over night is best). To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the flan to loosen it and invert the cazuela on a serving plate. Serve the finished flan with sliced seasonal fruit and a nice glass of sweet wine.  

 

Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado Cava $14.99 I talk about this wine a lot, but now is the perfect moment to serve this sparkling rosado. It’s pink and bubbly, which may be all you need for the occasion, but this is also a deliciously berry scented yet still dry and refreshing cava that not only looks great in the glass but also offers up classic cava aroma and flavor at a reasonable price.

 

Can Vendrell Brut Reserva Cava $17.99 One of my favorite Cavas is back in stock! This classic blend of traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo), from organic vineyards, with extended ageing on the lees and low dosage is a dry wine with great depth and nuance. This is rich enough to serve with food, but dry enough to serve as a cocktail.

 

Reymos Espumoso de Moscatel $11.99 Sweet sparkling wine from D.O. Valencia. Rich Muscat grape scent, honeydew melon fruit character and light but persistent bubbles. A mere 7.5% alcohol makes this the perfect end-of-meal wine. Serve alongside buttermilk flan (recipe above) for a nice change of pace.

 

Don PX Gran Reserva 1979 $27.99 (375ml)  One of Spain’s most distinctive wines. An extremely rare aged wine made from Pedro Ximénez grapes that are partially sun dried before fermentation. The wine is dark and thick as molasses, with concentrated sweetness and flavors of figs, raisins and baking spices. Amazing depth and complexity. This is another perfect match for the flan recipe above.

 

Dolç Mataró $33.99 (500ml) The long forgotten Mataró grape, a relative of the better known Monastrell is used to produce tiny quantities of this sweet dessert wine. Super-ripe late harvest Mataró is hand selected, crushed and macerated in its own juice to extract the maximum of color and flavor from the skins. After fermentation the wine ages for a scant few months in barrel before bottling with minimal filtration in stylish 500ml bottles.  The final result is a sweet wine with opaque purple color, the aroma of fresh violets and a sweet fruit character that for all its intensity still possesses a certain delicacy.

 

Azua Reserva 2003 $12.99 In the Manchuela region of Castilla, just southeast of Madrid, the big, dark, juicy Bobal grape is traditionally used in many of the hearty red wines from this underappreciated part of Spain. Azua Reserva uses 100% old vine Bobal, aged in oak for 12 months and in bottle for an additional 24 months before release. This dark abundant wine is, amazingly, only 12.5% alcohol by volume, making it perfect for those of us who love abundant flavor but tire of the boozy high proof wines that often fit this profile.

 

Riolanc Vendimia Seleccionada 2006 $10.99 Our newest Rioja is this young wine from the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, made from 100% old vine Tempranillo. Whole bunch fermentation is used here to create a wine with great freshness and bright fruit character. This is an excellent choice for weeknight suppers now. When the weather warms up a bit I’ll be pouring this one in the back yard by the paella fire.

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