Monthly Archives: August 2009

Learning About Spain

The Wine Academy of Spain, an educational organization run by Pancho Campo (Spain’s first Master of Wine) stopped in San Francisco last week as part of a US tour currently wrapping up in Washington DC.
I joined a group of Spanish wine enthusiasts for the three day seminar that covered all of Spain’s regions, grapes and winemaking styles. I got to brush up on my Spanish wine knowledge and tried many new wines as well as some familiar favorites.
Esteban Cabezas and his crew did a fabulous job of squeezing a ton of information into a short space of time. I gleaned all sorts of tidbits of information that I will be sharing with you in the days and weeks to come.
My thanks and appreciation go out to The Wine Academy of Spain and to Catavino for sponsoring my attendance to the seminar (I won the scholarship for my why-I-love-Spanish-wine blog entry). Hopefully I passed the exam and in a few weeks will have a handsome Spanish Wine Educator certificate to hang on the wall.
I retried a few wines at the Wine Academy of Spain course that are making a repeat appearance here as a result of a good showing at the seminar. Check out this week’s wine notes for the Aria Brut Cava, Gramona Imperial Cava and the red Fra Guerau Monsant. They are now back in stock and drinking beautifully.

Espelt Vailet 2007 After my recent trip to the Empordá region of Spain (up along the French border on the Mediterranean side) I have been eagerly buying all the wine from this little known, rocky, sparsely populated corner of the globe. A few weeks back we featured the red from Espelt as well as the rosado. The white wine from Espelt has just come back in stock and I recommend it this week as a new option for those seeking bright, fresh white wines with distinctive character. The blend is 60% Garnacha Blanca and 40% Macabeo (Viura for you white Rioja fans). Crisp minerality is supplemented here with a bit of green herb and citrus character. $12.99
Aria Brut This Cava has been a well loved favorite and is finally back in stock here in Berkeley. This frothy blend of the three traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada)presents a fresh, balanced side of Cava with a bit of green apple fruit adding counterpoint to the mineral foundation. $10.99
Gramona Imperial 2004 For those who appreciate the complexity of long aged Cava, this vintage sparkler is always a welcome sight. 3-4 year of cellar age gives this wine a very Champagne-like character. Adding 10% Chardonnay to the blend of 50% Xarel-lo and 40% Macabeo adds to the similarity with French bubbly. Yeasty brioche aroma, an elegant mineral backnote and a bit of brandied fruit on the finish. $31.99
Fra Guerau 2003 This was one of the first wines that caught my attention back when I started with The Spanish Table. I recently retasted Fra Guerau and was reminded of the pure pleasure that comes from this blend of numerous grapes (Syrah, Garnacha, Cariñena, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Monastrell) from the Montsant region. Dark garnet color, sweet berry fruit character and well integrated barrel character (thanks to several years of bottle age) make this an easy wine to pair with all kinds of food. $13.99
Zaumau Priorat 2008 Carlos Escolar make miniscule quantities of wine in DOC Priorat. Old vine Garnacha and Samsó (the local name for Cariñena) are blended here in an unoaked red that expresses the rocky terruño of the region in a pure, darkly colored, ripely fruited style. Foregoing the barrel ageing regimen brings the price down significantly for this wine from a region not known for bargains. $17.99
Viña Lanciano Reserva 2001 Nothing says ‘Spain’ quite like a slowly matured Tempranillo from Rioja. This wine,from the superlative 2001 vintage, is composed of the best estate grown fruit from Bodegas LAN. Two years in the barrel followed by 5 years resting in the bottle in the cellar have created an elegant, traditional wine that blends tannic oak with tart cherry fruit character. Aromas of fresh earth, cured meat and wood smoke add depth and nuance to this excellent example of old school Rioja. $28.99

TapasWalk In The News

Last Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle ran a feature on the Spanish wine & food walking tour that I do called TapasWalk. Using my tour as an example, Janet Fletcher wrote a detailed piece on the burgeoning tapas scene now happening in downtown San Francisco. “In this new little world straddling North Beach, the Financial District and Russian Hill,” Fletcher wrote, “a Bay Area tapas enthusiast with good walking shoes can do the sort of bar hopping that many Spaniards enjoy nightly.” She included a lexicon of useful terminology for those less familar with Spanish cuisine as well as a few recipes for traditional tapas that you can make at home (with a few ingredients from The Spanish Table, of course). If you missed it in the paper last week you can still read the article online here.


Txakolí Wisdom


In tandem with last week’s San Francisco Chronicle article by Janet Fletcher about the downtown tapas scene, Jon Bonné put together a detailed and up-to-date summary of the current state of Basque Txakolí wine. If you have yet to experience the distinct joy of Txakolí, this article tells you all you need to know to get started. We carry all the Txakolí wines and (just between you and me) we even have some of the elusive Txakolí rosado still in stock.

Txakolí Etiquette

If you have visited San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country you probably noticed how the local bartenders pour the Txakolí wine with an outstretched arm from high overhead. Now our good friends from Vinos Unico have made an instructional video that shows just how to pour Txakolí like a pro. Check them out here:


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Filed under events, Red Wine, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Favorites, Old and New

The culinary traditions of Spain and Portugal are changing how we eat here in the USA. As these flavors work their way into the hearts, minds and palates of those of us not fortunate enough to have been born into these cultures, we learn to appreciate the new ingredients and preparations as well as the variations within specific regional styles.
As soon as we discover the distinct joy of, for example, Paella, we learn that this iconic Spanish dish is made in dramatically different styles from one part of Spain to the next. “Paella must include chorizo” says one expert. “Paella must never be made with chorizo” says another. According to many regional cooks “Paella made with anything other than rabbit and snails should not be called Paella”. And so it goes, with each individual cook claiming the mantle of authenticity.
Wines too can be the subject of passionate debate due to the numerous stylistic choices made by Spanish and Portuguese winemakers. ‘Tradition’ versus ‘Innovation’ is just the entry point into detailed discussions of style and character within a specific wine region.
At The Spanish Table we like to offer a broad choice to fit every palate, so we try not to take sides. To use this week’s wine selections as examples, we have a new Vinho Verde that offers a fresh new effort from a traditional winery. We have a new Txakolí that may change a few perceptions about what Basque white wine can be. Our newest red wine discovery comes from the Vinos de Madrid region, yet tastes unlike anything else we have previously tried from this part of Spain.
So please enjoy our newest selections in wine, knowing that there is more to choose from, with new discoveries arriving every week.

Trajarinho 2008 Summertime is perfect Vinho Verde weather. This traditional style of Portuguese white wine is crisp and dry with residual effervescence. Our newest Vinho Verde, from the same winemakers as the well loved Muralhas de Monção is a blend of Trajadura and Alvarinho. Put the two together and you get…Trajarinho (clever, no?). Bright grapefruit and lime flavors blend well with crisp mineral back notes and light but persistent spritzy effervescence. $10.99

Itsas Mendi 2008 Basque Txakolí has gone from relative obscurity to cult wine status in just a few short years. We just received the newest vintage of Itsas Mendi, an excellent Txakolí made by Ana Martín, a Basque winemaker who is also one of Spain’s best known wine consultants. After establishing her reputation for top quality red wines in Rioja with Señorio de Cuzcurrita and in Ribera del Duero with Traslanzas, she returned home and started Itsas Mendi. This wine is fuller and rounder than other Txakolí wines. The lean, spritzy grapefruit character has been traded in for richer texture and notes of white peach and apricot. This well balanced offering will appeal to Albariño and Godello appreciators. $25.99

Viña Herminia Tempranillo 2007 Bodegas Aldeanueva makes Herminia from 100% Tempranillo. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel (no oak barrels) helps retain the fresh berry fruit character of the wine. Dark garnet colored, Viña Herminia displays ripe berry aroma and abundant, youthful fruit character. The new vintage has come in at a significant discount over previous years. $9.99

Camino de Navaherreros Garnacha 2008 The ‘Vin Natural’ movement in France is thriving while in Spain this style of wine is only starting to appear. Bodegas Bernabeleva, located in the unassuming Vinos de Madrid region farms bio-dynamically and minimizes manipulation in the winery (no temperature control, only indigenous yeasts). Their 80 year old Garnacha vines produce small quantities of darkly expressive fruit that is used exclusively for this cloudy, dark red. Minerals, wild herbs and ripe blackberry flavors combine in this unfiltered and untamed wine. $12.99

Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2006 Steve and Sharon (from the Seattle flagship store) just got back from visiting this winery in Spain. Sharon wrote this about the new wine: “This rare single vineyard Ribera del Duero red is a blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 12 months in oak barrels, it is an intense cherry color with purple tones. The nose is filled with ripe fruit aromas of black berries and spices. Flavors of tar and boysenberry slowly spread over the palate with glycerin contributing a rich fruity mouth feel. Well integrated oak, notes of coffee and cacao with supple tannins. Concentrated and intense, it has herbal notes with a smooth and persistent finish. A powerful and effusive wine, here is a rare opportunity to experience this wine outside of Spain.” $42.99

Pago de Carraovejas Reserva  2005 The Reserva version of Pago de Carraovejas uses the same estate grown,single vineyard fruit as the Crianza in a different blend. This wine is 78% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. 12 months of barrel age is followed by 24 months in the bottle resting in the dark before release.Bold fruit character balances firm(at present) tannins. This structured, rich, assertive wine will age gracefully for years to come. $86.00



Paella Party in Mill Valley & Berkeley

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 (that’s right, FREE paella!) and pick up a signed copy of The Spanish Table Cookbook.
¡Buen provecho!

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