Category Archives: Recipes

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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Vinho Branco

It was not so long ago (10 years, more or less) that the white wines of Spain started becoming well known in the USA. The Galician white wines made from the Albariño grape opened the door for numerous other Spanish white wines that have grown ever more prevalent in the ensuing years.
The white wines of Portugal have suffered a similar lack of familiarity and availability here. Aside from the light, spritzy wines from the northern Vinho Verde region, many Portuguese white wines continue to languish in obscurity.
Fortunately, more white wines from Portugal are finding their way to our shores and we can now explore a wider range of options.
Portugal’s numerous wine growing regions are home to many indigenous grape varieties that go into a broad range of unique and delicious white wines. Grape varieties such as Antão Vaz, Encruzado, Arinto and Trajadura may not yet be not yet be familiar to the American public but the wines made from these grapes are bright, lively, food friendly and easy to love.
This week we offer you a selection of newly arrived Portuguese white wines that will excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences. These wines are all well priced to give you added incentive to try something new.
Please consider the following choices when investigating what may well become your next new favorite white wine.

Gazela This crowd pleasing Vinho Verde is back at a price that makes it easy to please said crowd without busting the budget. The wine displays pale yellow/green color, light texture, with classic Vinho Verde spritzy effervescence, grapefruit aroma, and flinty background minerality. $6.99

Terra Antiga 2008
Vinho Verde continues to excite us, thanks to a consistent ramp-up in quality as the years go by. This is a vintage wine (most Vinho Verde is non-vintage)made from Alvarinho and Trajadura grapes in a finely tuned style. Edgy grapefruit and mineral notes add context to tart green apple fruit character. Light effervescence ties it all together. $9.99

Alornha Arintho 2008
This Ribatejo region white made from 100% Arinto is lush and expressive. Quince aroma and green melon fruit character combine with plump texture and medium acidity. $10.99.

Quinta da Romeira Arinto 2008
The Bucelas region, just north of Lisbon, is best known for white wines made from the Arinto grape. This particular example is a medium bodied wine that displays bright yellow/gold color, ripe pineapple scent, abundant citrus fruit character and light mineral foundation. $12.99

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

Monte da Peceguina Branco 2007
This Alentejo region blend of 60% Antão Vaz, 20% Arinto and 20% Roupeiro is elegant and balanced. Made in minuscule quantities (425 cases in total) by a small family winery, this unoaked white wine combines flinty mineral notes with gentle melon and citrus fruit character. $21.99



“Uma autêntica receita de Portugal”

The cuisine of Portugal, like it’s wines, deserves more attention. A recently released cookbook , The New Portuguese Table ($32.50 at The Spanish table) by James Beard award winner and noted Portuguese food authority David Leite gives a much needed boost to the food of his ancestral homeland.
Searching through this gorgeous, full color, hardbound cook book I found a recipe that  not only pairs well with Portuguese white wines, but also coincides with the height of our local tomato season. Try this “tomato jam” as a way to use up some of late summer’s bounty.

Doçe de Tomate
(adapted from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite)

Ingredients:
2 lbs. Ripe Tomatoes (the riper the better)
2 cups sugar
2 Lemons
1 inch long piece of cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/4 cup Ruby Porto

Directions:
In a small pot of boiling water, dunk each tomato for 30 seconds, then cool in a bowl of ice water for two minutes. This will make the tomato skin easy to remove. Cut the peeled tomatoes in half across their equator and squeeze the halves gently to remove the seeds. Chop the peeled, seeded tomatoes finely. Peel wide strips of zest from the lemons.
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or until the jam thickens.
Remove the lemon zest, cinnamon stick and cloves, spoon the jam into clean glass jars and refrigerate over night before serving. The jam will keep for several weeks in the fridge (for extended shelf life, use the traditional hot water bath canning method just as with other fruit preserves).

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Bold Reds From Spain And Beyond

We have been featuring plenty of bright, refreshing white and rosado wines lately, so this week we will catch you up on some of the dark, expressive red wines that have arrived here recently.

Flor de Pingus 2006 Dominio de Pingus produces some of Spain’s most sought after wines. The newly released Flor de Pingus is produced in small quantities (I have just 6 bottles here). Produced from the low yield fruit of old vine Tempranillo grown in the clay and gravel soil of Ribera del Duero, Flor de Pingus is an elegant example of regional style. Dusty tannins play off pure, dark berry fruit. This wine combines poise with power in a finely tuned wine. Flor de Pingus is never thought of as a bargain until you consider that the flag ship Pingus retails for around 10 times the price of  Flor de Pingus. $80.00
Viña Soledad Crianza 2001 For those who remember last years’ Rioja Bordón Crianza from Bodegas Franco-Española, I have some good news. I just located a small quantity of another 2001 Crianza from the same bodega. Viña Soledad displays much of the same patina of age that gave Rioja Bordón that Gran Reserva character at a Tinto Joven price. The same brickish tint is found here along with some, but not all, of the resinous barrel character that made Rioja Bordón so evocative of Rioja wines from days long past. The tart cherry fruit character is still extant and the alcohol is an old fashioned 12.5%. The price, well, the price can’t be beat. $9.99
Carmelo Patti Malbec 2004 Carmelo Patti is a winemaking legend in the Mendoza region of Argentina. In business for over thirty years, he makes all his wines himself, by hand, in a small unmarked warehouse. Sicilian by birth, Carmelo Patti is just one of numerous Italian immigrants who have made a name for themselves in the Argentine wine business. Carmelo Patti Malbec 2004 is sourced from 30 year old vines grown at high elevation in Lujan de Cuyo. 12 months of barrel age after fermentation, followed by two years of bottle age before the wine is shipped to market ensures that the wine is fully elaborated and ready to drink upon release. Dark ruby in color, this wine expresses initial aromas of wood smoke and earth. The dark berry fruit character that Argentine Malbec is known for gets a more subtle treatment here. The fruit never overpowers the fine balance of flavors including mushrooms and tannic oak in addition to the berry and pomegranate fruit character. The mineral element comes out mostly in the long, smooth finish. $28.99
Navarro Lopez Old Vines Tempranillo Gran Reserva 2001 We featured this DO Valdepeñas wine from Bodegas Navarro Lopez in a previous release earlier in the year, to much acclaim. We are glad to now have the superlative 2001 vintage in stock. This wine is made from Tempranillo sourced from vineyards over 30 years old. After fermentation the wine ages in oak barrels of 24 months, followed by a long, slow (three years) period of bottle maturation.  The wine is showing a mature, brickish tint, with fully integrated aromas of sappy oak and tart red fruits. Delicate fruit character is lightly oxidized and ethereal. Gentle tannins adds depth and complexity to the experience.  $18.99
Casa de Casal de Loivos 2006 Cristiano Van Zeller has been instrumental in promoting the table wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley in addition to the traditional Porto from this same region. The new 2006 vintage of his wine, the sibling of the more expensive Quinta do Vale D. Maria Tinto, combines dozens of field blended traditional Douro grapes to produce a dark, assertive wine that expresses abundant brambly fruit character, firm tannins and foundational minerality. This robust red will keep well for a decade or more and should be decanted for immediate enjoyment. $48.99
Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2005 Hey, look what just walked in the door. A stray case of this well loved and hard to find Ribera del Duero red has appeared here (this happened once before with this wine) and is going fast.  Pago de Carraovejas is the name of a single vineyard on the outskirts of Peñafiel in the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. Nestled in the shadow of the famous medieval fortified Castillo de Peñafiel, the 60 hectare estate grows mostly Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) along with small parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  All three estate grown grapes are used in the blend (85% Tinto Fino, 10% Cabernet, 5% Merlot). The wine ages for 12 months in mixed French/American oak barrels before bottling. The rich, dark berry fruit is backed by muscular grape skin tannins and balanced oak. With air (the more the better right now) the wine comes alive with loamy aroma and layer upon layer of ripe fruit character. $39.99

Recipe: Father’s Day Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Show Dad that you are, in fact, not oblivious to all he has done (and continues to do) for you and the rest of the family. Make him this recipe that takes very little time, can be served hot, cold or whenever he is ready to eat and goes great with a nice glass of hearty red wine.
I liberally adapted this recipe from the new Joyce Goldstein cookbook simply called “Tapas”(2009, Chronicle books, $22.95). I have simplified a few steps by using some of the traditional Spanish products available here at The Spanish Table and added a few additional celebratory ingredients.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped green olives
2 tablespoons small currants
2 tablespoons whole pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
12 whole Piquillo peppers (8 oz. jar)
1 12 oz. jar of Tomate Frito (or tomato puree)

Directions:
In a 10 inch clay cazuela, heat the olive oil on the stove. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add the ground beef and pork to the cazuela and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, flour and paprika and cook for one more minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the olives, currants and pine nuts. Allow the meat mixture to cool to room temperature, then spoon everything out of the cazuela and set aside. Pour the Tomate Frito into the same cazuela and bring to a simmer on the stove over low heat. While the sauce is warming up, fill each Piquillo pepper with a spoonful of the meat mixture. Nestle the filled peppers in the sauce, in a circle, points facing the middle. Simmer the peppers until heated through and serve, accompanied by some good bread and any of the wines from this week’s selection.

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

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

Portugal On The Menu

Are you ready to drink more Portuguese wine?

Márcio Ferreira of Viniportugal certainly hopes so.  Viniportugal, a Portuguese wine export trade organization, was in the Bay Area last week meeting with local wine merchants and sommeliers. Márcio Ferreira hosted a lunch (at the impeccable NOPA) organized by Evan Goldstein of Full Circle Wine Solutions to taste a few wines and share some information about the grapes, growing regions and producers of Portugal.

I am happy to report that the wines were very good as is the news in general coming out of Portugal.  The Portuguese wine industry has paid close attention what has worked well in Spain over the last ten years and is applying the lessons learned from the recent success of their neighbor to the east. With recent infrastructure improvements, private investors from within Portugal as well as from other countries are building new wineries and producing an ever widening array of wines across a broad range of styles and price points. Indigenous grape varieties are being recuperated and ancient growing regions are being renovated. Portugal is embracing tradition while simultaneously recognizing the need for modern wine production technology.

In the year ahead I expect to see more Portuguese wines showing up on local restaurant wine lists. At The Spanish Table I am adding a few wines from the tasting last week (read about them below) that I think are perfect choices to help you become more familiar with a country whose wines deserve more attention. Look forward to more choices in Portuguese reds (and whites too) as the year progresses.

Locally, I just read on the internet that a Catalan tradition known as a ‘Calçotada’ is happening next Monday in Napa at Ubuntu restaurant.

‘Calçots’ are a variety of green onion (somewhere between a scallion and a leek) that are traditionally harvested at this time of years,  grilled over a wood fire and wrapped in newspaper where they steam a bit before being consumed out of hand after a dip in rich, nutty/peppery Romesco sauce and a sprinkle of sea salt. Never having attended the real deal in Catalunya, I am anxious to check this out for myself. I’ll report back if I make it up to Napa on Monday.

Speaking of Romesco sauce, you can buy one of several brands of Romesco sauce here at The Spanish Table and liven up not only grilled onions but also just about anything grilled from fish to beef. If you are feeling like making your own, here is a recipe adapted from the César Cookbook that many customers rave about.

Salsa Romesco (makes about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

1 cup blanched marcona almonds

4 dried ñora peppers

½ cup day old bread pieces

¾ cup piquillo peppers

1 clove garlic

¾ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon picante smoked paprika

¾ cups extra virgin Spanish olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Directions:

Toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes until light brown, then allow to cool. Rehydrate ñora peppers by simmering in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. After the peppers have cooled in the water remove them and soak up the remaining water with the day old bread.  Pulse the room temperature nuts in a food processor until coarsely ground.  Add the rehydrated ñoras, piquillo peppers, soaked bread, garlic, salt, sugar and smoked paprika to the food processor and blend to a thick paste. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil followed by the lemon juice and both vinegars. Blend to a slightly chunky puree. Serve this in a bowl alongside grilled vegetables, fish, meat or just about anything that could use a little zing. The unused portion keeps well in the fridge for a week.

Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley and a few tickets are still available. The date is Monday February 23rd at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person and includes hands-on instruction to create several tapas and a large paella mixta, all of which will be consumed during the class. Several paella-friendly Spanish wines will also be sampled. Kitchen on Fire is handling the signup for this fun and popular class. Go to their website for more details.

Capote Velho This non-vintage red ‘vinho de mesa‘ from Portugal really delivers on freshness and versatility. This is a full liter (1.5 regular sized bottles) of wine with gentle berry-like fruit character, bright acidity and soft grape skin tannins coupled with a moderate level of alcohol (11.5%). Like a no name house wine in a little Portuguese bar or restaurant, this red tastes great by itself and will also accompany, but not overshadow, a broad range of foods. I just retried this wine a few days ago and not only is it in perfect shape but it has gone down a buck in price since the last time I ordered it. This is an amazing bargain. $10.99 (1 liter)

Quinta de San Francisco Tinto 2005 From a little known region called DOC Óbidos located just north of Lisbon comes this red wine composed of 60 % Castelão, 20% Aragonez and 20 % Touriga Nacional. Garnet colored with a brickish tinge, this wine displays initial aromas of fresh berry and fresh portland cement. 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. One of my favorite wines from the recent Viniportugal trade tasting. $11.99

Cartuxa Évora 2004 This wine has a long history in the Alentejo region of eastern Portugal. The winery was established in 1896 on the site of an ancient Carthusian monastery. In 1957 Vasco Maria Eugenio de Almeida bought and refurbished the winery which now carries his name as part of his philanthropic efforts to improve the Alentejo region. Cartuxa is composed of a blend of of Periquita, Aragonez, Trincadeira, Moreto and Alfrocheiro grapes. The wine displays dark garnet color that fades to brick red at the rim of the glass. Loamy mushroom aroma intermingles with the scent of fresh earth. The wine mixes flavors that are savory and lean (black olive, oak, white pepper) with bold fruit flavors of black currant and plum. Firm tannins add texture and indicate that this wine will hold its character even after years in the cellar. We featured the 2003 vintage of this wine in our wine club a few years ago, priced at $25.00. Would you believe that the price has gone down a bit since then? $21.99

Altozano Blanco 2007 This fresh, food friendly Spanish white wine was the big hit of our recent Gonzalez-Byass wine dinner at César in Oakland. Made by the same folks who bring you the ever popular Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, this Castilla region blend of Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc is bright and tangy with green herb aroma and grapefruity citrus flavor. $9.99

Beronia Crianza 2005 Another wine featured and enjoyed at the recent Gonzalez-Byass wine dinner was this barrel aged Rioja from Beronia (the Rioja region winery of Gonzalez-Byass). This blend of mostly Tempranillo blended with small amounts of Garnacha and Mazuelo spends 12 months in oak (American and French) before bottling. The barrel character plays a prominent role here but never overwhelms the cranberry and cherry fruit character. The various elements in this wine are well knit, unlike some wines where the oak envelopes the wine like a woolen blanket, obscuring all other scents and flavors. This is a very “Spanish tasting” wine at a very reasonable price. $14.99

Tejada 2005 This Tempranillo/Garnacha blend was the best seller of our recent experiment in wines made from Iberian grapes grown in California. Back in 1999 Spanish natives Celia Tejada and her brother Ivo started this small family winery in Lake County. They planted part of their 80 acre property with 3.5 acres of Tempranillo and Garnacha (the grapes they remembered from home). This small estate vineyard is the source for the fruit that goes into two Tejada wines (this one and a more mature reserva). The blend here is 58% Tempranillo and 42% Garnacha. This is a dark garnet colored wine with fresh red berry fruit character, mid-weight barrel tannins and a lean, savory element that helps retain the Spanish style of the wine. $21.99

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

Reboot

For many of the less technically inclined among us the on/off button is our solution to all electronic device issues. Everything has them these days (computers, phones, televisions, even cars). When in doubt, start over from scratch by turning everything off and back on again. The circle with a vertical line sticking out from the top is the modern ideogram for renewal (not, as I first imagined, the international symbol for coconut with a straw in it).

After a busy holiday season and a brief break from the newsletter action (by the end of December I was all talked out so I took a few weeks off for some personal defragmentation) it’s time to hit the restart button and share anew with you the ongoing excitement of the Iberian wine world.

New wines from Spain, Portugal and Latin America are arriving weekly here and the year ahead looks very promising. Improved currency exchange rates and lower fuel costs are leading to some price reductions in imported wines while the current renaissance in Iberian winemaking is both fostering innovative new wines as well as creating markets for traditional styles that were previously unknown outside their regions of origin.

At The Spanish Table we continue to bring you a selection of high quality wines at all price levels. In the year ahead we will also post more recipes, offer additional classes and organize new events to share the distinctive flavors of Spain and Portugal with you, our loyal customers.

This week brings a new version of a traditional recipe, the announcement of an upcoming class that we offer only 3 times a year and the release of some of the most anticipated wines of the season. Onward!

Lentejas Con Chorizo (Lentils with Chorizo sausage) is a popular home-style dish in Spain. This dense, meaty stew is perfect cold weather fare. I have lightened up the texture to create a soup that delivers the same flavors in a brothy version more appropriate to our moderate climate. This soup can be made in a vegetarian version by omitting the chorizo and adding a bit more smoked paprika.

 

Lentil Soup with (or without) Chorizo

(makes 6-8 portions)

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                          1 lb. dried Spanish Pardina lentils (approximately 2 cups)

2 qt. water

1 bay leaf

1 large yellow onion

2 ribs of celery (1 rib yields approximately 1/2 cup)

3 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 large leek (yields approximately 1½ cups)

2 large carrots (yields approximately 3/4 cup)

4 oz. Spanish style chorizo sausage (optional) (yields approximately 1 cup)

1 teaspoon Spanish Sweet smoked paprika (1 ½ teaspoons for the vegetarian version)

1 teaspoon whole cumin

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley or cilantro

2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar

Directions:

Rinse the dried lentils under fresh water to remove any dust or dirt. Cut the onion in quarters leaving the skin on. Roughly chop one of the ribs of celery. Combine the rinsed lentils, bay leaf, onion and celery with 2 quarts of cold water in a soup pot (preferably a Spanish earthenware olla). Bring the pot to a boil on the stove and then simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are just cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion and celery.

Finely dice the leek, carrot, remaining celery and chorizo (if using). In a separate pan heat the olive oil and sauté the diced vegetables and chorizo for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and paprika to the pan and sauté the spices briefly to release their flavors. Add the contents of the sauté pan to the soup pot and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. Mince the parsley or cilantro and add to the pot along with the Sherry vinegar. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with grilled whole grain bread and a nice bottle of red wine.

 

 

Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley. The date is Monday February 23rd at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person and includes hands-on instruction to create several tapas and a large paella mixta, all of which will be consumed during the class. Several paella-friendly Spanish wines will also be sampled. Kitchen on Fire is handling the signup for this fun and popular class. Go to their website for more details.

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

Nomad 2005 Jeff Jarvis and Jessica Tomei are husband and wife winemakers working in the Sierra foothills (Jarvis Tomei Syrah) as well as in Chile where, along with fellow American T.J. Evans, they make Nomad from a blend of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Syrah, 7 % Carmenère and 2 % Malbec. This ripe, spicy red is finely tuned and expressive with moderate barrel character and smooth texture. This small production bottling (2,000 cases in total) will reawaken your interest in Chilean wine. $14.99

 

Esboço Douro 2005 This young red wine from the Portuguese Douro Valley is made up of mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca along with a whole laundry list of other Douro grapes as is the tradition in this ancient region where field blending is the norm. Dark color and earthy aroma create a first impression much in keeping with traditional Portuguese style augmented here with ripe, youthful fruit character that is not so common in wines from this region. $14.99

 

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2004 The new vintage of this single vineyard Rioja has just arrived. Composed of the fruit of one large contiguous vineyard in the heart of DOC Rioja (extremely rare in a region full of tiny vineyard parcels) this reserve level wine is 90% Tempranillo with the remaining 10% made up of Graciano, Mazuelo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby/garnet color, moderate oak barrel aroma and dark berry fruit character. 18 months of barrel age gives the wine a tannic core that has softened over the years. This smooth, opulent, plush Rioja is tilted toward a more modern style (more fruit, less wood) without loosing sight of the traditional aged reserva character that the wine is rightfully famous for. At first release this wine was pushing $40 but things are looking better now. $28.99

 

Clio 2006 The “it wine” of the moment, this  blend of old vineMonastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon from DO Jumilla has received some out of the ballpark reviews since its first vintage in 2002. Customers call from across the country looking for this full-bodied, plush wine that combines layer upon layer of spice, vivid fruit and oak. We just got a small allocation from the distributor, most likely the only one for the year and are offering it on a first-come-first-served basis.  $47.99

 

El Nido 2006 The elder sibling of Clio. Using more Cabernet Sauvignon and less Monastrell in the blend (from the estate’s best fruit) adds a firmer tannic element to the complex and ripe fruit character. This wine is built for long term storage and will really start to show its best side in 6-8 years. Extremely limited, we have a mere 8 bottles to offer. Again, no limits on purchase quantities while supply lasts. $148.00

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

American Holiday

Thanksgiving Day kicks off what we Americans call ‘The Holiday Season’. Unlike European countries where the calendar is studded with holidays both secular and religious, in the USA we can go months without any official time off. Between the 4th of July and Halloween just one day, Labor Day, is a widely observed holiday, so now that the season is upon us, we have some catching up to do.

As I have said many times before, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s not to love about a national celebration devoted to food (and football)? Freed from any religious associations, Thanksgiving is an equal opportunity holiday, open to all who wish to partake in the joys of a big family meal.

The menu itself is open to broad interpretation, from Norman Rockwell traditionalism to post-modern tofurkey-ism. All tastes, culinary perspectives and even dietary restrictions can be woven into the fabric of a Thanksgiving feast. The only limitations to a successful Thanksgiving are a lack of time and/or imagination. My recommendation for those of you who have neither inclination nor inspiration to whip up a favorite family recipe is to contribute an excellent bottle of wine to the celebration.

For the first time, The Spanish Table now has genuine American wines (made from Iberian grape varieties, of course) that will perfectly match this most American of meals. I have several suggestions for you this week for domestic wines to go with Turkey and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and the rest of a traditional Thanksgiving menu. Additionally, I have been finding great bargains wines from Spain and Portugal that combine high quality with low price. I have several new ‘house wines’ for you this week as well as some other very reasonably priced wines that will also compliment a festive holiday meal (or any meal for that matter).

Keep reading to learn more about this week’s new wine, but first here is something I read in The New York Times that I cannot resist passing along. This recipe uses the leftovers from my favorite American holiday to add a twist to one of my all time favorite Spanish tapas, the fried croqueta.

Croquetas de Jamón y Piquillo, Estilo New York Times

(Makes approx. 3 dozen)

Ingredients:

3 cups mashed potatoes, chilled

2 1/4 cups plain bread crumbs

2 ounces serrano ham (about a half-cup), diced small

1/2 cup piquillo or roasted red pepper, diced small

5 large eggs

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1 cup all-purpose flour

Olive oil, for frying.

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, 3/4 cup bread crumbs, ham, pepper, 1 egg, the yolk, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, paprika and salt. Mix well.

Place remaining 4 eggs in a wide, shallow bowl and beat lightly. Place remaining 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs in a second bowl and flour in a third. Season bread crumbs with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Taking about 2 tablespoons of croquetas mixture at a time, form into 3-inch fingers. Dip each finger first in flour, tapping off excess. Dip in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then bread crumbs. Transfer each finger to a large baking sheet. When you have finished forming all croquetas, cover tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

When ready to fry, heat 1/4-inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry croquetas in batches, turning once, until dark golden all over, 2 to 3 minutes a side. Transfer to paper towel-lined plates and sprinkle with additional salt, if desired. Serve hot.

Aforado 2005 Albariño grapes (along with small percentages of Caino and Loureira) go into this crisp, dry white wine from Galicia on Spain’s Atlantic coast. Abundant citrus fruit character with a foundation of fine minerality. A few years of bottle age have softened the acidity and mellowed the fruit character, creating a gentle version of what was once a tart, tangy wine. When first released this was a $15 wine, but is now ‘house wine’ priced at $6.99 (with a special discounted ‘house wine’ price of $5.99 when purchased by the case).

Brigantia 2001 This lightly oaked red wine is made from Prieto Picudo, an autochthonous grape variety of the Castilla Y León region. Dark garnet color and gamey aroma combine with rich black cherry fruit character and notes of saddle leather and coffee bean. This style of bold, earthy wine is rarely seen at this price. $6.99 ($5.99/each, by the case)

Peñafiel Joven 2004 Young, lightly oaked Ribera del Duero wines have been growing in popularity lately. Peñafiel Joven spends a few brief months in oak, adding the merest whiff of barrel character to this darkly colored, richly flavored red wine fashioned from the thick skinned Tinto Fino grape. $6.99 ($5.99/each, by the case)

Luis Alegre Joven 2006 This light, youthful, unoaked Tempranillo, made in the small Rioja region hill town of Laguardia is a traditional style of red wine made using the maceración carbonica method of whole cluster fermentation that produces fresh, fruity wines in a matter of weeks. This style is favored by the local winemakers in Spain but is not seen very often in the export market where mature, aged wines predominate. This bright, floral red can be served alone, with assorted tapas or at the beginning of a meal as a starter wine. $7.99

Odisea Two Rows Garnacha 2006 Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz founded Odisea a few years ago to make wines in the style of Southern France and Northern Spain. Using fruit from Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, these winemakers have crafted several different wines that, tasted blind, could easily pass as Spanish. Two Rows Garnacha, produced in miniscule amounts (90 cases in all) is a blend of 76% Garnacha, 12% Tempranillo and 12% Petite Sirah. A brief period of barrel ageing, as is typical with Spanish roble wines, adds a hint of oaky complexity to the wine. The crystalline ruby color, tangy, bright fruit character and background earthy/mineral notes are reminiscent of a Calatayud Garnacha or a young wine from Rioja Baja and will pair well with turkey and gravy. $19.99

Tejada 2005 Back in 1999 Spanish natives Celia Tejada and her brother Ivo started this small family winery in Lake County. The Tejada siblings planted part of their new 80 acre property with 3.5 acres of Tempranillo and Garnacha (the grapes they remembered from home). This small estate vineyard is the source for the fruit that goes into two Tejada wines (this one and a more mature reserva). The blend here is 58% Tempranillo and 42% Garnacha. Local winemaker Byron Kosuge is involved in the winemaking process which includes a certain amount of time in oak followed by a period of bottle ageing as is done in Spain. The end result is a dark garnet colored wine with fresh red berry fruit character, mid-weight barrel tannins and a lean, savory element that helps retain the Spanish style of the wine. $21.99

Candy Core Late Harvest Grenache 2004 Looking for a wine to pair with cranberry sauce? This little bottle of sweet dessert wine from Dave and Becky Corey at Core Wine Company is made from 100% Grenache (Garnacha to us) from the Santa Barbara Highlands. The grapes are left on the vine until super ripe and then aged for 18 months in barrel (with 8 more months of bottle age) after fermentation. This opaque ruby colored wine retains bright acidity that balances the dense, perfumed sweetness and gives the wine an unexpected lively quality. $19.99 (375ml)

St. Amant Tawny St. Amant is a small California winery that was founded in 1979 by Tim and Barbara Spencer to produce Port style wines (they have since become even better known for their Zinfandel). The non-vintage ‘Tawny’ is made from the Bastardo grape (a traditional Porto variety) sourced from the family estate vineyard in Amador County. According to Stuart Spencer (Tim Spencer died in 2006 and his son Stuart has been running the winery since that time) this wine started was an experiment in single varietal barrel aged Tawny Port style wine gone wrong. After primary fermentation and fortification (as is done in Porto) the wine was sampled and rejected as too rough and astringent. The experimental barrels full of wine were left in the tool shed and basically forgotten for several years. The wine was not racked or disturbed in any way. Down the line curiosity prevailed and the wine was re-tasted. Time and neglect had proved beneficial to the experimental Bastardo Tawny. The years of barrel age softened the acidity. The rough tannins had subsided and sweet, somewhat maderized notes of butterscotch and caramel had infused the dramatically improved wine. Serve this wine with pecan or pumpkin pie for a seasonal treat. $33.99 (500ml)

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Filed under California, Fortified Wine, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine