Monthly Archives: December 2009

Aged & Fortified

As the year draws to a close, and with holiday celebrations in full swing, I want to take just a moment to thank all of you for your continuing support and enthusiasm for what we do here at The Spanish Table.
My holiday wish for each and every one of our loyal customers is that you get a few precious moments (somewhere/somehow, in the next week or two) to breath, relax and reflect upon the past year in all its aspects, positive and otherwise. In keeping with my function here, may I suggest that a small glass of aged Port, Madeira or Jerez (Sherry) wine, sipped slowly in the comfort of your own home, is a very appropriate way to contemplate the past and its relationship to the now and the soon to come.These days, young and quick gets all the attention while old and slow gets pushed to the side and too often forgotten altogether. When you drink a glass of 30 year old Amontillado you  acknowledge the benefits that only come with time and maturity. A 20 year old Tawny Port contains wines from many past vintages, only reaching their full potential over decades of slow elaboration. Madeira wines, from that eponymous island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, hearken back to the days of sailing ships and the Age of Discovery, a time long gone that nonetheless still figures prominently in the modern history of Spain and Portugal. These wines teach us, in no uncertain terms, that age has its benefits and that some things (many of the best ones) take time to create. So pour yourself a little glass of history, and another one for your friends and loved ones, even spilling out a few drops on the bare ground in memory of those no longer extant. Here are a few choices to ease you out of this year and into the next one:

Del Duque VORS Amontillado
The VORS designation is a recent addition to Sherry nomenclature, used to indicate wines that are at least 30 years old. These fortified wines are held for decades in the winery, getting topped off each year with small quantities of fresh stock to protect the wine from oxidation. This richly aromatic wine displays scents of dried fruit, toasted almonds and fresh hay. On the palate it is completely dry and elegant, offering up flavors of walnuts, more almonds and the barest hint of raisin-like fruit character . Brandy-like warmth makes this a particularly appropriate wine for sipping on a cold evening. $39.99(375ml)

Apostoles VORS Palo Cortado Palo Cortado is the rarest of Jerez wines. 30 year old Palo Cortado is even rarer still. Drawn from the best barrels in the bodega, Palo Cortado wines are usually held aside for the personal consumption needs of the wine makers’ families and friends. This particular wine, from the famed Bodegas Gonzalez Byass was recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle where Jon Bonné recommended it as one of his favorite gift wines. This amber/gold colored wine offers a sublime combination of the toasted walnut and almond flavors present in the Palomino Fino grape paired with the raisin and fig fruit character that comes from the small percentage of Pedro Ximénez blended into this wine. $39.99 (375ml)

Williams & Humbert Don Guido VOS PX A few years ago the VOS designation was created for Jerez wines with at least 20 years of barrel age. WIlliams & Humbert are a well known producer with significant stocks of aged Sherry. This one is dark mahogany colored with rich aromas and flavors of raisins, dates, figs and baking spices. Dense texture and caramel/toffee sweetness adds further complexity to this rich, sweet sherry that pairs well with dark chocolate. Served in small glasses after a meal this can be dessert all by itself $49.99

Ramos Pinto 20 Year Tawny Port In Portugal, Ramos Pinto is a well loved name in the Port wine trade. This winery owns some of the best vineyard sites in the Douro Valley. Their Quinta da Bom Retiro vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards in the region, is the source of all the grapes for this Tawny Port that is one of Ramos Pinto’s most popular wines. The wine is a blend of past vintages with an average age of 20 years, more or less. This amber colored wine displays dried fruit aromas yet is quite dry on the palate. Toasted almonds, walnut skin and coffee bean notes add to the finely tuned balance of flavors. Serve this wine with salty cured meats before dinner or, alternately, alongside a selection of aged cheeses after a meal. $72.00

Barros 1979 Colheita Port Founded in 1913, Barros is a relatively young addition to the world of Port wines, but they managed to build their reputation with their vintage ports and their amazing Colheitas which have won numerous international competitions world wide. Colheita Port (Tawny Port from a single vintage) is nutty and dry with just the barest hint of fruit character. The 1979 Colheita is dark amber in color with brandy-like warmth and aroma. Nutty complexity and background notes of baking spices and toasted oak create a long and aromatic finish. This 500 ml bottle comes in a nifty wooden box, making a gorgeous gift for someone celebrating a 30th anniversary this year. $93.00 (500ml)

Historic Series Madeira


Earlier this week Eric Asimov wrote an interesting piece in The New York Times about
pairing Madeira with savory foods. He specifically mentioned the Historic Series Madeiras from The Rare Wine Company. These unique wines include a portion of older wines blended with a larger portion of younger stocks intended to recreate the flavor of Madeira from days long gone by.
We are proud to carry these wines at The Spanish Table and I can personally vouch for just how great they are when served during (as well as after) a meal.  I have tried these wines with everything from fois gras and lobster to simple rice and pasta dishes. My personal favorite Madeira pairing leans toward anything involving cheese. If you have not yet experienced this distinctive food/wine combination, here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:

RWC Charleston Sercial Sercial, the driest of the Madeira grapes, creates lean, flinty wines with marked almond aroma and flavor. Toasted barrel character and burnt caramel back notes add to the long and complex experience of this amber/gold colored wine. $49.99

RWC Boston Bual The medium sweet Bual grape is the most popular choice for many Madeira appreciators. This dark amber colored wine is richly aromatic with notes of toffee, tangerine, cloves, burnt match stick, and a hint of brandied raisin.The acidity washes over the palate leaving lingering flavors of minerals, burnt sugar and candied orange zest. $49.99

RWC New York Malmsey Madeira wines made from the Malmsey (or Malvasia) grape reside at the sweet end of the spectrum. The New York Malmsey is dark mahogany in color with rich aromas of dates, figs, raisins and baking spices. Flavors of butterscotch and caramel add to the opulent character of this wine. Bright acidity leaves the flavors practically etched on the tongue. Traditionally served after a meal, New York Malmsey is a dessert course all by itself, but will work beautifully with some aged cheese. $49.99

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Portugal, Spain

Elegant Spanish Whites

An interesting shift is taking place amongst Spanish wine drinkers in the USA. White wines are growing in popularity relative to the more traditionally recognized Spanish reds. Not long ago we had trouble convincing people to try white wines from Spain. Now, the choices are numerous, the quality is high and the prices are quite reasonable. The Albariños from Galicia were the first Spanish whites to really take off in the American market, followed by Rueda region Verdejo wines. Then a few years ago it was as if the grape cart tipped over and out spilled Godello from Valdeorras, Viura from Rioja, Garnacha Blanca from Priorat, Treixadura from Ribeiro and Hondarribi Zuri from the Basque country. With so many distinct, vibrant, interesting styles to choose from, Spanish whites have become an adventure in novelty grounded in traditions that are only now starting to find an audience outside their native regions.
This week I would like to share with you a few of the best Spanish white wines I have tasted lately. These are special occasion wines that showcase Spain’s unique grapes and winemaking styles. They tend to veer away from the barrel aged style in favor of a crisper tank fermented technique. Extended time on the lees (sometimes very extended) is the preferred way to achieve richness and depth while protecting the varietal/regional character of these wines. The complexity and textural weight of these wines makes them perfect companions to winter fare. Please consider the following selections for your holiday table:

Odysseus Pedro Ximénez Blanco 2007
This is a unique dry white wine in that Pedro Ximénez is usually reserved for use in sweet Sherry, while this, on the other hand, is totally dry and has notes of apricot, tangerine, a bit of lemon and white flowers. Bright acidity and foundational minerality find balance in the rich, leesy texture and floral aroma. We paired this with first-of-season Dungeness crab (simply steamed) the other night. It worked perfectly. Regular retail $35.99. Now $19.99-Limited.


Zárate Tras da Viña 2005
This is an Albariño with a decided difference that comes from 30 months (two and a half years!) spent ageing on the lees. On one hand you have a lean, flinty wine that expresses the edgy, almost saline side of the Rías Baixas regional style. On the other hand, after the extended time in tank, this wine takes on a denser, richer tone but not so much as to obscure its original character. If you have ever wondered whether Albariño has the ability to age, here is your affirmative answer. $31.99

Aforado Sobre Lías 2008
Aforado is a small family winery in the coastal O Rosal sub-zone of DO Rías Baixas just over the border from Portugal, The tradition here is to blend Albariño with small amounts of other local varieties. The 20 acre Aforado estate vineyard is planted mostly to Albariño with small quantites of Caiño Blanco & Loureiro. The estate fruit is used exclusively for the regular Aforado as well as this small production (250 cases in total) sobre lias version that ages on the lees for 12 months after fermentation. Floral aroma and tart citrus fruit character find expression here in a bolder, denser frame than the regular bottling. It will continue to age well for at least another 3-5 years. $38.99

Emilio Rojo 2008
While Spanish white wines are a recent discovery here in the USA, regions such as DO Ribeiro have been making wines for centuries. The tradition in Ribeiro is to drink the local wines from shallow ceramic cups. Emilio Rojo, named after its maker, is one of this region’s most sought after wines. Made in minuscule quantities (only 50 cases imported to the USA) this finely tuned white is a blend of several grapes including 55% Treixadura, 15% Loureiro, 10% Lado, 10% Albariño and 10% Torrontés. Poise and balance are the words that best describe Emilio Rojo. Firmly mineral at first, this wine reveals itself in layers over time. Aromas of orange blossom and grapefruit zest soften the minerality and add context to the melon and pear fruit character. This wine is rarely found at retail and we have just a few bottles to offer. $58.00

New Cava

We just got in a few new Cavas that are sure to find favor at your table this holiday season. You may also check out the rest of our extensive collection of sparkling wines, Cava and otherwise, here:

L’Hereu de Nit Rosado Brut Cava 2006 Raventos i Blanc is a true pioneer of Cava production (this family winery was making sparkling wine before the name Cava existed). They just released their newest wine, this vintage rosado Cava, and it is phenomenal. Adding 15% Monastrell to the traditional cava blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo (all estate grown in this particular instance, unusual for the region) tints the wine with the palest pink hue. Fine bubbles lift the yeasty brioche aroma from the glass. The barest whiff of strawberry aroma adds context to the dry, crisp, pinpoint precise style that Raventos i Blanc is known for. Pour this in any context that calls for sparkling wine and you (along with your guests) will be happy indeed. $21.99
Augustí Torelló Mata Reserva Brut Cava 2006 This bodega is celebrated for high end wines that rival the best French Champagne. This is a vintage Cava that spent several years ageing in the cellar to get the ‘reserva’ label. The blend here is 48% Macabeo, 27% Parellada and 25% Xarel-lo. Small, persistent bubbles and the aroma of freshly baked bread create a first impression that leads on to restrained green apple fruit character and a crisp toasty finish. This is a top shelf, traditionally styled Cava for serving at any festive moment that may arise. $24.99

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Filed under Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine