Tag Archives: basque

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!

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Cider Season

The hard apple cider from Spain’s northern coastal regions goes by several names. The Asturians call it Sidra. In Basque country they call it Sagardo.
If you have never tried Spanish cider you owe it to yourself to taste this traditional beverage. It pairs well with cured ham and pork sausages, dry aged cheeses and nuts. If you are already familiar with Sidra, you know how hard it is to find here in this part of the world. Now you have a source for several traditional styles from several regions.
The tradition of fermented apple juice goes way back to the time before refrigerated storage when the seasonal apple harvest came in all at once in early November and families would press the apples to extract the juice in order to preserve as much of the harvest as possible. A few months of barrel fermentation created a lightly alcoholic drink that would last the rest of the year, served straight from the barrel throughout the Spring and Summer.
In modern times commercial cider mills are still mostly small family businesses. These Sidrerias often open their doors to the public and serve cider straight from the barrel alongside a traditional cider house meal of salt cod omelettes and thick bone-in rib eye steaks. The meal is eaten while standing up in order to facilitate frequent trips to the barrel room.
Serving apple cider during the holiday season is a tradition firmly rooted in Spain as well as in many Latin American cultures. At The Spanish Table we carry a selection of traditional apple cider that includes sparkling apple cider  in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. We also carry the cloudy farmhouse cider that is the traditional drink found in countless small establishments across northern Spain.
For more background on cider check out this nicely done article written recently by  Eric Asimov for The new York Times.


sidra_elgaitero__86323
El Gaitero This sparkling apple cider from Asturias is our best seller. Here you will find abundant effervescence, sweet apple flavor and a fairly low level of alcohol (less than 7%). This is a fun addition to any Spanish holiday fiesta. $8.99

sidra_isastegi__725362009 Isastegi Sagardo Naturala This hard apple cider from Basque country is refreshingly dry and tart. Yeasty aroma and flavor more reminiscent of apple barrel than apple juice evokes the small Sidrerias (cider houses) of Northern Spain. Pour this cloudy farmhouse cider from high above a wide glass to give it a bit of fizz as they do at in Spain. $9.99

 

trabanco__691452009 Trabanco Sidra Natural This Asturias region cider is made from estate grown native apple varieties that have been approved by the Asturian Association of Cider Apple Growers. The juice is fermented with indigenous yeasts, in accordance to the guidelines for “Naturally Fermented Quality Cider”. It is an unfiltered, low alcohol cider (6%) that is dry and yeasty with green apple tartness. $9.99

 

img_3889__369822007 Poma Aurea This is a rare bottle fermented hard apple cider from Sidra Trabanco located in the Asturian town of Gijon. This Sidra is made with a selection of indigenous apple varieties from the best local orchards. These apples were meticulously hand sorted and pressed using traditional old wooden presses. The must was then transferred to select old barrels where it underwent fermentation using indigenous
yeast. Once fermentation was complete the sidra was put into bottle with apple must to initiate secondary fermentation. It fermented for six months before being disgorged. This product is named Poma Aurea for the special golden color of this unique cider. $16.99
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Sidra sin alcohol

In addition to our collection of hard cider, we have a few sparkling apple ciders that contain no alcohol. They are made in the Asturian town of Villavisciosa by the same producer as the El Gaitero hard cider. These fun, festive drinks come in champagne style bottles and are perfect for holiday gatherings and family meals.

gaita__15041
La GaitaThis sparkling apple cider  is very similar to the regular El Gaitero in flavor, but without the alcohol. La Gaita, named after the Asturian version of bag pipes, sports a pretty champagne style bottle with an old fashioned label on the outside and lots of bubbles and sweet apple flavor on the inside. This is a wonderful alternative to alcoholic beverages for the younger crowd or for those who choose not to drink alcohol. $4.49

 

 

gaitero_green__15916

 

El Gaitero “Green Label” La GaitaLa GaitaMade in Asturias, this sparkling apple cider that is sweet, bubbly and free of alcohol. Pretty champagne style bottles with wire wrapped cork goes POP when you open it and out pours sweet apple flavor with lots of bubbles. This is a wonderful alternative to alcoholic beverages for a large festive gathering or holiday celebration. $4.99

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2009 Txakolí is here

The new vintage of Basque Txakolí (cha-koh-LEE) has just arrived in all its multifaceted glory. You will now find all three Txakolí regions (Getariako,Bizkaiko, Arabako) represented here. We have the traditional white versions as well as the rare and briefly available rosados. These wines all share a few common elements. Bright acidity and spritzy effervescence pair up with lean minerality and tart fruit character. They are all perfect warm weather refreshment by the glass and will particularly compliment anything to eat from the sea.

2009 Ameztoi Txakolí This wine is a perfect expression of the Basque white wine style common in San Sebastian and all across the Basque Country. Hondarribi Zuri grapes barely have a chance to ripen before harvest time along the cool, green Cantabrian coast. The resulting wine is light, flinty, slightly effervescent and grapefruit tart. $19.99

2009 Gurrutxaga Txakolí This wine from the Txakolina Bizkaiko region near Bilbao comes from a small family winery in Mendexa producing minuscule quantities of crisp, lean white wine composed of a tongue twisting blend of 60% Hondarribi Zuri, 20% Mune Mahatsa and 20% Txori Mahatsa. Bright acidity and slatey minerality characterize this refreshing wine. $19.99

2009 Gurrutxaga Txakolí Rosado An alternative to traditional white Txakolí, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of strawberry fruit character. Low (10%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99

2009 Xarmant Txakolí This wine comes from vineyards in the inland hills of Alava province where the grapes get a better chance of fully ripening than those along the coast, thus creating a fuller, rounder wine with less of the austere minerality of the coastal Txakolí. An excellent introduction to Txakolií for those who have yet to experience this wonderfully refreshing wine. $14.99

Rioja Bordon is back: In 1890, a Frenchman from Bordeaux and several Spanish winemakers founded a Rioja region winery which they named Bodegas Franco-Españolas in honor of their international partnership. Over the years this bodega has built a reputation for traditional wines made from the Tempranillo grape, slowly aged in oak barrels for many years before release. In modern times they are stalwart traditionalists, upholding a style that is less and less prevalent in the Rioja region.
These wines were hard to find in California until we contacted the importer on the east coast and arranged to have the wine shipped exclusively to us here at The Spanish Table. We moved through the first batch quickly last autumn and have just brought in another stack of the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva at the same great prices as last time. The only change is in the Gran Reserva which has moved into the (superlative) 2001 vintage.

Diamante 2008 This white Rioja is one of Spain’s best selling white wines. Made from Viura & Malvasia, there is a bit of residual sugar which gives this wine it’s touch of sweetness. Pour Diamante as a before dinner cocktail paired with a few cold tapas $12.99

Rioja Bordon Crianza 2005 This is a classic Rioja Crianza at an oustanding price. Tart cherry fruit character balances mature oak barrel aroma  and firm tannins. This is a perfect wine for serving with cured meats and hot tapas. $13.99

Rioja Bordon Reserva 2004 This Reserva Rioja from an outstanding vintage is rich and elegant. Dark color, silky texture, dark berry fruit and supple tannins combine to create this mature expression of classic Rioja style. $17.99

Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 2001 In Rioja, Gran Reserva wines are only produced in the best years. 2001 was one of the best vintages in recent memory. Perfect growing conditions (hot days, cold nights, rain in the spring, dry at harvest time) produced the kind of fruit that make wines worth ageing for a decade before sale. Faded brick red color, fully resolved barrel character and delicate fruit flavors. Soft and round this is a classic Gran Reserva for one 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 over $60, but we have it for sale at $49.99

Follow the various links above to find these wines at: spanishtablewines.com

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Learning About Spain

The Wine Academy of Spain, an educational organization run by Pancho Campo (Spain’s first Master of Wine) stopped in San Francisco last week as part of a US tour currently wrapping up in Washington DC.
I joined a group of Spanish wine enthusiasts for the three day seminar that covered all of Spain’s regions, grapes and winemaking styles. I got to brush up on my Spanish wine knowledge and tried many new wines as well as some familiar favorites.
Esteban Cabezas and his crew did a fabulous job of squeezing a ton of information into a short space of time. I gleaned all sorts of tidbits of information that I will be sharing with you in the days and weeks to come.
My thanks and appreciation go out to The Wine Academy of Spain and to Catavino for sponsoring my attendance to the seminar (I won the scholarship for my why-I-love-Spanish-wine blog entry). Hopefully I passed the exam and in a few weeks will have a handsome Spanish Wine Educator certificate to hang on the wall.
I retried a few wines at the Wine Academy of Spain course that are making a repeat appearance here as a result of a good showing at the seminar. Check out this week’s wine notes for the Aria Brut Cava, Gramona Imperial Cava and the red Fra Guerau Monsant. They are now back in stock and drinking beautifully.

Espelt Vailet 2007 After my recent trip to the Empordá region of Spain (up along the French border on the Mediterranean side) I have been eagerly buying all the wine from this little known, rocky, sparsely populated corner of the globe. A few weeks back we featured the red from Espelt as well as the rosado. The white wine from Espelt has just come back in stock and I recommend it this week as a new option for those seeking bright, fresh white wines with distinctive character. The blend is 60% Garnacha Blanca and 40% Macabeo (Viura for you white Rioja fans). Crisp minerality is supplemented here with a bit of green herb and citrus character. $12.99
Aria Brut This Cava has been a well loved favorite and is finally back in stock here in Berkeley. This frothy blend of the three traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada)presents a fresh, balanced side of Cava with a bit of green apple fruit adding counterpoint to the mineral foundation. $10.99
Gramona Imperial 2004 For those who appreciate the complexity of long aged Cava, this vintage sparkler is always a welcome sight. 3-4 year of cellar age gives this wine a very Champagne-like character. Adding 10% Chardonnay to the blend of 50% Xarel-lo and 40% Macabeo adds to the similarity with French bubbly. Yeasty brioche aroma, an elegant mineral backnote and a bit of brandied fruit on the finish. $31.99
Fra Guerau 2003 This was one of the first wines that caught my attention back when I started with The Spanish Table. I recently retasted Fra Guerau and was reminded of the pure pleasure that comes from this blend of numerous grapes (Syrah, Garnacha, Cariñena, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Monastrell) from the Montsant region. Dark garnet color, sweet berry fruit character and well integrated barrel character (thanks to several years of bottle age) make this an easy wine to pair with all kinds of food. $13.99
Zaumau Priorat 2008 Carlos Escolar make miniscule quantities of wine in DOC Priorat. Old vine Garnacha and Samsó (the local name for Cariñena) are blended here in an unoaked red that expresses the rocky terruño of the region in a pure, darkly colored, ripely fruited style. Foregoing the barrel ageing regimen brings the price down significantly for this wine from a region not known for bargains. $17.99
Viña Lanciano Reserva 2001 Nothing says ‘Spain’ quite like a slowly matured Tempranillo from Rioja. This wine,from the superlative 2001 vintage, is composed of the best estate grown fruit from Bodegas LAN. Two years in the barrel followed by 5 years resting in the bottle in the cellar have created an elegant, traditional wine that blends tannic oak with tart cherry fruit character. Aromas of fresh earth, cured meat and wood smoke add depth and nuance to this excellent example of old school Rioja. $28.99

TapasWalk In The News

Last Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle ran a feature on the Spanish wine & food walking tour that I do called TapasWalk. Using my tour as an example, Janet Fletcher wrote a detailed piece on the burgeoning tapas scene now happening in downtown San Francisco. “In this new little world straddling North Beach, the Financial District and Russian Hill,” Fletcher wrote, “a Bay Area tapas enthusiast with good walking shoes can do the sort of bar hopping that many Spaniards enjoy nightly.” She included a lexicon of useful terminology for those less familar with Spanish cuisine as well as a few recipes for traditional tapas that you can make at home (with a few ingredients from The Spanish Table, of course). If you missed it in the paper last week you can still read the article online here.


Txakolí Wisdom


In tandem with last week’s San Francisco Chronicle article by Janet Fletcher about the downtown tapas scene, Jon Bonné put together a detailed and up-to-date summary of the current state of Basque Txakolí wine. If you have yet to experience the distinct joy of Txakolí, this article tells you all you need to know to get started. We carry all the Txakolí wines and (just between you and me) we even have some of the elusive Txakolí rosado still in stock.

Txakolí Etiquette

If you have visited San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country you probably noticed how the local bartenders pour the Txakolí wine with an outstretched arm from high overhead. Now our good friends from Vinos Unico have made an instructional video that shows just how to pour Txakolí like a pro. Check them out here:


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Sense Of Place

Welcome back to our continuing Spanish wine round up. This week the glory that is Spanish regionalism is in full effect as we hopscotch around this diverse land tasting wines of all types and styles. This week the ever changing selection of new vino at The Spanish Table includes some traditional and familiar names, but also several white and red wines from parts of Spain that are only recently getting their fair share of attention. Each of these wines express the character and style of their respective regions. Read on to discover a half dozen uniquely delicious wines that will compliment your meals, excite your intellect and inspire your imagination.

Benaza Godello 2008 Benaza marks our first foray into the Monterrei region in Northwestern Spain. Mostly Godello with small additions of Doña Blanca and Treixadura, this white wine displays gentle aromas and flavors of white peach supported by slatey minerality. If you have enjoyed Albariño from Rías Baixas, this Monterrei region Godello should be your next new wine experience. $13.99

Talai Berri 2008 The 2008 Talai Berri Txacolí is now in stock. Lean minerality, tart citrus fruit character and slight effervescence combine to create a precise and intriguing white wine fashioned from the Basque grape called Hondarribi Zuri. Perfect summertime refreshment. $21.99

Odysseus Garnacha Blanca 2008 The new vintage of Odysseus Garnacha Blanca has just arrived. This white from DOC Priorat is initially dense and floral, then the mineral structure kicks in and balances the richness. This layered, complex wine is made in tiny quantities by the father and daughter team of Josep and Sylvia Puig at their Viñedos de Ithaca winery in Gratallops. $26.99

Finca Viladellops 2005 Vinícola Viladellops is a small family winery located in the DO Penedès village of Viladellops near Olèrdola and dates back to 1875. Finca Viladellops 2005, the flagship of this winery, is composed of 40% Garnacha along with 30% Syrah and 30% Marcelan (a French hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha).  The addition of Syrah and Marcelan adds structure to the bright, cherry-like Garnacha. Savory barrel tannins are well integrated, with tart fruit character and flinty minerality coming forward as the wine opens. $18.99

Viladellops Garnacha & SMC 2006 The second wine from Vinicola Viladellops is composed primarily of Garnacha along with small additions of Syrah, Merlot and Cariñena (the ‘SMC’ of the title). The grapes in this rocky section of DO Penedès tend toward a lean, savory style which emphasizes the mineral notes in the wine as well as bright fruit character. $11.99

Ysios Reserva 2002 Ysios, the newly built bodega, designed by Santiago Calatrava and located in the Rioja town of Laguardia, makes only ‘Reserva’ level wines. Long slow maturation in oak barrels followed by several years of bottle age are requirements for Reserva Rioja. Estate grown Tempranillo is used exclusively here. The wine spent 14 months in barrel and has been in the bottle ever since. Over time the wine has taken on a light patina of age, delivering elegant, fully integrated barrel character and smooth, lightly oxidized fruit. This wine, normally twice this price but put on sale by the distributor to make room for the arrival of the new vintage, is available briefly here while the supply lasts. $14.99

A Plateful Of
Paella Wisdom



Steve Winston is coming down from our flagship store in Seattle to make paella and sign copies of his new book. This is your chance to meet the man who started The Spanish Table and chat with him about all things related to the culinary traditions of Spain and Portugal.
Steve is a veritable treasure trove of food and wine esoterica. He has accumulated much of this knowledge in his new cook book. Stop in on Sunday August 9th at 1 pm (or Saturday August 8th in Mill Valley) to quiz him on what (and where) to eat in Spain and Portugal. While you are here you can sample his famous Paella and pick up a signed copy of The Spanish Table Cookbook.
¡Buen provecho!

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Memorial Day

Got big plans for the holiday weekend? Of course you do. Chances are you’ll be firing up the grill and (hopefully) pouring a little vino. To facilitate the choosing of appropriate beverages for Memorial Day, here are a few new options for your consideration.
Don Simon Sangria You want the real Spain? Put aside visions of bullfights and flamenco dancers and visit a Spanish supermarket or gas station where regular folks take care of everyday business. And what will you find there? You will find wines from Don Simon, usually packaged in juice box style cartons. So imagine my excitement to find Don Simon Sangria on offer from a local distributor. This big 1.5 Liter jug of pre-made Sangria needs only a garnish of seasonal fruit and some ice to turn your back yard into a little slice of Spain. $10.99
Estrella Damm For those who have visited Barcelona, this beer will be very familiar to you and will rekindle fond memories of that Catalan metropolis. This crisp, lager style beer is now in good supply here in the USA and makes a perfect addition to a Spanish themed party or meal. $10.99 per 6 pack.
Van Zellers Douro Branco 2007 The table wine renaissance in Portugal’s Douro Valley has produced numreous red wines of distinction and quality. Now more white wines are starting to make an appearance. Cristiano van Zeller at Quinta do Vale D. Maria makes this crisp white wine that exhibits fresh herbaceous aroma, bright acidity and gentle melon-like fruit character. $17.99
Gurrutxaga 2008 The Basque white wine called Txakoli has become a favorite of many wine drinkers who have grown tired of heavily oaked, densely fruity white wines. Bodegas Gurrutxaga is a small family winery in Mendexa producing minuscule quantities of this crisp, lean white wine composed of a tongue twisting blend of 60% Hondarribi Zuri, 20% Mune Mahatsa and 20% Txori Mahatsa. Bright acidity and slatey minerality characterize this refreshing summertime wine. $19.99
Gurrutxaga Rosado 2008 An alternative to traditional white Txakoli, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of strawberry fruit character. Low (10.5%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99
Rento 2001 Bodegas Renacimiento de Olivares makes traditionally styled red wines from old vine Tinta del País (Tempranillo)in the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. Originally in the $40+ range, we just secured a small quantity of the 2001crianza at a very nice price. Darkly tinted, this rich, earthy red expresses classic regional style. $19.99
Preludio Tempranillo 2007 Yes, Argentina offers much more than just Malbec for red wine enthusiasts. The newly arrived 2007 vintage of this Tempranillo from Tempus Alba displays bright berry-like fruit along with a modest note of barrel character. $13.99

Vega Sicilia Pre-Arrival Offer

In DO Ribera del Duero Vega Sicilia produces Spain’s most famous wines. The rare and expensive Unico is produced only in excellent vintages and is intended for long term storage. The second label, Valbuena is sourced from younger vines and is ready to drink at a younger age. A second brand called Alion, created in 1992 and produced at a separate facility comes in at a more affordable price (relatively speaking). More recently a new bodega in DO Toro produces a wine called Pintia that has garnered much praise and attention from the press and public.
We are offering these wines on a pre-arrival basis for those of you who wish to partake in the enjoyment of an icon. This will be your one chance to pick these wines up at slightly better than usual prices and the only opportunity to pick up Unico and Valbuena which won’t be available in the store. Give a call if these are of interest to you.
1999 Vega Sicilia Unico $380.00
2004 Vega Sicilia Valbuena $150.00
2005 Alion $76.00
2006 Pintia $62.00
(Magnums are available too. Contact us for pricing)

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Uncategorized, 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

Reboot

For many of the less technically inclined among us the on/off button is our solution to all electronic device issues. Everything has them these days (computers, phones, televisions, even cars). When in doubt, start over from scratch by turning everything off and back on again. The circle with a vertical line sticking out from the top is the modern ideogram for renewal (not, as I first imagined, the international symbol for coconut with a straw in it).

After a busy holiday season and a brief break from the newsletter action (by the end of December I was all talked out so I took a few weeks off for some personal defragmentation) it’s time to hit the restart button and share anew with you the ongoing excitement of the Iberian wine world.

New wines from Spain, Portugal and Latin America are arriving weekly here and the year ahead looks very promising. Improved currency exchange rates and lower fuel costs are leading to some price reductions in imported wines while the current renaissance in Iberian winemaking is both fostering innovative new wines as well as creating markets for traditional styles that were previously unknown outside their regions of origin.

At The Spanish Table we continue to bring you a selection of high quality wines at all price levels. In the year ahead we will also post more recipes, offer additional classes and organize new events to share the distinctive flavors of Spain and Portugal with you, our loyal customers.

This week brings a new version of a traditional recipe, the announcement of an upcoming class that we offer only 3 times a year and the release of some of the most anticipated wines of the season. Onward!

Lentejas Con Chorizo (Lentils with Chorizo sausage) is a popular home-style dish in Spain. This dense, meaty stew is perfect cold weather fare. I have lightened up the texture to create a soup that delivers the same flavors in a brothy version more appropriate to our moderate climate. This soup can be made in a vegetarian version by omitting the chorizo and adding a bit more smoked paprika.

 

Lentil Soup with (or without) Chorizo

(makes 6-8 portions)

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                          1 lb. dried Spanish Pardina lentils (approximately 2 cups)

2 qt. water

1 bay leaf

1 large yellow onion

2 ribs of celery (1 rib yields approximately 1/2 cup)

3 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 large leek (yields approximately 1½ cups)

2 large carrots (yields approximately 3/4 cup)

4 oz. Spanish style chorizo sausage (optional) (yields approximately 1 cup)

1 teaspoon Spanish Sweet smoked paprika (1 ½ teaspoons for the vegetarian version)

1 teaspoon whole cumin

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley or cilantro

2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar

Directions:

Rinse the dried lentils under fresh water to remove any dust or dirt. Cut the onion in quarters leaving the skin on. Roughly chop one of the ribs of celery. Combine the rinsed lentils, bay leaf, onion and celery with 2 quarts of cold water in a soup pot (preferably a Spanish earthenware olla). Bring the pot to a boil on the stove and then simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are just cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion and celery.

Finely dice the leek, carrot, remaining celery and chorizo (if using). In a separate pan heat the olive oil and sauté the diced vegetables and chorizo for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and paprika to the pan and sauté the spices briefly to release their flavors. Add the contents of the sauté pan to the soup pot and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. Mince the parsley or cilantro and add to the pot along with the Sherry vinegar. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with grilled whole grain bread and a nice bottle of red wine.

 

 

Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley. The date is Monday February 23rd at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person and includes hands-on instruction to create several tapas and a large paella mixta, all of which will be consumed during the class. Several paella-friendly Spanish wines will also be sampled. Kitchen on Fire is handling the signup for this fun and popular class. Go to their website for more details.

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

Nomad 2005 Jeff Jarvis and Jessica Tomei are husband and wife winemakers working in the Sierra foothills (Jarvis Tomei Syrah) as well as in Chile where, along with fellow American T.J. Evans, they make Nomad from a blend of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Syrah, 7 % Carmenère and 2 % Malbec. This ripe, spicy red is finely tuned and expressive with moderate barrel character and smooth texture. This small production bottling (2,000 cases in total) will reawaken your interest in Chilean wine. $14.99

 

Esboço Douro 2005 This young red wine from the Portuguese Douro Valley is made up of mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca along with a whole laundry list of other Douro grapes as is the tradition in this ancient region where field blending is the norm. Dark color and earthy aroma create a first impression much in keeping with traditional Portuguese style augmented here with ripe, youthful fruit character that is not so common in wines from this region. $14.99

 

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2004 The new vintage of this single vineyard Rioja has just arrived. Composed of the fruit of one large contiguous vineyard in the heart of DOC Rioja (extremely rare in a region full of tiny vineyard parcels) this reserve level wine is 90% Tempranillo with the remaining 10% made up of Graciano, Mazuelo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby/garnet color, moderate oak barrel aroma and dark berry fruit character. 18 months of barrel age gives the wine a tannic core that has softened over the years. This smooth, opulent, plush Rioja is tilted toward a more modern style (more fruit, less wood) without loosing sight of the traditional aged reserva character that the wine is rightfully famous for. At first release this wine was pushing $40 but things are looking better now. $28.99

 

Clio 2006 The “it wine” of the moment, this  blend of old vineMonastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon from DO Jumilla has received some out of the ballpark reviews since its first vintage in 2002. Customers call from across the country looking for this full-bodied, plush wine that combines layer upon layer of spice, vivid fruit and oak. We just got a small allocation from the distributor, most likely the only one for the year and are offering it on a first-come-first-served basis.  $47.99

 

El Nido 2006 The elder sibling of Clio. Using more Cabernet Sauvignon and less Monastrell in the blend (from the estate’s best fruit) adds a firmer tannic element to the complex and ripe fruit character. This wine is built for long term storage and will really start to show its best side in 6-8 years. Extremely limited, we have a mere 8 bottles to offer. Again, no limits on purchase quantities while supply lasts. $148.00

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

Fall Flavors

The autumn harvest season is currently at its peak. The summer crops (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and such) are slowly dwindling away while fall fruits and vegetables (winter squash, shell beans, persimmons and so forth) are starting to crowd the shelves at local stores.

My favorite harbinger of autumn is the giant pumpkin pile at Monterey Market that reaches almost to their roof and creates an irresistible object-to-climb for local kids.

To celebrate the harvest season we have some new wines as well as some familiar favorites that will compliment fall flavors.

This week we have a new Torrontés from Argentina that combines perfumed florality with crisp acidity to create the perfect autumn white wine.

We also have a new rosado wine that, due to its bright character and plush fruit character may convert a few skeptics that only think of pink wine in the heat of summer.

Our newest sparkling Cava comes in at a very nice price that should tempt you to give this bubbly wine a try.

This week also marks the return of Navarro Lopez Old Vine Crianza, a Valdepeñas region Tempranillo that was such a popular favorite that we brought in another big stack to satisfy the continuing demand for this very well priced red wine.

Another new red wine is the Beronia Reserva from the excellent 2001 vintage. If you have had a chance to try the Beronia Gran Reserva this wine will be similar, but in a more youthful, smooth style.

The Basque hard apple cider we first announced in August continues to grow in popularity. Autumn is the perfect season to enjoy this cloudy farmhouse sidra.

Here is a recipe for a sidra­- friendly snack that is found in various versions all across Spain. Meat on a stick is popular world wide, but Pinchos Moruños are specific to Spain. The Moorish origins of this dish are retained in the spice mix, but in Spain the meat is most commonly pork though lamb is still sometimes used. You can make these for a party and serve one per person or put three or four on a plate and serve them as a main course.

Kevin’s quick and easy Grilled Pinchos Morunos

(Makes about 20 skewers)

Ingredients:

3 lbs boneless berkshire pork shoulder (Café Rouge Meat Market is my source)

3 tblspns sweet smoked paprika

2 tblspns freshly ground cumin

(or substitute 5 tablespoons Chiquilin brand Pincho Seasoning for the paprika and cumin)

1 tspn salt

2 tblspns sherry vinegar

2 medium sized yellow onions

2 lemons

20 6” bamboo skewers

Directions:

Cut the pork into 1 inch cubes and combine with paprika, cumin, salt and vinegar. Place seasoned pork in refrigerator and marinate for a few hours. Place skewers in water and soak for one hour before using. Cut onion in eighths and pull apart layers. Cut lemons into wedges.

Prepare the skewers ahead of time using 4 cubes of seasoned pork and two pieces of onion. Thread them on the skewer in the following order: pork, onion, pork, pork, onion, pork.

Grill the skewers over a hot charcoal fire or indoors (if you must) on a grill pan for approximately ten minutes, turning frequently. Serve immediately with lemon wedges as a garnish.

Isastegi Sagardo This traditional Basque apple cider is cloudy green/gold with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor. This unfiltered artisan cider displays just a hint of sweet apple character (more apple barrel than apple juice) along with apple skin tartness filling in the rest of the flavor profile. At six percent alcohol by volume this makes a perfect autumn aperitivo. $11.99

Gran Feudo Rosado 2007 Rosado in autumn? You bet! This Navarra region pink wine makes a wonderful accompaniment to fall flavors. This 100% Garnacha displays vivid pink color, ripe berry aroma and tart, wild strawberry fruit character. Due to its late arrival, this wine is priced well below normal and should give you ample reason to try it right away. $7.99

Pircas Negras Torrontés 2008 Torrontés is the indigenous white grape of Argentina. Grown at high altitude this grape produces ripe, floral wines that evoke scent memories of autumn grape harvest combined with a bright character that is reminiscent of a crisp fall afternoon. $9.99

Cavas Hill Reserva Oro Our newest sparkling Cava, made from the three traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo) is abundantly bubbly and redolent of toasted bread and crisp green apples. This nicely priced sparkler compliments both light tapas as well as fuller meals. $11.99

Navarro Lopez Old Vines Crianza 2001 500 years ago, if you were a member of the Spanish royal court, you drank wines from the Valdepeñas region that lies south of Toledo. Today, after centuries of obscurity, the region is making a comeback. This wine, made from Tempranillo, is earthy, tart and savory, as is the style in D.O. Valdepeñas. 12 months of barrel age (not something they did 500 years ago) has rounded the flavors, added a bit of tannic complexity and sweet oak aroma to the wine. This traditional, very ‘Spanish tasting’ wine was a good value at $13.99. Now, the price is much better, so we just bought another bunch of it. This is a fine candidate for buying by the box. $8.99

Beronia Reserva 2001 This Rioja wine from an excellent vintage come from the same bodega that makes the Beronia Gran reserva that has been flying off the shelf here over the past few weeks. The Reserva spent less time ageing in oak barrel than the Gran Reserva and thus retains more color and ripe fruit character than the more mature wine. The perfect 2001 vintage is reflected in the balanced, lively fruit character. The skill of the winemakers finds expression in the finely tuned barrel tannins that add depth and complexity to the wine while never stripping it of elegance and freshness. $19.99

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Filed under Argentina, Recipes, Red Wine, rosado, sidra (cider), Spain, Sparkling Wine

Sidra

It will come as no surprise to you, brave readers of this newsletter, that the food and wine traditions from Spain are currently quite popular on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to retailers like The Spanish Table, many unique and delicious Spanish products are finding their way into American kitchens and dining rooms, often for the first time.

In spite of all the recent attention, some of Spain’s regional specialties are still hard to find in the USA. The famous Pata Negra ham, for instance, has only just become available here. Wines from lesser known regions are found only in specialty shops like The Spanish Table.

One product that has been noticeably absent from the US market is the traditional hard apple cider from Spain’s northern coastal regions, specifically the sagardo (sidra in Spanish) from the Basque region along the border with France.

Happily, this tart, yeasty farm house cider has begun to take hold here in America. A few weeks ago I announced the arrival of the Basque cider made by Bereziartua, fulfilling a multi-year quest to find, buy and offer this product for sale to our customers. Today we have just received yet another sagardo, this one by Isastegi. Add to this the traditional sparkling cider from Asturias in three styles (one hard cider and two non-alcoholic versions) that we have carried for years and together they constitute the largest collection of sidra/sagardo on the west coast.

“So what’s the big deal with cider” you may ask?

Like Manzanilla in Jerez or Txakoli in Basque Country, the sagardo tradition is best experienced first hand. The place to learn about this traditional beverage is at a Sagardotegi, the typical cider mill that can be found all across the Basque region.

These businesses are usually part family residence, part cider mill and part seasonal restaurant. In the springtime, barrels of freshly fermented cider are tapped for thirsty crowds that gather for a taste of the new vintage as well as for the traditional Sagardotegi meal of omelets, salt cod with fried green peppers, thick bone-in rib eye steaks grilled over charcoal and walnuts in the shell with honey and cheese for dessert. This meal is usually eaten standing up so as to accommodate frequent trips to the barrel room for refills.

To get an idea of how this works, check out this video made at Bereziartua Sagardotegi. To acquaint yourself with (or revisit) the true flavor of basque sagardo, come pick up one of our two new brands of hard cider and pour them with the following recipe.

Chistorra con Sidra (basque chorizo braised in apple cider)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon, Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup, thinly sliced white onion

1 lb. basque style chistorra sausage

1 cup, basque apple cider

1 bay leaf

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a 10” clay cazuela (or sauté pan). Add the sliced onions to the oil and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes until the onions get soft and start to brown. Slice the long, skinny chistorra (sometimes spelled Txistorra) into bit sized pieces and brown lightly in the hot oil for about 6-8 minutes. If you are using a clay cazuela, bring the cider and bay leaf to a simmer in a separate pan and then add the hot liquid to the cazuela (adding cold liquid to a hot cazuela can crack it). If you are using a sauté pan you can add the cider straight to the pan without preheating it. Simmer the sausages in the cider for 20-30 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. Serve hot with some bread on the side to sop up the juices, and more cider to wash it all down.

Isastegi Sagardo This traditional Basque apple cider is cloudy gold colored with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor. This unfiltered artisan cider displays just a hint of sweet apple character along with apple skin tartness filling in the rest of the flavor profile. At six percent alcohol this makes a nice alternative to beer on a hot afternoon. $11.99

Bereziartua Sagardo This hard cider is unfiltered, cloudy, lightly effervescent and only barely sweet. Yeasty aroma and tart fermented apple flavor are what you want from this most ancient of drinks. In the Basque Country they drink it straight from the barrel in early spring and the rest of the year they drink from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99

El Gaitero Sidra Asturiana This is the most widely recognized brand of sparkling hard cider from the Asturias region on the north coast of Spain. Clear gold color, abundant effervescence and sweet red apple fruit character make this a favorite at parties and family gatherings in Asturias and elsewhere in Spain. $8.99

La Gaita Sidra $2.99

El Gaitero Verde $3.99

El Gaitero in Asturias makes several non-alcoholic apple ciders that are very similar to the regular El Gaitero in flavor, but without the booze. Pretty champagne style bottles with old style labels on the outside, lots of bubbles and sweet apple flavor on the inside.

New arrivals in the wine department:

Salneval Albariño 2007 This younger sibling to the ever popular Condes de Albarei is a fine example of well priced Albariño. Melon and citrus fruit character balances gentle minerality in this wine. Recently The New York Times praised this wine among several other Albariño wines from the Rías Baixas region, saying “Pleasing, with flavors of white peaches, cantaloupe and lemon.” You can read more of this informative article here. $10.99

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

Altos de La Hoya 2006 This wine from Jumilla has always been a benchmark Monastrell from Spain. Ungrafted old vines with fat and lush flavors of deep, sweet dark berries, some black pepper and just a touch of baked earth. Great concentration and richness. This tastes like a much more expensive wine than it is. $12.99

Juan Gil 2006 We just got in the new vintage of this popular Monastrell from Jumilla, made by Miguel Gil, one of the pioneers of this grape and this region. Dark color and concentrated blackberry aroma create the first impression, leading on to sweet dark berry fruit character and a touch of grape skin tannin. A fine example of a pure Monastrell wine. $16.99

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, sidra (cider), Spain, White Wine