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Wine and Travel

Have you had enough of summer vacation yet?

Technically, summer is drawing to a close but I just got word of a trip that may inspire those of you with some free time to extend summer beyond Labor Day.

Chef Maggie Pond from Bar César is leading a food and wine centered trip to Catalunya in September. This 9 day trip will focus on the myriad delights of Barcelona and the surrounding countryside. Cooking classes, trips to wineries and olive mills, scenic excursions and elegant meals are all on the agenda. In addition to Maggie and her crew, Andy Booth from The Spanish Table will be on hand to share his knowledge of the local food and wine of this fascinating region. All the details are here: http://www.barcesar.com/tour/.

Meanwhile, here in Berkeley, we have been receiving some very hard-to-find wines from top shelf producers that I feel deserve your attention.

In recent weeks I have been focusing on the excellent value priced wines that are our specialty at The Spanish Table. This week I want to alert you to some recent arrivals that are (there is no way around it) on the expensive side. These are all finely tuned wines that showcase the very best efforts of their respective winemakers. They are made in miniscule quantities and are usually not available for purchase in retail shops. Most of these wines are only found in high end restaurants (at high end prices).

This is your chance to pick up some iconic wines for near term enjoyment or to stock the wine cellar for some time in the future. Check out the details below:

 

Les Brugueres 2006 Wines from D.O.C. Priorat are almost always red, but a few examples of the rare white Priorat can be found and this is one of those. Made from a small single vineyard of 100 year old Garnacha Blanca grown in the rocky schist soil of the region, this rich white wine achieves a level of depth and concentration that is impressive (even more so when you consider that the wine is not aged in oak). Juicy peach and tart apple fruit character, mineral aroma and full bodied texture combine to create a uniquely delicious wine. $32.99 (5 bottles in stock)

 

As Sortes 2006 Rafael Palacios, of the famous Palacios winemaking family, makes this 100% Godello wine in the Valdeorras region in Northwestern Spain. In the right hands, the Godello grape makes delicate and elegantly fruity wines. Rafael Palacios makes this wine from old vine Godello (40-60 year old vines) grown at high altitude (over 600 meters). Fermented and aged in large oak foudres , this wine displays white peach and crane melon fruit character, fine minerality and leesy complexity, with only the barest hint of barrel character. Josh Raynolds from Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar rated this wine at 92 points, saying: “Pale yellow. Spicy citrus, orange and melon aromas are brightened by zesty minerals; smells like Puligny-Montrachet. Suave white peach and pear flavors lead to firm lemon zest, spice and chalky minerality on the back end. Impressively elegant and clean wine with the balance to age for a couple of years.” $45.00 (5 bottles in stock)

Emilio Rojo 2006 The Ribeiro region of Northern Spain is not well known in the USA, yet. That will change soon as this flinty, dry style of white wine gets more exposure in this country. Fashioned from a blend of 55% Treixadura, 15% Loureiro, 10% Lado, 10% Albariño and 10% Torrontés, Emilio Rojo displays aromas and flavors of flinty minerals and tart grapefruit in a finely balanced frame. This small production wine (700 cases in total) is an excellent example of Ribeiro wine and I am not alone in this opinion. Josh Raynolds from Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar rated this wine at 91 points, saying: “Pale yellow. Bitter citrus, minerals and honeysuckle on the nose, with a bright white pepper quality adding spice. Brisk, sharply focused lime and orange zest flavors offer striking depth and energy, staining the palate with mineral-accented flavor. Finishes with superb thrust and clinging citrus and bitter pear skin flavor. This won’t quit.” $52.00 (only 11 bottles in stock)

Lan Edición Limitada 2005 Bodegas Lan uses its best estate grown fruit for this dark, concentrated wine. The blend here is 80% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano. Extended maceration on the skins helps to develop the dark ruby color and 9 months of barrel age gives a balanced oak note to the finished wine. Limited availability and high scores by the wine press in previous vintages make this a wine that will not be around for long. This impressive effort will please both traditionalists and more modern palates. $49.99

 

Calvario 2005 The flagship bottle from Finca Allende is as pedigreed a Rioja as you are likely to find. The grapes for this wine are old vine fruit (mostly Tempranillo with a bit of Garnacha and Graciano added in) from a single vineyard planted in the 1940s. The wine is aged for 19 months in oak before bottling. Concentrated yet elegant, this wine has a long life ahead of it, but may be enjoyed right away if allowed to breathe for an hour before service. Jay Miller reviewed this wine for The Wine Advocate. He rated it at 95 points, saying: The 2005 Calvario comes from a single vineyard planted in 1945. It is 90% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha, and 2% Graciano aged for 16 months in new French oak. It delivers an alluring perfume of toasty new oak, wild black berry, black cherry, and floral notes. Layered and with serious depth, the wine has great concentration and balance. Give it 5-7 years in the cellar and drink it through 2035.” $136.00

 

Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2006

Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira 2006

Bodegas Achaval Ferrer was founded in 1998 in the Mendoza region of Argentina by a group of Argentine entrepreneurs including Santiago Achaval Becu and Manuel Ferrer Minetti who lent their names to the project as well as Marcelo Victoria and Diego Rosso. They brought in several partners from Italy (Italian heritage is ubiquitous in Argentina).Roberto Cipresso, famed Italian winemaker and Tiziano Siviero (retired world rally champion race car driver turned winemaker) are partners in the La Fioreta winery in Montalcino. They came to Argentina to produce a series of wines for the new bodega. The motivation behind the wines of Achaval Ferrer is to make wines that express the unique grapes (primarily Malbec) and terroirs (or terruños, if you wish) of Mendoza.

Quimera is a blended wine that is made using the best grapes from each vintage. Roberto Cipresso chooses slightly different blends each year depending on how the various vineyard sites performed that year.

Quimera 2006 is composed of 34% Malbec from the Mederano and Lujan vineyards, 32% Merlot from Tupungato, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon from Medrano and Tupungato and 12% Cabernet Franc from Tupungato. After primary fermentation the separate varieties were blended and aged in oak for 13 months. The final result is a rich, dark wine with the bold, spicy aromas and dark berry fruit character that are typical of high quality Malbec from Argentina. The addition of other grape varieties adds complexity and structure to this wine. $41.99

Finca Altamira is the flagship wine of this Bodega. This small production wine is sourced from 80 year old Malbec vines growing in Achaval Ferrer’s estate vineyard called Finca Altamira in the La Consulta region of the Uco Valley in Mendoza. This unfiltered wine is darkly colored and richly flavored while simultaneously possessing delicate fruit character that creates an intriguing interplay of flavors and aromas. $96.00

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Filed under Argentina, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Spain is the winner

Did you notice that Spain won the European football championship last week? Of course you did, but you also get this newsletter so you are probably among those who follow this sort of thing.

A front to back search of local sports pages last week turned up scant coverage of this important news. I think this says more about America’s ambivalence toward ‘soccer’ than it does about American interest in Spain, but whether or not you are interested in the sport you have to feel good for the Spanish. They have not won this championship in a long, long time. It reminded me of when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series after falling short for so many seasons, only for Spain this was a national moment of pride, not a regional success story.

Here at The Spanish Table we celebrate the glory of Spain each and every day with great things to eat and drink. Recently the weather in the Bay Area has taken on a decidedly Castilian tone, with hot dry air and abundant sunshine replacing our normal cool, foggy summer climate, so now is a perfect time to create a bit of Iberian ambience in your own back yard.

Break out the red and gold decorations. Fire up the grill and cook up a mess of chorizo, morcilla and chuletas.  Stock the ice chest with refreshing Spanish rosado, cava and cerveza. Crank up the stereo and blast some old school flamenco (or some Rodolfo Chikilicuatre for the younger crowd).  For the full effect, try all of the above at about 10 pm (I suggest you invite the neighbors).

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that The Spanish Table is your one-stop-shop for just about everything necessary (food, wine, décor, music) to create your very own Spanish fiesta, Portuguese festa, or a good old back yard cookout with a few creative flourishes.

Here is a recipe from my childhood in Georgia that I have adapted with a bit of Iberian flair. As a kid, ‘Pigs in Blankets’ was what we called hot dogs wrapped in biscuit dough and baked. I never really liked them much. I thought the best part was whacking the cardboard tube of pre-made biscuit dough on the edge of the kitchen counter and watching the dough expand and ooze out of the split tube.

In a recent fit of nostalgia I retooled this recipe using my own biscuit dough and little chorizos from The Spanish Table. The results have completely changed my mind about this fun and easy party snack. Try it for your self and let me know what you think.

 

Cerditos en Mantas

(Serves 4-6)

 

2.5 cups all purpose flour (and a bit more for rolling out the dough)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon salt

¼ cup cold lard

¾ cup buttermilk

12 small Spanish style chorizos (I use Doña Juana Cantimpalitos)

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cold lard and combine with the flour by squeezing the mixture through your fingers until barely mixed and somewhat lumpy. Add the buttermilk and mix briefly. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and pat or roll out to about ½ inch in thickness. Cut dough into 12 triangles, approximately 3” on each side.  Place one chorizo in the center of each dough triangle. Fold two corners of the triangle over the center of the chorizo and press with your thumb to seal the points together. Leave the ends of the chorizo exposed. Place the wrapped chorizos on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a 45o degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the dough is fully cooked and starting to brown. Plate and serve immediately.

 

Blanco Nieva Sauvignon Blanc 2007 The Rueda region of Northern Spain is best know for producing white wines from the Verdejo grape, but they also grow a fair amount of Sauvignon Blanc. This new arrival is fresh as fresh can be, with abundant citrus blossom aroma and racy acidity. In the early stage of its development this wine displays a touch of residual effervescence which will fade with time. The ripe melon fruit character is still a bit subdued, but will become more predominant in a few more months. I suggest you try this unique wine right away to experience it at its freshest, then try it again later on in the year to experience the more mellow aspect of the wine. $17.99

 

Oreka 2007 We love the Txakoli, yes we do, and this is one of our perennial favorites, now available in the latest vintage. Oreka is the top of the line bottling from the Talai Berri winery just outside of Zarautz on the Cantabrian coast. This 100% Hondaribbi Zuri wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at temperatures just barely above freezing in order to preserve the delicate fruit character of this grape. Pale yellow color with greenish reflections. Edgy minerality and grapefruit-like flavor. This is an excellent, pin point precise example of what one should expect from quality Txakoli wine.  $19.99

 

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla Rosado 2007 The pink version of Vi D’Agulla is here and man, this stuff is tasty! You may well remember my enthusiastic endorsement of Avinyó’s traditional, spritzy, white Vi D’Agulla made from Petit Grain Muscat. Now those same winemakers have decided to produce a rosado version of Vi D’Agulla using Merlot grapes.  The spritz and the minerality of the original are still present in the new wine, along with a beautiful crystalline ruby hue and a modest amount of ripe berry fruit character. $14.99

 

Ricardo Santos Malbec 2006 This was the first Malbec to catch my attention back when we first started stocking wines from Argentina. The new vintage of this single vineyard wine has arrived and it too appeals to me because, unlike some Malbecs, this wine shows some restraint in its expression of fruit character. The dark berry flavor typical of Malbec is present to be sure, but it doesn’t overwhelm the other aspects of the wine, including tart barrel tannins, cigar box aroma and background minerality. $17.99

 

Tercos Sangiovese 2005 Wine in Argentina is more than just Malbec. This wine, made by Pedro and Patricio Santos (the sons of Ricardo Santos) is made from 100% Sangiovese, a grape that predominates in Italy. This darkly colored yet brightly flavorful red wine exhibits fresh berry fruit character with underlying tannins and tart acidity. This is the first vintage of this young wine. Tercos means ‘stubborn’ or ‘obstinate’ in Spanish, perhaps indicating a commitment to quality and tradition, or maybe it means the sons held their breath and stomped their feet until Dad let them have a winery of their own. Either way, this is a tasty bottle from a skilled winemaking family. $11.99

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2007 The Achaval Ferrer winery, just barely ten years old, is quickly becoming one of the most highly sought after sources of top shelf Argentine wines. This wine is made from 100% Malbec from their various estate vineyards. Almost opaque in color, this unfiltered wine displays the dark berry fruit character that Malbec is known for as well as a touch of barrel tannin from 10 months in French oak. Smoky aroma and tart acidity add depth to this young wine. This is an excellent value from a winery known for making some very exclusive high end bottlings. $22.99

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

Football Wine

Are you planning on watching football on Sunday?  If so, what will you be drinking?

You know where I’m going with this, right? I’m about to suggest some new and interesting wines to pair with a traditional Superbowl Sunday menu, but if football is not your thing (hey, that’s OK) keep reading anyway because these new arrivals are worth knowing about and trying even without any official justification.

This week we have a trio of new wines from Chile made by Bodegas Montes. The Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère blend will all compliment a wide variety of party foods, from chips and dip to chicken wings as well as more traditional accompaniments like fresh ceviche or dry cured chorizo. Montes also makes wine in Argentina under the Kaiken brand. We have the new Kaiken Malbec this week for all you Malbec fans out there (which seems to include pretty much all of us).

Speaking of Malbec, we have another new one to try, this time from the well known Achaval Ferrer winery. Their 2006 Malbec is a top shelf selection at a very reasonable price.  If meat is on the menu this weekend then by all means pour this wine with the meal to taste it at its best. 

Meanwhile, back in Spain new vintages are being shipped our way. The latest arrival here is the 2003 vintage of one of my favorite Priorat wines, Odysseus Tinto. The news here is very good indeed. Not only is this an excellent wine but the 2003 is actually a bit lower in price than the previous vintage (how often do you hear that these days?).

Finally, if your Sunday plans mandate beer rather than wine, I understand. Old habits are hard to change and that’s fine because you can still add an Iberian twist to your beer appreciation. We have excellent Spanish, Brazilian and Portuguese Lagars as well Portuguese Bock and Argentine micro brewery Ale, already chilled and ready to enjoy. 

Now, before we move on to the wines, I have a few event notes to share with you.

My Paella And Wine class on Feb. 25 is still open for enrollment. Check out kitchenonfire.com for all the details.

If you would like to venture further a field (a lot further) to learn about the wonders of Iberian wines you can join Steve Winston and his wife Sharon Baden (the founding owners of The Spanish Table) on a spectacular 15 day cruise. Steve and Sharon have been invited to present a series of wine tastings during a Lindblad Expeditions cruise from Morocco to Portugal, Spain, France and England.  Every evening at dinner, complimentary wines will be served focusing on a particular region of Spain, Portugal or France with brief discussions of the wines, the regions and the grape varietals. April 28, 2008 is the departure date. The details are all here: http://www.expeditions.com/Treasures437.asp

 

Now, on to the wines:

 

Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2007 $13.99 This crisp, refreshing white wine from the Leyda valley in Chile is ripe with tropical fruit aroma. Bright, citrusy acidity and a bit of grassy background flavor make this an excellent cocktail wine. Serve this with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing, and okay, a few chicken wings too. Racy, refreshing, remarkable.

 

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2006 $13.99  This Pinot Noir, made in small quantities from fruit grown in the Leyda Valley as well as the Casablanca region of Chile shows bright cherry color and fresh berry fruit character right up front. The light oak note comes from eight months of barrel age and becomes more apparent as the wine opens.  If you think that all Chilean wines are big and bold, this lighter style may surprise you in the best of ways. Chips and salsa will go great with this wine.

 

Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère 2006 $13.99 This wine is a good example of how, when done right, Chilean Carmenère can be distinctly spicy and rich. The winemakers at Montes blend this traditional grape with a large proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon to achieve a structured complexity that compliments the peppery Carmenère. The fruit comes from the Apalta Valley, one of Chile’s best grape growing regions. Serve this wine with spicy pork ribs or carnitas tacos for a bold and hearty game day treat.

 

Kaiken Malbec 2004 $11.99 Kaiken is a Mapuche word for a particular Snow Goose that migrates across the Andes between Chile and Patagonia, just as Bodegas Montes has crossed the mountains to start making wine in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This dark, rich red wine is 100% Malbec from the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza. Inky dark purple color and concentrated sweet fruit aroma. Ripe berry and spicy pepper flavors will compliment grilled meats and any food that is at last a little bit picante.

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2006 $22.99 This young winery was founded in 1998 but has achieved great success in a short period of time. This wine, the entry level product for the winery, is 100% Malbec from the high altitude Vistalba region. Obvious care has been taken to produce a rich and opulent wine that still retains a certain level of finesse and detail. The ripe berry fruit character balances foundational minerality which, in turn, compliments a bit of spicy/herby background aroma. This is beef wine, from burgers to porterhouse steak. There is really no other option, but would you want it any other way?

 

Odysseus Tinto 2003 $41.99 Wines from the Priorat region in Catalunya have gotten pretty pricy of late, so I am very happy to offer this new version of one of our favorite small production Priorat reds at a better than usual price. Composed of a blend of 35% Garnacha, 35% Cariñena and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon with the last 10% composed of Touriga Nacional, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Caladoc, this unique and intriguing wine offers abundant pleasure for those know to ask for it. This is a plush wine that exhibits dark color, ripe fruit character and that distinctive mineral element that makes Priorat wines so interesting. If you want a big red for the big game, this is it.

 

Cerveza Estrella Galicia $10.99 (6 pack) Fresh, hoppy lagar from the north of Spain.

Cerveja Sagres $6.99 (6 pack) Another tasty lagar, this time coming from Portugal.

Super Bock $7.99 (6 pack) A strong beer (technically, malt liquor) from Portugal. Hearty!

Cerveja Skol $7.99 (6 pack)  One of Brazil’s most popular beers.  This lagar will remind you of Rio.

Jerome Cerveza Rubia $5.99 (660ml. bottle) The first micro brewery in Argentina makes this Belgian style ale in Mendoza. Hoppy and rich, this proves that Mendoza is good for more than just wine.

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Chile, Portugal, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine