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Bag In Box

Have you tried any of our new ‘bag in box’ wines? I know, I know, box wines don’t have the greatest reputation but I have recently changed my mind about this particular style of wine packaging.
I first started experimenting with bag in box wine to address concerns about the environmental cost of shipping heavy glass bottles around the globe. What I found was that the problem with box wine was not the bag or the box, it was the wine. The juice inside the box was just not that interesting. Happily, we have found some Portuguese wines that have been successful here in the bottle and are now also available in the box.
Not all wines are appropriate for the box. This package is best when used for young wines intended for near term consumption. Wines that need time to mature should still be packaged in glass bottles, but after tasting the same wines in bottle and in box I am satisfied that the box can be a great way to go. The main advantage of the box is that it keeps the wine fresh from the first glass to the last drop. Another benefit is that the price drops considerably when buying the wine in box rather than by the bottle.
Lynne Bennett wrote a nice piece last week in the San Francisco Chronicle about taking box wines along on a picnic, which is a fine idea (less weight, more wine). A customer here in Berkeley stocks up on box wine to use as “earthquake supplies”. I have had great success just keeping a box on the counter or in the fridge at home to use as needed. I have taken to decanting a dinner’s worth of wine at a time so as to let the wine open up a bit in the air.
Here is our current selection of bag in box wine:

Alandra Branco 3 Liter ‘Bag in Box’ This young Portuguese white wine is floral and fruity yet possesses a bright element that keeps it refreshing. I used this last week for a delicious sangria using apricots, raspberries and Meyer lemons. The box, which will fit perfectly in your refrigerator, holds 4 bottles worth of wine so the cost comes out to $3.75 per bottle. $14.99
Alandra Tinto 3 Liter ‘Bag in Box’ The red Alandra in the bottle has been a popular ‘house wine’ around here. The wine is juicy and fresh with ripe berry fruit character. The same wine in box brings the price down to $4.00 per bottle (versus $6.99 in glass). $15.99
Quinta do Figo 5 Liter ‘Bag in Box’ This is a darkly tinted, expressive red wine from Portugal’s Estremadura region. It expresses black cherry fruit character, medium weight tannins and earthy background notes. The price here comes down to $3.90 per bottle’s worth of wine. $25.99
Capote Velho 5 Liter ‘Bag in Box’ My original review of this wine said “What A bargain! This non-vintage red wine from who knows where in Portugal has absolutely no pedigree but really delivers on freshness and versatility. This wine possesses gentle berry-like fruit character and moderate 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.” We now offer this same wine in the more economical, environmentally friendly ‘Bag in Box’ size that contains five full liters of wine for $6.00 per liter (equals $4.00 per regular 750ml bottle). $29.99

Canary Islands Wine

The new vintage of Tajinaste wines, brought in by the intrepid importer José Pastor, has just arrived. These are some of my current favorite wines in the shop and if you have yet to try them, you are in for a treat.
On the island of Tenerife, in the demarcated Valle de Orotava region, the García Farráis family has operated a small winery since 1977. Using vines that date back to the early years of the 20th century they make wines from the Listán Negro and Listán Blanco varieties that are indigenous to this region. The vines grow low to the ground in craters hollowed out of the black volcanic soil to protect them from the strong winds that constantly buffet the island. The vines are braided together to further strengthen them from the elements. This unique environment produces pure, earthy wines. The white is tart and herbaceous. The red is lean and mineral. A small portion of both wines spends a brief period in neutral oak, imparting not so much barrel character but rather just a bit of added textural density.
Tajinaste Tinto Tradicional 2008
The wine is cloudy lavender in color with light texture and sweet floral perfume. Firm minerality creates a foundation which supports fresh mulberry fruit character and gentle tannins. $21.99
Tajinaste Blanco 2008
This interesting white wine, our first from the Canary Islands, is made from the local Listán Blanco grape. Pale straw color and mineral foundation frame aromas of white peach and lemon zest.  This gentle yet lean white will compliment subtly flavored vegetable dishes and cold seafood appetizers. $19.99

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Filed under Portugal, Red Wine, White Wine

Bargains from Portugal & Argentina

Do we love a bargain? Yes we do, and this time of year is perfect for stocking up on some value priced wines that will compliment your meals and spice up your leisure time. We have some new arrivals from Portugal in our ever popular ‘house wine’ section (remember that ‘house wine’ is what we call a special section of traditionally styled wines that we price at $6.99 per bottle with a better than usual discounted price of $5.99 per bottle with full case mix and match purchase). Also in the new, interesting and well priced category are a trio of Argentine wines from Valle de la Puerta that offer distinctive grape varieties and solid winemaking skill at prices that encourage experimentation.

We have not forgotten those of you who are looking for something elegant and rare. This week we received a few special items that you won’t want to miss if you have a taste for unique and hard to find wines. The 2005 Numanthia is available in miniscule quantities as is the new vintage of one of our favorite Priorat wines.

I am happy to report that the Cooking in Cazuelas class was a big success. I hope to repeat it in the near future for those who could not make it this time around. Meanwhile, here is the recipe from the class for my Buttermilk Flan. I cobbled this together from available ingredients to recreate a flan de queso that I had in Madrid a few years ago. The Spanish don’t use buttermilk (how do you say ‘buttermilk’ in Spanish?) but the flavor and texture are similar to the Spanish version I loved so much when I first tried it.

 

Kevin’s Buttermilk Flan (serves 5)

 

5 large eggs

1.5 cups cultured buttermilk

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract

1/3 cup sugar for caramel

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set a tea kettle of water on the stove to simmer.

Heat 1/3 cup of sugar in a dry 8” clay cazuela for approximately 5-10 minutes until the sugar is barely liquefied and golden brown (do not over cook or it will burn). Remove cazuela from heat and let cool fully. The caramel will harden.

Whisk together 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk with ½ cup sugar until smooth. Add buttermilk, cream and vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

Fill the cazuela with the flan mixture to ¼ inch below the rim (it should all fit). Place the full cazuela in a larger baking dish and place in preheated oven. Pour the simmering water around the outside of the cazuela (about 2/3 way up the side) to create a hot water bath. This will allow the flan to cook slowly and evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Check for doneness by tapping on the side of the cazuela. It is ready when the flan is just barely set.  If the flan mixture ripples like liquid, leave it in the oven for another 10 minutes.

When cooked, remove the flan from the oven, allow it to cool completely and then refrigerate until cold.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the rim of the flan to loosen it up, invert it on a serving plate and remove the cazuela. Serve with a sweet sherry or other dessert wine.

 

House Wines:

Gazela Vinho Verde $6.99 This perennial customer favorite from Portugal is the latest addition to our ‘house wine’ section. This is a crisp, flinty white wine with bright, refreshing citrus notes. Low alcohol makes this an excellent lunch or picnic wine.

 

Charamba 2005 $6.99 This youthful, fresh, fruity red wine from the Douro region of Portugal will pair well with spicy food and party snacks. It is also a fine candidate for using as the base of a tasty Sangría.

 

Alandra Tinto $6.99 From the makers of Esporão in the Alentejo region of Portugal comes this youthful, rich, fruit-filled red wine made from Moreto and Periquita grapes. This bright and spicy non-vintage red will compliment a wide variety of meals.

 

Primavera Bairrada Reserva 2003 $6.99 This earthy blend of 60% Baga, 30% Tinta Roriz and 10% Castelão is perfect for hearty meals. This Portuguese wine displays brick red color and smoky aroma with dried cherry fruit character and tannic foundation. Mature reserva wines don’t make it into the ‘house wine’ section very often so take advantage of this excellent value in red wine while it lasts.

 

From Argentina:

La Puerta Malbec 2006 $9.99

La Puerta Shiraz 2006 $9.99

La Puerta Torrontes 2005 $9.99

Valle de la Puerta is a new winery located in Northern Argentina dedicated to the production of value priced single varietal wines that represent the best of Argentine grapes.

The Malbec is a ripe, juicy red that will compliment red meat and spicy foods. The Shiraz is a bold, earthy red that pairs well with savory, slow cooked autumn stews and the white Torrontes is a rich aromatic wine that is perfect with crunchy vegetables and full flavored cheeses.

 

Numanthia 2005 $58.00 The Toro craze continues unabated and with good reason. The new wines from this region are blockbusters! They are big, inky, concentrated reds fashioned from old (ancient!) vine fruit grown on pre-phylloxera, ungrafted root stock. What they lack in subtlety they more than make up in depth of character.  Josh Raynolds recently reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He said “Deep ruby. A deep, youthfully brooding bouquet offers dark cherry, blackcurrant, incense and suave oak spices. Spicy cherry and dark berry flavors show an exotic anise quality and slow-building sweetness. This gently tannic, chewy, extremely persistent wine finishes with echoes of oak spice and floral pastille, not to mention excellent vivacity. 93 points.

 

Font de la Figuera 2005 $41.99 Clos Figueras, located in the Priorat region of Catalunya is a small estate owned by famed importer Christopher Cannan and managed by the equally famous winemaker René Barbier.  Font de la Figueras is composed of a blend of Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell. This opulent red is an excellent value from a winery and a region known for much more pricey offerings. 

 

 

 

 

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

Cooking in Clay

I am excited about a new class that I’m doing in October at Kitchen On Fire. The class is called Clay Pot Cookery and, as the name implies, is all about using the wonderful terracotta cookware from The Spanish Table to create hearty and rustic traditional Spanish meals at home.

Here are the details from the Kitchen On Fire website:

In this class, Kevin Hogan from The Spanish Table will share his passion for terracotta cookware as he prepares his version of several classic Spanish recipes for the class to enjoy.

All of the food for this class, from quick cooked appetizers to slow braised stews and even dessert, will be prepared using Spanish clay cookware. Cooking in clay is an ancient way to transform simple ingredients into delicious meals. In Spain, the earthenware cazuela is the required vessel necessary to prepare any number of traditional recipes. Recipes for this class will include:

Gambas al Ajillo (sautéed shrimp in olive oil with garlic and chilies)

Setas Al Fino (sautéed mushrooms with Fino Sherry)

Carcamusa Toledana (Toledo style braised pork and potato stew in tomato sauce)

Arroz con cosas (baked rice with assorted vegetables)

Buttermilk flan (Kevin’s own recipe)

Now that I have decided on the menu, I’m busy deciding which wines to serve with the meal. I plan to serve 5 different selections that are appropriate to the dishes we will be eating.

If you are interested in attending this demonstration dinner (due to the slow cooked nature of some of the dishes this is not going to be a hands-on class), please sign up on the Kitchen on Fire website. Their address is:

https://www.kitchenonfire.com//course_class.php?class=348

The class is limited to 30 guests so sign up soon to reserve your spot.

Meanwhile, back in the wine department, we have some excellent new selections in our ‘house wine’ department. For those of you who are not yet familiar with our ‘house wine’ selections, here’s how it works: We carry a selection of traditionally styled wines (red, white, rosé) that taste like what you would be served in a little Spanish or Portuguese bar. We sell all of these wines at a special price of $6.99 per bottle and we give even deeper discounts ($5.99 per bottle) on mix-and-match 12 bottle purchases. This allows you to buy a case of wines for $71.88 (+ tax) that you can have around the house for whenever the need arises. Our newest arrivals in the ‘house wine’ department are:

Alandra Tinto $6.99 From the makers of Esporão in the Alentejo region of Portugal comes this youthful, rich, fruit-filled red wine made from Moreto and Periquita grapes. This bright and spicy non-vintage red will compliment a wide variety of meals.

Primavera Bairrada Reserva 2003 $6.99 This earthy blend of 60% Baga, 30% Tinta Roriz and 10% Castelão is perfect for hearty meals. This Portuguese wine displays brick red color and smoky aroma with dried cherry fruit character and tannic foundation. Mature reserva wines don’t make it into the ‘house wine’ section very often so take advantage of this excellent value in red wine while it lasts.

Lavradores de Feitoria Douro Tinto $6.99 The Douro region in Portugal is also the area where Port wine is produced. Forward thinking winemakers have re-purposed the grapes of this region for table wine production. This young red is a blend of wine from 13 different producers across the Douro region. Youthful color and aroma blend with dark berry fruit character and background minerality. Excellent quality from an interesting winery.

We also have some exciting new wines from all over:

Vino Blanco:

Follies Branco 2005 $10.99 This medium bodied, Portuguese blend of Chardonnay and Maria Gomes displays lush melon-like fruit character and gentle acidity. Steel tank fermentation (no oak) maintains a fresh, ripe aspect that is particularly delicious when paired with creamy soft ripened cheeses.

Luis Pato Maria Gomes 2006 $11.99 Luis Pato is one of Portugal’s most celebrated winemakers. This wine, made from the local Maria Gomes grape is bright and refreshing. Aromas of white peach and fresh melon accent a grapefruity foundation. Amazing purity in this unique white wine.

Blanco Nieva Verdejo 2006 $14.99 The new vintage of this perennial crowd pleaser has just arrived. Grapefruit and flint come to mind as descriptors here. Additional quince-like fruit character and a bit of residual effervescence are most noticeable while the wine is very young.

Vino Tinto:

Terra Buena Malbec 2003 $10.99

Terra Buena Tempranillo 2004 $10.99

I wrote about the Terra Buena wines in last week’s newsletter, but foolishly omitted the descriptions of the two red wines. Briefly, these wines are made in Argentina by the good folks up at Laurel Glen winery in Sonoma County. After fermentation the wines are put on ships and transported in bulk to California where they are aged and bottled. The reds both display dark color and ripe berry aromas. The Malbec is the bolder of the two and shows impressive concentration and richness. The Tempranillo is spicy and lively with bright cherry-like fruit character. Both of these wines would be perfectly paired with spicy tomato sauced pasta or harissa marinated lamb kabobs.

Chévere 2004 $10.99 Not only has Paul Campbell at Laurel Glen been making wine in Argentina, he has also crafted a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon which, like the Terra Buena wines, undergo primary fermentation in their native countries with barrel ageing and bottling taking place in Graton, California. The novelty factor is high here with the image of Che Guevara on the label but the wine inside is quite tasty. Youthful dark berry aroma encounters nicely structured tannins in this hearty, full-bodied red wine. The back label states that “A portion of the proceeds from this sale will be donated to the Lambi Fund of Haiti, a community-based NGO that promotes democracy and economic justice in Haiti. Drink up, America!

Les Terrasses 2005 $36.99 We blew through the 2004 vintage in record time, so we’re happy to see the new 2005 Les Terrasses. This wine is consistently one of our best D.O.C. Priorat wines in the under $50 category. Alvaro Palacios, Priorat’s most celebrated winemaker is best known for his rare and very expensive L’Ermita, but thankfully he also makes Les Terrasses for those of us on more modest budgets. 30% Garnacha, 60% Cariñena, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark garnet color, opulent cherry brandy aroma, rich silky dark berry fruit character and seamlessly integrated oak tannins. Delicious now. Even better with a few years of cellar time.

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