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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

Contigo

The wait is over. Contigo has finally opened.
It took Brett Emerson two years to build the restaurant of his dreams in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. He shared the long process, from his original inspiration (on a trip to Spain, of course) through the long construction phase to the final result that is Contigo on his blog In Praise Of Sardines. He first came to our attention here in Berkeley when we noticed him repeatedly shopping for large quantities of clay cazuelas in various sizes. Knowing that where one sees cazuelas, good food often follows, we waited patiently for his efforts to bear fruit. That patience (on our part as well as Brett’s) has paid off as Contigo is now up and running, serving excellent food inspired by Chef Emerson’s Iberian experiences.
Now open seven nights a week, Contigo serves a well chosen selection of hot and cold appetizers, several larger dishes and a mostly Spanish selection of wines . The small dishes include fresh seasonal vegetables (asparagus and fava beans – and leaves –  are currently featured), seafood (fried anchovies, local squid cooked in their own ink) and several more meaty choices (ox tail croquetas, pork belly bocadillos). From the wood burning oven come a few pizza-like flat breads and several main course sized meat and seafood dishes cooked in those clay cazuelas we love so well. Paired with a glass of dry Manzanilla Sherry, a bubbly Cava or a rich Vino Tinto the food at Contigo evokes the traditional flavors of Spain coupled with Brett Emerson’s skill and imagination.

Happily, the public embrace of Contigo has been immediate. Amanda Gold’s review in The San Francisco Chronicle came out today so expect even larger than usual crowds (my strategy at present is to go after the dinner rush on Monday when the wait is minimal – wait, why am I telling you this? That’s supposed to be my little secret!).
In Berkeley we are currently seeing new vintages of some trusty favorites as well as trying an experiment in wine packaging.
In response to the overwhelming popularity of Capote Velho Tinto I am now carrying the same wine in the economical, environmentally friendly ‘Bag in Box’ size.  While I am confident that the wine in the bottle is identical to the wine in the box (I tasted both the bottle and the box versions side by side to make sure the same flavors carried over from one to the other), only time will tell if you, our customers, are willing to set aside preconceptions about ‘box wine’ and give this a try. The combination of low price and high quality makes the decision pretty simple.
Also coming in this week is the new supply of Basque apple cider (Sagardo!) that many of you have been waiting for as well as our short lived annual allotment of Txakoli Rosado. Additionally, this week we have a couple of new reds from unique grapes, including a new Mencía from Bierzo as well as a new Prieto Picudo from the newly created Tierra de León region.


Tapaswalk update

In response to the numerous inquiries regarding Tapaswalk (a wine and food class/walking tour that winds its way through downtown San Francisco stopping in at several of the Spanish styled restaurants that are shaking up the local dining scene) I have created a summer long schedule that should give everybody time to pick a date that works for you.
I will be offering Tapaswalk every other week on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting May 27th. The Tuesday classes will be on June 9th, July 7th, August 4th, September 1st, September 29th and October 27th. The Wednesday classes will be on May 27th, June 24th, July 22nd, August 19th, September 16th, September 30th and October 14th.
The classes all start at 6 pm and last approximately 2 hours. The cost is $65 per person. More details can be found here. Reservations should be made via email at salondelvino(at)gmail(dot)com.

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). The pour spigot keeps the air out, maintaining the freshness of the wine  for as long as it takes to finish the whole thing. $29.99
Isastegi Sidra 2008 The new vintage of Isastegi has arrived and , hey, the price is better this year! This tart, yeasty hard apple cider is a refreshingly different drink to accompany a full range of pintxos (Basque tapas). Try it with sizzling chorizo from the grill or bacon wrapped dates. $8.99
Ameztoi Rubentis 2008 It appears but once a year and now is the moment. The dry, crisp Txakoli wine from Basque country is rarely found in the rosado version. The abundantly mineral Txakoli style is supplemented with pale pink color and the barest whiff of tart strawberry. Pour this one when the weather is hot and experience true refreshment. $19.99
Guitian Sobre Lias 2005 This is my current favorite white wine at Daniel Olivella’s Barlata in Oakland. Made in the Valdeorras region from the local Godello grape, this wine spent several months ageing on its lees (the skins, pulp and sediment from the wine making process) to give an added note of yeasty complexity to the gentle, white peach and melon fruit character. $11.99
Castro De Valtuille Mencía Joven 2006 This unoaked young wine from the Bierzo region was, in previous vintages, called Castro Ventosa. Newly repackaged, this fresh young red displays the typical Mencía style in an unadorned, pure version. Twiggy, dried leaf aroma adds intrigue to the cranberry/pomegranate fruit character and underlying minerality. White beans and chorizo would make a good match here. $14.99
Preto Tinto 2007 Tierra de León is one of Spain’s newest wine regions. One of the unique local grapes of this region is Prieto Picudo, a fruity, high acid variety that was almost extinct before efforts in this region to recuperate the variety. Preto Tinto is dark garnet colored with leafy Mencía-like aroma, flinty minerality and mulberry fruit character. This unoaked wine expresses the Prieto Picudo grape in a pure, unadulterated form (this is the same producer as the Preto Rosado mentioned a few weeks ago). $21.99

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Filed under events, rosado, sidra (cider), Spain, White Wine