Tag Archives: bastardo

Vinho Tinto

Way back last month I was telling you about the white wines of Portugal.
My opinion was (and is) that Portuguese white wines “excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences”. I also noted that Portuguese whites tend to be ridiculously affordable so it really pays to explore these lesser known wines.
This week I am focused on Portuguese red wines. They have been getting some good press lately, and deservedly so. They, like the whites, offer excellent quality, often at very reasonable prices.
I have been finding some really good Portuguese reds lately. If you have not yet tried these wines I have some excellent suggestions that will give you a good perspective on the prevalent style/regions/producers currently coming out of Portugal.
A few weeks ago Eric Asimov wrote in the New York Times about the red wines from the Douro region. Of the ten wines he reviewed in New York (where the selection is often quite different than what we get in California) he chose as his favorite the young Altano Tinto 2006 ($9.99). He described it as “Dry and balanced with complex, lingering aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers” which sounds about right to me. I find the wine to be youthful and on the gentle side for a Douro red. The dark berry fruit character is but a bit subdued in comparison to other wines from this region. This lends the wine a gentle food-friendly quality that never overwhelms lighter fare.
Another well priced Douro red is Twisted Tinto 2007 ($14.99), the entry level wine from Niepoort, maker of top quality Porto as well as several high end red and white wines. This wine is composed of a wide range of typical Douro grapes including Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão among others. Twisted Tinto is dark garnet in color with expressive aromas of fresh berries and minerals, tart cherry fruit character and a touch of tannic oak.
I am also finding plenty of excellent bargains in Portuguese regions outside the Douro Valley.  The young Meia Encosta Tinto 2007 ($8.99) from the Dão region is fresh and bright. Clear ruby color, cherry aroma and Gamay-like fruit character (the blend here is actually Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz) all work in harmony to express the tart,refreshing style that makes this such a perfect mid-week red.
From a small region called Óbidos located just north of Lisbon comes Quinta de São Francisco Tinto 2005 ($11.99) composed of 60% Castelão, 20% Aragonez and 20% Touriga Nacional. Garnet colored with a brickish tinge, this wine displays initial aromas of ripe berry and crushed rocks. I get more mineral notes and light mulberry fruit character on the palate along with a bit of black pepper spice. Eight months of barrel age lends a gentle tannic note to the wine.
The Spanish Table Wine Club is currently featuring the Cunha Martins Reserva from the Dão region. Most of this went into the club but I have a few spare bottles on hand for general consumption. Cunha Martins Reserva 2004 ($14.99) is a field blend of numerous grapes including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro Preto, Bastardo and Jaen. The wine was aged for 18 months in oak before bottling. This is a darkly tinted wine with dense texture, and fruit character reminiscent of mulberries and black plums.  Backnotes of black olive and wood smoke remind us of the wine’s Dão heritage, expressed here in a rich, silky style that will compliment an autumn menu of slow roasted meats and winter squash.
For something at a good price but with a bit of age we go again to the Dão region for Quinta da Cabriz Reserva 2005 ($19.99). This barrel aged blend of 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz and 20% Alfrocheiro possesses a bit of the old fashioned Dão rusticity framed by dark plum fruit character and well integrated oak. This mature expressive wine will be a perfect match with a broad range of traditional autumn fare such as slow cooked white beans with chunks of Linguiça sausage and the Portuguese smoked bacon called Toucinho Defumado (FYI, we sell the beans/sausage/bacon as well as the wine!).

 

 

Los Hermanos Fernández


The Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain has been transformed over the last few decades. From its origins as an agricultural region mostly known for farming (sugar beets) and livestock (sheep), Ribera del Duero is now one of the most highly regarded wine regions in all of Spain. One of the pioneering winemakers in Ribera del Duero, a former beet farmer named Alejandro Fernández, started his own winery which quickly earned a reputation for excellence. His Tinto Pesquera became a game changing wine in Ribera del Duero. The region was transformed. Wine grapes became the crop of choice for local farmers, many of whom also went on to great success.
A less well known part of this story is that, unbeknownst to many of us here in the USA, Alejandro Fernández has a brother named Federico who also makes wine. His winery is small and his wines adhere to a traditional style that is fast fading from view in Ribera del Duero. Federico Fernández insists on slow barrel ageing to elaborate his wines. In the modern rush to market this practice is used less and less by the larger wineries. Federico still adheres to the old practice of classifying his wines as Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva depending on how much time they spend ageing in oak. Federico Roble 2007 ($17.99) is the young wine from this bodega. Made from the local version of Tempranillo called Tinto Fino, this wine spends just six months ageing in barrel before bottling. The resulting wine expresses the earthy minerality of the region in a bold, fresh style.  Federico Crianza 2005 ($31.99) spends 12 months in barrel and several years in bottle before release. The tannins are substantial and chalky when the wine is first opened. With air the wine reveals a core of trail dust, saddle leather, black cherry fruit and an intriguing gamey note on the finish. As ever, the pairing for all good Ribera del Duero is lamb in all its guises (chops, roasts, stews, you name it).

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American Holiday

Thanksgiving Day kicks off what we Americans call ‘The Holiday Season’. Unlike European countries where the calendar is studded with holidays both secular and religious, in the USA we can go months without any official time off. Between the 4th of July and Halloween just one day, Labor Day, is a widely observed holiday, so now that the season is upon us, we have some catching up to do.

As I have said many times before, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s not to love about a national celebration devoted to food (and football)? Freed from any religious associations, Thanksgiving is an equal opportunity holiday, open to all who wish to partake in the joys of a big family meal.

The menu itself is open to broad interpretation, from Norman Rockwell traditionalism to post-modern tofurkey-ism. All tastes, culinary perspectives and even dietary restrictions can be woven into the fabric of a Thanksgiving feast. The only limitations to a successful Thanksgiving are a lack of time and/or imagination. My recommendation for those of you who have neither inclination nor inspiration to whip up a favorite family recipe is to contribute an excellent bottle of wine to the celebration.

For the first time, The Spanish Table now has genuine American wines (made from Iberian grape varieties, of course) that will perfectly match this most American of meals. I have several suggestions for you this week for domestic wines to go with Turkey and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and the rest of a traditional Thanksgiving menu. Additionally, I have been finding great bargains wines from Spain and Portugal that combine high quality with low price. I have several new ‘house wines’ for you this week as well as some other very reasonably priced wines that will also compliment a festive holiday meal (or any meal for that matter).

Keep reading to learn more about this week’s new wine, but first here is something I read in The New York Times that I cannot resist passing along. This recipe uses the leftovers from my favorite American holiday to add a twist to one of my all time favorite Spanish tapas, the fried croqueta.

Croquetas de Jamón y Piquillo, Estilo New York Times

(Makes approx. 3 dozen)

Ingredients:

3 cups mashed potatoes, chilled

2 1/4 cups plain bread crumbs

2 ounces serrano ham (about a half-cup), diced small

1/2 cup piquillo or roasted red pepper, diced small

5 large eggs

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1 cup all-purpose flour

Olive oil, for frying.

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, 3/4 cup bread crumbs, ham, pepper, 1 egg, the yolk, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, paprika and salt. Mix well.

Place remaining 4 eggs in a wide, shallow bowl and beat lightly. Place remaining 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs in a second bowl and flour in a third. Season bread crumbs with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Taking about 2 tablespoons of croquetas mixture at a time, form into 3-inch fingers. Dip each finger first in flour, tapping off excess. Dip in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then bread crumbs. Transfer each finger to a large baking sheet. When you have finished forming all croquetas, cover tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

When ready to fry, heat 1/4-inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry croquetas in batches, turning once, until dark golden all over, 2 to 3 minutes a side. Transfer to paper towel-lined plates and sprinkle with additional salt, if desired. Serve hot.

Aforado 2005 Albariño grapes (along with small percentages of Caino and Loureira) go into this crisp, dry white wine from Galicia on Spain’s Atlantic coast. Abundant citrus fruit character with a foundation of fine minerality. A few years of bottle age have softened the acidity and mellowed the fruit character, creating a gentle version of what was once a tart, tangy wine. When first released this was a $15 wine, but is now ‘house wine’ priced at $6.99 (with a special discounted ‘house wine’ price of $5.99 when purchased by the case).

Brigantia 2001 This lightly oaked red wine is made from Prieto Picudo, an autochthonous grape variety of the Castilla Y León region. Dark garnet color and gamey aroma combine with rich black cherry fruit character and notes of saddle leather and coffee bean. This style of bold, earthy wine is rarely seen at this price. $6.99 ($5.99/each, by the case)

Peñafiel Joven 2004 Young, lightly oaked Ribera del Duero wines have been growing in popularity lately. Peñafiel Joven spends a few brief months in oak, adding the merest whiff of barrel character to this darkly colored, richly flavored red wine fashioned from the thick skinned Tinto Fino grape. $6.99 ($5.99/each, by the case)

Luis Alegre Joven 2006 This light, youthful, unoaked Tempranillo, made in the small Rioja region hill town of Laguardia is a traditional style of red wine made using the maceración carbonica method of whole cluster fermentation that produces fresh, fruity wines in a matter of weeks. This style is favored by the local winemakers in Spain but is not seen very often in the export market where mature, aged wines predominate. This bright, floral red can be served alone, with assorted tapas or at the beginning of a meal as a starter wine. $7.99

Odisea Two Rows Garnacha 2006 Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz founded Odisea a few years ago to make wines in the style of Southern France and Northern Spain. Using fruit from Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, these winemakers have crafted several different wines that, tasted blind, could easily pass as Spanish. Two Rows Garnacha, produced in miniscule amounts (90 cases in all) is a blend of 76% Garnacha, 12% Tempranillo and 12% Petite Sirah. A brief period of barrel ageing, as is typical with Spanish roble wines, adds a hint of oaky complexity to the wine. The crystalline ruby color, tangy, bright fruit character and background earthy/mineral notes are reminiscent of a Calatayud Garnacha or a young wine from Rioja Baja and will pair well with turkey and gravy. $19.99

Tejada 2005 Back in 1999 Spanish natives Celia Tejada and her brother Ivo started this small family winery in Lake County. The Tejada siblings planted part of their new 80 acre property with 3.5 acres of Tempranillo and Garnacha (the grapes they remembered from home). This small estate vineyard is the source for the fruit that goes into two Tejada wines (this one and a more mature reserva). The blend here is 58% Tempranillo and 42% Garnacha. Local winemaker Byron Kosuge is involved in the winemaking process which includes a certain amount of time in oak followed by a period of bottle ageing as is done in Spain. The end result is a dark garnet colored wine with fresh red berry fruit character, mid-weight barrel tannins and a lean, savory element that helps retain the Spanish style of the wine. $21.99

Candy Core Late Harvest Grenache 2004 Looking for a wine to pair with cranberry sauce? This little bottle of sweet dessert wine from Dave and Becky Corey at Core Wine Company is made from 100% Grenache (Garnacha to us) from the Santa Barbara Highlands. The grapes are left on the vine until super ripe and then aged for 18 months in barrel (with 8 more months of bottle age) after fermentation. This opaque ruby colored wine retains bright acidity that balances the dense, perfumed sweetness and gives the wine an unexpected lively quality. $19.99 (375ml)

St. Amant Tawny St. Amant is a small California winery that was founded in 1979 by Tim and Barbara Spencer to produce Port style wines (they have since become even better known for their Zinfandel). The non-vintage ‘Tawny’ is made from the Bastardo grape (a traditional Porto variety) sourced from the family estate vineyard in Amador County. According to Stuart Spencer (Tim Spencer died in 2006 and his son Stuart has been running the winery since that time) this wine started was an experiment in single varietal barrel aged Tawny Port style wine gone wrong. After primary fermentation and fortification (as is done in Porto) the wine was sampled and rejected as too rough and astringent. The experimental barrels full of wine were left in the tool shed and basically forgotten for several years. The wine was not racked or disturbed in any way. Down the line curiosity prevailed and the wine was re-tasted. Time and neglect had proved beneficial to the experimental Bastardo Tawny. The years of barrel age softened the acidity. The rough tannins had subsided and sweet, somewhat maderized notes of butterscotch and caramel had infused the dramatically improved wine. Serve this wine with pecan or pumpkin pie for a seasonal treat. $33.99 (500ml)

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Vino Iberesco

Two weeks ago I wrote about a new thing we are trying here at The Spanish Table. After many years as an all-import wine merchant, domestic wines are now starting to make an appearance on our shelves.

As mentioned in the previous newsletter, “Starting this week we have a new section of California wines made from Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Cariñena, Albariño, Verdelho and anything else I find that has Iberian origins and grows here in the USA. … These new wines, while remaining true to their California origins, are stylistically anchored in the winemaking traditions of Spain and Portugal.”

I am happy to report that you, our loyal customers, have taken a liking to these artisanal, hand made wines. The initial response was so enthusiastic that this week I have added four more domestic, Iberian styled wines to our growing selection of vino iberesco (the term I’m currently using to lump them all together).

This week I offer you a varietal Tempranillo from Santa Barbara as well as a Tempranillo blend from the Sierra Foothills. I also have two domestic dessert wines coming in this week. One is a late harvest Garnacha from Santa Barbara and the other is a Tawny Port style wine made from Bastardo (the traditional Portuguese grape variety, not the hurled insult!).

Getting back to imports, we just received the new vintage of Viña Mein, a white wine from the Ribeiro region of Galicia. This crisp, lean, wine has changed importers and, as often happens in these cases, now comes in a nice new package. The fossilized fish on the label emphasizes the flinty, fossil-like minerality found in Viña Mein while suggesting an appropriate pairing (seafood!).

We also just brought in a new Argentine Malbec that offers an abundant yet balanced expression of classic Malbec character. Maipe Malbec is not only a really tasty wine; it is a great value too (something we could all use right now). You can read more about it below.

Paella Class Update: You still have time to sign up for my paella and wine class that is taking place at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley. The date is Sunday October 19th 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.

Viña Mein 2007 The Ribeiro region of Galicia in Northwestern Spain is less well known than its neighboring coastal region Rías Baixas. Albariño is the grape of choice in Rías Baixas, while in Ribeiro the Treixadura grape predominates. If you have enjoyed the ever-increasing variety of Albariño wines now in the market, you owe it to yourself to try the similarly styled wines from D.O. Ribeiro. The flinty, crushed seashell minerality is emphasized here along with the grapefruity citrus and floral elements that are also found in Rías Baixas wines.

Viña Mein is fashioned from a blend of 80% Treixadura, 10% Godello, 5% Loureiro, and 1% to 2% each of Albariño, Torrontés, Albilla and Caiño. Bright gold color, ripe melon aroma and refreshing citrus fruit character never overwhelm the flinty mineral foundation that maintains the lean focus of this wine. $19.99

Maipe Malbec 2007 Our newest Argentine Malbec is darkly colored and boldly flavored without ever veering into the over extracted style that is common at this very reasonable price point. Ripe mulberry fruit character finds balance in dusty tannins and wild herb aromas. An underlying tart quality (gentle but present) adds complexity to this well priced wine. $10.99

Core C3 Tempranillo 2006 Dave Corey makes wine in Santa Maria, California at a winery that he and his wife Becky started in 2000. Originally they focused on Grenache and Mourvedre (known as Garnacha and Monastrell in Spain) grapes for their wines. The new C3 project also includes Dave’s sisters Melanie Corey-Ferrini and Sherri Corey-Pinero. They produce this single varietal Tempranillo in small quantities (425 cases in total) in addition to a more mature barrel aged Tempranillo/Cabernet blend called Crazy Eights. C3 Tempranillo is a fresh and lively red wine that expresses the more youthful side of tempranillo. Bright garnet color, cherry fruit character and a bit of earthy background all combine to give this wine a foothold in the traditions of both Spain and California. $17.99

Temporary Insanity 2006 Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz make the Odisea ‘Two Rows Garnacha’ that we featured in the last newsletter. Temporary Insanity is their more mature blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha and 10% Syrah. This wine ages in oak for 18 months before bottling. Dark garnet color and assertive barrel tannins create the initial impression here, with ripe berry fruit character and plush texture rounding out the picture. Like their other wines, this small production wine (125 cases in total) tastes very Spanish in style and will continue to develop for many years to come. $24.99

Candy Core Late Harvest Grenache 2004 This little bottle of sweet dessert wine from Dave and Becky Corey at Core Wine Company is made from 100% Grenache (Garnacha to us) from the Santa Barbara Highlands. The grapes are left on the vine until super ripe and then aged for 18 months in barrel (with 8 more months of bottle age) after fermentation. This opaque ruby colored wine retains bright acidity that balances the dense, perfumed sweetness and gives the wine an unexpected lively quality. $19.99 (375ml)

St. Amant Tawny St. Amant is a small California winery that was founded in 1979 by Tim and Barbara Spencer to produce Port style wines (they have since become even more well known for their Zinfandel). The non-vintage ‘Tawny’ is made from the Bastardo grape (a traditional Porto variety) sourced from the family estate vineyard in Amador County. According to Stuart Spencer (Tim Spencer died in 2006 and his son Stuart has been running the winery since that time) this wine started was an experiment in single varietal barrel aged Tawny Port style wine gone wrong. After primary fermentation and fortification (as is done in Porto) the wine was sampled and rejected as too rough and astringent. The experimental barrels were set aside and basically forgotten for several years. The wine was not racked or disturbed in any way.

Down the line curiosity prevailed and the wine was re-tasted. Time and neglect had proved beneficial to the experimental Bastardo tawny. The years of barrel age softened the acidity. The rough tannins had subsided and sweet, somewhat maderized notes of butterscotch and caramel had infused the dramatically improved wine. $33.99 (500ml)

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