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Spain in California

Every school kid in California learns about the Spanish heritage of this part of the world, going back to the days of ‘Alta California’ and ‘El Camino Reál’, but the names of Spanish explorers of the American west coast, names like De Anza, Cabrillo and Portola are no longer associated with historic figures. In modern times these Spanish family names are given to streets, shopping centers and housing sub-divisions. California’s Spanish history is, it seems, hiding in plain sight.

I’m currently reacquainting myself with the vestiges of colonial Spain here in the Bay Area and have noticed that (unlike the Spanish explorers from previous centuries) Spanish food and wine heritage is very much in evidence at present. In particular, this week I want to draw your attention to a few upcoming local events that highlight our shared Spanish history.

First up is a taste of ‘Alta California’ thanks to an enterprising group that goes by the name of ‘TAPAS’, which stands for Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society (hey, it’s a stretch, but it works). According to their website this local organization “is dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of wines made from all native Iberian grape varietals.”

If you want to experience what the Spanish explorers left behind (other than place names) you can try various wines made from grapes such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Albariño grown right here in California (and elsewhere in the USA) at an event hosted by TAPAS on Saturday August 9th at Copia (the wine/food museum) in Napa. Billed as “the most extensive tasting of American produced Iberian grape varietals ever offered”, this promises to be a detailed look at how domestic winemakers are responding to the current interest in all things Iberian.

Next in line for a little bit of the  California/Spain mashup treatment is a TV show (the cultural net gets widely cast around here) featuring our favorite dish, Paella, as prepared by local paellero to the stars, Gerard Nebesky. 

On Wednesday July 30th (9 pm PST) The Food Network will air an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay wherein the famous New York chef, restaurateur and TV personality will compete against Gerard Nebesky in a round of dueling Paellas.

The show was shot a few months ago in San Francisco and the final dishes created by Señores Flay y Nebesky were judged by Daniel Olivella, Executive Chef of B44 Restaurant in San Francisco as well as by our very own Andy Booth, co-owner of The Spanish Table (these guys know more than a thing or two about paella). Everyone involved in the show was sworn to secrecy about the final result (backed up by signed non-disclosure agreements) so we don’t yet know who actually prevailed in the competition. All will be revealed next Wednesday evening when the show airs for the first time.

For a first hand experience with Gerard’s Paella you can attend a big screen viewing of ‘Throwdown’ during the Wednesday June 30th broadcast, accompanied by the real thing. Gerard will be making his signature paella at Bistro de Copains in Occidental (Sonoma County) for a select group of Paella aficionados. For $30 you get paella, salad and the show, as well as the chance to rub elbows with a genuine TV star (Gerard, not Bobby). Reservations are required for this event. You can contact them by phone at (707)-874-2436.

Here in Berkeley we are excited to announce the arrival of new vintages from some favorite wineries as well as a few totally new items that we are very happy to share with you. What follows are my recommendations from the latest arrivals at The Spanish table in Berkeley.

 

Muga Blanco 2007 The newest vintage of Bodegas Muga’s popular white wine has arrived.  Made from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, briefly aged for 4 months in French oak, this wine is poised between the rich, fleshy style of barrel aged white wine and the crisp, herbal style of the same wine aged in tank. The oak never dominates but only adds a touch of complexity to this excellent and well priced wine. $18.99

 

Muga Rosado 2007 Another perennial customer favorite from Muga is this rosado wine made from Tempranillo, Garnacha and, interestingly, a bit of white Viura too. This pale pink wine is crisp and lean, not cloying and fruity. The bright acidity and gentle berry-like fruit character maintain a fine balance of berry/citrus aromas and flavors. $14.99

 

Parés Baltà Ros de Pacs 2007 If you are looking for a tasty organic rosado for serving at your dinner table or sipping on your back porch, then consider this dark and fruity wine from the Penedès region of Catalunya. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is full of strawberry aroma and flavor, with sufficient acidity to keep the wine bright and refreshing. $11.99

 

Sur Bonarda 2006 We just got a great deal on a stack of this Argentine red wine from a high quality producer in the Mendoza region. The indigenous Bonarda grape produces dark, full bodied wines.  This wine is 100% Bonarda. It is garnet colored and expressive, with blackberry fruit character balancing the amargo back note that Bonarda is known for. $10.99

 

Capote Velho 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 is a full liter of wine that 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. $11.99 (1 Liter)

 

Grilos 2005 This red wine from the Dão region in Portugal is an excellent example of the improvements taking place in the region. No longer home to just funky/earthy/rustic reds, winemakers in the Dão region now make many bright and intriguing wines such as this blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro grapes that age for a mere 6 months in oak before bottling. Tart red berry fruit character and lightly oaked tannic core combine with aromas of pomegranate and wet stones. Was $15.99, now $12.99

 

Vina Alberdi Reserva 2001 The wines of La Rioja Alta are among the most traditionally styled of Rioja reds. The new Viña Alberdi, from the superlative 2001 vintage, has just arrived. Odd label change (blue skinned matrons in red sun dresses sipping wine) notwithstanding, this old school Rioja is brick red in  color with toasty barrel aromas along with notes of cigar box, cedar and minerals. Pie cherry and dark plum fruit character are in balance with the other elements. This is an excellent choice for long term cellaring but is drinking very well right now if given some air before service. $24.99

 

 

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

New Stuff

One of the exciting parts about working in this little shop devoted to the food and wines of Spain, Portugal and Latin America is the opportunity to try new things on a daily basis. With the wines, not only do we get to try new styles, producers, grape varieties and growing regions but we also get to re-try the wines all over again with each new vintage.

New, and yet familiar. That’s how I describe what has arrived here in the past week. We have new wines that have never been featured before at The Spanish Table in Berkeley. We also have new vintages of some wines that were well loved in the previous year and are now out in the latest version. Many of you will recognize some favorites in the list that follows. I highly encourage you to come and try a bottle of the latest vintage to see if it is everything you remember and love from previous years. Some of the wineries may not be familiar but you will recognize the grape varieties and the growing regions. This is an opportunity to broaden your perspective on a favorite wine by trying some of what similar winemakers are doing.

The first 2007 white and rosado wines are starting to appear in the market as well as new vintages of red wines from years in the recent past. In the weeks ahead we will feature many more of the latest arrivals with you in this newsletter.

Here, after a brief recipe, are the latest arrivals:

Salmon Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

(Serves 4 as a tapa)

½ lb. Fresh salmon fillet

1 tspn. Kosher salt

½ cup water

½ cup Arte Oliva brand Alioli (garlic mayonnaise)

1tblspn. Toro Albalá 1980 Reserve PX vinegar

1 tspn. Sweet Pimentón de la Vera

8 Whole Piquillo Peppers

¼ cup Nunez de Prado Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Briefly poach the salmon fillet in 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ cup of water until it is just barely cooked through (about 10 minutes). Remove the fillet from the water and cool to room temperature. Combine Alioli, vinegar and pimentón in a bowl. Gently fold in cooked salmon and mix everything without breaking up the fish too much. Divide the filling into eighths and fill each of the jarred piquillo peppers with the mixture. Drizzle the olive oil over the filled peppers and serve.

Amestoi Txakoli 2007 $18.99 I know that I am not alone in my anticipation of the new season of Txakoli wine. Many of you have already been asking for this dry, spritzy, supremely refreshing white wine from the Basque country. Well, wait no longer. Amestoi has landed, winning the prize for first 2007 Txakoli to arrive here. The residual effervescence is at its peak now as is the bright citrusy fruit character.

Crios “Rosé of Malbec” 2007 $10.99 A perennial favorite in our Seattle store makes its first appearance here in Berkeley. Famed Argentine winemaker Susanna Balbo makes this fresh, berry scented pink wine. It is full of strawberry and watermelon flavors. I love to serve this with salmon stuffed piquillo peppers for an all pink and red meal.

Obra Roble 2006 $10.99 The big hit of last summer is back in the latest vintage. This lightly oaked Tempranillo from the celebrated Bodegas J.C. Conde in Ribera del Duero is dark and rich, with velvety texture and just a hint of oak tannin. This wine was a spectacular bargain last year. I am happy to report that even as the Dollar continues to drop in value relative to the Euro, this wine is still the exact same price as last year. Rejoice!

Padre Pedro 2006 $9.99 This red wine from Casa Cadaval in the Ribatejo region of Portugal was reviewed very favorably by The New York Times last year. Many of you tried it based on that bit of positive press and the wine sold out quickly. The new 2006 vintage has just arrived. I find it to be just as tasty as last year, garnet colored with soft tannins and dark plum fruit character. A bit of earthy nuance on the finish.

Ventura Carmenere 2006 $9.99 When pairing spicy Carne Asada tacos (from Casa Latina across the street) with a red wine, I usually reach for a Carmenere from Chile. This typical Chilean varietal produces rich full bodied red wines that also posses a bit of spicy jalapeño-like complexity that works really well with a wide range of dishes on the picante end of the flavor spectrum. Ventura Carmenere is from the Lontué Valley in Chile, where some of the best Carmenere grows. This wine is made with organically grown fruit, something I am seeing more and more of in Chile.

Nuevomundo Cabernet/Carmenere Reserve 2005 $11.99 This Chilean blend of organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from the Maipo Valley is dark and spicy with underlying complexity from 14 months of oak barrel ageing. The more firmly structured Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 60% of the blend and finds counterpoint in the spicy Carmenere which accounts for the other 40%.

La Posta Bonarda 2006 $17.99 In Argentina the Malbec grape gets all the attention but for those who have already explored this varietal I highly recommend trying some of the excellent Bonarda wines that are also available. La Posta Bonarda is dark garnet colored like a Malbec but shows more spicy black pepper and a leaner expression of fruit character. As grilling season begins I suggest trying this wine alongside some thinly sliced grilled skirt steak with a pimentón dry rub.

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