The Spanish Table in Berkeley just received a batch of new Caliberian wines, but before you start planning a visit to the region I should warn you that there is no such a place, or rather, that place is right here, all around us. ‘Caliberian’ is the name we have given to our new collection of red, white and rosado wines composed of Iberian grape varieties grown in local soils. In honor of Independence Day we are offering up a bunch of Spanish/Portuguese styled wines that are made right here in America. We have Albariño from Monterey County and Verdelho from the Central Valley for whites and a red blend of Tempranillo/Garnacha from Lake County as well as a Tinta Roriz/Touriga/Tinto Cão blend from the Santa Cruz Mountains. In all we have over a dozen selections made by local producers working with small (miniscule, really) quantities of fruit from the patchwork of Iberian grape varieties planted all across the state. Caliberian wines are not yet well known, but based on these early results this style will grow significantly in years to come. If you are a domestic wine aficionado this is your chance to celebrate American independence with an Iberian accent. If you love the wines of Spain and Portugal, now is your opportunity to re-Cali-brate your perspective on domestic wines.
2009 Bonny Doon Albariño Sourced from a small parcel of Albariño located in the Salinas Valley that is farmed according to the principals of biodynamic viticulture (Demeter certified), this crisp white wines exhibits classic Albariño minerality and tart citrus fruit character. Bright acidity coupled with a moderate (12.8%) level of alcohol make this a perfect summertime wine to serve with raw vegetables, composed salads and simple seafood preparations. $15.99
2009 Caliberico Verdelho Urbanite Cellars makes this wine in the Central Valley town of Galt, within the Lodi AVA, where the white grape of Azorean origin called Verdelho produces bright, refreshing wines with melon/citrus fruit character, round, mouth filling texture and background notes of ginger snaps and spice cake. Low 12.2 % alcohol makes this a perfect cocktail white served as a welcoming apperitivo or at the beginnning of a meal accompanied by marinated vegetables and fried appetizers such as Croquete de Bacalhau. $15.99
2009 Odisea Dream Albariño Several organically farmed vineyards in the Clement Hills subzone of the Lodi AVA are the source of this 100% Albariño wine. Produced in small quantities (336 cases in total) by the Odisea Wine Company (actually just two guys, Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz) this unoaked varietal Albariño was one of the favorites at a recent tasting with The Spanish Table staff. We all appreciated the low 12.5% alcohol as well as the balance and varietal typicity of this tangy, fresh white wine. Grapefruit aroma? Check. Flinty minerality? Check. Gentle background notes of melon and white peach? Check and check. This has everything you want in a good Albariño along with the surprising element of local provenance. Fish tacos with salsa verde are a mighty tasty pairing with this wine. $14.99
2007 Odisea Two Rows Garnacha One of the first “Caliberian’ wines that we tried a few vintages back, this blend of 85% Garnacha from the Sierra foothills along with 15% Tempranillo from the same location is a fine example of Spanish style and technique applied to California wine. This small production wine (168 cases in total) eschews the extensive use of new oak in favor of brief periods of time in previously used barrels. The dark berry fruit is never obscured by sawmill aroma, allowing the varietal character to shine through. This expressive red wine exhibits just a hint of cedary barrel character, supporting notes of black cherry and mulberry along with background minerality. This juicy mouthful of a wine will work well with grilled anything, but try it with cider brined double-cut pork chops grilled over fruit wood. That’s the stuff! $18.99
2007 Quinta Cruz Concertina This dark, expressive red wine, made in homage to the Vinho Tinto of Portugal’s Douro Valley, is sourced from a small vineyard in the San Antonio AVA of Monterey County. The wine is a blend of traditional Portuguese varieties including Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinto Cão. Opaque garnet color and earthy aromas lead onward to dark berry fruit character and rocky minerality. Firm tannins give this wine a bit of old-school Portuguese style. $19.99
2005 Tejada Tinto This Tempranillo and Garnacha blend from Lake County is our best selling domestic red wine. A single six acre vineyard located in a small mountain cove surrounded by manzanita covered hills and watered by a seasonal waterfall at its eastern boundry is the source for the grapes here. The roughly equal blend is weighted towards a bit more Tempranillo than Garnacha. In true Spanish style the wine is first aged in oak (12-16 months) followed by several years in the bottle before release. Savory aromas of earth and fine grained oak support pie cherry fruit character. A pop of tart acidity makes for a very food friendly wine that will best accompany cured meats, grilled chorizo sausage or a big pan of Paella. $21.99