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

Football Wine

Are you planning on watching football on Sunday?  If so, what will you be drinking?

You know where I’m going with this, right? I’m about to suggest some new and interesting wines to pair with a traditional Superbowl Sunday menu, but if football is not your thing (hey, that’s OK) keep reading anyway because these new arrivals are worth knowing about and trying even without any official justification.

This week we have a trio of new wines from Chile made by Bodegas Montes. The Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère blend will all compliment a wide variety of party foods, from chips and dip to chicken wings as well as more traditional accompaniments like fresh ceviche or dry cured chorizo. Montes also makes wine in Argentina under the Kaiken brand. We have the new Kaiken Malbec this week for all you Malbec fans out there (which seems to include pretty much all of us).

Speaking of Malbec, we have another new one to try, this time from the well known Achaval Ferrer winery. Their 2006 Malbec is a top shelf selection at a very reasonable price.  If meat is on the menu this weekend then by all means pour this wine with the meal to taste it at its best. 

Meanwhile, back in Spain new vintages are being shipped our way. The latest arrival here is the 2003 vintage of one of my favorite Priorat wines, Odysseus Tinto. The news here is very good indeed. Not only is this an excellent wine but the 2003 is actually a bit lower in price than the previous vintage (how often do you hear that these days?).

Finally, if your Sunday plans mandate beer rather than wine, I understand. Old habits are hard to change and that’s fine because you can still add an Iberian twist to your beer appreciation. We have excellent Spanish, Brazilian and Portuguese Lagars as well Portuguese Bock and Argentine micro brewery Ale, already chilled and ready to enjoy. 

Now, before we move on to the wines, I have a few event notes to share with you.

My Paella And Wine class on Feb. 25 is still open for enrollment. Check out kitchenonfire.com for all the details.

If you would like to venture further a field (a lot further) to learn about the wonders of Iberian wines you can join Steve Winston and his wife Sharon Baden (the founding owners of The Spanish Table) on a spectacular 15 day cruise. Steve and Sharon have been invited to present a series of wine tastings during a Lindblad Expeditions cruise from Morocco to Portugal, Spain, France and England.  Every evening at dinner, complimentary wines will be served focusing on a particular region of Spain, Portugal or France with brief discussions of the wines, the regions and the grape varietals. April 28, 2008 is the departure date. The details are all here: http://www.expeditions.com/Treasures437.asp

 

Now, on to the wines:

 

Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2007 $13.99 This crisp, refreshing white wine from the Leyda valley in Chile is ripe with tropical fruit aroma. Bright, citrusy acidity and a bit of grassy background flavor make this an excellent cocktail wine. Serve this with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing, and okay, a few chicken wings too. Racy, refreshing, remarkable.

 

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2006 $13.99  This Pinot Noir, made in small quantities from fruit grown in the Leyda Valley as well as the Casablanca region of Chile shows bright cherry color and fresh berry fruit character right up front. The light oak note comes from eight months of barrel age and becomes more apparent as the wine opens.  If you think that all Chilean wines are big and bold, this lighter style may surprise you in the best of ways. Chips and salsa will go great with this wine.

 

Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère 2006 $13.99 This wine is a good example of how, when done right, Chilean Carmenère can be distinctly spicy and rich. The winemakers at Montes blend this traditional grape with a large proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon to achieve a structured complexity that compliments the peppery Carmenère. The fruit comes from the Apalta Valley, one of Chile’s best grape growing regions. Serve this wine with spicy pork ribs or carnitas tacos for a bold and hearty game day treat.

 

Kaiken Malbec 2004 $11.99 Kaiken is a Mapuche word for a particular Snow Goose that migrates across the Andes between Chile and Patagonia, just as Bodegas Montes has crossed the mountains to start making wine in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This dark, rich red wine is 100% Malbec from the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza. Inky dark purple color and concentrated sweet fruit aroma. Ripe berry and spicy pepper flavors will compliment grilled meats and any food that is at last a little bit picante.

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2006 $22.99 This young winery was founded in 1998 but has achieved great success in a short period of time. This wine, the entry level product for the winery, is 100% Malbec from the high altitude Vistalba region. Obvious care has been taken to produce a rich and opulent wine that still retains a certain level of finesse and detail. The ripe berry fruit character balances foundational minerality which, in turn, compliments a bit of spicy/herby background aroma. This is beef wine, from burgers to porterhouse steak. There is really no other option, but would you want it any other way?

 

Odysseus Tinto 2003 $41.99 Wines from the Priorat region in Catalunya have gotten pretty pricy of late, so I am very happy to offer this new version of one of our favorite small production Priorat reds at a better than usual price. Composed of a blend of 35% Garnacha, 35% Cariñena and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon with the last 10% composed of Touriga Nacional, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Caladoc, this unique and intriguing wine offers abundant pleasure for those know to ask for it. This is a plush wine that exhibits dark color, ripe fruit character and that distinctive mineral element that makes Priorat wines so interesting. If you want a big red for the big game, this is it.

 

Cerveza Estrella Galicia $10.99 (6 pack) Fresh, hoppy lagar from the north of Spain.

Cerveja Sagres $6.99 (6 pack) Another tasty lagar, this time coming from Portugal.

Super Bock $7.99 (6 pack) A strong beer (technically, malt liquor) from Portugal. Hearty!

Cerveja Skol $7.99 (6 pack)  One of Brazil’s most popular beers.  This lagar will remind you of Rio.

Jerome Cerveza Rubia $5.99 (660ml. bottle) The first micro brewery in Argentina makes this Belgian style ale in Mendoza. Hoppy and rich, this proves that Mendoza is good for more than just wine.

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Chile, Portugal, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine