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Bar Lata

What is it about a small Spanish tapas bar that inspires thirst, hunger and conviviality all at the same time? The atmosphere is informal and friendly, the food is simple and ready to serve, the wines are well chosen and everything is modestly priced. It’s fast food for people who care about what they consume.

So why has ‘tapas’ become a pejorative word that evokes a fad several years past its prime?

My often voiced opinion is that the tapas concept has been turned on its head. The word ‘tapas’ has become restaurant code for ‘tiny appetizer’. A round of tapas with friends is a self contained snack while an appetizer is the first course of a full meal. This distinction has been hard to make due to a lack of proper tapas bars here in our part of the world. That is about to change.

Yesterday Daniel Olivella from B44 in San Francisco opened his new Bar Lata on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

In keeping with tradition the space is diminutive and simply decorated.  A long and varied list of cold and hot tapas is well paired with a wine selection that covers all of Spain. A unique collection of “canned” (lata = can) items are made in house and, in homage to the many superlative canned foods of Spain, are served in little oval shaped metal tins (the Lata de Pulpo was a traditional mix of octopus and potatoes dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a hearty dusting of smoked paprika).

Last night, seated in the corner with a view of the entire space I contentedly sipped a glass of cold, crisp Manzanilla while all around me the many wines of Spain, objects of my personal and professional passion, were flowing busily from bottle to glass. On one table a red Garnacha blend from Montsant was passed around amongst a cheery group of six. On another table bottle after bottle of Galician Albariño was happily consumed by an increasingly boisterous couple. Up front at the bar glasses of frothy Cava were handed out to a group of newly arrived patrons.

“This” I said to my wife “is my kind of place”.

In honor of my newfound home away from home, this week we feature a few the wines seen at (or inspired by) Bar Lata that are also found here at The Spanish Table. They have a pretty extensive list so if you go and try something you like, let me know and if I don’t have it already, I’ll get it.

Meanwhile across the Bay: I will be leading a wine class next week in San Francisco on Thursday March 19th at 7 pm at 18 Reasons (593 Guerrero St @ 18th St), a gallery in the Mission whose motto is “bringing the community together through food and art”.  The theme the evening is “Spanish Bubbles” and will include a tasting of sparkling Cava, lightly effervescent Txakoli from Basque Country and Vi D’Agulla from Catalunya as well as a sweet sparkling Muscat from Valencia. Background notes on the wines will be available during the event along with discounted purchasing opportunities. Appropriate snacks (dare I call them ‘tapas’?) will be prepared by the 18 Reasons crew. All of this can be had for the extremely tasty price of $10 ($5 dollars for 18 Reasons members). Go to their web site, http://18reasons.org/ for details and directions or call them at (415)-252-9816.

San León Manzanilla Clásica This wine, with an average age of 8 years, is palest straw colored and full of yeasty, saline aroma (like a fresh sea breeze) and toasted almond and chamomile flavors. If you are a Manzanilla lover this is an excellent new wine to add to your list. If you have not yet had a chance to try this most distinctive Spanish wine, this is the perfect place to start. $12.99 (375ml)

Gran Barquero Fino In the hills of Andalucia, just south of Cordoba in D.O. Montilla-Moriles they make fortified wines using the Pedro Ximénez grape.  These wines share the same production techniques as Sherry from D.O. Jerez further south. Gran Barquero Fino is pale straw colored, bracingly dry, lean and full of toasted almond aroma. $17.99

Sete Cepas Albariño 2007 This well priced Albariño is pale yellow tinged with green. Grapefruit aroma, lean minerality and light, refreshing texture are all to be found in this young white wine from Galicia. $12.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava is composed of Petit Grain Muscat, fermented to dryness and bottled with a bit of residual effervescence. The rich Muscat scent is present here but the sweetness usually associated with this grape is only barely perceived. In its place is tart citrusy fruit character and background flintiness. This wine was originally $14.99 but is on sale while it lasts for $11.99

Can Blau 2007 This dark, opulent Montsant region blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too. Judging from the number of bottles of Can Blau that I saw being poured at Bar Lata in Oakland the other night, this is a real crowd pleaser. Personal experience affirms this perspective. $16.99

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 Produced from a blend of mostly Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano, this Crianza level wine spends an extended period (2 years) ageing in French and American oak barrels, with an additional year of bottle ageing before release. The bright cherry-like fruit and resiny tannic barrel character that are typical of traditional Crianza Riojas are present here in a finely tuned frame. Serve this wine with sliced Serrano ham or cured Spanish chorizo for a classic flavor pairing. $19.99

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Filed under events, Fortified Wine, Red Wine, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

The Big Store and The Big Scores

Oh dear, I am falling behind in my updates to you about all that is going on here at The Spanish Table. I missed last week, for which I sincerely apologize, but the pace of business has quickened considerably on several fronts and I should update you on these developments before any more time passes.

First off, we have all been working long hours to install a temporary outpost of The Spanish Table on the ground floor of Macy’s in Union Square. For the next two weeks you can find the familiar faces you know from our Berkeley and Mill Valley stores (mine included) at Macy’s in San Francisco as we help them celebrate all things Spanish during their annual spring flower show. The theme this year is ‘A Mosaic of Spain’. For our part, we have set up a mini-Spanish Table on the ground floor of the main building, right by the escalators, in between the watches and cosmetics. While we will not be spritzing you with perfume or offering makeovers, we will be sampling chorizo, olives, turron and other favorites from The Spanish Table.

Want more? There will be Flamenco dancers in the menswear department. In housewares, Bay Area chefs such as Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade, Bocadillos), Maggie Pond (Cesar), Daniel Olivella (B-44) and Tyler Florence (he’s Spanish, right?) will be demonstrating a broad range of Spanish recipes with wine pairings hosted by our own Andy Booth. Bedding and furniture on the 7th floor will feature a showing of black and white photographs of Spain. Abundantly colorful floral displays will be found throughout the store. What more can I say other than “would you like to put that on your Macy’s card?”

Meanwhile, The Wine Advocate has just released their latest reviews of several hundred Spanish wines including many of our tried and trusted favorites. This influential publication always brings in new customers interested in trying some of the wines they have just read about. For those of you who have already been trying and buying, I thought it might be fun to compare what I said (and when I said it) about some of the wines that are just now getting their justly deserved bit of attention from The Wine Advocate.

Here we go:

7/12/07- I said:

Peique Mencía 2006 $13.99 One of my favorite young Mencía grape wines from D.O. Bierzo has just arrived in the new 2006 vintage. Vibrant fresh cherry fruit character encounters dry autumn leaf aroma and flinty background minerality. Perfect for summer cookouts in the back yard or wherever you may be.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

“90 Points-The 2006 Joven saw no oak. Dark ruby-colored, it offers an expressive bouquet of mineral, blue fruits, and black cherry. Smooth, seamless, and elegant, this is a superb introduction to the Mencia grape as well as an exceptional value.”

12/6/07- I said:

Can Blau 2006 $17.99 The new vintage of this well loved red from the Montsant region has just arrived. This dark, opulent blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too. Previous vintages have all scored highly in the press and the new vintage is right up there quality-wise. For a soul warming winter meal, pour this with a traditional Cocido (the Spanish version of Italian ‘Bolito Misto’, or for you New Englanders, ‘Boiled Dinner’).

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
92 points -The 2006 Can Blau is one of the finest values in the marketplace. Composed of 40% Carinena, 40% Syrah, and 20% Garnacha, this purple-colored wine has great aromatics for the price point. It offers up smoke, pain grille, pencil lead, scorched earth, blueberry, black cherry, and blackberry. Balanced, round, and ripe on the palate, the wine already reveals some complexity and enough structure to blossom for another 2-3 years.”

10/19/07- I said:

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 $18.99 Produced from a blend of mostly Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano, this Crianza level wine spends an extended period (2 years) ageing in French and American oak barrels, with an additional year of bottle ageing before release. The bright cherry-like fruit and resiny tannic barrel character that are typical of traditional Crianza Riojas are present here in a finely tuned frame. Serve this wine with sliced Serrano ham or cured Spanish chorizo for a classic flavor pairing.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

“90 Points –The 2000 Pecina Crianza is 95% Tempranillo with the balance Graciano and Garnacha from organically farmed estate fruit. It was aged for 24 months in seasoned American oak before being bottled unfiltered (as are all of these wines). Dark ruby-colored with a brick rim, it exhibits a nose of cedar, earth, mushroom, tobacco, and blackberry. This leads to a stylish, elegant wine with good concentration and depth that should drink well for another 6 years. It is an excellent value in traditional Rioja.”

9/6/07- I said:

Pétalos 2006 $23.99 The 2001 vintage of Pétalos was a profound experience for me. I’d never previously tried any Mencía grape wines from D.O. Bierzo but this wine won me over instantly with its combination of poise and power. Loamy dried leaf aroma and berry-like fruit with deep, dark garnet color. Subsequent vintages have reaffirmed my appreciation of this grape/region/producer. The 2005 was opulent and assertive. The new 2006 shows more elegance and precision.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
91 points -The 2006 Petalos del Bierzo is purple-colored with a fragrant nose of violets, lavender, mulberry, and blueberry. Ripe, supple, and sweetly fruited, it will evolve for 2-3 years and drink well through 2015. This estate was started in 1998 by Alvaro Palacios. It has steep hillside vineyards and 60- to 100-year-old vines planted in 100% Mencia, a varietal indigenous to Bierzo, a cool-climate D.O.”

11/8/07 – I said:

Alto Moncayo 2005 $43.00 Garnacha is the most widely planted red grape in Spain but you won’t find many as good as what Alto Moncayo makes in D.O. Campo de Borja just south of Rioja. Deep ruby color, extracted aromas of ripe berries and a bright, spicy character that is a perfect match for red meat.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

95 points -The 2005 Alto Moncayo is a selection of older Garnacha vineyards. Purple colored, it is more expressive aromatically with enticing aromas of pain grille, spice box, floral notes, black cherry and black raspberry. Richer, more layered, and intense, this superb effort has a 60+ second finish.”

10/19/07- I said:

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 $28.99 It’s the time of year when a little late harvest sweet wine is particularly appealing. The new vintage of the celebrated Casta Diva is a lush Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
90 points -The 2006 Casta Diva “Cosecha Miel” Moscatel undergoes barrel-fermentation in new oak which is gradually arrested for bottling in the following spring. The nose offers up floral notes and honey along with peach, apricot, ginger, and marmalade. Medium-sweet, intense, and long, this tasty elixir will pair well with fruit desserts.”

2/14/08-I said:

Primitivo Quiles Fondillón Reserva 1948 $63.00 Historically, Fondillón was called Vino Noble de Alicante not only because it was enjoyed by royalty (Louis XIV is said to have enjoyed the wine) but also as an indication of a winemaking style that achieves 16% alcohol by volume without resorting to fortification of the wine with spirits as is done in Jerez.

Late harvest Monastrell is picked at ultimate ripeness and the sugars in the grape convert to alcohol at a higher rate than normally. After many years in the solera the wine looses its red color and turns a ruddy shade of amber. Nutty sherry-like aroma and flavor balance gentle but not cloying sweetness. Serve this wine with afternoon cookies and tea. A small glass after dinner is also nice.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

93 Points –The 1948 Fondillon Gran Reserva is drawn from a solera begun in 1948 but the wine is not fortified. Dark amber/brown in color, it has aromas reminiscent of an Amontillado sherry including almonds, ginger, dates, and assorted dried dark fruits. It finishes sherry-like but without the alcohol and the bite. There is nothing else quite like this uniquely styled dry wine.”

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Misc.Wine, Red Wine, Spain

Holiday Wines, Version 1.3, The Holiday Party Edition

It’s party season. Parties at the office, parties at friends houses, parties at home.  It can get overwhelming if you are not prepared. Long festive luncheons with old colleagues, slow Sunday suppers with relatives from out of town or an impromptu potluck in the break room at work can all be accomplished with ease if you have a well stocked pantry and/or wine cellar.

Foods that require little or no preparation are essential, as are tasty wines in a variety of styles.  A jar of our exclusive lemon stuffed olives, a wedge of 12 month aged Manchego cheese and a frothy bottle of Cava can go a long way toward creating a fun and celebratory atmosphere any time, anywhere. Silky and elegant red wines set the perfect tone at the dinner table and are perfect accompaniments to traditional slow cooked simple meals like Fabada made with genuine Asturian white beans, Chorizo and Morcilla sausage. Little ivory wedges of Almond Turrón and crumbly Mantecado cookies are well matched to aged, dark amber colored Amontillado or Oloroso from Jerez and make a perfect end to any holiday get together.

For a quick and tasty appetizer, try this recipe that I cobbled together after tasting an amazing version of this dish at my favorite local Portuguese restaurant, La Salette in Sonoma. I served this at a Port tasting that I put together a few weeks ago.  Since then I’ve had several requests for the recipe so I am printing it here for those who would like to make it at home.

 

Patê de Sardinha (Sardine Paté)

(serves 4 as an appetizer)

 

1-can Matiz sardines, drained

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup diced onion

2-tablespoons extra virgin cup olive oil

1-tablespoon mayonnaise

1-tablespoon chopped cilantro

1-tablespoon chopped parsley

1-tablespoon Piri Piri hot sauce

1-teaspoon salt

 

Put everything in the food processor and pulse to blend (should end up with a consistency somewhere between chopped liver and hummus). Adjust lemon juice/Piri Piri/salt to taste. Chill for one hour (or over night) and serve with crusty bread.

 

D’Abattis Gran Cava 2004 $17.99 This bone dry vintage sparkler, made from 100% Parellada (one of the traditional Cava grapes) is toasty and green apple crisp with fine bubbles and yeasty aroma. California winemaker, Master Sommelier and Bay Area resident Emmanuel Kemiji is involved in this traditional Catalan winery.  Serve this wine with a mix of fried lemon slices and tiny fried anchovies. Let the festivities ensue.

 

Mont Ferrant  Blanes Nature Cava 2003 $17.99 From one of the oldest Cava producers in Spain, this traditional blend of Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo is bright, lively and very dry. Mont Ferrant also makes the ever-popular Brut Rosado Cava that many of you know and love. This wine is more traditional in style and makes an elegant cocktail as well as a dinner wine. Try it with oysters on the half shell.

 

Can Blau 2006 $17.99 The new vintage of this well loved red from the Montsant region has just arrived. This dark, opulent blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too.  Previous vintages have all scored highly in the press and the new vintage is right up there quality-wise. For a soul warming winter meal, pour this with a traditional Cocido (the Spanish version of Italian ‘Bolito Misto’, or for you New Englanders, ‘Boiled Dinner’).

Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 Here’s an odd one for you. This is the only Reserva Rioja wine made from the rare Graciano grape. Usually Graciano, which accounts for a mere 5% of the annual harvest in Rioja, is used to blend in with the lighter Tempranillo. Graciano lends structure to blended Rioja. On its own, Graciano can be quite firm and tannic, but with 24 months in barrel followed by another two years of bottle ageing, the wine has become quite elegant and mature. If Crown Rib Roast is in your holiday plans, this wine will add the perfect Spanish accent to the meal.

 

Maestro Sierra Amontillado $21.99 (375 ml)

Maestro Sierra Oloroso $15.99 (375ml)

Maestro Sierra was founded in 1832 by Jose Antonio Sierra, who, as a master carpenter, was responsible for building barrels for all the major Sherry bodegas. Recognized as one of the top coopers in the area, he longed to become involved in the Sherry trade itself. As this business was dominated by the nobility, a start-up such as his was not very welcome. After many hardships he was able to establish and grow his business becoming one of the top Almacenistas (stockholders) of high quality Jerez wines. Poking fun at his struggle, the label depicts an allegorical fox hunt with the “Nobles” hunting the fox (Maestro Sierra).

Pilar Pla Pechovierto currently owns Maestro Sierra. Doña Pilar is a widow whose husband was a direct descendent of the Sierra family. She respected her husband’s wish that the winery remain in operation after his death and over the last thirty years she has kept the winery open, selling very limited stocks of wine to a few of the large bodegas. Because the wines have virtually remained unmoved due to the almost non existent business, the stocks at Maestro Sierra are some of the oldest in Jerez. The soleras at the winery are easily over 60 years old and some maybe close to 100 years old.

Maestro Sierra Amontillado is amber gold in color with a rich aroma of almonds and fresh hay. A very gentle note of raisin-like fruit character is present here. This wine pairs well with aged cheeses and cured meats. The Maestro Sierra Oloroso is dark amber with flavors of walnuts, butterscotch and figs. Serve this wine in a small glass to your special someone, after a big meal, on the bear skin rug, next to the roaring fire, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Big Reds

At The Spanish Table we are firm believers in eating and drinking according to the seasons. Throughout the summer we have focused our attention on the cool, refreshing white and rosado wines that go so well with summer meals as well as the bold, youthful red wines that are perfect accompaniments to meat on the grill. 

As we move into late summer we start to bring in more hearty, mature red wines as well as richer, more aromatic whites. 

This week we have some new wines that fit these descriptions perfectly. Like the first robin of spring these wines are harbingers of the season to come. It may not feel like it yet in the Bay Area, and we still have plenty of pink/white/red summertime wines, but as the season progresses we will continue to shift our focus toward these more autumnal flavors and characteristics.

Meanwhile, our friends at Happy Quail Farms have been delivering fresh Piquillo peppers to us for the first time. The search for a source for fresh Piquillos has been something of a grail quest for me over the last few years ever since trying one that our store manager (and food newsletter editor) Caty Salas grew in her yard in Oakland. I was so impressed with this homegrown version of the classic Navarra regional specialty that I made a video to commemorate the event.

Now, with access to the plump, crunchy fresh Piquillos from Happy Quail, I get to expand my repertoire of pepper recipes. Here is the recipe for a little tapa that I served to visitors last weekend.

 

Kevin’s Roasted Fresh Piquillo Peppers with Ventresca Tuna

Serves 4 as an appetizer

 

½ lb. fresh Piquillo peppers (5-6 peppers)

1- 4 0z. can Ortiz Ventresca Tuna

3 tablespoons Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Toro Albala PX Vinegar

1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

 

Char the peppers briefly over a flame to blister the skin. Let the peppers cool and remove the blackened skin along with the stem end and the seeds. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Drain the tuna and gently separate the pieces into big flakes. Arrange the peppers in a pile on a serving plate and top with the flaked tuna. Drizzle on the oil and vinegar. Sprinkle parsley over the top and salt to taste.

 

Cerveza:

Skol Beer $10.99 In our continuing quest for interesting beer we recently started selling some rare and tasty Argentine micro brewery ales. Based on the success of those new products, this week we are bringing in one of Brazil’s most popular beers.  This crisp, refreshing lager is said to induce sentimental nostalgia among the local Brazilian population. I like the 11.2 ounce bottles. They remind me of the diminutive cañas (small glasses of draft beer) served in Spain.

 

Vino Blanco:

Versatus 2006 $12.99 Galician white wines from the Ribeiro region have not gotten as much attention as the Albariño wines from neighboring Rías Baixas. Versatus is a D.O. Ribeiro wine composed of equal parts Treixadura, Palomino, Godello and Torrontes. The flinty, mineral element is predominant in this crisp, light bodied wine.

 

Santiago Ruiz 2006 $17.99 The newest vintage of this bright, aromatic white wine from Galicia is a blend of estate grown Albariño, Treixadura and Loureiro, vinified completely in stainless steel. Pale lemon color with aromas of citrus blossom and tropical fruits. Crisp acidity and background minerality add balance to the wine and maintain the refreshing quality that makes this such a perfect wine for pairing with light appetizers and seafood.

 

Do Ferreiro 2006 $24.99 The new 2006 vintage of this 100% Albariño wine reminds us of why this producer retains almost cult status among Spanish white wine appreciators. The various components of this wine (color, texture, aroma, flavor) are precise and balanced. The gently perfumed floral aspect never overwhelms the citrusy fruit character which in turn balances the firm minerality. An excellent wine for a special meal.

 

Vino Tinto:

Vina Herminia Tempranillo 2005 $11.99 Located in the Rioja Baja subzone of D.O.C. Rioja, at the southeastern end of the region, Viña Herminia belongs to the Luis Caballero group of companies, also owners of Lustau in Jerez. This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from a combination of estate grown fruit as well as fruit purchased from the local coop. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel (no oak barrels) helps retain the fresh berry fruit character of the wine. Dark garnet colored, Viña Herminia displays ripe berry aroma and abundant, youthful fruit character.

 

Convento Oreja Roble 2005 $15.99 This young Ribera del Duero region wine, fashioned from the local Tinto del País grape and aged for 4 months in oak is structured and ripe while retaining a certain youthfulness. Dark berry aromas and flavors with gentle tannins and background minerality.

 

Corpus del Muni Roble 2005 $17.99 A blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Garnacha produced just outside of Toledo in central Spain. Dark garnet color with aromas of berries and spicy oak. Black cherry fruit character with earthy tannins. A few months of barrel age lends complexity to the blend without stripping the final product of its youthful demeanor.

 

Termes 2005 $26.99 The Toro region wines from Bodegas Numanthia Termes have become very popular among our customers who appreciate concentrated, powerful red wines. The more exclusive Numanthia and Termanthia (the latter rated a perfect score of 100 by The Wine Advocate in the 2004 vintage) have already sold out in their previous vintage, but the newest release is this, the youngest of their wines. Sourced from small plots of old vine Tinto de Toro and aged in oak for 16 months before bottling, this rich, structured, tannic red allows those of us on a budget to taste at least something from this highly rated producer. Give this one lots of air and serve with wild boar or grilled buffalo steak.

 

Alonso del Yerro 2005 $35.99  This wine is made from 100% Tempranillo sourced from the family owned 65 acre vineyard. Aged for 12 months in oak before bottling, this wine captures the essence of the Ribera del Duero region. Dark garnet color, rich fruit character and firmly tannic structure are what one looks for in wines from this region. Alonso del Yerro expresses all of these attributes in a finely balanced offering that possesses both elegance (not a common descriptor in this region) and precision.

 

Mas de Can Blau 2004 $42.99 We love the inky dark, juicy, ripe Can Blau from D.O. Montsant and so do you. It is so popular that we have trouble keeping it in stock. Now this producer has released a more mature version produced from the fruit of their oldest vineyards and aged for 20 months in oak before bottling. This is a big, powerful red that will age well for years to come. Mas de Can Blau has been well reviewed by both Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. Both publications awarded the wine 92 Points.

Josh Raynolds (IWC) wrote: “Deep, saturated red. Explosively perfumed nose features exotic scents of blackberry, cassis, cola, sandalwood, patchouli and smoked meat. Broad, deep and remarkably sweet, with lush dark fruit flavors showing remarkable depth and purity. Intense mineral accents and firm tannins add structure and precision.

Jay Miller (WA) said: “The 2004 Mas de Can Blau, the first vintage of this cuvee, comes from the estate’s oldest Cariñena, Garnacha, and Syrah vines. It received malolactic fermentation in barrel, was aged for 20 months in new French oak, and bottled unfiltered. Dark ruby/purple-colored, it offers a flamboyant nose of pain grille, scorched earth, tar, and kirsch. Full-bodied with a supple texture, the wine has layers of sweet fruit, nicely integrated oak, tannin, and acidity, in its racy personality. Drink this outgoing wine over the next 8-10 years.”

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Filed under beer, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Back to School?

It’s that time again.

Hey, wait a minute.  Is it really “that time again” already? I keep flipping the pages of my wall calendar back and forth between August and September trying fruitlessly to shake loose a few more weeks of summer and wondering where the days went.

Yes, it really is “that time again”, arriving a bit early this year, but the changes in Berkeley (a college town at heart) are already evident.  University professors and staff are gearing up for the fall semester. Campus residence halls are abuzz with activity as new students arrive laden with personal possessions. In the morning, grade school and high school students trudge past my window on their way from home to class and back again in the afternoon, dragging rolling luggage filled with books and homework behind them. In the early evening my local park swells with crowds of young boys at football practice, sprinting back and forth in unison to the short repeated bursts from the coach’s whistle. No question about it, school is back in session.

Wine, of course, knows no season, and while some wines are better with summer meals and others are more suited to winter fare, new and delicious wines (and beer) continue to arrive at The Spanish Table year round.  

In case you have been elsewhere lately and may have missed out on some of the recent new products at The Spanish Table we are playing catch up this week with some highlights from our recent acquisitions.

Here too is an easy plan, not even a recipe, for a simple meal that needs no cooking and tastes best served on an overturned packing box or on the tailgate of your truck.

Welcome back everybody!

 

Kevin’s Moving Day Spanish Picnic

(Serves 4)

 

1 Palacios Spanish dry cured chorizo

¼ lb. sliced Redondo Iglesias Serrano ham

½ lb. Don Alonso Aged Manchego Cheese

1 jar The Spanish Table Lemon Olives

1 jar Matiz Piparras pickled green peppers

1 jar Ferrer Gazpacho

1 sml.  Arte Oliva Ali Oli

1 large bottle Vichy Catalan sparkling mineral water

1 bottle Muga Rosado wine

 

Slice the chorizo thinly on the bias. Tear the pre-sliced ham into rustic bite sized bits. Slice the cheese into thin triangles. Splash the olives and peppers out into a bowl, mixed together.  The gazpacho is ready to go, just serve it chilled with bread and Ali Oli on the side. Crisp, cold rosado and salty, sparkling mineral water satisfy your thirst. ¡Salud!

 

Cerveza:

Jerome Cerveza Roja $4.99

Jerome Cerveza Negra $4.99

Named after the family German shepherd (who’s profile is featured prominently on the label) Jerome Brewing Company is a pioneer in the production of small batch (and I mean really small, as in 5 barrels a day) Argentine ales. Using pure Andean water and top quality ingredients, this small company shows that Argentina’s wine renaissance is spreading to the beer market too. We currently carry the Roja, a bold, hoppy ale that reminds me of some of our local bay Area brews, as well as the Negra, a dark and creamy version of a British stout.

 

Vino Rosado:

Muga Rosado 2006 $12.99 From one of our favorite D.O.C. Rioja wineries, Bodegas Muga, comes one of the best rosado wines of the summer. This pale, salmon colored blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Viura makes a wonderful companion to lighter food as well as being supremely refreshing on a hot afternoon.

 

Artazuri Rosado 2006 $12.99 This dry rosado is made from 100% Garnacha grapes grown in the high altitude vineyards of D.O. Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This perennial customer favorite displays gentle fresh berry scent along with a bright citrus fruit character. The finely detailed aromas and flavors blend effortlessly in this excellent summertime wine.

 

Vino Blanco:

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but the flavor is dry and grapefruity. The assertive bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.

 

Oreka 2006 $19.99 Our newest Txakoli wine from the Basque lands in Northern Spain is a stunner. Oreka (a Basque word that roughly translates as ‘balance’) is made from the indigenous Hondaribbi Zuri grape.  Richer and more abundantly fruity than the rather lean and mineral wines that are typical of this windswept coastal region, Oreka displays slight spritzy effervescence and a firm mineral foundation overlaid with flavors of grapefruit and quince.

 

Uriondo Txakoli 2006 $14.99 This wine is from D.O. Bizkaiko Txakolina, near Bilbao. Unlike the coastal D.O. Getariako Txakolina wines that are made from the Hondaribbi Zuri grape, Uriondo is composed of a blend of 70% Mune Mahatsa and  30% Txori Mahatsa (say that five times fast). Less spritzy than most Txakoli wines, with riper fruit character and less assertive minerality.

 

Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2006 $16.99 D.O. Bierzo is known primarily as a red wine region, but this Bierzo region white wine is made from the local Godello grape that is more common in neighboring D.O. Valdeorras.  This yellow gold colored wine is fermented in temperature controlled tanks that preserve all the fresh citrus and melon aromas that are typical of the Godello grape. Bright acidity adds to the refreshing quality that makes this such a perfect accompaniment to composed salads, pasta or poultry as well as a full range of seafood.

 

Soalheiro Vinho Verde 2006 $21.99 Typically, Vinho Verde is light, spritzy and simple non-vintage white Portuguese wine. These days, as people discover the joys of Vinho Verde we are seeing more and more higher priced wines from this region. Soalheiro is a vintage wine produced from the Alvarinho (Albariño in Spain = Alvarinho in Portugal) grape. Well known in Portugal as a top shelf Vinho Verde, this wine is just starting to find a market here in the USA. Flinty mineral background lays a foundation for light floral aroma and bright citrus fruit character. This finely detailed and multi-layered wine cries out for choriço and clams, salt cod and potatoes or other such traditional Portuguese fare.

 

Vino Tinto:

Carro Tinto 2006 $10.99 The new vintage of this popular red wine from D.O. Yecla has just arrived. Composed of a blend of a blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot, this easy drinking red will add spice and contrast to your next backyard cookout. Dark, bold and fruity with intriguing flinty background flavor.

 

Arbanta 2005 $10.99 An excellent young Rioja produced from Organic fruit.  Recently rated 89 Points by The Wine Advocate, Jay Miller reviewed the wine, saying “The 2005 Biurko Gorri Arbanta offers superb value, among the best in my Spanish tastings. It is 100% Tempranillo, tank fermented and aged. Medium ruby in color, it exhibits remarkable aromatic complexity for its price point with cherries, red currants, and spice in evidence. The wine is elegant, balanced, and fruity right through the lengthy finish. Drink it over the next 1-3 years.

 

Cune Crianza 2004 $17.99 If you go to Rioja and walk into any small bar and request a glass of vino tinto, chances are you will be served this wine. This blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo is aged for two years (12 months in American oak barrels and 12 months in the bottle) before sale. The 2004 vintage shows dark garnet color with black cherry fruit character and balanced oaky tannins that combine to create a picture perfect example of crianza Rioja.

 

Can Blau 2005 $17.99 This D.O. Montsant wine has been getting lots of positive feedback from customers.  Josh Raynolds reviewed this blend of 50% Cariñena, 35% Syrah and 15% Garnacha wine for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and rated it 90 Points. His description matches mine, but his wording is better. He said: “Bright ruby. Focused, fresh and brisk on the nose, with energetic cherry and candied licorice aromas. Intense mineral notes add complexity and depth to the explosive blackberry and cherry fruit, with notes of candied violet and rose coming up on the back. Finishes with superb intensity and length. An excellent value, and built for cellaring.

 

Luigi Bosca Reserva Malbec 2003 $21.99  From one of the oldest wineries in Argentina we recently received this 100% Malbec wine sourced from estate vineyards located in the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo district of Mendoza.  This finely balanced wine displays the dark color and ripe aroma of a typical Malbec, but the mid-weight tannins and the multi-layered aromas and flavors here are sophisticated and well tuned. This is one of the best Malbec wines I have tasted so far.

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

New Arrivals From Argentina

A few weeks ago I hosted a wine tasting at the California Shakespeare Festival that featured a few of our latest arrivals from Argentina. I poured a couple of red wines made from the Malbec grape and a white Torrontes. Judging from the pleasantly surprised responses (smiles, happy oohs and aahs, requests for seconds) many of you have yet to try the numerous new wines from Argentina. I only recently started buying Argentine and Chilean wine for our store, but I have been very pleased with the wines in general and am happy to continue my research in order to bring you the very best of the overwhelming array of brands and styles now finding their way to our shores.

At The Spanish Table in Berkeley I’m adding a new display rack and reorganizing a bit to make room for more wines from South America, so if you have not yet had an opportunity to experience these new red, white and rosado wines, now is your chance.

This week, in addition to our latest arrivals from Spain, we are featuring a handful of new arrivals from Argentina’s Finca Carlos Pulenta. The Tomero and Vistalba wines are excellent examples of contemporary Argentine wine making.

Food-wise, the center of a big Argentine meal is usually grilled meat in its many forms, though beef will certainly play a leading role. If a multi course meal comprised of steaks, chops, sausages and organ meats seems a bit too carnivorous for you, perhaps the following recipe adapted from Argentina Cooks! By Shirley Lomax Brooks ($24.95) will add balance to your meal:

Tomates Rellenos – Tuna and Vegetable Stuffed Tomatoes (serves 4)

4 large ripe tomatoes

2 large tins (12 ounces) Spanish Bonito del Norte Tuna

2 cups cooked vegetables, any combination of peas, carrots, green beans, corn kernels and lima beans

½ cup Delouis brand Aioli

Dash of Piri Piri pepper sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 green onions chopped

2 teaspoons fresh parsley, cilantro or dill

Make the tomato shells by cutting the tops off tomatoes and carefully scooping out the pulp and seeds. Drain the tuna and mix with your choice of vegetables and the aioli. Stir in Piri Piri, garlic, onions and green herbs. Fill the tomato halves with the shrimp salad and chill briefly before serving.

Now, on to the wine!

Vinos Blancos:

Tomero Torrontes 2006 $15.99 Produced in the Cafayate Valley in the Northern Argentine province of Salta, this aromatic white wine will charm you with scents of orange blossom, crane melon and white peach. The rich aromas add depth to the dry, mineral background and bright apricot-like fruit character of the wine.

Lagar de Cervera 2006 $20.99 From the producers of La Rioja Alta red wines comes the newest vintage of this always excellent Albariño which is bold and ripe, with fine minerality, medium body, and loads of tropical fruit.

Aforado 2005 $11.99 In D.O. Rías Baixas, the Albariño grape is King, but in the O Rosal sub-zone (where Aforado comes from) other grapes such as Treixadura and Loureira also share center stage. The end result of all this blending is a white wine with more peach and pear aromas and flavors than the typical flinty, citrusy Albariño wines. At this price, Aforado makes an excellent choice for buying by the case.

Vinos Tintos:

Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 $16.99 In the Mendoza region of Argentina vineyards grow in the dessert climate thanks to a controlled system of irrigation channels. Tomero is the title given to the vineyard worker in charge of water distribution. Tomero Cabernet is a rich red wine produced from estate grown fruit from the Valle de Uco region within Mendoza. Dark Garnet color and black cherry aroma lead to dry tannins and black currant fruit character. The whole ensemble is balanced and well integrated which lends a certain elegance to the wine.

Tomero Malbec 2004 $16.99 The Malbec grapes for this wine are, like the Cabernet, sourced from estate vineyards in the Valle de Uco region. Steel tank fermentation (i.e. no oak) allows the bold fruit character of the wine to predominate. Spicy background notes add complexity. This youthful red is ripe, but not ‘over the top’ as some other Malbec wines can be.

Vistalba Corte-C 2004 $11.99 This blend of estate grown Malbec (85%) and Merlot (15%), grown in the Luján de Cuyo region of Mendoza is aged, in part, in oak barrels for 12 months prior to bottling, then the bottled wine is aged for another 6 months before sale. Dark plum color and spicy oak aroma adds depth to the plum-like fruit character. This ripe, smooth red wine will pair well with cookout fare as well as more elaborate meat-centric preparations.

Can Blau 2005 $17.99 We’re back in Spain now. This D.O. Montsant wine has been getting lots of positive feedback from customers. Josh Raynolds reviewed this blend of 50% Cariñena, 35% Syrah and 15% Garnacha wine for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and rated it 90 Points. His description matches mine, but his wording is better. He said: “Bright ruby. Focused, fresh and brisk on the nose, with energetic cherry and candied licorice aromas. Intense mineral notes add complexity and depth to the explosive blackberry and cherry fruit, with notes of candied violet and rose coming up on the back. Finishes with superb intensity and length. An excellent value, and built for cellaring.

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Filed under Argentina, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine