Monthly Archives: September 2008

American Wine / Iberian Style

Are you ready for something new?

“But of course” you say.

Well, check this out: The Spanish Table in Berkeley now carries domestic wines.

Yes, it’s true. Starting this week we have a new section of California wines made from Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Cariñena, Albariño, Verdelho and anything else I find that has Iberian origins and grows here in the USA.

Over the last decade local grape growers have planted ever increasing quantities of Iberian varieties. With each passing season these grapes are attracting more and more attention from winemakers who, like many wine drinkers, are always looking for something unique and tasty. Presently, the number of producers making high quality wine from these grapes is just now reaching the threshold of commercial viability as a category.

Vino Iberesco (new phrase – you heard it here first) is now available in a sufficiently broad range of styles that I feel the time is right to include a few of them in our collection. These new wines, while remaining true to their California origins, are stylistically anchored in the winemaking traditions of Spain and Portugal.

This week we have a white Verdelho from Lodi, a barrel aged Tempranillo/Garnacha blend from Lake County as well as a Garnacha from the Sierra Foothills. More Vino Iberesco wines will arrive in the weeks to come.

Rest assured however that even as we venture into new territory with domestic wines, our commitment to the many excellent wines of Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile remains unwavering. This week we offer you the latest vintages of some well known favorites that have just arrived from regions such as Bierzo, Montsant and Rueda. In the weeks ahead we will be stocking up on Sherry, Port and Madeira for the upcoming Holiday season.

The ever expanding range of choices at The Spanish Table, unmatched elsewhere, is now even broader. Check out the new arrivals below and come pick up some familiar favorites. While you are here, try some of our new domestic wines too and discover these newly transplanted flavors of Iberia.

Paella Class Alert: The ever popular Paella class at local cooking school Kitchen On Fire is coming around again. This hands-on class will take place on Sunday October 19th at 6:30 pm. The fee is $65/person which includes active participation in the making and eating of several tapas, a big paella mixta, and dessert. Several wines will be tasted along the way.

Here is the blurb from the Kitchen On Fire website

http://www.kitchenonfire.com//course_class.php?class=444

where you may sign up for this class:

Join Kevin Hogan from The Spanish Table to learn first-hand the joys of the Spanish rice dish known as Paella. Kevin will share his knowledge and experience in all things Paella-related. The class will include some hands-on participation to prepare a mixed poultry/meat/seafood Paella that will be consumed at the culmination of the class. Participants will also get a chance to make and sample some simple tapas while waiting for the Paella to cook. Kevin is the wine buyer for The Spanish Table in Berkeley and will be sharing some Paella-friendly wines as well. Come to class with an appetite for adventure and be rewarded with a plateful of Paella wisdom.

Alta Mesa Cellars Verdelho 2007 Ron Silva has, for years, pioneered the cultivation of Portuguese grape varieties in the Central Valley. His vineyards are renowned among local winemakers and are the source for much of the fruit that goes into many new Iberesco styled wines. In addition to growing and selling grapes, Ron also makes a bit of wine himself. He made this bright, refreshing white wine from his estate grown Verdelho vines. This unoaked wine evokes the flavors of Portugal while remaining firmly grounded in California. Rich floral aroma encounters delicate melon and citrus flavors. A bit of mineral foundation adds depth to the gentle, harmonious fruit character. $14.99

Odisea Two Rows Garnacha 2006 Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz founded Odisea a few years ago to make wines in the style of Southern France and Northern Spain. Using fruit from Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, these winemakers have crafted several different wines that, tasted blind, could easily pass as Spanish. Two Rows Garnacha, produced in miniscule amounts (90 cases in all) is a blend of 76% Garnacha, 12% Tempranillo and 12% Petite Sirah. A brief period of barrel ageing, as is typical with Spanish roble wines, adds a hint of oaky complexity to the wine. The crystalline ruby color, tangy, bright fruit character and background earthy/mineral notes are reminiscent of a Calatayud Garnacha or a young wine from Rioja Baja. $19.99

Tejada 2005 Back in 1999 Spanish natives Celia Tejada and her brother Ivo started this small family winery in Lake County. Celia made a name for herself as the Vice President of product development at Pottery Barn before also deciding to get into the wine business. The Tejada siblings planted part of their new 80 acre property with 3.5 acres of Tempranillo and Garnacha (the grapes they remembered from home). This small estate vineyard is the source for the fruit that goes into two Tejada wines (this one and a more mature reserva). The blend here is 58% Tempranillo and 42% Garnacha. Local winemaker Byron Kosuge is involved in the winemaking process which includes a certain amount of time in oak followed by a period of bottle ageing as is done in Spain. The end result is a dark garnet colored wine with fresh red berry fruit character, mid-weight barrel tannins and a lean, savory element that helps retain the Spanish style of the wine. $21.99

Mantel Blanco Verdejo 2007 This used to be a popular favorite at The Spanish Table but has been missing in action for a couple of vintages. Happily, this fresh, citrusy white wine from the Rueda region in Northern Spain is back in the new 2007 vintage and is just as lively and refreshing as we remember from days gone by. This unoaked Verdejo varietal wine is pale yellow in color with citrus blossom aroma and flavor notes of pineapple and guava. $12.99

La Planella 2006 This young red wine from is made at the Joan D’Anguera winery located in the town of Darmos in the Montsant region of Catalunya. Each year the composition of this wine changes to reflect the best grapes of the vintage. The newly released 2006 La Planella is made up of 40 % Mazuelo (aka Cariñena), 20% Syrah, 20% Garnacha and 20 % Cabernet Sauvignon. The blended wine spends 11 months in oak before bottling. This dark garnet colored offering displays a combination of earthy aromas and flavors combined with concentrated cherry and black plum fruit character. The savory elements comingle with the fruity aspects to create a dynamic and vivid wine. $19.99

Tilenus Roble 2005 It is no secret that I am much enamored with the wines of the Bierzo region in Northwestern Spain. The hay loft and dried leaf aromas, the cranberry and pomegranate fruit character and the underlying wet slate minerality all combine to create a distinctive and fresh style that evokes for me the best elements of Loire Valley Chinon, village level Burgundy or even a young Piemontese Barbera. The new Tilenus Roble, made from the local Mencía grape is a fine example of the regional style. This wine spends a few scant months in oak which is not a practice I find adds much to most Mencía wines but in this case the judiciously limited time in barrel adds a note of tannic complexity that compliments the wine. $21.99

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Filed under California, Red Wine, Spain, Uncategorized, White Wine

A Blogging We Shall Go

If you were wondering who the last person in the Bay Area to get a blog is, you just found him.

Yes, I have finally joined the crowd (‘come on, all the kids are doing it’) and re-purposed this newsletter in an on-line version. The same newsletter that you now receive is also posted at www.spanishtable.wordpress.com along with an archive of previous editions that grows day by day.

If you have ever wanted to go back and find a favorite recipe, or share a wine description with friends who are not on the email list, you can now search or browse through years worth of past newsletters. You can also respond to my weekly chatter with thoughts and perspectives of your own. You can get RSS updates of new content as soon as it is posted (exciting, no?) and also link to the site from your own blog.

Of course, if none of this on-line stuff holds any allure for you, the email version will continue just as it does now.

Meanwhile, here in Berkeley we are receiving our annual but short lived allotment of fresh piquillo peppers from those intrepid folks at Happy Quail Farms.

These sweet red peppers, originally from the Navarra region in Northern Spain, are usually only found in cans and jars, but for a brief period you can experience the distinct joy of fresh piquillos grown nearby in East Palo Alto.

These thick skinned peppers need to be roasted to bring out their best flavors. It is a simple process that can be done on the barbecue grill or over a gas flame on the stove. A short video that I made a while back that illustrates the method of preparing fresh piquillos at home can be found here:

Getting back to wine, we have some new ‘house wines’ from Chile this week as well as a few new arrivals from Argentina and Portugal. Check out the new stuff below.

Viu Manent Sauvignon Blanc 2007 This bright, aromatic white wine from the Colchagua Valley in Chile is the latest of our ‘house wines’ (all priced at $6.99 per bottle with a special price of $5.99 per bottle in a full mix-n-match case of ‘house wines’). Abundant floral aroma and refreshing citrus and melon flavor. $6.99

Viu Manent Carménère 2007 This varietal wine from the Colchagua valley in Chile features the local Carménère grape in a ripe, youthful style that is a perfect match for spicy food. Dark purple color mimics dark berry fruit character with added contrast from subtle notes of jalapeño pepper. $6.99

La Guita Manzanilla Our friends at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants are (sadly) no longer importing this delicious dry Sherry. We have a case or two left of the small 375ml size, after which there will be no more La Guita for the foreseeable future. Now is your last chance to pick up a bottle of this pale straw colored white wine that combines aromas of sea breeze and freshly mowed hay with flavors of chamomile and toasted almonds. $8.99 (375 ml)

Tiza Malbec 2005 This Argentine red wine from the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo region in Mendoza is produced from estate grown old vine Malbec. Aged in barrel for 12 months, this dark, full bodied wine has abundant ripe fruit character to balance the assertive oaky tannins. The Wine Advocate rated this wine at 90 points, describing it as “a ripe, smooth-textured, spicy wine with vibrant fruit, silky tannin, and a fruit-filled finish. $17.99

Chaminé 2007 Cortes de Cima is a small family owned winery in the Alentejo region of Portugal run by the husband and wife team of Hans and Carrie Jorgensen. Hans is originally from Denmark and Carrie is an American (and a Cal alumna to boot). They have found a home in the small town of Vidigueira where they now raise their kids and make their wines. Chaminé is a youthful, unoaked blend of 54% Aragonez (aka Tempranillo), 36% Syrah, 6% Touriga Nacional, 3 % Trincadeira and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh, lively fruit character blends effortlessly with soft, velvety grape skin tannins and a bit of minerality on the finish. $17.99

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

Drink In The Season

 

So, I’m walking to work this morning and I’m thinking about the priorities of the business day. I have wines to buy, people to call, events to plan (typical daily minutiae) and as I plod along I look up and, in a moment of sudden realization, say to myself “Holy smokes, the trees are turning yellow”.

Yep, summer is drawing to a close and, as usual, the gingko trees on my block are the first sign that the days are getting shorter and the nights are growing cooler as the season changes. Soon (hopefully) rain will return to this part of the world and the Bay Area hills will once again turn from brown to green.

This in-between season calls for foods that take advantage of the bounty of the harvest. We still have tomatoes and corn and eggplant, but now we also find shell beans, acorn squash and (soon) wild mushrooms.

This season calls for (begs for, pleads for, kicks and screams and rolls around on the floor for) tart, yeasty hard apple cider. In the Basque country this is a traditional springtime drink, but the flavors of this unique beverage evoke all the best elements of autumn in America.

Our latest batch of new wines also compliments the flavors of the season. This week we have several unique and delicious wines from some little known producers as well as from some well established bodegas.

Now is the moment to break out your olla, the traditional earthenware bean pot of Spain, and cook up a batch of pardina lentils, garbanzos, or big creamy Judión beans (my favorites). Once cooked, these legumes will serve as the beginning of any number of traditional recipes but they are also delicious all by themselves.

The following recipe takes full advantage of the unique products from The Spanish Table. Judión beans from Astorga (the bean capital of Spain), Serrano ham bones (a Spanish Table exclusive) and the lidded clay bean pots from Spain that cook slowly and evenly, insuring soft, fully cooked, unbroken beans.

Judión beans with Serrano Ham bone

(Serves 6-8 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

1 lb – Spanish dried Judión beans

1 – Serrano ham bone (joint end)

1 – earthenware olla (bean pot)

1 – teaspoon, sweet smoked paprika

2 – tablespoons, sea salt

Directions:

Rinse the dried beans under running water to remove any dust or debris. Soak the beans over night in the olla filled with water. The next day, drain the water and refill with fresh cold water to cover the soaked beans by two inches. Heat the olla over a medium flame on the stove. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer the beans for one hour before adding the ham bone and paprika. Continue simmering the beans for another hour or two until the beans are fully cooked but not falling apart. Add more water as needed to keep the beans submerged at all times. Add the salt only after the beans are fully cooked.

Serve along side grilled meats or fish. Alternately, add a few whole chorizos, morcillas and chunks of slab bacon to the bean pot and cook for another hour to create a version of Fabada Asturiana.

Isastegi Sagardo Kit Basque apple cider (cloudy gold colored with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor) is proving to be quite popular since its recent introduction here. Anyone who has tried this hard cider in Spain will tell you that you need the traditional cider glass to experience the drink at its best. We now have these thin glass tumblers, imprinted with the Isastegi logo (a limited edition) for sale. In our new Basque cider gift set you get a bottle of Isastegi Sagardo Naturala and two glasses for $19.99 ($11.99 for the cider alone). You can buy extra glasses for $4.99 each.

Con Class 2007 The new vintage of Con Class is here. This Rueda region white wine is an unoaked blend of Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc. Floral aroma blends well with citrus and tropical fruit flavors. This tart and refreshing wine is versatile and very food friendly. $12.99

El Chaparral 2007 The new vintage of El Chaparral is, as always, crafted from old vine Garnacha fruit from the Navarra region in Northern Spain. This medium bodied red wine combine fresh berry fruit character with a bit of black pepper spice and minerality that ad a ‘Rhone-like’ character to the wine. $15.99

Viña do Burato 2007 The new vintage of this wine from Ribeira Sacra in Northwestern Spain is bright and youthful, medium bodied and relatively low in alcohol (12.5%). Firm minerality and delicate floral combine with gentle fruit character. This small production wine (400 cases) is a rare treat from a region that deserves much more attention. $19.99

Azamor 2004 The Alentejo region of Portugal continues to be a source of new, interesting, nicely priced wines. This blend of numerous grapes (Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Franca, Trincadeira, Syrah, Merlot) displays dark color and smooth, elegant fruit character. A bit of gamey/earthy background adds complexity and depth this well made but not yet well known wine. $19.99

Beronia Gran Reserva 1996 If you have wanted to experience the distinct pleasure of a mature Gran Reserva Rioja but have been put off by the high prices that these wines command now is your chance to taste this style at a price that won’t make you hesitate. This wine spent two years in oak and has been ageing gracefully in the bottle for the past decade. Brownish brick red in color with gentle aromas of oak and coffee bean, this wine possesses elegant fruit character that evokes brandied cherries and cranberries. A wine for contemplation at a no-brainer price. $24.99

 

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Filed under Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, sidra (cider), Spain, White Wine

Red Is Back

It has been a summer full of tasty and interesting white and rosado wines.

We have seen both Basque Txakoli and Catalan Vi D’Agulla in white and pink versions.

Listan Blanco from the Canary Islands made a first appearance here as did white Maria Gomes from Portugal in two versions, sparkling and still.

Bubbly Cava (white as well as rosado) has been particularly popular all summer long.

As we shift into the fall season, I am starting to see new red wines, many of which are coming in at very reasonable prices.

This week we feature red wines that have just arrived in Berkeley. Some of these are familiar labels that have changed to a new vintage, while other familiar brands are now more attractively priced. This week too, we have several red wines that are altogether new at The Spanish Table.

To taste these wines at their best, try this simple and fast recipe that I cobbled together last week from some of the uniquely delicious products from The Spanish Table. This dish relies on the tasty new Barcelos Linguiça (a Portuguese style sausage made nearby in Tracy, California) for flavoring and needs no seasoning other than salt and pepper.

FYI: Joe Barcelos himself will be here in the Berkeley store sampling his products this Sunday, September 7th from 12 noon – 4 pm. Come meet the Linguiça man, taste his wares and then takes some home (along with a few new red wines, of course) and try this recipe.

 

Linguiça and White Beans

Ingredients:

¼ cup – Portuguese extra virgin olive oil

1 cup – thinly sliced onion

3 – sliced piquillo peppers (we have the fresh ones for sale right now)

1 lb. – Barcelos Linguiça (I like the ‘hot’ style)

1jar (23 oz.) – Gutarra brand white beans in brine (I like the young ‘Pochas’ beans)

1 cup – boiling water

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a 10” clay cazuela or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and a small pinch of salt. Sauté the onions until they are soft and starting to brown (about 5 minutes). Slice the Linguiça into bite sized pieces and add to the onions and oil. Sauté the Linguiça until lightly browned (about 10 minutes). Add the sliced piquillo peppers (sauté for 5 minutes if using fresh). Rinse the white beans under running water and add them to the cazuela. Add the boiling water (cold water can crack a hot cazuela) and simmer the whole mixture briefly (two minutes). Adjust the salt and pepper to taste, ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread and red wine.

Navarro Lopez Old Vines Crianza 2001 500 years ago, if you were a member of the Spanish royal court, you drank wines from the Valdepeñas region that lies south of Toledo. Today, after centuries of obscurity, the region is making a comeback. This wine, made from Tempranillo, is earthy, tart and savory, as is the style in D.O. Valdepeñas. 12 months of barrel age (not something they did 500 years ago) has rounded the flavors, added a bit of tannic complexity and sweet oak aroma to the wine. This traditional, very ‘Spanish tasting’ wine was a good value at $13.99. Now, the price is much better, so we just bought a bunch of it. This is a fine candidate for buying by the box. $8.99

Barbadillo Tinto 2005 The same folks who make Barbadillo Sherries and the ever popular Barbadillo Palomina Fina white wine also make this young red wine from a blend of estate grown Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a local grape called Tintilla. Classified as a Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz, this versatile red wine is tart and youthful with primary grape fruit character and some underlying tannins. $9.99

 

Paso a Paso 2006 Bodegas Volver in D.O. La Mancha makes this lightly oaked (6 months in barrel) Tempranillo that used to be called Mano a Mano in previous vintages. Ripe cherry/blackberry fruit character overlaps with the medium weight oak tannins, creating a unified wine that will bring a bit of Spanish style to a wide range of foods. $10.99

 

Masia de Bielsa Tinto 2007 Earlier this season we featured the Masia de Bielsa rosado. We just received the tinto version of this Garnacha wine from D.O. Campo de Borja that was featured last week in the San Francisco Chronicle (read about it here). This juicy, bright, youthful red, fashioned from old vine fruit sees no time in oak. The ripe berry aroma and tart acidity that one expects from Campo de Borja Garnacha are all to be found in this well composed wine. $10.99

 

Viña Cobos Felino 2007 The Californian winemaker Paul Hobbs crafts this Malbec at his Viña Cobos winery in Argentina. The newest release of Felino is a bold, dark, unfiltered wine that ages for eight months in oak before bottling. Abundant (but not overwhelming) dark berry fruit character blends with flavors of spicy black pepper and foundational minerality. $19.99

 

Primitivo Quiles Raspay Tinto “Brut”2002 We just received the latest vintage of this oh-so-traditional Monastrell from Alicante. Less ripe than most of the Monastrell currently coming from neighboring Jumilla, Raspay is leaner, earthier and lighter in color than Jumilla Monastrell too. Dried cherry and raisin fruit along with savory, earthy flavors characterize this wine. $21.99

 

 

 

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Filed under Argentina, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain