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Moscatel

The Muscat grape (known in Spain as Moscatel) is thought to be the oldest cultivated grape variety on the planet. Many different wine grapes are descended from primal Muscat vines cultivated thousands of years ago in the Middle East (or maybe Greece, nobody is really sure). The unique, unchanging aspect that distinguishes Muscat is a rich floral aroma that is present when the fruit is fresh as well as in the wines made from this grape. The distinctive rich honeyed perfume is the scent of freshly crushed grapes at harvest time. Spanish Moscatel  has a long history stretching back thousands of years. The Moscatel variety is grown all across Spain and the wines made from this most ancient of grapes come in a range of styles from sweet to dry or somewhere in between.Traditional Moscatel Dulce is a sweet wine, made in a sherry-like style (fortified) in the south as well as a golden late harvest style in the north and east of Spain. These wines are traditionally served with light desserts at the end of a meal. Less well known are the dry and off-dry table wines made from Moscatel.  These wines retain the rich floral aroma that Moscatel is known for but with less (or none of) the residual sugar that usually pushes Moscatel into the dessert wine category. They can be still, sparkling or lightly spritzy. They retain bright acidity that combines with the floral aromatics to create a wine with weight and substance that is also balanced and food-friendly. The closest comparisons would be the aroma and texture of Viognier offset by the edgy grapefruit and mineral character of Albariño. These wines are pefect accompaniments to a broad range of autumn and winter flavors as well as many traditional holiday foods.


Botani 2008
Botani is a dry Moscatel from the Sierras de Malaga region. Victoria Ordoñez, sister of the famous wine marketer Juan Ordoñez, makes this wine at the small family winery. The floral, concentrated aroma is classic Moscatel, redolent of honeysuckle and orange blossom,  but the palate is crisp and dry with citrus and mineral notes. This pale straw colored wine possesses a finely tuned balance of flavors that express a fresh and unique side of this ancient region. $21.99

 

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2008 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 are flavors of tart grapefruit and background flintiness. This spritzy, low alcohol white wine makes a unique and distinctive apperitivo at the start of a festive gathering. $11.99

 

Viña Esmeralda 2008 This medium sweet blend of Moscatel and Gewürtztraminer is floral and aromatic with notes of rose petal and lavender. Honeyed melon fruit character is held in check by bright acidity. In Spain this is a traditional wine to serve during during the holidays accompanied by some almond cookies or the anise flavored fried pastries known as rosquillas. $14.99

Gramona Gessamí 2008 In the Catalan language gessamí means jasmine. This is a perfect descriptor for the aroma of this Penedès region blend of Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürtztraminer. The rich floral perfume wafts out of the glass at arms length. Put the glass to your lips and take in the crisp citrus and green apple fruit character. The combination of sweet aroma and tart flavor creates a uniquely delicious experience. Pair this wine with raw fish (tuna tartare, sashimi) or any number of marinated vegetable salads (beets & fennel, mushroom & leeks vinaigrette). $17.99


Musva Espumoso
Previously this was called Reymos. It comes from a small co-op winery in the village of Cheste near Valencia. It is a sparkling Moscatel that works its magic best at the end of a meal. It is medium sweet, low in alcohol, aggressively bubbly and aromatic. Notes of baking spices (cloves, nutmeg, allspice) make this an excellent wine to serve with an autumn pear tart (or, even better, good ol’ American pumpkin pie). $11.99

 

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 At this time of year a little glass of late harvest Moscatel is particularly appealing in the late afternoon or after dinner. The celebrated Casta Diva is a lush, sweet Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey, ginger and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart. $32.99 (500 ml)


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Rioja Bordon is back! For those of you who missed out on these the first time around (or tried them, loved them and want more) we are happy to report that a new batch of traditionally styled Rioja wines from Bodegas Franco-Española has just arrived and is going fast. The same great pricing continues until the wines are gone. We are thrilled to be able to extend this not-to-be-missed opportunity.

Rioja Bordon Crianza 2005 The 2001 was a staff and customer favorite and hopefully you’ll find the current release just as enticing. A bit richer than the 2001, this is still a classic Rioja Crianza (tart pie cherry fruit with well integrated barrel character) at an outstanding price. $13.99

Rioja Bordon Reserva 2004 The best seller of the Franco-Española wines is this plush reserva from the stellar 2004 vintage. Elegantly expressive and balanced Rioja at a fabulous price. $17.99

Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 1999 Here it is. A 10-year old wine for an amazing price. Soft and round this is a classic aged Gran Reserva, intended as a vino de contemplación to be served alone or with a few choice tapas (jamón iberico!). A true taste of Spain at a knock out price. $23.99

Baron d’Anglade Reserva 2001 Named after the founder of the Bodega, this is a denser,bolder wine than the regular Reserva. This wine is from the stellar 2001 vintage Notes of dark cherry, allspice and clove, tobacco smoke and vanilla on a round, velvety frame. Regular retail would be $60, but it’s $49.99

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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.

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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

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Favorites, Old and New

Wines have seasons and internal rhythms all their own.

The ebb and flow from one vintage to the next creates periods of abundance and moments of absence. With each new vintage a wine changes character, sometimes gently, other times dramatically, and then, of course, each bottle of wine develops in its own way over time.

One of the pleasures of the wine business is getting a first hand look at this evolutionary process. This week I bring you some wines that may be familiar to you from previous years as well as some new wines from well known regions and winemakers.

For one reason or another, the time is right for these wines, each in their own special way. We have some fresh white wines that are perfect for the late summer season and others that have just arrived and are drinking really well right now. We also have some reds that are new arrivals, some new vintages of familiar favorites and others that are freshly marked down in price.

Check out the suggestions below and then come see us in Berkeley for even more seasonal wine inspiration.

Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2007 Most Vinho Verde is non-vintage but this wine is produced each year from a blend of traditional grapes (Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura) from the best parcels of Aveleda’s estate vineyards. This finely tuned Vinho Verde displays fresh citrus and light floral aromas along with bright fruit character and the spritzy effervescence that is typical of wines from this region.

This wine got a nice write up today in the San Francisco Chronicle. Check out what Peter Liem (usually he writes about champagne  for Wine & Spirits, so an interesting perspective for this article) had to say About Vinho Verde, here . $8.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this summertime thirst quencher 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. $14.99

Talai Berri 2007 The latest Txakoli of the summer is this wine from the town of Zarautz on the Cantabrian coast. Fresh off the boat, this crisp white wine made from the Hondarribi Zuri (as much fun to type as it is to say) grape is full of racy grapefruit-like acidity enveloping a firm mineral core. Grab some of this perfect summer wine while it is in its most vibrant stage. $20.99

Las Gravas 2003 We just got a great deal on Las Gravas. Normally it sells for $29.99 but while the supply lasts we have it for almost half of the original price.

Las Gravas, from Casa Castillo in D.O. Jumilla is a blend of 85% Monastrell and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 14 months in French oak before bottling. This aptly named (Gravas=Gravel) wine displays rocky minerality along with the rich fruit character for which this region is known. Inky dark color (the wine is bottled without filtration) and ripe berry aroma and flavor meld into a harmoniously structured wine with silky texture and more of the aforementioned minerality on the long finish. $17.99

Prima 2006 The new vintage of Prima has arrived. This dark, rich red from the Toro region is made by Mariano Garcia, one of Spain’s most celebrated winemakers. He cashed in his interest in Vega Sicilia to start a family winery called Bodegas Maurodos where the famous Mauro and San Román are made as well as the more affordable Prima. Old vine Tinto de Toro (along with 10% Garnacha) is used for this wine which sees a bit of oak before bottling. Opaque ruby color, concentrated aromas and flavors of ripe berries and a smoky/earthy foundation are combined to great effect in this wine. $19.99

Gorrondona Tinto 2007 The rare and elusive red Txakoli is difficult to find. These firmly tannic wines are lean and full of mineral flavor, with a gentle fruit character that fades quickly with age. Happily, the new Gorrondona Tinto, made from 100% Hondarribi Beltza (grown in miniscule quantities on ancient vines), is super fresh, with dark Mulberry fruit character balancing firm minerality. This is an excellent and unusual light summer red. $27.99

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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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Vintage Tuna

I just tried a new product here at The Spanish Table that is so good that I am stepping away from my usual wine related patter to alert you to this new taste treat.

My new favorite product is a 2004 vintage canned tuna.

Ageing canned fish is a well respected tradition in many Spanish homes. Some people (those with great forethought and discipline) even wait over a decade before opening the tin.

Ortiz, one of the top brands of canned bonito del norte tuna packed in olive oil, have recently started marketing several reserva varieties of canned tuna that are aged on purpose before sale. These vintage dated products develop a richer, creamier texture and a nutty, delicate flavor over time.

I know, I know, many of you will be skeptical when I sing the praises of ‘old canned goods’ but this is something you need to just try for yourself. Take one small can of regular Ortiz tuna and compare it side by side with the same sized can of Ortiz Reserva de la Familia 2004 vintage tuna. I already think of Ortiz tuna as on of life’s great pleasures, so you can imagine my surprise when I tasted the vintage variety and found it to be a deliciously different version of the original.

To taste this line caught, dolphin safe tuna at its best (and to get back to my primary mission) pair it with some of the fresh white and rosado wines from this week’s selections. These warm weather wines will refresh your thirst and stimulate your appetite without emptying your wallet.

If eating tuna straight from the can with a fork seems wrong to you (it is hard to resist!) then may I suggest the following simple appetizer that I have been served at numerous wineries and informal gatherings in Spain.

Tuna and Piquillo montaditos (serves 4 as a tapa, 2 per person)

Ingredients:

2 4 oz. cans of Ortiz Reserva 2004 Bonito del Norte tuna

8 whole jarred piquillo peppers

8 ½” slices of baguette

¼ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 tblspn. flor de sal (sea salt)

8 toothpicks

Directions:

This simple preparation calls for the best quality ingredients. Open the cans of tuna and drain some, but not all, of the oil. Divide the contents of each can in fourths and fill each pepper with tuna. Top each slice of bread with a filled pepper and secure with a toothpick. Drizzle the peppers with the best olive oil you can find and sprinkle with top quality sea salt. Plate and serve. That’s all there is to it!

Paella alert-two weeks away: The ever popular and always delicious Paella class at Kitchen On Fire is back. On Friday June 13th at 6:30 pm I will be leading a bunch of enthusiastic food lovers in this hands-on class that is guaranteed to give all participants the knowledge and confidence to make this classic Spanish one-pot meal at home. Whether you want to make paella for two or for two hundred this high spirited class will reward you with a plateful of Paella wisdom. We’ll be making a few tapas and trying some wines too (hey, it’s me teaching the class, so we’ve got to try some wines, don’t you think?). Go to the Kitchen On Fire website to sign up. This will be the only class like this all summer and the class is limited to 20 participants so act now to secure your spot.

Ameztoi Rubentis 2007 This rosado Txakoli, the first of its kind, was the big hit of last summer in its inaugural vintage. Ignacio Ameztoi Aranguren, a 7th generation basque winemaker produces this wine from the fruit of his 50 acre vineyard in the Getaria region overlooking the Cantabrian Sea. Rubentis is composed of a blend of indigenous Hondarribi Zuri (white) and Hondarribi Beltza (red), creating a light pink colored wine with just a touch of residual effervescence. The refreshing grapefruit and mineral notes found in the white Ameztoi are supplemented here with a slight note of wild strawberry. We have just a few cases of this wine so act now if you wish to try it for yourself. $18.99

Gurrutxaga Rosado 2007 Following on the success of Ameztoi Rubentis, DeMaison Imports has brought yet another rosado Txakoli to our shores. Gurrutxaga Rosado is made in the little coastal village of Mendexa in the heart of the basque lands. This wine is made from 100% Hondarribi Beltza, the traditional red grape of this region. Aromas of wet limestone punctuated by bright flavors of grapefruit and tannic grape skin remind me of traditional white Txakoli, here with the addition of intriguing pale pink color and the aroma of unripe strawberry. $18.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Another DeMaison import (their ship recently came in… literally) is this new vintage of refreshing, spritzy white wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava. Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this summertime thirst quencher 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. $14.99

Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2007 We just received the new vintage Vinho Verde from Aveleda in Portugal. Most Vinho Verde is non-vintage but this wine is produced each year from a blend of traditional grapes (Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura) from the best parcels of Aveleda’s estate vineyards. This finely tuned Vinho Verde displays fresh citrus and light floral aromas along with bright fruit character and the spritzy effervescence that is typical of wines from this region. $8.99

Quinta da Cabriz Branco 2007 If you have wanted to try white Portuguese wines beyond Vinho Verde, this white Dão region wine will be a real treat. Quinta da Cabriz makes some excellent and well priced red wines, but their white wine is only now making it to our part of the world. Composed of 40% Encruzado, 20% Malvasia, 20% Cerceal and 20% Bical, this unoaked blend of typical Portuguese grapes is fresh and delicate with moderate acidity and white peach fruit character. $10.99

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Personal Favorites

Spanish wine can be a hard thing to define in general terms. Just about every region in Spain makes at least a little bit of wine and the regional variation, numerous grape varieties and the personal styles of individual winemakers can cover an almost infinite range of possibilities.

At The Spanish Table we take pride in offering a wide variety of wines from all across the Iberian Peninsula, and reading this newsletter is one of the best ways to learn about these exciting, enticingly new wines.

My normal habit is to put aside my own personal preferences and to promote new and interesting wines regardless of whether or not I plan to add the wine to my personal collection, but for you, the reader of this newsletter, it might be helpful to calibrate my perspective (for all wine writing is, after all, a matter of personal perspective) by sharing some of my personal favorites with you. 

I tend to take home younger wines, though you will find a few more mature bottles in the list below. I, like you, love a wine that delivers excellent quality at a great price, so you won’t see any expensive icon wine on this week’s list (not that I don’t love these wines as well, but a shopkeeper’s budget has certain limitations). What follows are some new items as well as some well loved favorites, all of which have found a place at my dinner table in recent weeks.   

Also, since I’m going ‘first-person’ on you this week, here is a recipe from my past that has caught up to me in the best of ways.

I grew up in the south where traditional recipes and regional specialties are more respected than in many other parts of the country.  One of the traditional foods I grew up with, and hated, was the dreaded Pimento Cheese Spread. Usually made with ‘American’ cheese, mayonnaise and tasteless pimentos from a jar, this was not a dish that I looked back on with great fondness. Recently, I found myself longing for the flavors of my formative years in Georgia and since nostalgia and food memory are sentiments only barely tethered to logic and reality, I decided to re-try some recipes from my younger days. Not satisfied with simple replication, I wanted to use my more recently acquired Spanish cooking habits to update these traditional southern standbys. I upgraded the ingredients, added a bit of Spanish flair and, well, all I can say is y’all are going to love the results.

 

Kevin’s Pimentón Cheese Spread (serves 6 as an appetizer)

½ lb.                Manchego Tierno Cheese (the youngest Manchego)

½ lb.                 Idiazabal Cheese

5             whole Piquillo peppers

6             pitted green Manzanilla olives

¼ cup   Ybarra mayonesa (made with 100% olive oil)

½ tsp.                 Pimentón de la Vera Dulce (smoked sweet paprika)

1 tsp.     Salt

 

Cut rind off cheeses and grate finely. Dice piquillo peppers and olives. Combine grated cheese, diced peppers and olives in a bowl with mayonesa, pimentón and salt. Mix completely and refrigerate for an hour before serving on bread. Melt the cheese spread on toast under the broiler for a hot version of this updated classic.

 

Aviny0 Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 Without a doubt, the white wine I take home most often is this spritzy, dry Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya. This refreshing grapefruity white wine is low in alcohol but big on taste. It makes a welcoming aperitif for guests and a perfect Sunday afternoon cocktail after yard work or washing the dogs.

 

Puerta Novas Crianza 2001 $12.99 My wife and I were recently surprised by this wine. When first released, Puertas Novas was quite firm and oaky, but time has been kind to this Toro region red.  With dinner the other night this proved to be a supple, rich, balanced wine (made from the local version of Tempranillo, appropriately named Tinto de Toro). No longer strictly a ‘steak wine’, Puertas Novas now has an elegance that reflects both the wine’s pedigree (2001 was an excellent vintage) and the skill of the winemakers (for those who still want the bigger, more structured version, Valpiculata Reserva 2001 is also still available for $23.99).

 

Viña Valoria 2005 $14.99 Many of you have come in looking for the perfect red wine to serve with paella and I very often recommend this young Rioja. A few scant months of barrel age lend the slightest touch of barrel character to this blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano. The pure, plum-like fruit character is juicy and refreshing, never overwhelming lighter foods such as rice or pasta dishes (paella specifically!).

 

Servilio Roble 2006$15.99 This new arrival from Ribera del Duero is bold and ripe. Dark color and a hint of meat locker aroma hint at what to serve with this young red wine. Grilled lamb chops, carne asada, crispy fried Morcilla or whatever meaty meal you prefer will taste even better when accompanied by this wine.  At home we love to serve this wine with the Berkshire pork chops we get from Café Rouge here in Berkeley.

 

Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating. This is the only Reserva Rioja wine made from the rare Graciano grape. Usually Graciano, which accounts for a mere 5% of the annual harvest in Rioja, is used to blend in with the lighter Tempranillo. Graciano lends structure to blended Rioja. On its own, Graciano can be quite firm and tannic, but with 24 months in barrel followed by another two years of bottle ageing, the wine has become quite elegant and mature. Braised beef brisket with pearl onions and potatoes was what I served with this wine.

 

Raspay Tinto “Brut” 2001 $19.99 In the Alicante region along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Bodegas Primitivo Quiles are best known for a fortified wine called Fondillón, made from the local Monastrell grape in a style similar to Sherry. The same old vine Monastrell also goes into this traditionally styled red wine.  The ruddy, brick red tint and savory tannic aroma give way to dried cherry fruit character. This is no fruit bomb. The old-school Spanish style is very well represented in this bottling that wins my vote for best label art too.  I served this with a selection of embutidos from The Spanish Table such as Lomo Embuchado, Jamón Serrano and dry cured Chorizo.

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine