Monthly Archives: May 2009

Affordable Varietals & Substantial Reds

As Spain continues to forge ahead as a major exporter of wines, regional styles that were once found only in Spain are finding their way to our shores.
As vineyard land grows more expensive in the recognised Denominación de Origen regions, those who wish to produce wine at everyday prices must look elsewhere for quality fruit. The once humble Vino de la Tierra designation now includes many excellent wines, usually at the value end of the price bracket (though more high end exceptions to this general rule appear with each passing vintage).
This week we feature a handful of wines that come from Spain’s lesser known regions where familiar grape varieties can be made into wine at a fraction of the expense incurred in the more established and demarcated areas.
Additionally this week, just because I think they are so tasty, I offer up a couple of reds, one from Portugal and one from Argentina that will compliment whatever is for dinner without breaking the bank.

Las Colinas del Ebro Garnacha Blanca 2008 When we see Catalan wines made from 100 year old Garnacha Blanca they usually come from  Priorat and are accompanied by a pretty hefty price tag. Colinas del Ebro is located in Terra Alta on Catlunya’s western edge and this lesser known region is the source for this tank fermented white wine that displays aromas of wildflowers and green herbs along with flavors that evoke white peach and green apple. $11.99
Maximo Blanco 2007 Bodegas Maximo, founded in 2002 by the Barón de Ley Group (best known for El Coto in Rioja)is dedicated to producing monovarietal wines in central Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha region. Their white Viura (a grape more common to the Rioja region as well as in Catalunya where it is called Macabeo) is tank fermented (no oak) and displays gentle aromas of wet slate and chamomile tea to match flavors of green apple and grapefruit. $10.99
Maximo Tinto 2007 The red wine from Bodegas Maximo is made from Tempranillo and spends a period of six months in oak prior to bottling. The goal at Bodegas Maximo is to produce monovarietal wines at affordable prices. This red wine expresses the bright pie cherry fruit character of Tempranillo bolstered by a moderate level of oak barrel tannin. $10.99
Tres Ojos Tinto 2007 Tres Ojos Tinto, a favorite young red made from old vine Garnacha in DO Calatayud is back in the new 2007 vintage and sports a newly designed label and, more importantly, has traded the plasti-cork for the oh-so-user friendly screw top (please, do not fear the Stelvin closure for it is your friend ). $9.99
Maipe Malbec 2008 The new vintage of this popular Argentine red is composed of 100% hand harvested Malbec from 35 year old vines. 10% of the fermented wine spends 3 months in American oak before blending and bottling. Maipe Malbec is dark purple in color with expressive aromas of ripe berries and a bit of oak scent. Ripe dark berry flavors combine with notes of cocoa powder and earthy minerality on the finish. Fire up the grill and serve this wine alongside some steaks or kabobs and a bit of spicy chimichurri sauce. $9.99
Veedha Tinto 2007 Here is another great red from Portugal’s Douro Valley, source of numerous excellent wines these days. This one is young and expressive, blending traditional Douro varieties (mostly Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz) in a dark, bold style that will compliment spicy, grilled foods. $12.99

Substantial Reds

We love our light, summery white and rosado wines but sometimes a big, chewy, mature red wine is just what the moment requires. If you are in the mood for a formidable wine that will grab your attention and intrigue both your palate and your intellect, here are a couple of unique suggestions:

Carmelo Rodero Reserva 2004 Carmelo Rodero is a fourth generation grape grower and wine maker. His grandfather was one of the founding members of the local wine cooperative in Pedrosa back when the region was better known for producing sugar beets rather than grapes. Using the fruit from the family vineyards, including many parcels of rare old vines, Bodegas Rodero started making their own wine in 1991. Carmelo Rodero Reserva 2004 is a blend of 90% Tinto Fino (the local version of Tempranillo) and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  After fermentation the wine spent 21 months in barrel (a mix of new and second use French and American oak) followed by an equivalent maturation period in the bottle before release. The final result is a powerful darkly colored wine that expresses rich fruit character intermingled with sweet oaky tannins and expressive minerality. $42.99

Flor de Grealó 2004 Vinya l’Hereu de Seró is a small family owned company with a long tradition of grape growing and wine making. The wines from Vinya l’Hereu are elaborated in the small village of Seró, located in D.O. Costers del Segre. The estate vineyards, all certified organic, are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot varieties. Flor de Grealó is a dark garnet colored wine with aromas of fresh earth, meat locker and rusty iron.  Dark berry fruit character is supplemented with black olive and moderate oak barrel flavors.  Underlying minerality adds weight and structure to the wine, balancing the ripe berry fruit. $34.99

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

Memorial Day

Got big plans for the holiday weekend? Of course you do. Chances are you’ll be firing up the grill and (hopefully) pouring a little vino. To facilitate the choosing of appropriate beverages for Memorial Day, here are a few new options for your consideration.
Don Simon Sangria You want the real Spain? Put aside visions of bullfights and flamenco dancers and visit a Spanish supermarket or gas station where regular folks take care of everyday business. And what will you find there? You will find wines from Don Simon, usually packaged in juice box style cartons. So imagine my excitement to find Don Simon Sangria on offer from a local distributor. This big 1.5 Liter jug of pre-made Sangria needs only a garnish of seasonal fruit and some ice to turn your back yard into a little slice of Spain. $10.99
Estrella Damm For those who have visited Barcelona, this beer will be very familiar to you and will rekindle fond memories of that Catalan metropolis. This crisp, lager style beer is now in good supply here in the USA and makes a perfect addition to a Spanish themed party or meal. $10.99 per 6 pack.
Van Zellers Douro Branco 2007 The table wine renaissance in Portugal’s Douro Valley has produced numreous red wines of distinction and quality. Now more white wines are starting to make an appearance. Cristiano van Zeller at Quinta do Vale D. Maria makes this crisp white wine that exhibits fresh herbaceous aroma, bright acidity and gentle melon-like fruit character. $17.99
Gurrutxaga 2008 The Basque white wine called Txakoli has become a favorite of many wine drinkers who have grown tired of heavily oaked, densely fruity white wines. Bodegas Gurrutxaga is a small family winery in Mendexa producing minuscule quantities of this crisp, lean white wine composed of a tongue twisting blend of 60% Hondarribi Zuri, 20% Mune Mahatsa and 20% Txori Mahatsa. Bright acidity and slatey minerality characterize this refreshing summertime wine. $19.99
Gurrutxaga Rosado 2008 An alternative to traditional white Txakoli, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of strawberry fruit character. Low (10.5%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99
Rento 2001 Bodegas Renacimiento de Olivares makes traditionally styled red wines from old vine Tinta del País (Tempranillo)in the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. Originally in the $40+ range, we just secured a small quantity of the 2001crianza at a very nice price. Darkly tinted, this rich, earthy red expresses classic regional style. $19.99
Preludio Tempranillo 2007 Yes, Argentina offers much more than just Malbec for red wine enthusiasts. The newly arrived 2007 vintage of this Tempranillo from Tempus Alba displays bright berry-like fruit along with a modest note of barrel character. $13.99

Vega Sicilia Pre-Arrival Offer

In DO Ribera del Duero Vega Sicilia produces Spain’s most famous wines. The rare and expensive Unico is produced only in excellent vintages and is intended for long term storage. The second label, Valbuena is sourced from younger vines and is ready to drink at a younger age. A second brand called Alion, created in 1992 and produced at a separate facility comes in at a more affordable price (relatively speaking). More recently a new bodega in DO Toro produces a wine called Pintia that has garnered much praise and attention from the press and public.
We are offering these wines on a pre-arrival basis for those of you who wish to partake in the enjoyment of an icon. This will be your one chance to pick these wines up at slightly better than usual prices and the only opportunity to pick up Unico and Valbuena which won’t be available in the store. Give a call if these are of interest to you.
1999 Vega Sicilia Unico $380.00
2004 Vega Sicilia Valbuena $150.00
2005 Alion $76.00
2006 Pintia $62.00
(Magnums are available too. Contact us for pricing)

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Uncategorized, White Wine

New Discoveries

At The Spanish Table we are always on the hunt for new wines to bring in and share with you. Sometimes we try something in a restaurant or bar that makes us start writing tasting notes on the back of napkins. Other times an eager salesperson will arrive at our door with something exciting and new. Only rarely will a trip to a large wine tasting event turn up anything of particular interest. With hundreds of wines to taste, those particularly unique or special bottles often get lost in the crowd.
Over the last few weeks I have found several wines that are the happy exceptions to this general rule.
At Viniportugal, a tasting of new Portuguese wines, I tried many distinctive (and well priced) wines that are already starting to appear here on our shelves. The Vinho Verde rosé (yep, pink Green Wine) that arrives this week is a perfect example.
A dry Moscatel from Malaga was the revelation of the recent portfolio tasting of the wines from importer Jorge Ordoñez.
Finding uniquely tasty wines is one of the things that makes my job fun, just as finding these same wines on the shelf at The Spanish Table is one of the reasons that shopping here is so much fun. I like finding unique wines. You like buying unique wines. What can I say? It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Casal Garcia Rosé NV
You love crisp, spritzy Portuguese Vinho Verde, right? Have you ever tried a Vinho Verde rosé? I bet not. Aveleda just came out with this pink version of their most popular brand, Casal Garcia. This will, I predict, become one of our most popular wines for summertime sipping. Low alcohol and light effervescence remind me of the traditional white Vinho Verde Branco. The pale pink hue and lightly fruity berry aroma and flavor are a nice change of pace from the regular version. $8.99

Botani 2008
Among the many interesting wines at the recent Jorge Ordoñez trade tasting, this one stood out as particularly intriguing. Botani is a dry Moscatel from the same Malaga region winery that produces several exemplary sweet wines from the same grape variety. The floral, concentrated aroma is classic Moscatel but the palate is crisp and only lightly fruity. This pale greenish colored wine possesses a finely tuned balance of flavors that express a fresh and unique side of this ancient region.  $21.99

Ameztoi Txakoli 2008
With the arrival of the 2008 vintage of Ameztoi, the Txakoli season has officially begun. We will see several more of these Basque wines from the new vintage over the next few weeks but this wine does just about everything I need a Txakoli to do which is to refresh but never overwhelm. Crisp, lean Hondarribi Zuri grapes barely have a chance to ripen before harvest time along the cool, green Cantabrian coast. The resulting wine is light, flinty, slightly effervescent and grapefruit tart. Add some oiled cured cantabrian anchovies, a few pickled Guindilla peppers and a wedge of Basque sheep’s milk cheese and I am pretty much set. $19.99

Altozano Tinto 2006
The good folks at Bodegas Gonzalez Byass who bring you Tio Pepe Fino Sherry are in charge of the Castilla region winery that produce this wine as well as the Altozano Blanco that many of you have been enjoying lately. This wine is a blend of 65% Tempranillo and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, part of which ages in oak for a short 4 months before bottling. Bright Tempranillo fruit gets a bit of structure and weight from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Light barrel tannins add a bit of toasty nuance without obscuring the rest of the picture. $10.99

Monjardín Crianza 2002
Castillo de Monjardín lies in the northwest corner of Navarra, in the foothills of the Pyrenées, not far from the French border. Historic ties and geographic proximity make traditional French grapes more prevalent here. Monjardín Crianza is composed of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Tempranillo. Dark color and cherry/berry fruit character receive added tannic structure form 15 months of barrel age at the winery before bottling. After 4+ years in the bottle the oak is well integrated and the wine is fully mature and ready to drink. This excellent value will only be around for a short time before the last of it is gone. $9.99

Pardevalles Gamonal 2006
The new vintage of Gamonal is in, which is good news, especially if you have been enjoying the recent arrival of several other wines made from the same Prieto Picudo grape. Once thought of as only fit for simple summertime rosado wines, Prieto Picudo is now getting more serious attention. The newly demarcated Tierra de León region is home to numerous parcels of Prieto Picudo, including some older vines. The small, pointy, olive shaped fruit produce tart wines with distinctive minerality. Gamonal 2006 uses 100% Prieto Picudo, aged for 9 monthes in oak to add depth and structure. The final result is dark, expressive and just a bit wild. $21.99

Dia de Las Madres

On Sunday, surprise Mom by  not making her breakfast.
Let her sleep in for goodness sake! But, once she is up and has had her coffee (or whatever morning ritual she normally enjoys) make her lunch. Not just any lunch, mind you. Make her this:

Kevin’s “Te Quiero, Mamá” Best Ham and Cheese Sandwich Ever

1- Acme Twinkle
(for those not residing near Berkeley’s Acme Bakery, substitute a 6″ section of the best baguette you can find)

2-ounces (about 3 slices) of Jamón de Bellota
(the ham alone will run you about $25, but feel free to substitute Jamón Serrano if you love your mother a little less)

2-ounces (about 3-4 thin slices) Idiazabal Sheep’s milk cheese from Basque Country

1-tablespoon Cadi Mantequilla (Catalan butter from the Pyrenées)

Split the bread lengthwise
Spread the butter on both cut halves and fill with the ham and cheese.
Close the sandwich and grill lightly, just enough to warm the bread, on your electric panino toaster (don’t have a panino toaster? Use your “George Foreman” grill instead, turned to low).
Serve with a small green salad and a glass of rosado.

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