Monthly Archives: October 2008

Fall Flavors

The autumn harvest season is currently at its peak. The summer crops (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and such) are slowly dwindling away while fall fruits and vegetables (winter squash, shell beans, persimmons and so forth) are starting to crowd the shelves at local stores.

My favorite harbinger of autumn is the giant pumpkin pile at Monterey Market that reaches almost to their roof and creates an irresistible object-to-climb for local kids.

To celebrate the harvest season we have some new wines as well as some familiar favorites that will compliment fall flavors.

This week we have a new Torrontés from Argentina that combines perfumed florality with crisp acidity to create the perfect autumn white wine.

We also have a new rosado wine that, due to its bright character and plush fruit character may convert a few skeptics that only think of pink wine in the heat of summer.

Our newest sparkling Cava comes in at a very nice price that should tempt you to give this bubbly wine a try.

This week also marks the return of Navarro Lopez Old Vine Crianza, a Valdepeñas region Tempranillo that was such a popular favorite that we brought in another big stack to satisfy the continuing demand for this very well priced red wine.

Another new red wine is the Beronia Reserva from the excellent 2001 vintage. If you have had a chance to try the Beronia Gran Reserva this wine will be similar, but in a more youthful, smooth style.

The Basque hard apple cider we first announced in August continues to grow in popularity. Autumn is the perfect season to enjoy this cloudy farmhouse sidra.

Here is a recipe for a sidra­- friendly snack that is found in various versions all across Spain. Meat on a stick is popular world wide, but Pinchos Moruños are specific to Spain. The Moorish origins of this dish are retained in the spice mix, but in Spain the meat is most commonly pork though lamb is still sometimes used. You can make these for a party and serve one per person or put three or four on a plate and serve them as a main course.

Kevin’s quick and easy Grilled Pinchos Morunos

(Makes about 20 skewers)

Ingredients:

3 lbs boneless berkshire pork shoulder (Café Rouge Meat Market is my source)

3 tblspns sweet smoked paprika

2 tblspns freshly ground cumin

(or substitute 5 tablespoons Chiquilin brand Pincho Seasoning for the paprika and cumin)

1 tspn salt

2 tblspns sherry vinegar

2 medium sized yellow onions

2 lemons

20 6” bamboo skewers

Directions:

Cut the pork into 1 inch cubes and combine with paprika, cumin, salt and vinegar. Place seasoned pork in refrigerator and marinate for a few hours. Place skewers in water and soak for one hour before using. Cut onion in eighths and pull apart layers. Cut lemons into wedges.

Prepare the skewers ahead of time using 4 cubes of seasoned pork and two pieces of onion. Thread them on the skewer in the following order: pork, onion, pork, pork, onion, pork.

Grill the skewers over a hot charcoal fire or indoors (if you must) on a grill pan for approximately ten minutes, turning frequently. Serve immediately with lemon wedges as a garnish.

Isastegi Sagardo This traditional Basque apple cider is cloudy green/gold with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor. This unfiltered artisan cider displays just a hint of sweet apple character (more apple barrel than apple juice) along with apple skin tartness filling in the rest of the flavor profile. At six percent alcohol by volume this makes a perfect autumn aperitivo. $11.99

Gran Feudo Rosado 2007 Rosado in autumn? You bet! This Navarra region pink wine makes a wonderful accompaniment to fall flavors. This 100% Garnacha displays vivid pink color, ripe berry aroma and tart, wild strawberry fruit character. Due to its late arrival, this wine is priced well below normal and should give you ample reason to try it right away. $7.99

Pircas Negras Torrontés 2008 Torrontés is the indigenous white grape of Argentina. Grown at high altitude this grape produces ripe, floral wines that evoke scent memories of autumn grape harvest combined with a bright character that is reminiscent of a crisp fall afternoon. $9.99

Cavas Hill Reserva Oro Our newest sparkling Cava, made from the three traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo) is abundantly bubbly and redolent of toasted bread and crisp green apples. This nicely priced sparkler compliments both light tapas as well as fuller meals. $11.99

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 another bunch of it. This is a fine candidate for buying by the box. $8.99

Beronia Reserva 2001 This Rioja wine from an excellent vintage come from the same bodega that makes the Beronia Gran reserva that has been flying off the shelf here over the past few weeks. The Reserva spent less time ageing in oak barrel than the Gran Reserva and thus retains more color and ripe fruit character than the more mature wine. The perfect 2001 vintage is reflected in the balanced, lively fruit character. The skill of the winemakers finds expression in the finely tuned barrel tannins that add depth and complexity to the wine while never stripping it of elegance and freshness. $19.99

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Filed under Argentina, Recipes, Red Wine, rosado, sidra (cider), Spain, Sparkling Wine

Tempranillo: Here and There

In recent weeks I have been excitedly promoting California wines made from Iberian grape varieties. Imagine my surprise when, earlier this week, while grocery shopping at my local produce store (Monterey Market for you locals) I came upon a bin full of freshly picked Tempranillo grapes.

These large clusters of small, dark grapes were irresistible, especially for someone in my line of work. The fruit was sweet and ripe with thick skins and big seeds. I was pleasantly surprised that these were delicious grapes to eat out of hand, something I had not expected from a wine grape.

The availability of fresh Tempranillo reinforces my opinion that this Spanish grape is becoming more popular here with each passing harvest.

This week we have a new California Tempranillo from Paso Robles. This latest addition brings the number of domestic wines at The Spanish Table to a whopping total of eight. This small collection will continue to grow as we find more wines that come from Iberian varieties and express something of the traditional Spanish or Portuguese style.

Meanwhile, the latest arrivals from Spain are coincidentally all Tempranillo this week. I even have a newly arrived blend of Tempranillo and Malbec from Argentina, further proof that this is a grape to watch in the near term.

Coral Mustang Tempranillo 2004 Sourced from the Vista Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, this 100% Tempranillo wine is produced in small (400 cases) quantities by Penelope Gadd-Coster and her husband Frank Coster at their family winery in Healdsburg. This dark, spicy red wine expresses the rich side of Tempranillo that shows some similarity to the Tempranillo wines of the Toro region in Spain where the grape goes by the name Tinta de Toro. Coral Mustang Tempranillo is aged in second use oak barrels for 13 months which imparts a note of tannic complexity to the final product. The wine is bottled without filtration, adding to the initial impression of richness. Let this wine breath a bit before serving and the more nuanced elements (sweet red berries, black pepper, pomegranate) will come forward. $18.99

Urban Uco 2006 José Manuel Ortega founded Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier in 2000.

A banker by trade and Spanish by birth, Ortega followed his passion for wine to Argentina where he started a winery in the Uco Valley region of Mendoza province. He bought land for vineyards (currently he owns over 700 acres of which 230 are planted) and in 2004 completed a winery/hotel/restaurant complex where the wines are made. Urban Uco 2006 is a 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Malbec from the Uco Valley in the Mendoza province. The high altitude bush vines, many of them over twenty years old, produce a wine that combines the power of Malbec with the finesse of Tempranillo. This lightly (3 months) oaked blend shows gentle barrel tannins and balanced fruit character. $10.99

Urban Roble 2005 Meanwhile, back in Spain, José Manuel Ortega bought a winery in the Ribera del Duero region. The San Juan López winery was renamed Bodegas O. Fournier after the purchase in 2002. In addition to a winery dating from 1979, the purchase included 260 acres of land, 150 acres of which are established vineyards with 80 acres planted to old vine Tinta del País (Tempranillo). Urban Roble 2005 is a young red wine that exhibits abundant regional style. This robust young wine is composed of local Tinta del País grapes sourced from old vines. After fermentation the wine ages in small oak barrels for 4 months before bottling. The dark garnet color mimics aromas and flavors of ripe dark berries. Tannic oak adds contrast without overwhelming the rich fruit character. Background notes include chalky minerality and a bit of spice on the finish. $13.99

Izadi Crianza 2005 The latest vintage of this all Tempranillo wine from the heart of Rioja is made by young (UC Davis educated) Lalo Anton who is slowly taking over winemaking responsibility at Bodegas Villabuena from his father Gonzalo. Izadi is a traditionally styled Rioja where long periods of oak barrel ageing are followed by further maturation in bottle before release. This Crianza wine spent 12 months in barrel followed by an additional 12 months in bottle. Firm barrel tannins dominate the initial impression, followed closely by tart red berry fruit character. This bold, assertive wine is ready to enjoy right away but will age gracefully for years to come. $19.99

Villacreces Reserva 2001 Finca Villacreces was founded in 1994 by Pedro Garcia-Cuadrado in the heart of the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. The property, which was purchased by the Anton family (the owners of Izadi in Rioja) in 2003, has 105 acres of vineyard, much of it older vines but, with new plantings in progress, will soon have 160 acres in production. Villacreces Reserva 2001 is dark, rich and full bodied. A blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot, the wine is opaque purple in color with aromas and flavors of black cherries, cocoa powder and cedar. The substantial barrel tannins are fairly well resolved by now and the wine leaves a final impression of freshness combined with rich elegance. $36.99

Cillar de Silos Crianza 2005 The latest vintage of this full bodied Ribera del Duero is now available. Dark garnet hue and powerful aromas of ripe berries assert the bold character of this wine. A year in oak adds substantial tannins which integrate well with the expressive black cherry fruit character. Earth and mineral notes underlie the rest of the flavors and aromas. $29.99

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Filed under Argentina, California, Red Wine, Spain

Vino Iberesco

Two weeks ago I wrote about a new thing we are trying here at The Spanish Table. After many years as an all-import wine merchant, domestic wines are now starting to make an appearance on our shelves.

As mentioned in the previous newsletter, “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. … These new wines, while remaining true to their California origins, are stylistically anchored in the winemaking traditions of Spain and Portugal.”

I am happy to report that you, our loyal customers, have taken a liking to these artisanal, hand made wines. The initial response was so enthusiastic that this week I have added four more domestic, Iberian styled wines to our growing selection of vino iberesco (the term I’m currently using to lump them all together).

This week I offer you a varietal Tempranillo from Santa Barbara as well as a Tempranillo blend from the Sierra Foothills. I also have two domestic dessert wines coming in this week. One is a late harvest Garnacha from Santa Barbara and the other is a Tawny Port style wine made from Bastardo (the traditional Portuguese grape variety, not the hurled insult!).

Getting back to imports, we just received the new vintage of Viña Mein, a white wine from the Ribeiro region of Galicia. This crisp, lean, wine has changed importers and, as often happens in these cases, now comes in a nice new package. The fossilized fish on the label emphasizes the flinty, fossil-like minerality found in Viña Mein while suggesting an appropriate pairing (seafood!).

We also just brought in a new Argentine Malbec that offers an abundant yet balanced expression of classic Malbec character. Maipe Malbec is not only a really tasty wine; it is a great value too (something we could all use right now). You can read more about it below.

Paella Class Update: You still have time to sign up for my paella and wine class that is taking place at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley. The date is Sunday October 19th at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person and includes hands-on instruction to create several tapas and a large paella mixta, all of which will be consumed during the class. Several paella-friendly Spanish wines will also be sampled. Kitchen on Fire is handling the signup for this fun and popular class. Go to their website for more details.

Viña Mein 2007 The Ribeiro region of Galicia in Northwestern Spain is less well known than its neighboring coastal region Rías Baixas. Albariño is the grape of choice in Rías Baixas, while in Ribeiro the Treixadura grape predominates. If you have enjoyed the ever-increasing variety of Albariño wines now in the market, you owe it to yourself to try the similarly styled wines from D.O. Ribeiro. The flinty, crushed seashell minerality is emphasized here along with the grapefruity citrus and floral elements that are also found in Rías Baixas wines.

Viña Mein is fashioned from a blend of 80% Treixadura, 10% Godello, 5% Loureiro, and 1% to 2% each of Albariño, Torrontés, Albilla and Caiño. Bright gold color, ripe melon aroma and refreshing citrus fruit character never overwhelm the flinty mineral foundation that maintains the lean focus of this wine. $19.99

Maipe Malbec 2007 Our newest Argentine Malbec is darkly colored and boldly flavored without ever veering into the over extracted style that is common at this very reasonable price point. Ripe mulberry fruit character finds balance in dusty tannins and wild herb aromas. An underlying tart quality (gentle but present) adds complexity to this well priced wine. $10.99

Core C3 Tempranillo 2006 Dave Corey makes wine in Santa Maria, California at a winery that he and his wife Becky started in 2000. Originally they focused on Grenache and Mourvedre (known as Garnacha and Monastrell in Spain) grapes for their wines. The new C3 project also includes Dave’s sisters Melanie Corey-Ferrini and Sherri Corey-Pinero. They produce this single varietal Tempranillo in small quantities (425 cases in total) in addition to a more mature barrel aged Tempranillo/Cabernet blend called Crazy Eights. C3 Tempranillo is a fresh and lively red wine that expresses the more youthful side of tempranillo. Bright garnet color, cherry fruit character and a bit of earthy background all combine to give this wine a foothold in the traditions of both Spain and California. $17.99

Temporary Insanity 2006 Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz make the Odisea ‘Two Rows Garnacha’ that we featured in the last newsletter. Temporary Insanity is their more mature blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha and 10% Syrah. This wine ages in oak for 18 months before bottling. Dark garnet color and assertive barrel tannins create the initial impression here, with ripe berry fruit character and plush texture rounding out the picture. Like their other wines, this small production wine (125 cases in total) tastes very Spanish in style and will continue to develop for many years to come. $24.99

Candy Core Late Harvest Grenache 2004 This little bottle of sweet dessert wine from Dave and Becky Corey at Core Wine Company is made from 100% Grenache (Garnacha to us) from the Santa Barbara Highlands. The grapes are left on the vine until super ripe and then aged for 18 months in barrel (with 8 more months of bottle age) after fermentation. This opaque ruby colored wine retains bright acidity that balances the dense, perfumed sweetness and gives the wine an unexpected lively quality. $19.99 (375ml)

St. Amant Tawny St. Amant is a small California winery that was founded in 1979 by Tim and Barbara Spencer to produce Port style wines (they have since become even more well known for their Zinfandel). The non-vintage ‘Tawny’ is made from the Bastardo grape (a traditional Porto variety) sourced from the family estate vineyard in Amador County. According to Stuart Spencer (Tim Spencer died in 2006 and his son Stuart has been running the winery since that time) this wine started was an experiment in single varietal barrel aged Tawny Port style wine gone wrong. After primary fermentation and fortification (as is done in Porto) the wine was sampled and rejected as too rough and astringent. The experimental barrels were set aside and basically forgotten for several years. The wine was not racked or disturbed in any way.

Down the line curiosity prevailed and the wine was re-tasted. Time and neglect had proved beneficial to the experimental Bastardo tawny. The years of barrel age softened the acidity. The rough tannins had subsided and sweet, somewhat maderized notes of butterscotch and caramel had infused the dramatically improved wine. $33.99 (500ml)

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Filed under Argentina, California, Fortified Wine, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine