Monthly Archives: October 2009

Vinho Tinto

Way back last month I was telling you about the white wines of Portugal.
My opinion was (and is) that Portuguese white wines “excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences”. I also noted that Portuguese whites tend to be ridiculously affordable so it really pays to explore these lesser known wines.
This week I am focused on Portuguese red wines. They have been getting some good press lately, and deservedly so. They, like the whites, offer excellent quality, often at very reasonable prices.
I have been finding some really good Portuguese reds lately. If you have not yet tried these wines I have some excellent suggestions that will give you a good perspective on the prevalent style/regions/producers currently coming out of Portugal.
A few weeks ago Eric Asimov wrote in the New York Times about the red wines from the Douro region. Of the ten wines he reviewed in New York (where the selection is often quite different than what we get in California) he chose as his favorite the young Altano Tinto 2006 ($9.99). He described it as “Dry and balanced with complex, lingering aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers” which sounds about right to me. I find the wine to be youthful and on the gentle side for a Douro red. The dark berry fruit character is but a bit subdued in comparison to other wines from this region. This lends the wine a gentle food-friendly quality that never overwhelms lighter fare.
Another well priced Douro red is Twisted Tinto 2007 ($14.99), the entry level wine from Niepoort, maker of top quality Porto as well as several high end red and white wines. This wine is composed of a wide range of typical Douro grapes including Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão among others. Twisted Tinto is dark garnet in color with expressive aromas of fresh berries and minerals, tart cherry fruit character and a touch of tannic oak.
I am also finding plenty of excellent bargains in Portuguese regions outside the Douro Valley.  The young Meia Encosta Tinto 2007 ($8.99) from the Dão region is fresh and bright. Clear ruby color, cherry aroma and Gamay-like fruit character (the blend here is actually Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz) all work in harmony to express the tart,refreshing style that makes this such a perfect mid-week red.
From a small region called Óbidos located just north of Lisbon comes Quinta de São Francisco Tinto 2005 ($11.99) composed of 60% Castelão, 20% Aragonez and 20% Touriga Nacional. Garnet colored with a brickish tinge, this wine displays initial aromas of ripe berry and crushed rocks. I get more mineral notes and light mulberry fruit character on the palate along with a bit of black pepper spice. Eight months of barrel age lends a gentle tannic note to the wine.
The Spanish Table Wine Club is currently featuring the Cunha Martins Reserva from the Dão region. Most of this went into the club but I have a few spare bottles on hand for general consumption. Cunha Martins Reserva 2004 ($14.99) is a field blend of numerous grapes including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro Preto, Bastardo and Jaen. The wine was aged for 18 months in oak before bottling. This is a darkly tinted wine with dense texture, and fruit character reminiscent of mulberries and black plums.  Backnotes of black olive and wood smoke remind us of the wine’s Dão heritage, expressed here in a rich, silky style that will compliment an autumn menu of slow roasted meats and winter squash.
For something at a good price but with a bit of age we go again to the Dão region for Quinta da Cabriz Reserva 2005 ($19.99). This barrel aged blend of 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz and 20% Alfrocheiro possesses a bit of the old fashioned Dão rusticity framed by dark plum fruit character and well integrated oak. This mature expressive wine will be a perfect match with a broad range of traditional autumn fare such as slow cooked white beans with chunks of Linguiça sausage and the Portuguese smoked bacon called Toucinho Defumado (FYI, we sell the beans/sausage/bacon as well as the wine!).



Los Hermanos Fernández

The Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain has been transformed over the last few decades. From its origins as an agricultural region mostly known for farming (sugar beets) and livestock (sheep), Ribera del Duero is now one of the most highly regarded wine regions in all of Spain. One of the pioneering winemakers in Ribera del Duero, a former beet farmer named Alejandro Fernández, started his own winery which quickly earned a reputation for excellence. His Tinto Pesquera became a game changing wine in Ribera del Duero. The region was transformed. Wine grapes became the crop of choice for local farmers, many of whom also went on to great success.
A less well known part of this story is that, unbeknownst to many of us here in the USA, Alejandro Fernández has a brother named Federico who also makes wine. His winery is small and his wines adhere to a traditional style that is fast fading from view in Ribera del Duero. Federico Fernández insists on slow barrel ageing to elaborate his wines. In the modern rush to market this practice is used less and less by the larger wineries. Federico still adheres to the old practice of classifying his wines as Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva depending on how much time they spend ageing in oak. Federico Roble 2007 ($17.99) is the young wine from this bodega. Made from the local version of Tempranillo called Tinto Fino, this wine spends just six months ageing in barrel before bottling. The resulting wine expresses the earthy minerality of the region in a bold, fresh style.  Federico Crianza 2005 ($31.99) spends 12 months in barrel and several years in bottle before release. The tannins are substantial and chalky when the wine is first opened. With air the wine reveals a core of trail dust, saddle leather, black cherry fruit and an intriguing gamey note on the finish. As ever, the pairing for all good Ribera del Duero is lamb in all its guises (chops, roasts, stews, you name it).

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Filed under Portugal, Red Wine, Spain

Private Label

This week we are happy to announce the arrival of the private label portfolio of Spanish wines from Luis Moya.
Luis is Cuban by birth but he honed his wine skills selling wine in New York before moving west to start his own company. As an importer and distributor Luis tastes many (many!) wines on a daily basis. He is well versed in what Spain and Portugal have to offer. He knows the grapes, the regions and many of the people involved in the trade so it was only a matter of time before he decided to try his hand at creating his own brand.
Luis Moya Selections‘ is the name of this collection of five wines from various regions throughout Spain. At present the collection includes three reds, one white and a sparkling Cava. The labels will not be familiar but the wines inside the bottles are all solid examples of Spanish regional style. The Cava is fresh and frothy, the white is crisp and refreshing and the reds tend toward the bright and youthful end of the wine spectrum.
These wines all just arrived last week and are priced to make them easy to love (in fact this first batch is priced even lower as an introductory offer).

Barcino Brut Cava
This wine, made on the outskirts of Barcelona (back in the day Barcelona was called Barcino) is fashioned in the traditional style from the local grapes. This blend of 55% Xarel-lo, 25% Macabeo and 20% Parellada is fermented in the bottle like a French Champagne. Frothy bubbles, yeasty bread dough aroma and tart green apple fruit character combine to create a fun, informal sparkler for everyday  enjoyment.$14.99 (introductory price $11.99)
Cantos Rodados Verdejo 2008 This is a fresh, bright, youthful wine. Tart grapefruit and lean mineral notes balance tropical fruit aroma. This is a perfect unoaked white for sipping by the glass as well as for pairing with meatless meals and seafood. $12.99 (introductory price $10.99)
Riotajo 2008 Vinos de Madrid is the name of the wine region that provides many of the typical red wines served in the Spanish capital. This young, fresh example is a blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Garnacha. Fresh berry aroma and tart cherry fruit character predominate in this straight forward red. This makes a fine match with traditional tapas and other Spanish snacks. $11.99 (introductory price $9.99)
La Nevera 2007 Here is a spectacular example of a Navarra region red wine made from old vine Garnacha (60-80 years on average) from a single vineyard. The classic Garnacha character is expressed here with tart cherry fruit character laid over a mineral foundation. Slow cooked white beans and chorizo are a traditional accompaniment to this wine. $12.99 (introductory price $10.99)
La Terrera 2006 Any good Spanish portfolio needs to include a Rioja. This blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Garnacha sees 12 months of barrel age before bottling, Lightly oaky aroma and medium weight tannins contrast nicely with cherry fruit character and feather-light texture. $17.99 (introductory price $14.99)


at The Spanish Table
in Mill Valley

Friday, October 23, 6PM-8PM.

Meet famed Portuguese winemaker Cristiano Van Zeller, enjoy some traditional Portuguese appetizers, and participate in a guided tasting of 9 Portuguese wines and ports from Van Zeller’s Quinta do Vale de Maria, including his top tier red, the 2007 CV, and the 2007 vintage port. This is a unique opportunity to taste some wonderful wines and to speak with someone who has spent a lifetime around the port trade. The tasting is in the Mill Valley store. Cost is $45 per person, all inclusive.  Reservations are required as the event is limited to 30 people.  Please call the Mill Valley store  (415)-388-5043
to make your reservations.


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

New Rioja / Old Rioja

Bodegas Franco-Españolas was founded in 1890  as an indirect result of one of the biggest catastrophes in the history of European wine making.
In the second half of the 19th century, French vineyards were almost completely decimated by phylloxera (a plague of root devouring mites). This led vineyard owners from Bordeaux, a region characterised by the high quality of its vines and a great tradition for making world – renowned wines, to search in Spain (where phylloxera had yet to appear) for suitable soils and climates where they could continue to produce and age the wines for which they were famous. The Rioja region in Spain, with a long history of viticulture as well as convenient rail links to the rest of Europe, was the region they chose for this cross-border commercial venture.
In 1890, a Frenchman from Bordeaux named Frédéric Anglade and several Spanish winemakers founded the winery that was named after their international partnership. Over the ensuing century Bodegas Franco-Españolas has built a reputation for traditional wines made from the Tempranillo grape, slowly aged in oak barrels for many years before release. In modern times they are stalwart traditionalists, upholding a style that is less and less prevalent in the Rioja region.
These wines haven’t been available on the market here in California for several years and the last one we were able to get was the 2001 Rioja Bordon Crianza that many of you bought by the case. This winery makes Rosado, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines as well as one of Spain’s top selling white Rioja, Diamante.
We contacted the US importer on the east coast and were able to work out some great pricing for taking a fair amount of wine.They arrived last week and are now available for purchase while the supply lasts.

Diamante 2008 This white Rioja is one of Spain’s best selling white wines.  Made from Viura & Malvasia, there is a bit of residual sugar which gives this wine it’s touch of sweetness. $12.99
Rioja Bordon Rosado 2008 A blend of Garnacha and white Viura, we finally have another Rioja Rosado in stock.  Distinct watermelon and mineral make this a refreshing quaffer. $11.99
Rioja Bordon Crianza 2005 The 2001 was a staff and customer favorite and hopefully you’ll find the current release just as enticing.  A bit richer than the 2001, this is still a classic Rioja Crianza at an oustanding price. $13.99
Rioja Bordon Reserva 2004 I think we’ve got an amazing deal on this Reserva from an outstanding vintage.  Impressive for the price. $17.99
Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 1999 Here it is.  A 10-year old wine for an amazing price.  Soft and round this is a classic aged Gran Reserva for one knock out price.  $23.99
Baron d’Anglade Reserva 2001 Named after the founder of the Bodega, this is a denser,bolder wine than the regular Reserva. This wine is from the stellar 2001 vintage  Notes of dark cherry, allspice and clove, tobacco smoke and vanilla on a round, velvety frame.  Regular retail would be $60, but it’s $49.99

A new Paula Wolfert cookbook:

“Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking” (Wiley 2009, $34.95).

We’ve been waiting for this one literally for years! Ms. Wolfert is clay-pot crazy, and she freely admits it, so when she told us she was working on a book about cooking in clay we got really excited. Her cookbooks are so wonderful due to her years of research and experimentation. This type of research takes years. Yes, Years! But, the wait is finally over. The book hit our shelves last week, and we can’t put it down. It’s full of all you need to know about cooking in clay – cazuelas, tagines, Romertopfs, all of it.
Here is a small sample of what you will find in this inspirational book, intended to help you use up the end-of-season tomatoes currently in the local markets.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes w/ Rosewater

7-8 ripe medium tomatoes
Coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rosewater
2 tablespoons pinenuts or sesame seeds, toasted

Cut each tomato in half horizontally and squeeze gently to extracy the seeds. Lightly salt the tomatoes, turn them upside down on paper towels, and let drain for 30 minutes.
Gently squeeze the tomatoes again to rid them of any excess moisture. Arrange in a single layer in a lightly oiled baking dish / cazuela. Mix 1 teaspoon coarse salt with the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle a pinch over each tomato half. Drizzle with the olive oil.
Place the tomatoes in the oven and set the temperature at 250 degrees. Bake for 3 hours.
Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the tomatoes finish baking in the receding heat. They will be wrinkled and slightly charred.
Remove the roasted tomatoes from the oven. Splash with the rosewater and scatter the toasted nuts on top. Let stand until cooled to room temperature. Serves 6.

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

Wine Recap

At The Spanish Table, new wines arrive weekly. The bounty of Spanish and Portuguese products is such that we find new, exciting products all the time. For those of you who have  been away for the summer I thought it might be helpful to review some of what has crossed our path in the last few months, paying special attention to a few items that have been particularly popular with you, our loyal customers.
Beer has been a big hit lately. Now that we finally have a nice assortment of beer, we can feature not only some well known brands but also a few more esoteric brews. Hard cider too has been growing in popularity and is an interesting and delicious alternative to beer or wine. Portuguese white wines have been quite popular this summer with their combination of fresh, balanced flavors and excellent value. We have also been finding some unique and exciting red wines including small production wines made from off beat varietals in far flung regions as well as some classically styled reds from Spain’s most iconic traditional wineries.
So, if you have been otherwise occupied of late, here is your chance to to catch up with what is going on here at The Spanish Table. I am reminded of the Matthew Broderick line from John Hughes’ movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to take a look around every once in a while, you might miss it.”

Barbaroja Red Ale In the Argentine town of Escobar, 50 kilometers north of Buenos Aires, Cerveceria Barba Roja makes a wide range of craft brews. They make a special barrel aged “strong” (so named due to it’s 9% ABV) red ale that we just started carrying here. Opaque, reddish brown color, aromas of black coffee and wood smoke, and bold but not balanced flavors of toasted malt and caramel. A champagne style cork seals this 750 ml bottle of oh-so-food friendly red ale. This is really interesting and deserves your attention. $12.99 (750 ml)
Estrella Damm Inedit Celebrated chef Ferrán Adriá from El Bulli teamed up with Estrella Damm to create this distinctive Spanish beer. The attractive 750 ml bottle comes with a little booklet tied to the neck explaining the concept (“The beer specifically created to pair with food.”) and offering serving suggestions(“It is recommended that Inedit is enjoyed in a white wine glass and kept in an ice bucket after serving.”). A hybrid  of a traditional lager and a Belgian style Wit beer, this cloudy amber colored brew is fairly crisp on the front end with notes of orange peel and baking spice (cloves, nutmeg and allspice) on the finish. A bit of hoppy density adds interest and will appeal to appreciators of local micro-brews. $10.99 (750 ml bottle)
Isastegi Sidra Natural This is not sweet apple juice. Cloudy green gold in color with yeasty apple barrel aroma and tart, Fino sherry-like flavor are what you will find here. Once opened this cider oxidizes rapidly so the bottle needs to be consumed quickly (not usually a problem). We now carry the half sized bottles which are great for small groups or when cider is served as an apperitivo before moving on to other drinks (for the full-bore Isastegi experience we also carry the traditional glassware, just like they use in Spain). $8.99 (750 ml), $4.99 (375 ml)
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
Grilos Branco 2008 The red Grilos has been a big hit and now we just brought in the white version of this Dáo region wine. The scent is reminiscent of ripe strawberries creating a dramatic contrast to the lean, grassy, mineral notes and that come out on the palate. $10.99
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 biodynamically 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 wine. Minerals, wild herbs and ripe blackberry flavors combine in this unfiltered and untamed wine. $12.99
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
Zaumau Priorat 2008 Carlos Escolar make minuscule 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

Paella Class

The Paella & Wine class that I teach at Kitchen On Fire is coming up in a few weeks. Monday October 5th is the date. 6:30 pm is the time. The cost is $65 per person. This will be the last class for 2009 so checkout the Kitchen On Fire website and sign up for this deliciously fun event. They say this about the class: “Join Kevin Hogan from The Spanish Table to learn first-hand the joys of the Spanish rice dish known as Paella. Kevin will share his knowledge and experience in all things Paella-related. The class will include some hands-on participation to prepare a mixed poultry, meat & seafood Paella that will be consumed at the culmination of the class. Participants will also get a chance to make and sample some simple tapas while waiting for the Paella to cook. Kevin is the wine buyer for The Spanish Table in Berkeley and will be sharing some Paella-friendly wines as well. Come to class with an appetite for adventure and be rewarded with a plateful of Paella wisdom.”

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Filed under Argentina, events, Portugal, Red Wine, sidra (cider), Spain, Uncategorized, White Wine