Category Archives: Uncategorized

Workers Of The World, Imbibe!

Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of summer, is upon us. School is back in session, Cal football starts up again this Saturday and Berkeley is shifting into busy season as the academic year gets under way. Of course, for those of us ‘townies’ that live here all year long (nobody really calls us ‘townies’, that’s just my east coast heritage showing) it feels like summer just got started now that several months of  ever present coastal fog (the source of much envy from my sweltering friends back east) have abated and hot, sunny days have finally arrived. Now is our opportunity to go out and catch up on the warm weather pursuits that have eluded us all summer long.
At The Spanish Table we will be open every day to satisfy your need for unique and delicious refreshment in all its guises. We have Spanish and Portuguese beers, several versions of hard apple cider, fun and fruity pink rosado wines, numerous spritzy Txakoli wines from Basque Country and a boat load of Vinho Verde from Portugal (in both white and pink versions). We have light red wines to serve cool and bone dry Sherries to serve ice cold. Appropriate snacks (olives, chorizos, cheeses) are also available so come stock up on your favorite flavors from the Iberian peninsula.

We just got a stack of seasonally appropriate wines from one of our favorite bodegas in Rioja. Cune (the initials C.V.N.E. are short for Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana, but in common practice everyone says “coo-nay”) is a well known winery in the Rioja region that works in a very traditional style. Founded in 1879 in the town of Haro, C.V.N.E was a major force in creating the style of Rioja that has since been emulated by many other bodegas in the region. Over a century later the winery is still in the same location and and continues to make a range of traditionally styled wines.

img_3769__676452008 Cune Monopole

Cune Monopole is a dry, crisp white wine made from the local Viura grape. It is pale green/gold in color with aromas and flavors of grapefruit and wild herbs. This unoaked white Rioja is lean and lightly mineral in character. It is very refreshing and pairs well with marinated vegetables and fresh seafood. $12.99

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2009 Cune Rosado

Cune Rosado, made of 100% Tempranillo, was macerated on the skins for a few brief hours to produce a bright, dry, lightly fruity wine with beautiful light watermelon color. This is an unusual rosado from a region that mostly uses the Garnacha grapes for pink wines. The use of Tempranillo creates a lighter balance, relying on fresh berry aroma rather than sweet fruit character to create a food friendly wine that awakens and refreshes the palate on a hot day. $10.99

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2006 Cune Crianza

Cune Crianza is well loved in the Rioja region. Ask for a glass of red wine in a little bar in Logrono, Haro, Laguardia or any number of Rioja towns and this is most likely what you will be served. Made from 90% Tempranillo with small additions of Mazuelo and Garnacha, the wine spent 12 months in oak before bottling with additional cellar time in the bottle prior to release. Well balanced barrel tannins give a cedary aroma to the wine while bright cherry-like fruit supports earthy foundational structure. Serve Cune Crianza with hot tapas such as sauteed mushrooms or slices of crispy fried morcilla sausage.  $13.99

Spanish Vermouth

Perucchi Vermouth

Walk around Barcelona’s Barri Gotic neighborhood and you will notice numerous bars serving Vermouth. Unlike dry French Vermouth these herb infused wines are gently sweet and spicy. Visitors to Spain have returned with the desire  to replicate the drinks they tried over there but we have been unable to satisfy the demand until now. We just received not one but two different versions of Spanish vermouth from the venerable Montana-Perucchi winery, founded in 1886 and located on the outskirts of Barcelona. We have both the young white Vermouth and the aged red Gran Reserva Vermouth. Both are perfect for pouring over ice as they do in Spain but they are also well suited to cocktail usage in Martinis or Manhattans. These fabulous new drinks come in full sized 750 ml bottles and are both $19.99
(for a great review of Perucchi Vermouth and the most awesomest Dog & Vermouth Bottle photo ever, check out the Umamimart blog )


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Filed under Misc.Wine, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Uncategorized, White Wine

Vintages Past & Present


Special deal on Rioja Alta

The wines of Rioja Alta (not to be confused with the region of the same name) have a long history dating back to 1890. The winery was founded to meet the needs of wine drinkers in France when the French vineyards had  been devastated by the phylloxera mite. A bodega was built in Haro near the train station where wines could be shipped to the coast by rail and from there by boat to thirsty customers in France and all across Europe.
Today this winery still produces barrel aged wines in the same Bodega in Haro. The wines of Rioja Alta SA are slowly aged for years in the cellar before sale as is the local tradition. We just received a batch of two wines from the last decade which are mature and ready to drink right now. Of course, if you are not in a hurry these wines may be put down for some point in the not too distant future (like the next 10 years or so).
For now we have these two wines well off of normal pricing. These prices will stay the same until the wine is gone so now is a perfect opportunity to pick up these excellent wines at a nice discount. All of these wines may be purchased in our store or on line at spanishtablewines.com

2002 Vina Alberdi Reserva
The entry level Reserva from Rioja Alta is this 100% Tempranillo wine that displays garnet color, aromas of dark berries and earth with well integrated barrel notes and bright fruit character. This was $21.99 the last time we carried it. Now it is $15.99.
2000 Vina Ardanza Reserva The wine that made Rioja Alta famous is this oh-so-traditional Reserva. This blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Garnacha is a earthy and smoky at first with a supple undercurrent of dark fruit character. The classic Rioja notes of cigar box, saddle leather and dusty earth are all present as background notes. This complex, elegant wine was going for $38.99 but while the current supply lasts we have this one for $29.99.

New Vintages of D. Ventura from Ribeira Sacra
In the Ribeira Sacra region of Northwestern Spain, Ramon Losada makes 3 distinctly different wines from the local Mencia grape. The old vine vineyards are located in the steeply terraced river valley that cuts through the heart of this ancient region. These terraced vineyards, originally built by the Romans, had long ago fallen into ruin and are only now being rebuilt and reused.
These are all excellent expressions of an ancient region that is just beginning to renew its true potential. They are also some of my current favorite wines in the shop.

2008 Vina Caneiro
The boldest of the D. Ventura wines, this exclusive bottling sourced from small plots of old vine Mencia grown on the steep slopes of the Sil River Valley is opulent and silky while still retaining a fresh, lively balance of flavors. Notes of cranberry and pomegranate mingle with flinty minerality. This dark and abundant wine never veers into the overly extracted or the syrupy. $24.99
2008 Pena do Lobo This wine, from one of the two the Sil River vineyards is 100% Mencia from vines that are over 80 years old. This dark ruby colored wine displays great purity with  subtle mulberry fruit character balancing flinty background minerality. $19.99
2008 Vina do Burato Composed of 100% old vine Mencia from D. Ventura’s Minho River property, this light red is fresh and youthful with the dried leaf aroma that is typical of Mencia. This is the leanest of the D. Ventura wines. It maintains a fine balance of flavors with moderate alcohol content (12%) and will compliment fresh vegetables, poultry, rice and pasta. $17.99

Upcoming Events:

We are hosting an exciting Lopez de Heredia wine tasting next month.  Join us in the Mill Valley store onThursday, April 15th as Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia takes us through her family’s rich history, traditional wine-making process, and of course, many of their world-class wines from La Rioja Alta.

We’ll start at 6:30 pm and will spend two hours enjoying their current releases, a handful of older bottlings and even their 1970 Vina Bosconia.  We will also pair these great food wines with a few of our favorite Rioja-inspired Tapas – lamb anyone?
To read up on the winery before the event, here’s a link to the Lopez de Heredia website and another link to a New York Times article that ran last year.  Eric Asimov makes the point that this classic winery has in a way become cutting-edge, as many winemakers are now following classic, natural and artisanal practices in their vineyards and winemaking.
We are taking reservations for the event now, so come in or give us a call to confirm your attendance (415 388 5043).  The tasting is $45 per person.  We are really looking forward to this event – see you there.

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D.O. Monterrei – Lobarzán & Ladairo

Let us focus on a specific wine region; DO Monterrei, located in Northwestern Spain just across the border from Portugal. Granted D.O. status only in 1994, Monterrei is home to hot weather and deep red clay soil. Small family wineries, not big industrial producers, are the norm in this diminutive region. Just 20 wineries operate here, making wine from 1700 acres of vineyard land. This little known area is usually thought of (when it is thought of at all) as a source of fresh white wines made from Godello and Treixadura grapes. The red wines are less well known, but share much in common with reds from neighboring DO Bierzo and DO Ribeira Sacra. The Mencía grape is the predominant red variety here and most of the wines are fermented in tank, forgoing the barrel ageing regimens so common in other parts of Spain.
We are focused on red wines from Monterrei because they offer a different perspective on Spanish wine. Lighter in tone than the wines from the rocky, arid heartland, the wines from Northwestern Spain have a lean purity and (often, though not always) a moderate level of alcohol that is refreshing in these days of big, bold reds. I find similarities here to the reds of the Loire valley in France (another region known mostly for its white wines), with firm minerality, tart fruit character and quirky individuality.
Castro de Lobarzán is a small family winery located in the home of José Fernández Feijóo (3rd generation winemaker) near the small town of Vilaza. He and his family personally work 11 acres of vineyard land to grow the fruit for their wines. The small winery, located in what amounts to a large garage adjacent to the family home, produces both a white Godello/Treixadura blend as well as a red that combines Mencía with the local clone of Tempranillo called Arauxa (ar-ow-sha). Lobarzán Tinto 2006 is a fifty-fifty blend of Mencía and Arauxa, aged briefly in tank before bottling (no room for oak barrels in the family garage/winery). A few years of bottle age has mellowed this wine a bit from its original firmly flinty incarnation. The twiggy/leafy character of Mencía adds contrast to the cherry/berry fruit of the Arauxa, while a bit of loamy funk can be found lurking in the background here. When first released last year this was a $20 +/- wine, but the world is not yet clamoring for DO Monterrei reds so the importer José Pastor made us a deal on the remaining stock. We are selling the rest of the vintage (not much of it left) at $11.99.
Adegas Ladairo (‘Bodega’ becomes ‘Adega’ in Galicia) was founded in 1984 by Jose Luiz Vaz Vilela in O Rosal (not to be confused with the coastal town of the same name) near Oimbra in DO Monterrei. Ladairo Mencía 2007 is a monovarietal wine that is fermented in tank (they do a barrel aged version as well). This light bodied red displays tart cranberry fruit character and earthy minerality. A bit closed at first, the wine expresses its full nature with a quick decantation. This simple, young wine will find a good match with lighter meals such as rice or pasta where meat is not at the center of the plate. Originally priced around $17, this too comes from Jose Pastor at a special reduced price of $9.99

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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

The Hits Keep On Coming

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

Top 40


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





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

Empordá

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

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

July 4th Special: American wines with Iberian roots

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

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

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

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

Memorial Day

Got big plans for the holiday weekend? Of course you do. Chances are you’ll be firing up the grill and (hopefully) pouring a little vino. To facilitate the choosing of appropriate beverages for Memorial Day, here are a few new options for your consideration.
Don Simon Sangria You want the real Spain? Put aside visions of bullfights and flamenco dancers and visit a Spanish supermarket or gas station where regular folks take care of everyday business. And what will you find there? You will find wines from Don Simon, usually packaged in juice box style cartons. So imagine my excitement to find Don Simon Sangria on offer from a local distributor. This big 1.5 Liter jug of pre-made Sangria needs only a garnish of seasonal fruit and some ice to turn your back yard into a little slice of Spain. $10.99
Estrella Damm For those who have visited Barcelona, this beer will be very familiar to you and will rekindle fond memories of that Catalan metropolis. This crisp, lager style beer is now in good supply here in the USA and makes a perfect addition to a Spanish themed party or meal. $10.99 per 6 pack.
Van Zellers Douro Branco 2007 The table wine renaissance in Portugal’s Douro Valley has produced numreous red wines of distinction and quality. Now more white wines are starting to make an appearance. Cristiano van Zeller at Quinta do Vale D. Maria makes this crisp white wine that exhibits fresh herbaceous aroma, bright acidity and gentle melon-like fruit character. $17.99
Gurrutxaga 2008 The Basque white wine called Txakoli has become a favorite of many wine drinkers who have grown tired of heavily oaked, densely fruity white wines. Bodegas Gurrutxaga is a small family winery in Mendexa producing minuscule quantities of this crisp, lean white wine composed of a tongue twisting blend of 60% Hondarribi Zuri, 20% Mune Mahatsa and 20% Txori Mahatsa. Bright acidity and slatey minerality characterize this refreshing summertime wine. $19.99
Gurrutxaga Rosado 2008 An alternative to traditional white Txakoli, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of strawberry fruit character. Low (10.5%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99
Rento 2001 Bodegas Renacimiento de Olivares makes traditionally styled red wines from old vine Tinta del País (Tempranillo)in the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. Originally in the $40+ range, we just secured a small quantity of the 2001crianza at a very nice price. Darkly tinted, this rich, earthy red expresses classic regional style. $19.99
Preludio Tempranillo 2007 Yes, Argentina offers much more than just Malbec for red wine enthusiasts. The newly arrived 2007 vintage of this Tempranillo from Tempus Alba displays bright berry-like fruit along with a modest note of barrel character. $13.99

Vega Sicilia Pre-Arrival Offer

In DO Ribera del Duero Vega Sicilia produces Spain’s most famous wines. The rare and expensive Unico is produced only in excellent vintages and is intended for long term storage. The second label, Valbuena is sourced from younger vines and is ready to drink at a younger age. A second brand called Alion, created in 1992 and produced at a separate facility comes in at a more affordable price (relatively speaking). More recently a new bodega in DO Toro produces a wine called Pintia that has garnered much praise and attention from the press and public.
We are offering these wines on a pre-arrival basis for those of you who wish to partake in the enjoyment of an icon. This will be your one chance to pick these wines up at slightly better than usual prices and the only opportunity to pick up Unico and Valbuena which won’t be available in the store. Give a call if these are of interest to you.
1999 Vega Sicilia Unico $380.00
2004 Vega Sicilia Valbuena $150.00
2005 Alion $76.00
2006 Pintia $62.00
(Magnums are available too. Contact us for pricing)

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Uncategorized, White Wine

Holiday Wine Bargains

The evidence is clear:

  • Spanish sweets (turrones, mantecados, polvorones, roscos de vino, etc.) are piled high in the center of the store.
  • White icicle lights are strung up over the shelves.
  • Hector is dressing up the front window with tiny evergreen trees and spray-on snow.
  • Augie Rios is singing “Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus?” over and over on the iTunes.

The Holiday season has most definitely arrived at The Spanish Table.

Are you ready?

I am.

I’ve been shopping, shopping, shopping for wines that will enliven your holiday season without emptying your wallet. The news in this regard is very good. Wholesalers are eager to move more inventory during this slower than normal season and have offered us many great deals on numerous excellent wines from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile. I am buying bunches of these wines and stacking them to the ceiling to ensure that you all get a chance to partake in the bargains that we normally do not see at this time of year.

Check out the following new items (plus a few repeats for those of you who have been occupied elsewhere lately) that are guaranteed to get your wine cellar in shape for the Holiday Season.

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).

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 (was $12.99)

Servilio Roble 2006 We featured this lightly oaked Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero earlier in the year as one of our Wine Club wines. This dark, full bodied wine is produced from estate grown Tinto Fino and displays ripe fruit character, earthy aromas and moderate complexity. Originally priced at $15.99, we have the remainder of the 2006 vintage priced at $10.99.

Hidalgo Clásica Amontillado This well priced Amontillado Sherry from the famous Bodegas Hidalgo–La Gitana exhibits light raisin fruit character as well as abundant toasted almond aroma and flavor. This medium dry Sherry makes an excellent accompaniment to full flavored cheeses, cured meats and other salty snacks. $11.99

Nectar PX This sweet sherry, made by Gonzalez Byass (the makers of Tio Pepe Fino) is golden amber colored, richly sweet and aromatic. Dried fig and raisin flavors combine with a hint of nutty background flavor. An excellent way to finish a big holiday meal. $17.99

Cyan Crianza 2002 This textbook Toro displays dark garnet color, dense texture and heady aromas of black coffee, cherry brandy and tannic oak. The flavor is ripe and bold, with black cherry fruit character and notes of cocoa powder and coffee bean on the finish. Made from the fruit of 20-30 year old Tinto de Toro vines, this wine normally sells for $21.99 but is now available for $14.99.

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

American Wine / Iberian Style

Are you ready for something new?

“But of course” you say.

Well, check this out: The Spanish Table in Berkeley now carries domestic wines.

Yes, it’s true. Starting this week we have a new section of California wines made from Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Cariñena, Albariño, Verdelho and anything else I find that has Iberian origins and grows here in the USA.

Over the last decade local grape growers have planted ever increasing quantities of Iberian varieties. With each passing season these grapes are attracting more and more attention from winemakers who, like many wine drinkers, are always looking for something unique and tasty. Presently, the number of producers making high quality wine from these grapes is just now reaching the threshold of commercial viability as a category.

Vino Iberesco (new phrase – you heard it here first) is now available in a sufficiently broad range of styles that I feel the time is right to include a few of them in our collection. These new wines, while remaining true to their California origins, are stylistically anchored in the winemaking traditions of Spain and Portugal.

This week we have a white Verdelho from Lodi, a barrel aged Tempranillo/Garnacha blend from Lake County as well as a Garnacha from the Sierra Foothills. More Vino Iberesco wines will arrive in the weeks to come.

Rest assured however that even as we venture into new territory with domestic wines, our commitment to the many excellent wines of Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile remains unwavering. This week we offer you the latest vintages of some well known favorites that have just arrived from regions such as Bierzo, Montsant and Rueda. In the weeks ahead we will be stocking up on Sherry, Port and Madeira for the upcoming Holiday season.

The ever expanding range of choices at The Spanish Table, unmatched elsewhere, is now even broader. Check out the new arrivals below and come pick up some familiar favorites. While you are here, try some of our new domestic wines too and discover these newly transplanted flavors of Iberia.

Paella Class Alert: The ever popular Paella class at local cooking school Kitchen On Fire is coming around again. This hands-on class will take place on Sunday October 19th at 6:30 pm. The fee is $65/person which includes active participation in the making and eating of several tapas, a big paella mixta, and dessert. Several wines will be tasted along the way.

Here is the blurb from the Kitchen On Fire website

http://www.kitchenonfire.com//course_class.php?class=444

where you may sign up for this 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.

Alta Mesa Cellars Verdelho 2007 Ron Silva has, for years, pioneered the cultivation of Portuguese grape varieties in the Central Valley. His vineyards are renowned among local winemakers and are the source for much of the fruit that goes into many new Iberesco styled wines. In addition to growing and selling grapes, Ron also makes a bit of wine himself. He made this bright, refreshing white wine from his estate grown Verdelho vines. This unoaked wine evokes the flavors of Portugal while remaining firmly grounded in California. Rich floral aroma encounters delicate melon and citrus flavors. A bit of mineral foundation adds depth to the gentle, harmonious fruit character. $14.99

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. $19.99

Tejada 2005 Back in 1999 Spanish natives Celia Tejada and her brother Ivo started this small family winery in Lake County. Celia made a name for herself as the Vice President of product development at Pottery Barn before also deciding to get into the wine business. 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

Mantel Blanco Verdejo 2007 This used to be a popular favorite at The Spanish Table but has been missing in action for a couple of vintages. Happily, this fresh, citrusy white wine from the Rueda region in Northern Spain is back in the new 2007 vintage and is just as lively and refreshing as we remember from days gone by. This unoaked Verdejo varietal wine is pale yellow in color with citrus blossom aroma and flavor notes of pineapple and guava. $12.99

La Planella 2006 This young red wine from is made at the Joan D’Anguera winery located in the town of Darmos in the Montsant region of Catalunya. Each year the composition of this wine changes to reflect the best grapes of the vintage. The newly released 2006 La Planella is made up of 40 % Mazuelo (aka Cariñena), 20% Syrah, 20% Garnacha and 20 % Cabernet Sauvignon. The blended wine spends 11 months in oak before bottling. This dark garnet colored offering displays a combination of earthy aromas and flavors combined with concentrated cherry and black plum fruit character. The savory elements comingle with the fruity aspects to create a dynamic and vivid wine. $19.99

Tilenus Roble 2005 It is no secret that I am much enamored with the wines of the Bierzo region in Northwestern Spain. The hay loft and dried leaf aromas, the cranberry and pomegranate fruit character and the underlying wet slate minerality all combine to create a distinctive and fresh style that evokes for me the best elements of Loire Valley Chinon, village level Burgundy or even a young Piemontese Barbera. The new Tilenus Roble, made from the local Mencía grape is a fine example of the regional style. This wine spends a few scant months in oak which is not a practice I find adds much to most Mencía wines but in this case the judiciously limited time in barrel adds a note of tannic complexity that compliments the wine. $21.99

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

Welcome to The Spanish Table wine blog

After receiving much encouragement to take the weekly Spanish Table Berkeley wine newsletter to a wider audience I will now post the same information here as well. Please bear with me as I come up to speed with the technology. No doubt this will get better as time goes by. I will be posting archived material here as well as new stuff. Meanwhile, add this link to your favorites and check back weekly to read about all the new wines and food coming to The Spanish Table.

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