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Daylight Savings Time

How does that little mnemonic device go; “Spring forward, fall back”?

This Sunday we all ‘spring forward’ as we reset our clocks for Daylight Savings Time (and lose an hour in the process). Yes, it will be dark and cold in the early morning hours until the Sun catches up with the clock, but the evening sunlight will extend well past work hours and open up all sorts of possibilities for recreation and entertaining. Get out and walk the dog, go for a run, cook dinner on the patio or just relax in the extra evening sunshine.

Whatever you choose to do with your newfound daylight we have a tasty bottle of wine to go with it.

The big flood of new 2008 wine is still about a month away but we have some fresh new arrivals as well as a few familiar favorites that now sport nicely trimmed price tags to share with you this week. We have some gentle spring-like reds, a few bright, fresh whites and, like the first Robin of Spring, Rosado wines are once again growing in number in the wine department here at The Spanish table in Berkeley.

Here are a few choices for celebrating the return of evening sunshine.

Quinta de Bons Ventos 2007 The new vintage of this light and friendly Portuguese red has just arrived. This blend of Castelão, Camarate, Tinta Miúda and a bit of Touriga Nacional from Casa Santos Lima is made in a typical style for the Estremadura in Central Portugal. Juicy, youthful fruit character combines with low alcohol (12.5%) to create a fresh, lively springtime wine. $10.99

Horzales Crianza 2001 This barrel aged Crianza from Rioja is made in the little wine village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, home to numerous top quality bodegas. Dark garnet color is just starting to show a brickish tint. Barrel tannins, once substantial, have now softened and integrated with the dark berry fruit character. Long bottle maturation has given a silky texture and an elegant balance to the wine. . This is an example of wines from superlative vintages having the ability to age gracefully. The last few cases are on hand now and for the next few weeks. This wine is on sale and moving fast. $9.99

Sete Cepas Albariño 2007 This well priced Albariño is the newest offering from Bodegas Carballal.  Pale yellow color tinged with green, grapefruit aroma, lean minerality and light, refreshing texture are all to be found in this young white wine from Galicia. It is reassuring to find this well made wine at a price point we have not seen recently from this increasingly popular region. $12.99

Martin Fierro Blanco 2007 In the San Juan region of Argentina, Bodegas Bórbore makes this white wine from a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Torrontes. This unoaked wine blends the crispness of Chardonnay with the more floral Torrontes (the indigenous white grape of Argentina). The result is a refreshing wine with enough body to stand on its own as a cocktail wine. It would also pair well with poultry or rich seafood meals. $8.99

Cillar de Silos Rosado 2007 We are starting to bring in a few more rosado wines in anticipation of warmer weather. This wine, made from the Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) grape comes from Ribera del Duero where red wines predominate. This darkly colored pink wine displays ripe berry aroma with tart citrus fruit character combined with additional fresh berry notes on the palate.  $14.99

Cavas Hill Artesanía Brut Rosado Cava What could be better for a relaxed evening in the sunshine than a bottle of crisp pink Cava? This sparkling rosado offers up aromas of fresh strawberry and toasted bread followed up by tangy citrus and crisp green apple flavor. Big bubbles refresh the palate and entice the appetite. $11.99


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

Grape Love

As Valentine’s Day is this Saturday it is my duty (and a pleasurable one at that) to remind you of the many excellent ways you can express your love with a well chosen bottle of wine.  From the traditional to the unusual, a unique and delicious wine can set the right tone for a romantic evening, add the perfect accent to a cozy dinner for two or even express sentiments that words fail to convey.

Am I attributing too much power to a bottle of fermented grape juice? I think not.  From my (admittedly subjective) perspective drinking wine is about an experience of aroma and flavor that is much more fulfilling and fun when shared with another person.  I see Valentine’s Day as a perfect opportunity to experience a special bottle of wine with someone you care about.

For me, I like a rosado Cava on Valentine’s Day. The rosy hue fits in with the traditional color of the day and the bubbly wine always puts me in a celebratory mood. A white wine with a bit of extra weight and fruit character also fits the season quite well. To this end I suggest an Argentine Torrontes or an Albariño from Galicia that skews more toward the ripe style and away from the dry, flinty side of the Albariño flavor profile. For reds I think something complex and spicy but not overpowering would be a good choice for a celebration of romantic love. I have a few suggestions from South America that fit this category quite nicely, though in very different ways.

Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley and a few tickets are still available. The date is Monday February 23rd at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person and includes hands-on instruction to create several tapas and a large paella mixta, all of which will be consumed during the class. Several paella-friendly Spanish wines will also be sampled. Kitchen on Fire is handling the signup for this fun and popular class. Go to their website for more details. 

Cavas Hill Artesanía Brut Rosado Cava Just arrived for Valentine’s Day; this bright, rose tinted wine offers up aromas of fresh strawberry and toasted bread followed up by tangy citrus and crisp green apple flavor. Big bubbles refresh the palate and entice the appetite. $11.99

Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado Cava I talk about this wine a lot, but now is the perfect moment to serve this sparkling rosado. It’s dark pink and bubbly, which may be all you need for the occasion, but this is also a deliciously berry scented yet still dry and refreshing cava that not only looks great in the glass but also offers up classic cava aroma and flavor at a reasonable price. $14.99

Reymos Espumoso de Moscatel Sweet sparkling wine from D.O. Valencia. Rich Muscat grape scent, bosc pear and honeydew melon fruit character with light but persistent bubbles. A mere 7.5% alcohol makes this the perfect end-of-meal wine. $11.99

Arte Mayor Brut Nature Cava Dominio de la Vega is a boutique Cava producer in Valencia. They make several wines with increasing levels of age and dryness. This wine is the driest and most mature of the bunch. Zero dosage creates a crisp, lean wine with fine minerality and toasted bread aroma. We got this at a big discount and are selling it the same way. Normally a $50 bottle, we have a few on hand for $28.99

Dominio de La Vega Brut Reserva Cava The same folks who make Arte Mayor Cava also create this Brut Reserva version with a mere hint of residual sugar from a light dosage. The blend here is 80% Macabeo and 20% Chardonnay.   Crisp, toasty character is supplemented by a bit of textural heft and a slight note of baked spiced apple. Also at a significant discount this wine which originally sold for $39.99 is now available for much less while supplies last. $24.99

Do Ferreiro Albariño 2007 The new vintage of this plush, abundant Albariño has just arrived. Gerardo Mendez blends the fruit from various parcels of his small 15 acre estate to create this finely tuned wine. Slatey mineral aroma leads on to rich melon and white peach fruit character with a grapefruit-like citrus note adding counterpoint to this top shelf Galician wine.  $25.99

Cicchitti Torrontes 2007 This new Torrontes offers a different take on Argentina’s indigenous white grape. Normally grown in the northern province of Salta, Torrontes wines are rich and honeyed with a snappy tang of acidity in the background. Cicchitti uses all estate fruit from their property in Mendoza to produce a more mineral wine that retains a bit of typical Torrontes density. This unoaked wine is rich and detailed with notes of ripe apple, green herbs and a bit of tangerine peel all combined in the glass. $14.99

Cicchitti Blend 2007  This Argentine red combines ripe fruity Malbec with the more structured Cabernet Sauvignon and then tops it off with a dash of Merlot (interestingly they only print the word ‘Merlot’ in small type, perhaps as a South American version of the ‘Sideways’ backlash against the ‘M-word’ grape). The ‘blend’ alluded to in the name is 60% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot sourced from vineyards in the Valle de Uco and Lujan de Cuyo sections of Mendoza. Bold and assertive, this wine is powerful yet restrained, a positive trait that I find in well made Argentine Cabs and Cab blends. $14.99

Cicchitti Malbec 2006 (375ml) The 100% Malbec wine from Bodegas Cicchitti is dark and earthy, displaying dried leaf aroma, restrained dark berry fruit character and dusty minerality. The balance on this wine is quite fine and elegant rather than the big boozy style that some Malbec wines express. This one is currently available here in the small 375ml size, just perfect for solo diners as well as gift givers. $9.99 

Azul Profundo Pinot Noir 2006 The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Bio Bio Valley, Chile’s southernmost grape growing region. This temperate region is quickly becoming one of the most highly regarded areas in Chile for wine production. This climate is well suited to growing the fickle Pinot Noir grape. Azul Profundo is a bright and fresh wine that is reminiscent of a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast of California or the Willamette valley in Oregon. Crystalline ruby color and fresh berry aroma create an intriguing first perception. Tart, pie cherry fruit character balances but never overwhelms subtle grapeskin tannins. This unoaked red is made in miniscule quantities (only 600 cases were produced) and each bottle is hand numbered. $19.99

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

Giving And Getting

Now is the time for holiday parties. Chances are you are invited to, or are yourself hosting, a gathering of family, friends and/or coworkers in the near future. Even in today’s gloomy economic climate holiday traditions must be observed. Disowning your relatives or ignoring your friends is not a good solution, no matter how tempting the prospect may be. No, what you need is a good old fashioned get together, a meet n’ greet, a turn up the music and dance your troubles away house party to get you in the holiday mood. So maybe you eat a little too much and drink a more than you should. And maybe you talk a bit too loud and say a few things you ought not to say. The point right now is catharsis, a letting go of all that has transpired over the past year and an embracing of a (hopefully) bright future to come.

If the mere suggestion of holiday entertaining makes you start patting your pockets and pleading poverty, rest assured that I am not suggesting a no holds barred festival of extravagance. No, that perspective would be way too 20th century for this time, place and season. Here and now we need to celebrate in a modest fashion with those we hold dear. Sharing a meal, along with some good wine of course, is a perfect expression of holiday conviviality. If the spirit of the moment leads you to dance and sing with wild abandon, so be it. At least you didn’t pay a fortune to have a good time.

Here are some of the latest additions to the wine selection at The Spanish Table. Combine these wines with any of the delicious and traditional holiday foods now filling our shelves (turrónes, mantecados, polvorones, cardos, bacalao and so many other tasty treats) and you have the makings of a great party or a thoughtful gift. Come visit us in Berkeley for even more holiday entertaining ideas.

 Adamado 2007 One of my favorite Portuguese Vinho Verde wines just came in with a big price drop (how often do you here that these days?). Adamado is a vintage Vinho Verde from the Ponte do Lima sub-zone where the wines a re fuller and richer than the typical non-vintage Vinho Verde. Slight effervescence, low alcohol (10.5%) and ripe Viognier-like fruit character paired with flinty minerality makes this an excellent cocktail wine for holiday entertaining. $7.99 (was $10.99)

Cavas Hill Reserva Artesanía The new wine from Cavas Hill is fresh and lively with abundant frothy bubbles and tart green apple fruit character. This well priced blend of traditional cava grapes (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo) will liven up your next tapas party. The attractive packaging makes this a good choice for gift giving as well. $10.99

Condesa Eylo 2007 This racy new white wine from the Rueda region is made of 97% Verdejo & 3% Sauvignon Blanc. Aromas of fresh grass and granny smith apple along with intense flavors of lemon peel and honeydew melon are weighty on the palate while the finish is light, lingering and dry. $14.99

CARM 2006 Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira (CARM) is a small family-run business in the Douro valley of Portugal, dedicated to the production of wine and olive oil. We have carried the excellent olive oil but never the wines, until now. The red CARM 2006 is a bold and assertive blend of several organically farmed traditional Portuguese grape varieties including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. This barrel aged red is dark and earthy with rich fruit character and finely tuned tannins. $15.99

Lustau East India Solera After a long hiatus, this well loved sweet Oloroso Sherry is back in stock just in time for the holiday season when many customers pour it as a traditional after dinner drink. Sweet raisin and fig fruit character encounters abundant toasted almond and burnt toffee aroma. This wine is dark, dense and sweet yet possesses bright acidity that lifts the flavors and enlivens the texture, creating a complex and nuanced drink. $29.99

Primitivo Quiles Fondillón Reserva 1948 This unique wine is back for the holidays. 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. $67.00


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