Monthly Archives: July 2009

Sense Of Place

Welcome back to our continuing Spanish wine round up. This week the glory that is Spanish regionalism is in full effect as we hopscotch around this diverse land tasting wines of all types and styles. This week the ever changing selection of new vino at The Spanish Table includes some traditional and familiar names, but also several white and red wines from parts of Spain that are only recently getting their fair share of attention. Each of these wines express the character and style of their respective regions. Read on to discover a half dozen uniquely delicious wines that will compliment your meals, excite your intellect and inspire your imagination.

Benaza Godello 2008 Benaza marks our first foray into the Monterrei region in Northwestern Spain. Mostly Godello with small additions of Doña Blanca and Treixadura, this white wine displays gentle aromas and flavors of white peach supported by slatey minerality. If you have enjoyed Albariño from Rías Baixas, this Monterrei region Godello should be your next new wine experience. $13.99

Talai Berri 2008 The 2008 Talai Berri Txacolí is now in stock. Lean minerality, tart citrus fruit character and slight effervescence combine to create a precise and intriguing white wine fashioned from the Basque grape called Hondarribi Zuri. Perfect summertime refreshment. $21.99

Odysseus Garnacha Blanca 2008 The new vintage of Odysseus Garnacha Blanca has just arrived. This white from DOC Priorat is initially dense and floral, then the mineral structure kicks in and balances the richness. This layered, complex wine is made in tiny quantities by the father and daughter team of Josep and Sylvia Puig at their Viñedos de Ithaca winery in Gratallops. $26.99

Finca Viladellops 2005 Vinícola Viladellops is a small family winery located in the DO Penedès village of Viladellops near Olèrdola and dates back to 1875. Finca Viladellops 2005, the flagship of this winery, is composed of 40% Garnacha along with 30% Syrah and 30% Marcelan (a French hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha).  The addition of Syrah and Marcelan adds structure to the bright, cherry-like Garnacha. Savory barrel tannins are well integrated, with tart fruit character and flinty minerality coming forward as the wine opens. $18.99

Viladellops Garnacha & SMC 2006 The second wine from Vinicola Viladellops is composed primarily of Garnacha along with small additions of Syrah, Merlot and Cariñena (the ‘SMC’ of the title). The grapes in this rocky section of DO Penedès tend toward a lean, savory style which emphasizes the mineral notes in the wine as well as bright fruit character. $11.99

Ysios Reserva 2002 Ysios, the newly built bodega, designed by Santiago Calatrava and located in the Rioja town of Laguardia, makes only ‘Reserva’ level wines. Long slow maturation in oak barrels followed by several years of bottle age are requirements for Reserva Rioja. Estate grown Tempranillo is used exclusively here. The wine spent 14 months in barrel and has been in the bottle ever since. Over time the wine has taken on a light patina of age, delivering elegant, fully integrated barrel character and smooth, lightly oxidized fruit. This wine, normally twice this price but put on sale by the distributor to make room for the arrival of the new vintage, is available briefly here while the supply lasts. $14.99

A Plateful Of
Paella Wisdom

Steve Winston is coming down from our flagship store in Seattle to make paella and sign copies of his new book. This is your chance to meet the man who started The Spanish Table and chat with him about all things related to the culinary traditions of Spain and Portugal.
Steve is a veritable treasure trove of food and wine esoterica. He has accumulated much of this knowledge in his new cook book. Stop in on Sunday August 9th at 1 pm (or Saturday August 8th in Mill Valley) to quiz him on what (and where) to eat in Spain and Portugal. While you are here you can sample his famous Paella and pick up a signed copy of The Spanish Table Cookbook.
¡Buen provecho!


Filed under events, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

The Hits Keep On Coming

The wine section at The Spanish Table is an ever changing place. You just never know what will roll in the door around here from week to week. Right now I am enamored with the refreshing summer white wines (with one pink exception) from Spain and Portugal that sometimes get overshadowed by the abundance of deliciously interesting (or is that interestingly delicious?) red wines from these countries. The white Albariño and Verdejo varietal wines from Spain were the first to receive attention from American wine drinkers. We continue to be attracted to these wines for the citrus and mineral aromas and flavors that create bright,refreshing wines that can stand on their own yet also work well with food. Now we are seeing more wines from Spain that are made from the Godello grape, a variety that often produces soft, gentle wines with flavors of melon and stone fruit. In Portugal, new white wines from all across the country are making inroads here in the USA where once only Vinho Verde was found. Encruzado is a white grape that is now showing up regularly in many of the white wines from Portugal. Even the long neglected Portuguese rosé wines are making a comeback, as illustrated by the current popularity of pink Vinho Verde which, like an AM radio pop song from a summer long past, will live on in memory as a nostalgic time stamp long after the season is over.
Casal Garcia Rosé NV Aveleda just came out with this pink version of their most popular brand, Casal Garcia. The first shipment came and went in a matter of weeks, but happily there is now more. I predicted that this would become one of our most popular wines for summertime sipping and so far my statement holds true.  Low alcohol and light effervescence remind me of the traditional white Vinho Verde. The pale pink hue and lightly fruity berry aroma and flavor are a nice change of pace from the regular version. $8.99
Meia Encosta Branco 2008 The red version of Meia Encosta has been a big success so now we bring you the white wine from this Dão region producer known as Vinhos Borges. Meia Encosta Branco is a gentle, refreshing and lightly floral blend of Encruzado, Malvasia and Bical. This unoaked, medium-weight white wine shows some fruity ripeness as well as a foundational layer of green herbs and minerals. $7.99
Castelo do Papa Godello 2008 The Valdeorras region is the traditional home of Godello varietal wines. Softer and gentler than many Spanish whites, this Godello varietal wine displays notes of white peach and apricot along with underlying minerality to maintain balance. $14.99
Can Feixes Blanc Selecció 2008 The Penedès region of Catalunya is best known for sparkling Cava but the local grapes can make some truly stunning still wines as well. Can Feixes is composed of 40% Parellada, 30% Macabeo(known elsewhere as Viura), 20% Chardonnay and 10% of the rare Malvasía de Sitges. Like a wine version of a Gin & Tonic, this wine has a bit of quinine-like minerality along with a refreshing blast of lime zest. This new 2008 vintage has just been released. $14.99
Shaya Verdejo 2008 The Verdejo grape predominates in the Rueda region of Northern Spain. The sandy soils have protected many old ungrafted vines from the phyloxera mite that devastated the vineyards of Europe 100 years ago. Shaya uses these old vines in a monovarietal wine that is a fine example of just how good Rueda whites can be. Bright grapefruit flavor and lightly floral aroma combine with a distinctly mineral foundation. This wine is well balanced and elegant. $13.99
La Cana Albariño 2008 Galician Albariño wines tend to tilt toward a floral/citrusy style or a flinty/mineral expression. The newly released first vintage of la Cana is decidedly mineral. Added complexity and textural weight comes from extended ageing on the lees (bits of grape skin, pulp and sediment). This new wine from Spanish wine guru Jorge Ordoñez (best known for his hearty red wines) is a fine addition to his portfolio. $17.99

Top 40

Speaking of pop songs, all the recent Moon Landing 40th Anniversary celebrations have me thinking about some of my early favorites from the late 1960s when AM radio was the main source for new music (pre Youtube &  MTV).
Check out these songs that made a big impression on me back in the day, then choose a few of the wines from this week’s selection to help make your own memories of the summmer of 2009.

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

Good Press

It has been an busy week for Iberian (and Iberian inspired)wines in the news.
Last week I wrote here about Ron Silva and his Alta Mesa Cellars Tempranillo and Verdelho varietal wines from his Silvaspoons vineyard in Galt CA. Only afterwards did I discover the in-depth article written two days earlier by Mike Dunne for the Sacramento Bee. Ron is a true wine pioneer in these parts and deserves the attention. You can read the article here and remember that we carry both his red Tempranillo ($14.99) and his white Verdelho ($12.99) here in the Berkeley store.
A customer from the East Coast alerted me to a piece in the Washington Post about the Douro wines from Portugal. Dave McIntyre has written a succinct article about the evolution in the Douro Valley, traditional home of Porto, toward more red and white table wines. He mentions several producers which we carry here including Niepoort, Quinta do Vale Dona Maria and Quinta do Vallado.
Several subscribers to this newsletter have kindly sent me links to Eric Asimov’s article this week in the New York Times on the subject of the Ribeira Sacra wines from Northwestern Spain. We have featured these wines at The Spanish Table since they first appeared in the market several vintages ago. These distinctive wines are starting to receive a well deserved bit of attention on a national level.
This week I have rounded up our current selection of DO Ribeira Sacra wines for you to consider. These are all excellent expressions of an ancient region that is only just beginning to renew its true potential. They are also some of my current favorite wines in the shop.
Guímaro Mencía 2007 The ancient terraced vineyards of Ribeira Sacra are so steep that boxes of freshly harvested fruit are hoisted on ropes up to the top of the hill, or, as is the case at Guímaro, lowered into boats on the River Sil below. Pedro Rodríguez is a young winemaker working to renew this long neglected region. The unoaked Guímaro Mencía, sourced from 40 year old vines, is fresh and lively with a touch of wild herb aroma. $14.99
Guímaro Viñas Viejas 2007 The oldest vines from the Guímaro estate are harvested exclusively for this wine that encapsulates the Ribeira Sacra style for pure, balanced aromas and flavors of tart berries and slatey minerality. $28.99
Alodio 2007 The young wine from Enología Thémera is 100% Mencía, fermented in tank and bottled without ageing in oak. Fresh peachy aroma and red berry fruit character give balance to underlying minerality. $14.99
Thémera 2005 Previous vintages of this 100% Mencía wine were more lean and barrel charactered (higher priced too). The 2005 vintage marks a distinct change in style toward a fresher more expressive wine. Still aged briefly in barrels of Acacia and cherrywood, Thémera is a finely tuned example of the Ribeira Sacra style. Sweet perfumed aroma and ripe berry fruit character balance gentle barrel tannins. $23.99
Viña do Burato 2007 Composed of 100% old vine Mencía from Ramón Losada’s Minho River vineyard, this light red is fresh and youthful with the dried leaf aroma that is typical of Mencía. This is the leanest of the D. Ventura wines and also the lowest in alcohol at a mere 12.5% ABV.$17.99
Peña do Lobo 2007 This wine, from a parcel on the Sil River vineyards is 100% Mencía from vines that are over 80 years old. This dark ruby colored wine is subtle and smooth. Silky mulberry fruit character balances background minerality. $19.99
Viña Caneiro 2007 The boldest of the D. Ventura wines, this exclusive bottling sourced from small plots of old vine Mencía grown on the steep slopes of the Sil River Valley is opulent and expressive while still retaining a fresh, lively balance of flavors. Notes of cranberry and pomegranate mingle with flinty minerality. This dark and abundant wine never veers into the overly extracted or the syrupy. It maintains a fine balance of flavors and a solid foundational structure. $24.99

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Filed under California, Portugal, Red Wine, Spain

Summer Wines

It’s shaping up to be an interesting summer for wine here at The Spanish Table. New arrivals continue to pop up like mushrooms after a thunderstorm while some trusty favorites are, on the other hand, arriving late or not at all. This week marks the better-late-than-never return of Muga Rosado in a brief appearance that will quickly sell through. We also have a new rosado from Navarra that will certainly please traditionalists and newcomers alike. For those who seek unique wines made from less well known varieties we have a stunning new white wine from Bierzo(yes, white Bierzo) made from Godello and Doña Blanca as well as a new 100% Xarel-lo white from Penedès. The Mencía that was so popular in last month’s wine club is now on the shelf for all to enjoy as is a new red wine from Montsant made from 100% Samsó. Add to these the hundreds of choices among the many wines from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile (with a bit of California thrown in for good measure)that you find here on a regular basis and you need never worry about drinking boring wine ever again.

Muga Rosado 2008
The new vintage of Muga Rosado that many of you have been waiting for is finally in stock, but only for a brief moment. We got ten cases and may not get any more. As always this is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and a small amount of Viura. The 2008 is a bit darker and drier than previous years but still expresses freshness and edgy minerality. $13.99

Siete Rosado 2008
The newest ‘Vino de Terrunyo’ private label wine from José Pastor is this fresh rosado from Navarra. Following the tradition in Navarra, this wine is made from the Garnacha grape. Watermelon color and ripe strawberry aroma play off of bright acidity and red berry frut character. This is a fun, summer wine for back yard sipping. $11.99

Mengoba Blanco 2007
The Bierzo region of Spain is best known for red wines but here is an excellent white Bierzo made from Godello and Doña Blanca. The delicate softly fruity grapes here are given extra depth and weight by leaving the wine on the lees for 7 months before bottling. Finely tuned and gently expressive, this top shelf white has immediate appeal as well as the potential to age well for several years. $33.99

Calcari 2008
The choices for varietal Xarel-lo wines are not numerous. Luckily we have this 100% Xarel-lo white from Pares Balta which is excellent and has just arrived in the new 2008 vintage. Lean, flinty and mineral with just a hint of tart citrus fruit character, this wine will please those who like their white wines really dry. $19.99

Clos de Noi 2007
The Montsant region of Spain is best known as a source of garnacha based wines but the local version of Cariñena, known as Samsó, is the other predominant red variety here. This 100% Samsó wine is inky dark and abundantly aromatic and flavorful. Cherry brandy aroma and sweet berry fruit character balance rocky minerality and assertive tannins. A hint of wild herb adds intrigue to the experience. $14.99

El Castro de Valtuille 2005
This is the more serious, structured elder sibling of the young Castro de Valtuille Mencía that many of you are currently enjoying. Sourced from Bierzo region Mencía vines with an average age of 40-80 years, El Castro de Valtuille spends 14 months in used oak barrels before bottling. This wine is dark and expressive yet still retains some of the bright freshness of the younger wine. The dark color creates an initial impression that reinforces the aromas of wet slate and a sort of twiggy scent that I describe as autumn leaf pile (the kind you rake up in your yard). This pronounced mineral element is coupled with extracted cranberry/pomegranate fruit character. $36.99

You want points? We got points!

The Wine Advocate, home of Robert Parker’s influential 100 point rating system, has just published their reviews of 654 Spanish wines. We are proud to have many of the top rated wines available for purchase. Here are a few of the high scoring wines for you to consider:

2006 Clos Erasmus Laurel- 93 points
“The 2006 Laurel sports aromas of slate/mineral, black licorice, incense, black cherry, and blackberry liqueur. Ripe, sweet, and structured on the palate, this lengthy, succulent effort has enough tannin to support another 4-6 years of cellaring and will have a drinking window extending from 2014 to 2026. Laurel, one of Priorat’s greatest values dollar for dollar, is sourced from the younger vines of the estate and from declassified barrels of Clos Erasmus itself.” $39.99
2006 Clos Erasmus – 97 points
“As usual Clos Erasmus is one of Spain’s finest wines. The 2006 Clos Erasmus offers an ethereal bouquet of balsam and sandalwood, incense, liquid mineral, black cherry, and black raspberry. Dense, rich, and voluptuous on the palate, it has plenty of well-concealed ripe tannin, tons of fruit, and potential complexity.” $198
2006 Mas Doix Vinyes Velles – 97 points
“The 2006 Costers de Vinas Viejas amps it up considerably. It yields an enthralling, sexy/kinky bouquet of toasty new oak, liquid minerality, lavender, incense, and wild berries. Complex, elegant, and La Tache-like, it appeals to both the senses and the intellect. It is a remarkable effort that should evolve for 5-7 years but is difficult to resist now.” $126
2006 Nido El Nido – 97 points
“The 2006 El Nido is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Monastrell aged for 26 months in new oak. Aromas of wild blueberry and black currant are room-filling. Dense, layered, and totally hedonistic, it has serous depth and concentration, impeccable balance, and a 60-second finish.” $148
2006 El Clio – 95 points
“The purple/black 2006 Clio is composed of 70% old vine Monastrell and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 26 months in new oak. It offers up a super-sexy nose of underbrush, incense, lavender, blueberry muffin, and black currant. Voluptuous and creamy on the palate, this loaded, well-balanced wine is a total turn-on. For those who prefer their flavor in moderation, look elsewhere. Drink this pleasure-bent effort from 2011 to 2021.” $47.99
2006 Flor de Pingus – 94 points
“The 2006 Flor de Pingus spent 14 months in new French oak. Deep purple in color, it gives up a superb bouquet of toasty oak, spice box, mineral, incense, black cherry, and blackberry. Youthful, full-bodied, intense, and powerful on the palate, it retains an elegant personality despite its size. Splendidly balanced, it will evolve for 4-6 years and deliver prime drinking from 2013 to 2026. It is a superb value in great wine considering that the price of Pingus Junior is one-tenth that of Pingus.” $85.00

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Filed under Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine


I recently asked a few Spanish friends what they thought of the wines of the Empordá region of Spain . Most of my inquiries were met with blank looks. A couple of people mentioned the scenic Costa Brava, home to numerous small beach towns, secluded coves and at least one world famous restaurant, El Bulli, but few had a perspective on the wines of this area that lies up along the French border on the Mediteranean coast of Spain. So it was with great curiosity that I accepted an offer from The Spain-USA Chamber of Commerce to visit this region with a group of American wine merchants.
Flying in to Barcelona, I was met at the airport and immediately whisked away in a taxi, traveling an hour and a half all the way up to the French border. At the last freeway exit before crossing the frontier we left the main highway and drove up a twisty little road into the rocky, sage colored hills, stopping suddenly at a small inn perched on a hillside overlooking the little village of Cantallops. The air was warm and scented with the aromas of flowering
rosemary and wild thyme. Yellow forsythia in bloom was joined by a landscape of dusty green, lavender and brown hues tinting the steep, rocky hillsides. Cicadas buzzed in the gentle breeze.
“So this is Empordá” I said to myself as I gazed out across the valley from the hotel terrace. “Nice, very nice”.
Soon the rest of the group, wine buyers from New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Texas and California, had all arrived at the same destination and we got down to the business of learning about the local wines.
The primary grape of Emporda is Garnacha, with the local version of Cariñena (known here as Samsó) playing an important secondary role in the production of red wines. Macabeo is the primary grape for white
wines, supplemented by Garnacha Blanca. Other varieties are allowed (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, etc) and some wineries are now using these better known grapes in larger proportions.
Empordá winemakers are a mix of old school traditionalists and new wave innovators. Established wineries, including several cooperatives that have historically served the needs of the local community (both by buying the fruit of the local harvest and by selling wine to the local market) are now experimenting with alternate varieties and styles. Young winemakers are, on the other hand, returning to their roots (literally) by rejuvenating old vines and relearning ancient practices that were all but forgotten. This diverse group of winemakers, regardless of their differences, shares an unwavering belief in  the Empordá region as a source of great wine. These cross currents of tradition and innovation create a dynamic environment for winemaking  that is just now starting to capture the attention of wine drinkers here in the USA.
A major factor in determining the character of Empordá wines, the infamous ‘tramontano‘ winds,  did not make an appearance during our visit but we witnessed the result it can have on grape vines. Torn and tattered leaves and stunted gnarly vines are the result of (almost) continuous buffeting by the wind that comes whipping down the valleys from the mountains to the north and west.
The wines we tried over the course of three days of formal tastings, visits to several bodegas and numerous meals were, as a whole, lean and mineral driven, expressing the dry, rocky terruno of this ancient region. In addition to red, white and rosado table wines, the bodegas we visited also make some other type of wine as well. Late harvest dessert wines, and sparkling cava are joined by sweet fortified mistelas and the local vi ranci, a traditinal oxidized wine that  ages for years outdoors in glass demijohns.
Most of the wines we tasted have yet to make it to our part of the globe but The Spanish Table carries several Emprodá wines that you can sample right now to get your bearings on this distinctive region of Spain.

Floresta Blanco 2007
The white Floresta from Pere Guardiola is made up of 50% Macabeo, 42% Chardonnay and 8% Muscat. The wine is fermented in tank, not barrel, and thus displays a fresh, lively character with abundant floral aroma unobscured by heavy barrel notes. $10.99
Floresta Rosado 2008 This blend of 50% Garnacha, 40% Merlot and 10% Syrah displays pale pink color, tangy citrus and gentle strawberry fruit character. This light, breezy,well priced wine is refreshing and perfect for hot summer afternoons. $10.99
Floresta Tinto 2007 The red version of Floresta is a blend of 55% Garnacha and 45% Tempranillo. This wine is dark in color but light in character. Tart berry fruit character reinforces spicy black pepper and mineral notes. $10.99
Espelt Coralí 2008 This 100% Garnacha rosado is bright coral colored (thus the name) with fresh berry aroma and tart fruit character. This is a dry rosado that expresses some of the rocky minerality of this region. $12.99
Espelt Sauló 2005 This traditiona Empordá red is a blend of 60% Garnacha and 40% Samsó that spends just a few months in oak before bottling. Tart berry fruit meets lean minerality to produce a wine that combines youthful freshness with a firm structural foundation. $12.99

July 4th Special: American wines with Iberian roots

At the recent TAPAS tasting of American wines made from Iberian grape varieties I was impressed by the wines of Ron Silva’s Alta Mesa Cellars. Ron is sort of the Godfather of Iberian varietals in the Central Valley. He started planting Portuguese and Spanish varieties (he is of Azorean extraction himself) decades before most local winemakers even considered the possibility of using Iberian grapes here in California. His Silvaspoons vineyard in Galt, just north of Lodi has become the source of fruit for numerous other winemakers, many of whom were at the TAPAS event. His knowledge about growing these grapes ins unsurpassed. Tasting through the various iterations of  Silvaspoons fruit vinified by different winemakers it became clear to me that the grape grower here knows best what to do with the product of his own vineyards.
In the spirit of American independence I bring you two Alta Mesa wines made by Ron Silva himself. The white is made from the Azorean variety called Verdelho (supposedly not related to Verdejo) and the red is a  Tempranillo varietal.

Alta Mesa Cellars Verdelho 2008
Bright lemon yellow color with floral aromatics and more citrus character on the palate supplemented by ripe melon and peach notes.The wine has more texture and weight than the scent and flavor would lead one to expect. $12.99

Alta Mesa Cellars Tempranillo 2007 Dark mulberry color and aroma encounter berry-like fruit character that never overwhelms the gentle mineral back note. Brief barrel ageing adds a touch of tannic depth. $14.99

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