Tag Archives: albariño

New 2010 Albariño

We are receiving numerous new white wines in the 2010 vintage, among them several fabulous Albariño wines from the coastal Rías Baixas region in Galicia. Here are just a few suggestions to get you going:

pazo_senorans__268502010 Pazo Señorans Albariño

The 2010 Pazo Señorans is a standard setting example for top quality Albariño. The interplay of floral aromas and flinty minerality creates an intriguing and refreshing expression of Galician soil and climate. Hints of tropical fruit, green herbs, and granite dust add to the rich complexity of this wine. An ideal pairing is seafood (of course!).  Try it with a salad topped with broad flakes of ventresca tuna or, the Spanish favorite, some braised pulpo (octopus) with pimenton and potatoes. $22.99


img_0217__765152010 Igrexario de Saiar Albariño

Benito Santos is a small producer from Rias Baixas that focuses on natural winemaking and on highlighting the unique terroir of the region.  All of the wines are certified organic and are hand crafted, using native yeasts and very little manipulation.  The 2010 Igrexario de Saiar Albariño is ripe and balanced, with notes of peaches, green apples, white flowers, and tropical fruit.  It’s soft texture is countered by great acid that keeps the flavors fresh and lively. $17.99

sete cepas 2010 Sete Cepas Albariño

Sete Cepas is a fresh, young 100% Albariño wine that really delivers on quality at a very reasonable price. The most striking feature of this wine is its finely tuned balance of bright, lively fruit character set against a background of flinty minerality. This combination is found in all the best wines from the Rías Baixas region. The mental image it conjures up is of freshly sliced grapefruit served on a bed of crushed seashells. This wine will surely be a contender for most popular white wine of the summer. $13.99

Leave a comment

Filed under Spain, White Wine

Time Change

This weekend marks the return of Daylight Savings Time. Now is the moment to celebrate the return of evening sunshine and the impending arrival of Spring. Reset your internal wine clock with a glass of fresh, bright Spanish white wine and toast the upcoming vernal equinox.
While best known for red wines,  it is no longer a secret that Spain makes fabulous white wines too. We continue to find new and interesting choices among the ever growing selection of  vino blanco coming out of numerous regions spread across the Iberian peninsula. We just posted a handful of spectacular Spanish white wines on our website. These wines represent a broad swath of Northern Spain, from the Atlantic coast, up through Basque country, across the Spanish Meseta and finishing up in Catalonia near Barcelona. These crisp, refreshing wines are eminently food friendly and also delicious by the glass with no further accompaniments other than a bit of sunshine and some good conversation.

albet_i_noya_xarel_lo__102982009 Albet i Noya Xarel-lo Classic
is a bright, refreshing Spanish white wine from the Penedes region in Catalonia. This wine features the Xarel-lo grape most often used in sparkling Cava. Albet i Noya makes this still version of a varietal Xarel-lo from from old vine parcels of Xarel-lo, grown organically. Floral aromas blend well with lemon and white peach fruit character. Background minerality and light texture add further context to this young white wine that pairs well with young cheeses, marinated vegetables and cold seafood salads.


pazo_senorans__26850The 2009 Pazo Senorans Albarino
is a standard setting example of top quality Albarino. The interplay of floral aromas and flinty minerality creates an intriguing and refreshing expression of Galician soil and climate. Hints of tropical fruit, green herbs, and granite dust add to the rich complexity of this wine. An ideal pairing is seafood (of course!).  Try it with a salad topped with broad flakes of ventresca tuna or, the Spanish favorite, some pulpo (octopus) with pimenton.


urki__693382009 Urki Txakolina
is a deliciously refreshing white wine from the Basque country. Crisp, bright, white Txakolina wine with a bit of residual spritzy effervescence, abundant grapefruit/lemon notes and a firm mineral foundation is what everybody drinks while wandering through the old part of San Sebastian snacking on Pintxos of many varieties. Urki is an excellent example of this traditional wine. It refreshes the palate and awakens the appetite.


img_0229__633432007 Pecina Blanco
is a wonderfully traditional white Rioja. Hermanos Pecina are one of only a handful of producers left in Rioja who produce their wines in this very traditional style.  Made from 100% Viura, the juice is fermented in stainless steel but then allowed to age for a few years in bottle before release.  The extra time gives it a bit more richness along with notes of dried tropical fruit and herbs.  Totally unique and totally delicious.  Fans of the Lopez de Heredia whites take notice!

1 Comment

Filed under Spain, White Wine

The Path Less Traveled

Sometimes the most interesting wines are the ones you don’t expect. A little known grape variety or a region that is off the beaten path can provide the most unexpected pleasure.
This week we offer you two examples of unusual wines that will delight your sense of taste as well as your sense of adventure.

2008 Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas
It used to be that Portuguese Vinho Verde was simple, spritzy, fun in a bottle. While those wines still exist (and we stock them enthusiastically), a new breed of Vinho Verde can be found that features estate grown grapes with distinct pedigree, vintage specific bottlings and finely tuned wine making skills. Soalheiro Alvarinho Primeiras Vinhas is a standard setter for top shelf Vinho Verde. This 100% Alvarinho wine from Soalheiro’s oldest vineyards is crisp and elegant. Greenish tint (from whence the region gets its name) and spritzy effervescence are in keeping with regional style. The use of 100% Alvarinho as well as the detailed level of winemaking skill sets this wine apart from all other wines in the area. Grapefruit aroma and a palate of fresh citrus blossom and flinty minerality give this wine a distinctiveness that is truly unique. This ain’t no back porch Vinho Verde. This is some serious juice! $33.99

2009 Bermejo Tinto ‘Maceracion Carbonica’
Wines from the Canary Islands have been few and far between in the USA but thanks to the intrepid folks at Jose Pastor Selections numerous intriguing bottles from this string of Spanish islands off the coast of Africa are about to become much more prevalent around here. Bermejo Tinto from Lanzarote, made from the local Listan Negro grape, comes in several styles. This one is made in the “Maceracion Carbonica” style (whole cluster fermentation, a technique used to make fresh,youthful wines quickly) and tastes like a French Beaujolais grown in rocky, volcanic soil. Pure, bright fruit character combines with quartz crystal minerality. This light bodied red will work its magic equally with seafood, poultry and meatless meals. $19.99

Paella Class

IMG_3797

Our friends at Kitchen On Fire Cooking School are hosting us once again for our semi-regular Paella class. The date is Monday September 20th at 6:30 PM.

This is a hands-on class that teaches all the skills needed to make fabulous paella in all sizes and flavors. We will work together to make a large  paella that will include meat, chicken, seafood and vegetables. We will also make several quick tapas to nibble on while we wait for the paella to cook as well as a light dessert. Several paella friendly wines will be sampled along the way. Details and registration are all to be found on the Kitchen On Fire web site at:

www.kitchenonfire.com/classes/view/id/1220/

Leave a comment

Filed under events, Portugal, Red Wine, White Wine

A Trip To Caliberia

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

Leave a comment

Filed under California, Red Wine, White Wine

Springtime New Arrivals

Springtime in the wine business is like a month-long birthday party/baby shower/Christmas morning all rolled into one big fiesta of opening boxes packed with many shiny, colorful objects of desire. This week we are receiving new white and red wines from some of our favorite bodegas.
In a few weeks the new rosados will arrive, as pink and precious as newborn babies.  Aged red wines that have been maturing slowly in dark,cool Spanish cellars are finally ready for release. Take advantage of this season and stock up on the new vintage of well loved favorites as well as several exciting never-before-seen wines.

2009 Ostatu Blanco
The first of the 2009 vintage Spanish white wines to reach our shores is this popular white Rioja. Fashioned from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia sourced from vines over 60 years old this tank fermented wine is fresh and herbaceous. Crisp minerality balances aromatic floral richness. White Rioja is growing in popularity thanks in part to well made wines such as this. That the wine is such a bargain adds one more reason to put this on your list of new wines to try. $12.99

2009 Laxas Albariño
The newly arrived 2009 Laxas (pronounced like ‘luscious’, with good reason) is a ripe, floral expression of the Albarino grape. A base of lemon and green melon flavors blends well with additional notes of fresh herbs, fennel and background minerality. $17.99

2009 Soalheiro Alvarinho
Vinho Verde
It used to be that Portuguese Vinho Verde was simple, spritzy, fun in a bottle. While those wines still exist (and we stock them enthusiastically), a new breed of Vinho verde can be found that features estate grown grapes with distinct pedigree, vintage specific bottlings and finely tuned wine making skills. Soalheiro Alvarinho is a standard setter for top shelf Vinho Verde. This 100% Alvarinho wine is taut and edgy. A current of electric-like acidity gives a jolt, the blow softened a bit by some well rounded pear/melon fruit character. Light effervescence moderates firm, flinty minerality. This ain’t no back porch Vinho Verde. This is some serious juice! $21.99

2008 Capellanes Joven
Pago de los Capellanes is a well known and respected bodega in the Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain. In addition to the bold, tannic,barrel matured wines that are the tradition in this region they also make this younger “Joven” style red that sees only 5 months in oak. The firm, chalky tannins are moderated here by juicy dark berry fruit character. Rocky minerality adds counterpoint. The new 2008 vintage is drinking very well right now. $17.99

2005 Ijalba Graciano
In Rioja the Graciano grape represents just 5% of a typical harvest. This dark skinned, tannic grape is often used in small quantities to beef up the lighter textured Tempranillo. Only rarely is Graciano bottled as a varietal wine and then it is usually very expensive. We are happy to see Ijalba Graciano back in the market in the new 2005 vintage. Darker and more tannic than a typical Rioja, this wine possesses a certain delicate element that comes and goes elusively as the wine is consumed. It is firm yet floral, ripe yet tart, bold yet fragile all at once. If you wear your Rioja with a difference, this is the wine for you. $21.99

Rioja Event Reloaded:



Two weeks ago in this space we announced an upcoming tasting of some rare older wines from the iconic Rioja bodega Lopez de Heredia. Well, things have evolved and the tasting has gotten bigger and less expensive simultaneously (how often do you hear that these days?).
The good news is that the importer has agreed to supply more samples for the tasting, so we are able to offer a better price for the event ($15 per person, down from $45). The other good news is that there is space for just 40 guests so reservations are a must.
Where else will you have a chance to try a 1981 white Rioja or a 1987 Tondonia Reserva? We’ll also be tasting the current releases from the 90’s as well as the famous 1970 Bosconia Gran Reserva (about which  The Wine Advocate said:”The 1970 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva is a captivating effort, with endless, well-defined nuances of pine, minerals and sweet red fruits that emerge from the glass in a breathtaking display of purity and class. It shows the extraordinary length, great expression and the pure breed of a truly great wine. 93 Points”).
Join us at The Spanish Table in Mill Valley on Thursday, April 15th  at 6:30 pm as Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia takes us through her family’s rich history and traditional wine-making process. For reservations please call (415)-388-5043.

Leave a comment

Filed under events, Portugal, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Elegant Spanish Whites

An interesting shift is taking place amongst Spanish wine drinkers in the USA. White wines are growing in popularity relative to the more traditionally recognized Spanish reds. Not long ago we had trouble convincing people to try white wines from Spain. Now, the choices are numerous, the quality is high and the prices are quite reasonable. The Albariños from Galicia were the first Spanish whites to really take off in the American market, followed by Rueda region Verdejo wines. Then a few years ago it was as if the grape cart tipped over and out spilled Godello from Valdeorras, Viura from Rioja, Garnacha Blanca from Priorat, Treixadura from Ribeiro and Hondarribi Zuri from the Basque country. With so many distinct, vibrant, interesting styles to choose from, Spanish whites have become an adventure in novelty grounded in traditions that are only now starting to find an audience outside their native regions.
This week I would like to share with you a few of the best Spanish white wines I have tasted lately. These are special occasion wines that showcase Spain’s unique grapes and winemaking styles. They tend to veer away from the barrel aged style in favor of a crisper tank fermented technique. Extended time on the lees (sometimes very extended) is the preferred way to achieve richness and depth while protecting the varietal/regional character of these wines. The complexity and textural weight of these wines makes them perfect companions to winter fare. Please consider the following selections for your holiday table:

Odysseus Pedro Ximénez Blanco 2007
This is a unique dry white wine in that Pedro Ximénez is usually reserved for use in sweet Sherry, while this, on the other hand, is totally dry and has notes of apricot, tangerine, a bit of lemon and white flowers. Bright acidity and foundational minerality find balance in the rich, leesy texture and floral aroma. We paired this with first-of-season Dungeness crab (simply steamed) the other night. It worked perfectly. Regular retail $35.99. Now $19.99-Limited.


Zárate Tras da Viña 2005
This is an Albariño with a decided difference that comes from 30 months (two and a half years!) spent ageing on the lees. On one hand you have a lean, flinty wine that expresses the edgy, almost saline side of the Rías Baixas regional style. On the other hand, after the extended time in tank, this wine takes on a denser, richer tone but not so much as to obscure its original character. If you have ever wondered whether Albariño has the ability to age, here is your affirmative answer. $31.99

Aforado Sobre Lías 2008
Aforado is a small family winery in the coastal O Rosal sub-zone of DO Rías Baixas just over the border from Portugal, The tradition here is to blend Albariño with small amounts of other local varieties. The 20 acre Aforado estate vineyard is planted mostly to Albariño with small quantites of Caiño Blanco & Loureiro. The estate fruit is used exclusively for the regular Aforado as well as this small production (250 cases in total) sobre lias version that ages on the lees for 12 months after fermentation. Floral aroma and tart citrus fruit character find expression here in a bolder, denser frame than the regular bottling. It will continue to age well for at least another 3-5 years. $38.99

Emilio Rojo 2008
While Spanish white wines are a recent discovery here in the USA, regions such as DO Ribeiro have been making wines for centuries. The tradition in Ribeiro is to drink the local wines from shallow ceramic cups. Emilio Rojo, named after its maker, is one of this region’s most sought after wines. Made in minuscule quantities (only 50 cases imported to the USA) this finely tuned white is a blend of several grapes including 55% Treixadura, 15% Loureiro, 10% Lado, 10% Albariño and 10% Torrontés. Poise and balance are the words that best describe Emilio Rojo. Firmly mineral at first, this wine reveals itself in layers over time. Aromas of orange blossom and grapefruit zest soften the minerality and add context to the melon and pear fruit character. This wine is rarely found at retail and we have just a few bottles to offer. $58.00

New Cava

We just got in a few new Cavas that are sure to find favor at your table this holiday season. You may also check out the rest of our extensive collection of sparkling wines, Cava and otherwise, here:

L’Hereu de Nit Rosado Brut Cava 2006 Raventos i Blanc is a true pioneer of Cava production (this family winery was making sparkling wine before the name Cava existed). They just released their newest wine, this vintage rosado Cava, and it is phenomenal. Adding 15% Monastrell to the traditional cava blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo (all estate grown in this particular instance, unusual for the region) tints the wine with the palest pink hue. Fine bubbles lift the yeasty brioche aroma from the glass. The barest whiff of strawberry aroma adds context to the dry, crisp, pinpoint precise style that Raventos i Blanc is known for. Pour this in any context that calls for sparkling wine and you (along with your guests) will be happy indeed. $21.99
Augustí Torelló Mata Reserva Brut Cava 2006 This bodega is celebrated for high end wines that rival the best French Champagne. This is a vintage Cava that spent several years ageing in the cellar to get the ‘reserva’ label. The blend here is 48% Macabeo, 27% Parellada and 25% Xarel-lo. Small, persistent bubbles and the aroma of freshly baked bread create a first impression that leads on to restrained green apple fruit character and a crisp toasty finish. This is a top shelf, traditionally styled Cava for serving at any festive moment that may arise. $24.99

Leave a comment

Filed under Spain, Sparkling Wine, 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.





Leave a comment

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

Tapaswalk

With tax season officially behind us, I thought everybody could use a bit of well priced entertainment so I’ve come up with a wine and food walking tour of downtown San Francisco that I call ‘Tapaswalk’.

In Spain the Tapeo is a well loved tradition.  Strolling from bar to bar, having a small drink and a snack at each stop along the way while chatting with friends is a relaxing way to start an evening.
I am using the Tapeo concept as inspiration for a wine and food class that includes visits to several of the Spanish styled restaurants that are ever more prevalent here in our corner of the globe.
Tapaswalk winds its way through downtown San Francisco stopping in first at Gitane for a taste of dry Manzanilla Sherry accompanied by a few appropriate tapas. Down the street at B44 we will sample some sparkling Cava along with a few bites of Chef Daniel Olivella’s Catalan cuisine. A few short blocks away, at Bocadillos we will taste the Basque white wine called Txakoli alongside Chef Gerard Hirigoyen’s traditional Basque snacks called pintxos. Next up is a trip through Chinatown to the new Madrid style bar called Lalola. Here we will try a little vino tinto paired with a few traditional tapas before heading over to North Beach to finish off the tour at 15 Romolo (the old Basque Hotel) with a small glass of Patxarán (Basque Sloe Berry liqueur) and a light dessert.
Tapaswalk is a fun, informal way to learn about Spanish wine while sampling the traditional foods of Spain. We will discuss each wine along the way, giving background and context to what we taste.
The class is limited to 10 pre-reserved guests at a time and takes place early in the week (Tuesdays or Wednesdays) at 6 pm and finishes around 8:30 pm. The first available date will be May 27th, 2009 and will reoccur weekly on an as-wanted basis.
The cost is $65.00 per person and includes all the restaurant expenses, printed tasting notes on the wines and information about the restaurants as well as the opportunity to purchase the wines afterward at discounted prices.
The route covers approximately 1.5 miles so participants should come dressed for the weather and should wear comfortable shoes.
At present I have not yet automated the registration process. For now I have set up a special email account to handle reservations for Tapaswalk. If you are interested in participating, please email me at salondelvino@gmail.com. I’ll get back to you with a confirmation and precise schedule information.

Rosado season has officially begun here at The Spanish Table with the release of the first of the new 2008 vintage pink wines. Here are a few of this week’s new arrivals.

Mengoba Preto Rosado 2008 This ‘fresh off the boat’ 2008 rosado from the newly demarcated Tierras de León region is made from the local Prieto Picudo grape. A lean, mineral core, coupled with bright acidity and just a whiff of fresh berry aroma creates a dry wine with a sophisticated balance and precision rarely found in rosado wines.  $17.99

Vega Sindoa Rosado 2008 Navarra is the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This bright, fresh 2008 rosado is a Navarra region Garnacha from Bodegas Nekeas. These guys know a thing or two about Garnacha as they are also responsible for the ever popular El Chaparral, a red wine fashioned from old vine Garnacha.  The new rosado is ripe and aromatic with fresh strawberry scent backed up by tart acidity. This is a true garden party pink for pouring all alone or with lighter picnic-style foods. $9.99

Vi D’Agulla Rosado 2007 Vi D’Agulla, that immensely refreshing, lightly effervescent white wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava also comes in a pink version. The crisp, dry style of the original is maintained, with a fresh berry scent replacing the aromatic florality of the blanco. We first carried this wine last summer when it was first released. We just brought back this dry, spritzy Catalan ‘rosat’ at a better than usual price. $11.99

Nessa 2008 The new vintage of Nessa is here.  In Galicia the cool coastal climate produces bright, refreshing wines with fresh citrus fruit character and firm minerality. This new wine, fashioned from the local Albariño grape really delivers on quality at a price that is harder and harder to find from this increasingly popular region. In the first flush of youth, this wine is vibrant, expressive and perfectly suited to a broad range of seafood pairings. $13.99

Coroa D’Ouro 2005 In Portugal’s Douro Valley, Porto Poças is, as the name states, mainly occupied with the production of fortified Port wines. With the table wine renaissance in full swing all across Portugal more Port producers are getting into Vinho Tinto. This wine is a fine example of the Douro style that takes the same grape varieties that go into Porto and re-purposes them into hearty red wines that combine dark color and bold fruit character with rocky minerality and spicy backnotes. $10.99

Valduero Crianza 2004
This dark, earthy, tannic Ribera del Duero region red made from the Tinto Fino grape is bold and full bodied. Substantial barrel tannins need some air before revealing an inner core of black cherry fruit character. Decant this one in the morning and serve it for dinner. Otherwise, cellar this one for several years and enjoy it over the next decade or more. We just got a new  (limited) supply of this wine at a better price The previous price of $27.99 has been reduced. The current price, until we run out, is $24.99.

Leave a comment

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

Many Are Tasted, But Few Are Chosen

It is that time of year again.

I speak of the spring tasting season when all the wine importers and distributors conduct tastings for the trade. New wines are featured along with new vintages of familiar favorites. At these events buyers like me get a chance to sniff, sip, compare and contrast dozens (no, hundreds) of wines before choosing what to carry in the store. It all sounds like a fun time and sort of a booze cruise but it is, in fact, a bit of work (yes, I know, poor me).

I used to make a habit of trying all the white wines before moving on to reds but I found that the high acidity of white wines tended to burn out my taste buds early, leaving me with a palate too compromised to accurately taste the red wines. My routine these days is to taste first all the things I am most interested in, switching back and forth between reds and whites. Then I go back and try other wines that I might have missed the first time through. Of course I am not consuming all this wine yet even so after a few hours I have to call it quits because palate fatigue sets in and everything starts tasting the same. Afterwards, with purple teeth, smudgy notes and, most likely, a wine stained shirt I head back home to review my notes and choose what to bring in and sell.

This week I offer you a selection of new arrivals that made the cut. Some of these wines are making a first appearance at The Spanish Table while others have just changed to the latest vintage, warranting repeat investigation.

Laxas 2008 The first 2008 Albariño of the season has arrived. Laxas is a ripe pear and citrus scented wine that displays a greenish tint and a light minerality. This bright, floral white wine is a perfect choice for springtime foods such as fresh cheeses, tender salad greens and fresh vegetables. The price has thankfully not gone up in the new vintage. $17.99

Solar de Serrade Alvarinho 2007 The wine world has ‘discovered’ Portugal (a case of hiding in plain sight, if you ask me) leading to the importation of numerous new and interesting wines that previously never made it out of the country. The Vinho Verde wines of northern Portugal have for many years been associated with cheap, spritzy, non-vintage white wines that are fun, refreshing and simple.  Now we are seeing more elaborate, intriguing wines from this region including this single varietal Alvarinho (Albariño in Spain become Alvarinho in Portugal). The light spritzy effervescence of a typical Vinho Verde is found here with a much drier, more mineral foundation underlying tart citrus fruit character. This crisp, refreshing, low alcohol white wine makes an excellent aperitivo wine as well as a nice accompaniment to lighter meals. $17.99

Muralhas De Monçao Vinho Verde 2007 Another example of the many wonderful wines coming out of Portugal right now, this white wine from the Vinho Verde region is a traditional blend of Alvarinho and Trajadura, bottled with a touch of residual effervescence. Aromas and flavors of white peach and meyer lemon give this wine a bit of roundness to balance the crisp acidity and light minerality. This wine is very popular in Portugal and has happily been showing up around the Bay Area on some by-the-glass lists of numerous restaurants. Try it at home with a big salad and some grilled sardines. $15.99

Mas Malbec 2007 The new 2007 vintage of Mas Malbec serves as a reminder that this has been a consistently solid wine and a customer favorite for several vintages running.  This wine from bodegas Sur de los Andes in Argentina is a private label for the importer Luis Moya who works with the producer to create a young 100% Malbec wine in a well balanced style. Ripe fruit never overwhelms the palate, leaving room for light barrel tannins and rocky minerality. This too is the same price as last vintage. $11.99

Novecento Malbec 2007 As the season changes and the weather warms, I start to bring in more wines intended to accompany outdoor cooking.  This young Malbec from Argentina is expressive and ripe with dark berry fruit fruit character. Dust off the grill, open a bottle of Novocento and start enjoying the sunshine. $10.99

La Planta 2007 Many of you have been waiting for the new vintage of La Planta to arrive. Wait no longer. This lightly oaked red from Bodegas Arzuaga in Ribera del Duero is dark and expressive with earthy nuance and ripe fruit character. Fashioned from the local Tinto Fino grape (Tempranillo by another name) and aged for just a few months in small oak barrels, this wine has a bold character that pairs well with full flavored meaty meals. A mixed grill of chuletas de cordero (lamb chops) and morcilla (blood sausage) would be a perfect pairing here. $15.99

1 Comment

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

Bar Lata

What is it about a small Spanish tapas bar that inspires thirst, hunger and conviviality all at the same time? The atmosphere is informal and friendly, the food is simple and ready to serve, the wines are well chosen and everything is modestly priced. It’s fast food for people who care about what they consume.

So why has ‘tapas’ become a pejorative word that evokes a fad several years past its prime?

My often voiced opinion is that the tapas concept has been turned on its head. The word ‘tapas’ has become restaurant code for ‘tiny appetizer’. A round of tapas with friends is a self contained snack while an appetizer is the first course of a full meal. This distinction has been hard to make due to a lack of proper tapas bars here in our part of the world. That is about to change.

Yesterday Daniel Olivella from B44 in San Francisco opened his new Bar Lata on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

In keeping with tradition the space is diminutive and simply decorated.  A long and varied list of cold and hot tapas is well paired with a wine selection that covers all of Spain. A unique collection of “canned” (lata = can) items are made in house and, in homage to the many superlative canned foods of Spain, are served in little oval shaped metal tins (the Lata de Pulpo was a traditional mix of octopus and potatoes dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a hearty dusting of smoked paprika).

Last night, seated in the corner with a view of the entire space I contentedly sipped a glass of cold, crisp Manzanilla while all around me the many wines of Spain, objects of my personal and professional passion, were flowing busily from bottle to glass. On one table a red Garnacha blend from Montsant was passed around amongst a cheery group of six. On another table bottle after bottle of Galician Albariño was happily consumed by an increasingly boisterous couple. Up front at the bar glasses of frothy Cava were handed out to a group of newly arrived patrons.

“This” I said to my wife “is my kind of place”.

In honor of my newfound home away from home, this week we feature a few the wines seen at (or inspired by) Bar Lata that are also found here at The Spanish Table. They have a pretty extensive list so if you go and try something you like, let me know and if I don’t have it already, I’ll get it.

Meanwhile across the Bay: I will be leading a wine class next week in San Francisco on Thursday March 19th at 7 pm at 18 Reasons (593 Guerrero St @ 18th St), a gallery in the Mission whose motto is “bringing the community together through food and art”.  The theme the evening is “Spanish Bubbles” and will include a tasting of sparkling Cava, lightly effervescent Txakoli from Basque Country and Vi D’Agulla from Catalunya as well as a sweet sparkling Muscat from Valencia. Background notes on the wines will be available during the event along with discounted purchasing opportunities. Appropriate snacks (dare I call them ‘tapas’?) will be prepared by the 18 Reasons crew. All of this can be had for the extremely tasty price of $10 ($5 dollars for 18 Reasons members). Go to their web site, http://18reasons.org/ for details and directions or call them at (415)-252-9816.

San León Manzanilla Clásica This wine, with an average age of 8 years, is palest straw colored and full of yeasty, saline aroma (like a fresh sea breeze) and toasted almond and chamomile flavors. If you are a Manzanilla lover this is an excellent new wine to add to your list. If you have not yet had a chance to try this most distinctive Spanish wine, this is the perfect place to start. $12.99 (375ml)

Gran Barquero Fino In the hills of Andalucia, just south of Cordoba in D.O. Montilla-Moriles they make fortified wines using the Pedro Ximénez grape.  These wines share the same production techniques as Sherry from D.O. Jerez further south. Gran Barquero Fino is pale straw colored, bracingly dry, lean and full of toasted almond aroma. $17.99

Sete Cepas Albariño 2007 This well priced Albariño is pale yellow tinged with green. Grapefruit aroma, lean minerality and light, refreshing texture are all to be found in this young white wine from Galicia. $12.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava is composed of Petit Grain Muscat, fermented to dryness and bottled with a bit of residual effervescence. The rich Muscat scent is present here but the sweetness usually associated with this grape is only barely perceived. In its place is tart citrusy fruit character and background flintiness. This wine was originally $14.99 but is on sale while it lasts for $11.99

Can Blau 2007 This dark, opulent Montsant region blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too. Judging from the number of bottles of Can Blau that I saw being poured at Bar Lata in Oakland the other night, this is a real crowd pleaser. Personal experience affirms this perspective. $16.99

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 Produced from a blend of mostly Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano, this Crianza level wine spends an extended period (2 years) ageing in French and American oak barrels, with an additional year of bottle ageing before release. The bright cherry-like fruit and resiny tannic barrel character that are typical of traditional Crianza Riojas are present here in a finely tuned frame. Serve this wine with sliced Serrano ham or cured Spanish chorizo for a classic flavor pairing. $19.99

Leave a comment

Filed under events, Fortified Wine, Red Wine, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine