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Moscatel

The Muscat grape (known in Spain as Moscatel) is thought to be the oldest cultivated grape variety on the planet. Many different wine grapes are descended from primal Muscat vines cultivated thousands of years ago in the Middle East (or maybe Greece, nobody is really sure). The unique, unchanging aspect that distinguishes Muscat is a rich floral aroma that is present when the fruit is fresh as well as in the wines made from this grape. The distinctive rich honeyed perfume is the scent of freshly crushed grapes at harvest time. Spanish Moscatel  has a long history stretching back thousands of years. The Moscatel variety is grown all across Spain and the wines made from this most ancient of grapes come in a range of styles from sweet to dry or somewhere in between.Traditional Moscatel Dulce is a sweet wine, made in a sherry-like style (fortified) in the south as well as a golden late harvest style in the north and east of Spain. These wines are traditionally served with light desserts at the end of a meal. Less well known are the dry and off-dry table wines made from Moscatel.  These wines retain the rich floral aroma that Moscatel is known for but with less (or none of) the residual sugar that usually pushes Moscatel into the dessert wine category. They can be still, sparkling or lightly spritzy. They retain bright acidity that combines with the floral aromatics to create a wine with weight and substance that is also balanced and food-friendly. The closest comparisons would be the aroma and texture of Viognier offset by the edgy grapefruit and mineral character of Albariño. These wines are pefect accompaniments to a broad range of autumn and winter flavors as well as many traditional holiday foods.


Botani 2008
Botani is a dry Moscatel from the Sierras de Malaga region. Victoria Ordoñez, sister of the famous wine marketer Juan Ordoñez, makes this wine at the small family winery. The floral, concentrated aroma is classic Moscatel, redolent of honeysuckle and orange blossom,  but the palate is crisp and dry with citrus and mineral notes. This pale straw colored wine possesses a finely tuned balance of flavors that express a fresh and unique side of this ancient region. $21.99

 

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2008 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 are flavors of tart grapefruit and background flintiness. This spritzy, low alcohol white wine makes a unique and distinctive apperitivo at the start of a festive gathering. $11.99

 

Viña Esmeralda 2008 This medium sweet blend of Moscatel and Gewürtztraminer is floral and aromatic with notes of rose petal and lavender. Honeyed melon fruit character is held in check by bright acidity. In Spain this is a traditional wine to serve during during the holidays accompanied by some almond cookies or the anise flavored fried pastries known as rosquillas. $14.99

Gramona Gessamí 2008 In the Catalan language gessamí means jasmine. This is a perfect descriptor for the aroma of this Penedès region blend of Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürtztraminer. The rich floral perfume wafts out of the glass at arms length. Put the glass to your lips and take in the crisp citrus and green apple fruit character. The combination of sweet aroma and tart flavor creates a uniquely delicious experience. Pair this wine with raw fish (tuna tartare, sashimi) or any number of marinated vegetable salads (beets & fennel, mushroom & leeks vinaigrette). $17.99


Musva Espumoso
Previously this was called Reymos. It comes from a small co-op winery in the village of Cheste near Valencia. It is a sparkling Moscatel that works its magic best at the end of a meal. It is medium sweet, low in alcohol, aggressively bubbly and aromatic. Notes of baking spices (cloves, nutmeg, allspice) make this an excellent wine to serve with an autumn pear tart (or, even better, good ol’ American pumpkin pie). $11.99

 

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 At this time of year a little glass of late harvest Moscatel is particularly appealing in the late afternoon or after dinner. The celebrated Casta Diva is a lush, sweet Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey, ginger and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart. $32.99 (500 ml)


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Rioja Bordon is back! For those of you who missed out on these the first time around (or tried them, loved them and want more) we are happy to report that a new batch of traditionally styled Rioja wines from Bodegas Franco-Española has just arrived and is going fast. The same great pricing continues until the wines are gone. We are thrilled to be able to extend this not-to-be-missed opportunity.

Rioja Bordon Crianza 2005 The 2001 was a staff and customer favorite and hopefully you’ll find the current release just as enticing. A bit richer than the 2001, this is still a classic Rioja Crianza (tart pie cherry fruit with well integrated barrel character) at an outstanding price. $13.99

Rioja Bordon Reserva 2004 The best seller of the Franco-Española wines is this plush reserva from the stellar 2004 vintage. Elegantly expressive and balanced Rioja at a fabulous price. $17.99

Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 1999 Here it is. A 10-year old wine for an amazing price. Soft and round this is a classic aged Gran Reserva, intended as a vino de contemplación to be served alone or with a few choice tapas (jamón iberico!). A true taste of Spain at a 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 $60, but it’s $49.99

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Red Wine, Spain, 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 1.2.1

This week finds us in a brief lull, an intermission if you will, in the holiday frenzy.

With Thanksgiving all finished except for the leftovers, everyone takes a quick breather before heading into the whirlwind of holiday office parties, extravagant meals, traveling to see family and/or having family travel to see (and stay) with you.  In this brief in-between period (just barely a week) I want to share some newly arrived wines with you that will ease you into the rest of the holiday season in style, as well as leaving you with plenty of funds for gifts, decorations and other seasonal accoutrements.

Here in the Berkeley store we have been having fun trying out the recipes in the classic Spanish cookbook 1080 Recetas de Cocina by Simone and Inès Ortega, newly translated into English and available now in a big hardbound edition for $39.95. Last night while out at Bar César for an after dinner drink, I saw that Chef Maggie Ponds is also celebrating the arrival of this most popular of Spanish cookbooks by including one dish from the book in her ever changing menu. Her version of Dried Plums Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts was a deceptively simple small plate with five bite sized mouthfuls of the most explosive flavor imaginable. I had to look it up in the book so I could try and recreate this knock-you-back-in-your-chair appetizer. It is really quite simple but the combination of ingredients is a complex and vivid mixture of flavors, aromas and textures.

 

Prunes stuffed with Valdeón cheese and pine nuts.

(adapted from 1080 Recipes by Simone and Inès Ortega)

Serves 4

 

¼ lb. Valdeón cheese (or other aged blue cheese)

12 pine nuts

12 raisins

1 tablespoon sweet Moscatel wine

¼ cup cream

12 pitted prunes

In a mixing bowl, mash blue cheese with a fork and mix with cream and sweet sherry. Roughly chop pine nuts and raisins and add to cheese mixture. Stir to combine everything. Fill each prune with a small spoonful of the cheese mixture and seal with a toothpick. Allow 45 minutes for the flavors to blend before serving alongside small glasses of the same wine used in the recipe.

 

Siete 2005 $12.99 A blend of 80% Garnacha and 20% Tempranillo made in the historic wine town of Olite in the Navarra region of Northern Spain. Organic fruit from old vine vineyards (+/- 25 years) is fermented in tank and aged on the lees for two months before bottling. Dark ruby color and youthful berry-like aroma create the first impression. Bright acidity gives lift to fresh cherry fruit character, resolving in a savory finish with light grape skin tannins. Serve this wine with another traditional Navarra specialty, the Piquillo pepper, served in any of a dozen ways (cold, hot, sliced, stewed, stuffed, you name it).

 

Navarro Lopez Old Vines Crianza $13.99 In the Valdepeñas region of southern Spain (a region with many centuries of wine making tradition) Bodegas Navarro Lopez crafts a range of wines from the local Cencibel (Tempranillo by another name) grape. This wine is made from old vine fruit and aged for 6 months in oak (mostly American) before bottling. Bright fruit character and toasty oak mix to create a lively red wine that will compliment meals based on traditional Spanish flavors

 

Navarro Lopez Old Vines Reserva $18.99 The Reserva version of this traditional red wine from the Valdepeñas region in southern Spain is composed of 100% Tempranillo fruit (known in this region as Cencibel) from 30 year old vines. After fermentation the wine is aged in oak barrels for 12 months before bottling. The end result is a wine with dark, mature fruit character, smooth, well integrated barrel tannins and a hint of traditional earthy background flavor and aroma.

 

Familigia Bianchi Malbec 2006 $15.99 Three successive generations of the Bianchi family have been making wine in the San Rafael region of Mendoza in Argentina. This wine uses some of their best quality Malbec fruit sourced from one of the family estate vineyards. After fermentation this wine is aged in oak for 10 months before bottling. This dark, abundant wine is rich with toasty oak aromas and dark berry fruit character.

 

Elsa Malbec 2006 $9.99 Bodegas Valentín Bianchi, one of the oldest wineries in Argentina, was started in the 1930s by Italian immigrants and is now one of the most well known and popular wine brands in Argentina. They craft this wine from a single vineyard of Malbec grapes named after Elsa Bianchi, the family matriarch. This young wine is full of ripe aromas and flavors of cherry and plum.

 

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.

 

Ochoa Moscatel 2006 $23.99 In the Navarra region of Northern Spain (home to a wide range of grape varieties), Moscatel grapes are left on the vine to fully ripen before they are harvested for this sweet (but not too sweet) dessert wine. Serve it with a pear tart on a crisp fall afternoon. Ethereal.

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

Busy, busy, busy

It seems like everybody is really busy taking care of professional, family and personal obligations. We too are in the middle of bringing in new and delicious wines and specialty groceries while at the same time putting together wine dinners and food classes.

I am already behind schedule for this week’s newsletter so I will be brief.

We have some excellent new wines to share with you this week. Several spectacular and very traditional Rioja wines have just arrived from a small family winery that is just starting to gain attention from Spanish wine lovers. Some new white wines have come in that express a richer more floral element that I find especially desirable as we move away from summer. We are also receiving new vintages of some of our favorite late harvest dessert wines that are so appropriate to this early autumn season.  

Meanwhile, for those of you who have been requesting more wine oriented events, we are excited to announce that we will be hosting a winemaker’s dinner with some special guests from Spain. The date is November 13th at 7 pm. The venue is Zarzuela Restaurant located at 2000 Hyde Street in San Francisco.  Andy and Tanya Booth from our Mill Valley store will be leading up this food and wine extravaganza.  Here is what they wrote about this upcoming event:

This will feature a stellar lineup of wines from famed winemaker Eduardo Garcia, whose father is even the more famous Mariano Garcia.  We’ll try a couple of higher end offerings from Ribera del Duero, Toro and Bierzo, which is home to the grape Mencia.  Importer Aurelio Cabestrero will also be on hand to share several other wines that he has selected from Spain.  The cost for this dinner will be $80 a person.

In addition to a stellar line up of wines, the Zarzuela chefs will prepare a full meal of assorted tapas.  To reserve you places for this rare food and wine experience, contact us here in Berkeley at (510)-548-1383 or you can also reserve places at The Spanish Table in Mill Valley (415)-388-5043.

My upcoming Cooking in Clay Cazuelas class on October 22nd still has a few spots open. If you want to participate in this event, go to www.kitchenonfire.com where the details and the signup form can be found. I am very much looking forward to this new event that features some of my favorite recipes as well as some really tasty and well matched wines. 

Now, on to this week’s wines:

 

Vinos Blancos:

Valdelainos Verdejo 2006 $12.99 An excellent Rueda region white fashioned from the local Verdejo grape. Crisp citrus aroma, mineral foundation and just enough fruit character (guava, pineapple) to maintain the balance of flavors. An excellent cocktail wine.

 

Jose Pariente Verdejo 2006 $19.99 From Bodegas Dos Victorias (named after the two owners, both named Victoria) comes this aromatic Verdejo wine that showcases the fuller side of Rueda region whites. Aromas and flavors of quince and guava are full and ripe. Crisp acidity is edgy and refreshing. A perfect seafood wine, especially with scallops and crustaceans.

 

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.

 

Ochoa Moscatel 2006 $23.99 In the Navarra region of Northern Spain (home to a wide range of grape varieties), Moscatel grapes are left on the vine to fully ripen before they are harvested for this gently sweet dessert wine. We just received the new vintage and it is one of my current favorite autumn wines. Serve it with a pear tart on a crisp fall afternoon. Ethereal.

 

Vinos Tintos:

We are very excited about our latest new arrivals from Rioja. Bodegas Hermanos Peciña is a relatively young winery. Founded in 1992, this family owned winery initially made only young wines from their own estate grown fruit but over time expanded to include increasingly mature wines as well. Located in the Rioja Alta village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, they have quickly earned a reputation for high quality wines that preserve the traditional style of barrel aged red wines that the region is known for.

Senorio de P.Peciña Cosecha 2006 $11.99 This joven (young) wine is produced from estate grown Tempranillo grapes with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano as well. This bright, youthful red is refreshingly uncomplicated.  Moderate alcohol content (12.5%) is traditional for this style of wine and makes this a perfect picnic or party wine.

 

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 $18.99  Also 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.

 

Senorio de P.Peciña Reserva 1999 $25.99 The blend of  grapes for the Reserva is the same as for the Crianza, but the Reserva sees 3 years of barrel age before bottling and another several years of bottle age before sale. This long maturation period smoothes out all the edgy tannins and produces a silky, elegant wine that is perfect for special meals and cold autumn nights.

 

Torremoron 2006 $11.99 The new vintage of this customer favorite has just arrived. This well priced Ribera del Duero region wine is a fresh and full bodied wine fashioned from the local Tempranillo grape. Ripe fruit character and dark color combine with background earthiness. Serve with lamb burgers and green salad.

 

Primavera Dão 2003 $14.99 The Dao region was once among the most desirable sources of quality red wines in Portugal.  These wines were dry and earthy with rich but oxidized fruit character. Over time this style fell out of favor with the international market (the Portuguese still love the old style). Flash forward to the current day and we see some fresh, fragrant Dão wines that still retain some elements of the old style. This wine is a perfect example of how this region is blending modern style with traditional heritage.  Fashioned from a blend of Touriga Nacional Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, the garnet color and the dark berry fruit character balance fine tannins and background minerality.

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