Monthly Archives: July 2008

Spain in California

Every school kid in California learns about the Spanish heritage of this part of the world, going back to the days of ‘Alta California’ and ‘El Camino Reál’, but the names of Spanish explorers of the American west coast, names like De Anza, Cabrillo and Portola are no longer associated with historic figures. In modern times these Spanish family names are given to streets, shopping centers and housing sub-divisions. California’s Spanish history is, it seems, hiding in plain sight.

I’m currently reacquainting myself with the vestiges of colonial Spain here in the Bay Area and have noticed that (unlike the Spanish explorers from previous centuries) Spanish food and wine heritage is very much in evidence at present. In particular, this week I want to draw your attention to a few upcoming local events that highlight our shared Spanish history.

First up is a taste of ‘Alta California’ thanks to an enterprising group that goes by the name of ‘TAPAS’, which stands for Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society (hey, it’s a stretch, but it works). According to their website this local organization “is dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of wines made from all native Iberian grape varietals.”

If you want to experience what the Spanish explorers left behind (other than place names) you can try various wines made from grapes such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Albariño grown right here in California (and elsewhere in the USA) at an event hosted by TAPAS on Saturday August 9th at Copia (the wine/food museum) in Napa. Billed as “the most extensive tasting of American produced Iberian grape varietals ever offered”, this promises to be a detailed look at how domestic winemakers are responding to the current interest in all things Iberian.

Next in line for a little bit of the  California/Spain mashup treatment is a TV show (the cultural net gets widely cast around here) featuring our favorite dish, Paella, as prepared by local paellero to the stars, Gerard Nebesky. 

On Wednesday July 30th (9 pm PST) The Food Network will air an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay wherein the famous New York chef, restaurateur and TV personality will compete against Gerard Nebesky in a round of dueling Paellas.

The show was shot a few months ago in San Francisco and the final dishes created by Señores Flay y Nebesky were judged by Daniel Olivella, Executive Chef of B44 Restaurant in San Francisco as well as by our very own Andy Booth, co-owner of The Spanish Table (these guys know more than a thing or two about paella). Everyone involved in the show was sworn to secrecy about the final result (backed up by signed non-disclosure agreements) so we don’t yet know who actually prevailed in the competition. All will be revealed next Wednesday evening when the show airs for the first time.

For a first hand experience with Gerard’s Paella you can attend a big screen viewing of ‘Throwdown’ during the Wednesday June 30th broadcast, accompanied by the real thing. Gerard will be making his signature paella at Bistro de Copains in Occidental (Sonoma County) for a select group of Paella aficionados. For $30 you get paella, salad and the show, as well as the chance to rub elbows with a genuine TV star (Gerard, not Bobby). Reservations are required for this event. You can contact them by phone at (707)-874-2436.

Here in Berkeley we are excited to announce the arrival of new vintages from some favorite wineries as well as a few totally new items that we are very happy to share with you. What follows are my recommendations from the latest arrivals at The Spanish table in Berkeley.

 

Muga Blanco 2007 The newest vintage of Bodegas Muga’s popular white wine has arrived.  Made from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, briefly aged for 4 months in French oak, this wine is poised between the rich, fleshy style of barrel aged white wine and the crisp, herbal style of the same wine aged in tank. The oak never dominates but only adds a touch of complexity to this excellent and well priced wine. $18.99

 

Muga Rosado 2007 Another perennial customer favorite from Muga is this rosado wine made from Tempranillo, Garnacha and, interestingly, a bit of white Viura too. This pale pink wine is crisp and lean, not cloying and fruity. The bright acidity and gentle berry-like fruit character maintain a fine balance of berry/citrus aromas and flavors. $14.99

 

Parés Baltà Ros de Pacs 2007 If you are looking for a tasty organic rosado for serving at your dinner table or sipping on your back porch, then consider this dark and fruity wine from the Penedès region of Catalunya. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is full of strawberry aroma and flavor, with sufficient acidity to keep the wine bright and refreshing. $11.99

 

Sur Bonarda 2006 We just got a great deal on a stack of this Argentine red wine from a high quality producer in the Mendoza region. The indigenous Bonarda grape produces dark, full bodied wines.  This wine is 100% Bonarda. It is garnet colored and expressive, with blackberry fruit character balancing the amargo back note that Bonarda is known for. $10.99

 

Capote Velho What A bargain! This non-vintage red wine from who knows where in Portugal has absolutely no pedigree but really delivers on freshness and versatility. This is a full liter of wine that possesses gentle berry-like fruit character and moderate tannins coupled with a moderate level of alcohol (11.5%). Like a no name house wine in a little Portuguese bar or restaurant, this red tastes great by itself and will also accompany, but not overshadow, a broad range of foods. $11.99 (1 Liter)

 

Grilos 2005 This red wine from the Dão region in Portugal is an excellent example of the improvements taking place in the region. No longer home to just funky/earthy/rustic reds, winemakers in the Dão region now make many bright and intriguing wines such as this blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro grapes that age for a mere 6 months in oak before bottling. Tart red berry fruit character and lightly oaked tannic core combine with aromas of pomegranate and wet stones. Was $15.99, now $12.99

 

Vina Alberdi Reserva 2001 The wines of La Rioja Alta are among the most traditionally styled of Rioja reds. The new Viña Alberdi, from the superlative 2001 vintage, has just arrived. Odd label change (blue skinned matrons in red sun dresses sipping wine) notwithstanding, this old school Rioja is brick red in  color with toasty barrel aromas along with notes of cigar box, cedar and minerals. Pie cherry and dark plum fruit character are in balance with the other elements. This is an excellent choice for long term cellaring but is drinking very well right now if given some air before service. $24.99

 

 

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

New wines from Spain

Yes, it’s true. The floodgates are cranked wide open on the flow of Spanish wine into the USA.  

According to the Spanish Exterior Commerce Commission (ICEX), we in the USA now consume over 11 percent of all exported Spanish wine. The value of Spanish wine sold here also continues to grow by hefty margins with each passing year (15% increase in 2006 over 2005, for instance). 

What this means for you and me is that we have more choices than ever before when it come to wine from Spain. From crisp, bubbly Cava to elegant Gran Reserva Rioja (and many others in between) the options and varieties are numerous. 

At The Spanish Table we taste dozens of wines each week, searching for the best in quality and value, winnowing out the indistinct or overpriced choices that invariably crop up in such a broad and expanding market. The small percentage of wines that finally end up on our shelves represent some of the very best that Spain has to offer right now.

Happily, for those of us with a taste for tradition, some of our ‘new arrivals’ are in fact old favorites. The most intriguing element of the Spanish wine world for me is the mix of famous old bodegas (both large and small) and young, new wineries (also ranging from giant factories to tiny artisan projects). This broad range is reflected in our current batch of new arrivals.

This week we are excited to witness the return to the US market of Marqués de Murrieta, a well established and respected name in Rioja that has been off the market here for several vintages. They are back with a new importer and several excellent wines.

Also from Rioja is the new vintage of Conde de Valdemar rosado, a perennial summertime favorite here.

A big hit in its initial release last year was the basque Txakoli called Gurrutxaga. It is back in the new 2007   vintage.

Speaking of white wines, we are very excited about our latest Albariño called Paco & Lola. Don’t be put off by the silly name or the polka dotted label. This is an excellent example of what Albariño can be when made by skilled and attentive winemakers. 

We are also quite pleased with a new white wine from Rueda called Vevi. This flavor filled bottle combines high quality with low price; a combination that always makes me smile.

Finally this week, we have a unique red wine for you. The Arrels Sangre de Garnatxa is made in the Montsant region of Catalunya by local Bay Area winemakers. This small production wine is very difficult to find outside of a few San Francisco restaurants. Those of you who enjoy rich, dark reds will rejoice at the prospect of having this wine in your own personal cellar.

Here then are six choices from among the almost 600 wines we carry

 

Vevi Rueda 2007  This is the inaugural vintage of a custom blended Rueda wine created specially by Antonio Sanz and the importer José Pastor.  The wine is 80% Verdejo and 20% Viura. The bright lemon color mimics aromas and flavors of fresh citrus. Additional notes of melon and guava with a bit of minerality in the background add depth to this bright and refreshing wine.  $10.99

 

Gurrutxaga Txakoli 2007 This basque Txakoli wine comes from the little village of Mendexa along Spain’s northern Cantabrian coast (curiously, the image on the bottle is of the neighboring town, Lekeitio). Crisp, flinty minerality and grapefruity flavor combine in this spritzy, low alcohol white. $15.99

 

Paco & Lola Albariño 2007 This new arrival will delight Albariño lovers. Pale yellow color with green reflections, citrus and mineral aromas and white peach fruit character all combine with bright, assertive acidity in this excellent example from D.O. Rías Baixas. $19.99

 

Conde de Valdemar Rosado 2007 The newest vintage of this Rioja region rosado is composed of mostly Garnacha with a bit of Tempranillo added to the blend. This refreshing, summery wine is dark pink in color with ripe strawberry fruit character balancing bright, citrusy acidity.  Like a fresh breeze on a hot afternoon, this wine can cool you down and perk you up simultaneously. $10.99

 

Marqués de Murrieta reserva 2004 We have waited years for this wine to come back to our shores and the wait was not in vain. This excellent, mature red is everything Rioja aficionados look for in a traditional reserva. Brick red color, rich fruit character and elegantly integrated barrel tannins all contribute to the overall experience of this wine.  Josh Raynolds of Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave the wine 91 points, saying: “Fading medium red. Strawberry and cherry-vanilla aromas are complicated by cured tobacco and coffee. Light in body and supple, offering sweet red fruit flavors, gentle tannins and good back-end grip. Deepened with air, picking up darker berries and a pleasantly bitter cherry skin quality. Finishes with an echo of red fruits and vanilla. Textbook Rioja, and drinking beautifully right now.” $26.99

 

Arrels Sangre de Garnatxa 2004    This dark, opulent wine from the Montsant region of Catalunya has roots right here in the Bay Area. Arrels is a small production (444 cases in total) project between local Chefs Laurent Manrique (Aqua), Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade, Bocadillos), Sylvain Portay and Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji (both formerly at the Ritz Carleton, San Francisco).  The wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from a small, high altitude plot of old vines. Opaque garnet color and rich, concentrated black cherry fruit character along with tart acidity and background minerality. T-bone steaks, cooked rare on the grill would be a good match. Read more about the wine makers here in a recent SF Chronicle article. $36.99 

 

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Filed under Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Spain is the winner

Did you notice that Spain won the European football championship last week? Of course you did, but you also get this newsletter so you are probably among those who follow this sort of thing.

A front to back search of local sports pages last week turned up scant coverage of this important news. I think this says more about America’s ambivalence toward ‘soccer’ than it does about American interest in Spain, but whether or not you are interested in the sport you have to feel good for the Spanish. They have not won this championship in a long, long time. It reminded me of when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series after falling short for so many seasons, only for Spain this was a national moment of pride, not a regional success story.

Here at The Spanish Table we celebrate the glory of Spain each and every day with great things to eat and drink. Recently the weather in the Bay Area has taken on a decidedly Castilian tone, with hot dry air and abundant sunshine replacing our normal cool, foggy summer climate, so now is a perfect time to create a bit of Iberian ambience in your own back yard.

Break out the red and gold decorations. Fire up the grill and cook up a mess of chorizo, morcilla and chuletas.  Stock the ice chest with refreshing Spanish rosado, cava and cerveza. Crank up the stereo and blast some old school flamenco (or some Rodolfo Chikilicuatre for the younger crowd).  For the full effect, try all of the above at about 10 pm (I suggest you invite the neighbors).

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that The Spanish Table is your one-stop-shop for just about everything necessary (food, wine, décor, music) to create your very own Spanish fiesta, Portuguese festa, or a good old back yard cookout with a few creative flourishes.

Here is a recipe from my childhood in Georgia that I have adapted with a bit of Iberian flair. As a kid, ‘Pigs in Blankets’ was what we called hot dogs wrapped in biscuit dough and baked. I never really liked them much. I thought the best part was whacking the cardboard tube of pre-made biscuit dough on the edge of the kitchen counter and watching the dough expand and ooze out of the split tube.

In a recent fit of nostalgia I retooled this recipe using my own biscuit dough and little chorizos from The Spanish Table. The results have completely changed my mind about this fun and easy party snack. Try it for your self and let me know what you think.

 

Cerditos en Mantas

(Serves 4-6)

 

2.5 cups all purpose flour (and a bit more for rolling out the dough)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon salt

¼ cup cold lard

¾ cup buttermilk

12 small Spanish style chorizos (I use Doña Juana Cantimpalitos)

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cold lard and combine with the flour by squeezing the mixture through your fingers until barely mixed and somewhat lumpy. Add the buttermilk and mix briefly. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and pat or roll out to about ½ inch in thickness. Cut dough into 12 triangles, approximately 3” on each side.  Place one chorizo in the center of each dough triangle. Fold two corners of the triangle over the center of the chorizo and press with your thumb to seal the points together. Leave the ends of the chorizo exposed. Place the wrapped chorizos on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a 45o degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the dough is fully cooked and starting to brown. Plate and serve immediately.

 

Blanco Nieva Sauvignon Blanc 2007 The Rueda region of Northern Spain is best know for producing white wines from the Verdejo grape, but they also grow a fair amount of Sauvignon Blanc. This new arrival is fresh as fresh can be, with abundant citrus blossom aroma and racy acidity. In the early stage of its development this wine displays a touch of residual effervescence which will fade with time. The ripe melon fruit character is still a bit subdued, but will become more predominant in a few more months. I suggest you try this unique wine right away to experience it at its freshest, then try it again later on in the year to experience the more mellow aspect of the wine. $17.99

 

Oreka 2007 We love the Txakoli, yes we do, and this is one of our perennial favorites, now available in the latest vintage. Oreka is the top of the line bottling from the Talai Berri winery just outside of Zarautz on the Cantabrian coast. This 100% Hondaribbi Zuri wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at temperatures just barely above freezing in order to preserve the delicate fruit character of this grape. Pale yellow color with greenish reflections. Edgy minerality and grapefruit-like flavor. This is an excellent, pin point precise example of what one should expect from quality Txakoli wine.  $19.99

 

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla Rosado 2007 The pink version of Vi D’Agulla is here and man, this stuff is tasty! You may well remember my enthusiastic endorsement of Avinyó’s traditional, spritzy, white Vi D’Agulla made from Petit Grain Muscat. Now those same winemakers have decided to produce a rosado version of Vi D’Agulla using Merlot grapes.  The spritz and the minerality of the original are still present in the new wine, along with a beautiful crystalline ruby hue and a modest amount of ripe berry fruit character. $14.99

 

Ricardo Santos Malbec 2006 This was the first Malbec to catch my attention back when we first started stocking wines from Argentina. The new vintage of this single vineyard wine has arrived and it too appeals to me because, unlike some Malbecs, this wine shows some restraint in its expression of fruit character. The dark berry flavor typical of Malbec is present to be sure, but it doesn’t overwhelm the other aspects of the wine, including tart barrel tannins, cigar box aroma and background minerality. $17.99

 

Tercos Sangiovese 2005 Wine in Argentina is more than just Malbec. This wine, made by Pedro and Patricio Santos (the sons of Ricardo Santos) is made from 100% Sangiovese, a grape that predominates in Italy. This darkly colored yet brightly flavorful red wine exhibits fresh berry fruit character with underlying tannins and tart acidity. This is the first vintage of this young wine. Tercos means ‘stubborn’ or ‘obstinate’ in Spanish, perhaps indicating a commitment to quality and tradition, or maybe it means the sons held their breath and stomped their feet until Dad let them have a winery of their own. Either way, this is a tasty bottle from a skilled winemaking family. $11.99

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2007 The Achaval Ferrer winery, just barely ten years old, is quickly becoming one of the most highly sought after sources of top shelf Argentine wines. This wine is made from 100% Malbec from their various estate vineyards. Almost opaque in color, this unfiltered wine displays the dark berry fruit character that Malbec is known for as well as a touch of barrel tannin from 10 months in French oak. Smoky aroma and tart acidity add depth to this young wine. This is an excellent value from a winery known for making some very exclusive high end bottlings. $22.99

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