Monthly Archives: April 2009

Contigo

The wait is over. Contigo has finally opened.
It took Brett Emerson two years to build the restaurant of his dreams in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. He shared the long process, from his original inspiration (on a trip to Spain, of course) through the long construction phase to the final result that is Contigo on his blog In Praise Of Sardines. He first came to our attention here in Berkeley when we noticed him repeatedly shopping for large quantities of clay cazuelas in various sizes. Knowing that where one sees cazuelas, good food often follows, we waited patiently for his efforts to bear fruit. That patience (on our part as well as Brett’s) has paid off as Contigo is now up and running, serving excellent food inspired by Chef Emerson’s Iberian experiences.
Now open seven nights a week, Contigo serves a well chosen selection of hot and cold appetizers, several larger dishes and a mostly Spanish selection of wines . The small dishes include fresh seasonal vegetables (asparagus and fava beans – and leaves –  are currently featured), seafood (fried anchovies, local squid cooked in their own ink) and several more meaty choices (ox tail croquetas, pork belly bocadillos). From the wood burning oven come a few pizza-like flat breads and several main course sized meat and seafood dishes cooked in those clay cazuelas we love so well. Paired with a glass of dry Manzanilla Sherry, a bubbly Cava or a rich Vino Tinto the food at Contigo evokes the traditional flavors of Spain coupled with Brett Emerson’s skill and imagination.

Happily, the public embrace of Contigo has been immediate. Amanda Gold’s review in The San Francisco Chronicle came out today so expect even larger than usual crowds (my strategy at present is to go after the dinner rush on Monday when the wait is minimal – wait, why am I telling you this? That’s supposed to be my little secret!).
In Berkeley we are currently seeing new vintages of some trusty favorites as well as trying an experiment in wine packaging.
In response to the overwhelming popularity of Capote Velho Tinto I am now carrying the same wine in the economical, environmentally friendly ‘Bag in Box’ size.  While I am confident that the wine in the bottle is identical to the wine in the box (I tasted both the bottle and the box versions side by side to make sure the same flavors carried over from one to the other), only time will tell if you, our customers, are willing to set aside preconceptions about ‘box wine’ and give this a try. The combination of low price and high quality makes the decision pretty simple.
Also coming in this week is the new supply of Basque apple cider (Sagardo!) that many of you have been waiting for as well as our short lived annual allotment of Txakoli Rosado. Additionally, this week we have a couple of new reds from unique grapes, including a new Mencía from Bierzo as well as a new Prieto Picudo from the newly created Tierra de León region.


Tapaswalk update

In response to the numerous inquiries regarding Tapaswalk (a wine and food class/walking tour that winds its way through downtown San Francisco stopping in at several of the Spanish styled restaurants that are shaking up the local dining scene) I have created a summer long schedule that should give everybody time to pick a date that works for you.
I will be offering Tapaswalk every other week on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting May 27th. The Tuesday classes will be on June 9th, July 7th, August 4th, September 1st, September 29th and October 27th. The Wednesday classes will be on May 27th, June 24th, July 22nd, August 19th, September 16th, September 30th and October 14th.
The classes all start at 6 pm and last approximately 2 hours. The cost is $65 per person. More details can be found here. Reservations should be made via email at salondelvino(at)gmail(dot)com.

Capote Velho 5 Liter ‘Bag in Box’ My original review of this wine said “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 wine 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.” We now offer this same wine in the more economical, environmentally friendly ‘Bag in Box’ size that contains five full liters of wine for $6.00 per liter (equals $4.00 per regular 750ml bottle). The pour spigot keeps the air out, maintaining the freshness of the wine  for as long as it takes to finish the whole thing. $29.99
Isastegi Sidra 2008 The new vintage of Isastegi has arrived and , hey, the price is better this year! This tart, yeasty hard apple cider is a refreshingly different drink to accompany a full range of pintxos (Basque tapas). Try it with sizzling chorizo from the grill or bacon wrapped dates. $8.99
Ameztoi Rubentis 2008 It appears but once a year and now is the moment. The dry, crisp Txakoli wine from Basque country is rarely found in the rosado version. The abundantly mineral Txakoli style is supplemented with pale pink color and the barest whiff of tart strawberry. Pour this one when the weather is hot and experience true refreshment. $19.99
Guitian Sobre Lias 2005 This is my current favorite white wine at Daniel Olivella’s Barlata in Oakland. Made in the Valdeorras region from the local Godello grape, this wine spent several months ageing on its lees (the skins, pulp and sediment from the wine making process) to give an added note of yeasty complexity to the gentle, white peach and melon fruit character. $11.99
Castro De Valtuille Mencía Joven 2006 This unoaked young wine from the Bierzo region was, in previous vintages, called Castro Ventosa. Newly repackaged, this fresh young red displays the typical Mencía style in an unadorned, pure version. Twiggy, dried leaf aroma adds intrigue to the cranberry/pomegranate fruit character and underlying minerality. White beans and chorizo would make a good match here. $14.99
Preto Tinto 2007 Tierra de León is one of Spain’s newest wine regions. One of the unique local grapes of this region is Prieto Picudo, a fruity, high acid variety that was almost extinct before efforts in this region to recuperate the variety. Preto Tinto is dark garnet colored with leafy Mencía-like aroma, flinty minerality and mulberry fruit character. This unoaked wine expresses the Prieto Picudo grape in a pure, unadulterated form (this is the same producer as the Preto Rosado mentioned a few weeks ago). $21.99

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Filed under events, rosado, sidra (cider), Spain, White Wine

Tapaswalk

With tax season officially behind us, I thought everybody could use a bit of well priced entertainment so I’ve come up with a wine and food walking tour of downtown San Francisco that I call ‘Tapaswalk’.

In Spain the Tapeo is a well loved tradition.  Strolling from bar to bar, having a small drink and a snack at each stop along the way while chatting with friends is a relaxing way to start an evening.
I am using the Tapeo concept as inspiration for a wine and food class that includes visits to several of the Spanish styled restaurants that are ever more prevalent here in our corner of the globe.
Tapaswalk winds its way through downtown San Francisco stopping in first at Gitane for a taste of dry Manzanilla Sherry accompanied by a few appropriate tapas. Down the street at B44 we will sample some sparkling Cava along with a few bites of Chef Daniel Olivella’s Catalan cuisine. A few short blocks away, at Bocadillos we will taste the Basque white wine called Txakoli alongside Chef Gerard Hirigoyen’s traditional Basque snacks called pintxos. Next up is a trip through Chinatown to the new Madrid style bar called Lalola. Here we will try a little vino tinto paired with a few traditional tapas before heading over to North Beach to finish off the tour at 15 Romolo (the old Basque Hotel) with a small glass of Patxarán (Basque Sloe Berry liqueur) and a light dessert.
Tapaswalk is a fun, informal way to learn about Spanish wine while sampling the traditional foods of Spain. We will discuss each wine along the way, giving background and context to what we taste.
The class is limited to 10 pre-reserved guests at a time and takes place early in the week (Tuesdays or Wednesdays) at 6 pm and finishes around 8:30 pm. The first available date will be May 27th, 2009 and will reoccur weekly on an as-wanted basis.
The cost is $65.00 per person and includes all the restaurant expenses, printed tasting notes on the wines and information about the restaurants as well as the opportunity to purchase the wines afterward at discounted prices.
The route covers approximately 1.5 miles so participants should come dressed for the weather and should wear comfortable shoes.
At present I have not yet automated the registration process. For now I have set up a special email account to handle reservations for Tapaswalk. If you are interested in participating, please email me at salondelvino@gmail.com. I’ll get back to you with a confirmation and precise schedule information.

Rosado season has officially begun here at The Spanish Table with the release of the first of the new 2008 vintage pink wines. Here are a few of this week’s new arrivals.

Mengoba Preto Rosado 2008 This ‘fresh off the boat’ 2008 rosado from the newly demarcated Tierras de León region is made from the local Prieto Picudo grape. A lean, mineral core, coupled with bright acidity and just a whiff of fresh berry aroma creates a dry wine with a sophisticated balance and precision rarely found in rosado wines.  $17.99

Vega Sindoa Rosado 2008 Navarra is the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This bright, fresh 2008 rosado is a Navarra region Garnacha from Bodegas Nekeas. These guys know a thing or two about Garnacha as they are also responsible for the ever popular El Chaparral, a red wine fashioned from old vine Garnacha.  The new rosado is ripe and aromatic with fresh strawberry scent backed up by tart acidity. This is a true garden party pink for pouring all alone or with lighter picnic-style foods. $9.99

Vi D’Agulla Rosado 2007 Vi D’Agulla, that immensely refreshing, lightly effervescent white wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava also comes in a pink version. The crisp, dry style of the original is maintained, with a fresh berry scent replacing the aromatic florality of the blanco. We first carried this wine last summer when it was first released. We just brought back this dry, spritzy Catalan ‘rosat’ at a better than usual price. $11.99

Nessa 2008 The new vintage of Nessa is here.  In Galicia the cool coastal climate produces bright, refreshing wines with fresh citrus fruit character and firm minerality. This new wine, fashioned from the local Albariño grape really delivers on quality at a price that is harder and harder to find from this increasingly popular region. In the first flush of youth, this wine is vibrant, expressive and perfectly suited to a broad range of seafood pairings. $13.99

Coroa D’Ouro 2005 In Portugal’s Douro Valley, Porto Poças is, as the name states, mainly occupied with the production of fortified Port wines. With the table wine renaissance in full swing all across Portugal more Port producers are getting into Vinho Tinto. This wine is a fine example of the Douro style that takes the same grape varieties that go into Porto and re-purposes them into hearty red wines that combine dark color and bold fruit character with rocky minerality and spicy backnotes. $10.99

Valduero Crianza 2004
This dark, earthy, tannic Ribera del Duero region red made from the Tinto Fino grape is bold and full bodied. Substantial barrel tannins need some air before revealing an inner core of black cherry fruit character. Decant this one in the morning and serve it for dinner. Otherwise, cellar this one for several years and enjoy it over the next decade or more. We just got a new  (limited) supply of this wine at a better price The previous price of $27.99 has been reduced. The current price, until we run out, is $24.99.

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

New Cookbook

Steve Winston, the peripatetic owner of The Spanish Table has just published a compilation of his travel tales in cookbook form.  The Spanish Table Cookbook has been available in self published galley form for several years but now the good folks at Gibbs Smith have put together a full color, properly indexed version that showcases Steve’s passion for all things Iberian. The book will arrive here next week, is priced at $30 and will inform and inspire your Spanish culinary adventure. Steve will be coming down for a book signing in the near future. Here is what the publisher says about this new book:

In response to the requests of his patrons, Steve Winston has created a cookbook full of tasty recipes for those specialty cooking utensils unique to Spain and Portugal-paella pans, cazuelas, cataplanas, and ollas. In a cheery and informative way, he provides the history and culture of the pans and how to use them. He also offers an excellent section on Iberian wines and ideas for hosting fun tasting parties.
So, when in the mood for something a bit exotic, this book makes it easy for home cooks to try their hand at a traditional seafood paella, or Clams Madeira, or Black Olive-Fig Tapenade served with a fine Pedro Ximenez sherry. It’s a trip to the Old Country without leaving the kitchen.

Meanwhile, in the wine department we are receiving numerous new vintages of some of our favorite wines. I have just one new white this week but several new reds including some much sought after and fast disappearing wines that deserve your attention. Read on:

Con Class 2008 The latest vintage of this Rueda region white wine has just arrived. Con Class routinely gets high marks from many of our customers as well as from wine marketers/bloggers/critics (it is increasingly hard to tell who does what in the wine world these days). This bright, refreshing blend of 60% Verdejo, 25% Viura and 15% Sauvignon Blanc is packed with the aromas and flavors of tropical fruits (guava, pineapple), balanced by a leaner grapefruit citrus note. $13.99

Termes 2006 The new vintage of Termes is in and available for a brief period. This ripe, opulent Toro region wine has a substantial following and each year the wine sells out rapidly. Composed of 100% old vine Tinto de Toro, this wine spends 16 months in small oak barrels before bottling. Inky dark color, abundant savory barrel tannins and ripe blackberry fruit character are joined together in this expressive wine. $29.99

Numanthia 2006 The new vintage of Numanthia is the elder sibling to Termes. Sourced from carefully  selected bunches of old vine Tinto de Toro, this wine spends 16 months in oak, creating a dense barrel aged character that demands several years of additional bottle age before the tannins soften a bit and allow the dark berry fruit to emerge. A scant few bottle are available while they last. $65.00

Valduero La Uve 2006 Bodega Valduero in Ribera del Duero recently started a new wine project in the Toro region down river from Ribera del Duero near the Portuguese border. 250 acres of red rocky soil on the river plateau have been carefully selected and planted to the Tinta de Toro varietal known elsewhere as Tempranillo. La Uve is produced from 100% Tinta de Toro. The wine is a “joven” or young style wine made without any oak barrel ageing to allow the fruit to fully express itself. This ripe, bold wine will accompany a broad range of meals and is especially well suited to all things pork related, from bacon to grilled pork chops. $11.99

Aresan Librato 2005 Bodegas Aresan is located in the Castilla-La Mancha village of Villarrobledo near Albacete.  This 400 acre estate is one of a handful of Spanish wineries currently converting to a new designation called ‘Vino de Pago‘. This new label will be used only for wines that are produced from estate grown fruit in a winery located on the same property as the vineyards. A new winery was built on the estate and first began operation in 2004. As this winery moves toward ‘Vino de Pago‘ status, the wines continue to be labeled as ‘Vino de la Tierra de Castilla’ but do not be fooled by this modest appellation. Aresan wines are distinctly higher in quality than many other wines from this large region. Aresan Librato is composed of 60% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Franc. The younger vines (approx. 10 years old) are used here. The wine is aged in oak (half French, half American) for a brief two month period before bottling. Librato displays bright garnet color in the glass. The extracted fruity aroma leads on to rich dark berry fruit character and a background earthiness that gives the wine a firm foundation. Spicy tannins never overwhelm the balance of flavors and aromas. $14.99

Ercavio Roble 2006 The new vintage of Ercavio is now in stock. This young Tempranillo from central Spain spends a brief period fermenting in the traditional clay vessels known as ‘tinajas’ that have been in use in this region for centuries. An additional 5 months in oak barrels adds tannic structure to the wine but does not obscure the fresh berry fruit character or the light to medium weight texture. Ercavio is an excellent wine for serving with chicken (or squab as is typical in La Mancha). $13.99

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Filed under Red Wine, Spain, White Wine