Tag Archives: césar

Time For Jerez

In my time at The Spanish table I have seen a reoccurring post-holiday phenomenon that I hope to turn into a local tradition. After all the rich, indulgent holiday meals, many of our customers turn to Jerez (Sherry) as their drink of choice in the new year. A small glass of Manzanilla, Amontillado or Oloroso seems to be just what we all want right about now.
These traditional wines, unique to Spain, range from lean and dry to dense and sweet. They pair well with a wide variety of foods and can be enjoyed before, during or after a meal. Locally we have more choices than ever for places to try a glass of Jerez wine. Here in the East Bay we have Barlata and Cesar pouring several by-the-glass selections. In San Francisco, Gitane, Contigo and NOPA are excellent destinations for Jerez sampling. At The Spanish Table we carry a broad selection of Jerez wines to suit all tastes. Here are just a few suggestions to get your new year off to a good start:

La Cigarrera Manzanilla This pale, straw colored wine with aromas of fresh hay and sea breeze is completely dry with yeasty scent and flavor. A few salted almonds, olives or some sliced Jamón Serrano alongside a small chilled glass of Manzanilla is a classic Spanish experience. $11.99 (375ml)

San Leon Reserva de Familia Bodegas Argueso makes several grades of Manzanilla. This version is selected from the best barrels and was originally intended for the personal use of the winemakers’ families. Bracingly dry and nutty, this wine displays freshness, balance and a crisp, precise character found only in the best wines from this region. $32.99

Viña AB Amontillado This amber colored wine from Gonzales Byass is quite dry (some Amontillado can be lightly sweet) with lightly oxidized aromas of walnut/hazelnut and toasted oak. Brandy-like warmth adds to the final experience. $16.99

Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso
Dark amber/gold in color, this dry Oloroso from the small Gutierrez Colosia winery displays aromas of beach air, wood smoke and toasted walnuts as well as a hint of burnt sugar and whisky barrel on the finish.  $15.99 (375 ml)

Upcoming Events
Special Guest Chef

Barlata in Oakland is hosting a week long appearance by guest chef Albert Assin from Barcelona. Normally Chef Assin can be found behind the counter at Pinotxo, his tapas bar in Barcelona’s Boqueria market.
Visitors to this famed public market will remember Pinotxo as the small bar in the center of the market where hordes of hungry customers spill out into the aisles as they await a chance to sample chef Assin’s food.
Daniel Olivella, the owner of Barlata (and B-44 in San Francisco) invited Assin to do a guest chef stint here after the two teamed up for a few demonstrations of Catalan cuisine at the Worlds Of Flavor conference in Napa this past November.
Chef Assin will be at Barlata this weekend, as well as next week (with some evenings at B-44 in San Francisco too). Check with the good folks at Barlata (510-450-0678) for exact times and details.

Cooking Class

The recent release of the long awaited cookbook Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking by Paula Wolfert has spurred renewed interest in the terracotta cazuelas, ollas and cocotes that we sell here. We did a clay pot class a few years ago at Kitchen On Fire cooking school in Berkeley and now that class is happening again.
Cooking in clay is an ancient way to transform simple ingredients into delicious meals. All of the fantastic foods for this class, from quick cooked appetizers to slow braised stews and even dessert, will be prepared using Spanish clay cookware.
The date for this class is Monday February 8th at 6:30 pm. Registration is exclusively through Kitchen On Fire, on their web site or by phone at (510)-548-COOK (2665). The class is limited to 30 participants so early registration is advised.


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Filed under events, Fortified Wine, Spain

Portugal On The Menu

Are you ready to drink more Portuguese wine?

Márcio Ferreira of Viniportugal certainly hopes so.  Viniportugal, a Portuguese wine export trade organization, was in the Bay Area last week meeting with local wine merchants and sommeliers. Márcio Ferreira hosted a lunch (at the impeccable NOPA) organized by Evan Goldstein of Full Circle Wine Solutions to taste a few wines and share some information about the grapes, growing regions and producers of Portugal.

I am happy to report that the wines were very good as is the news in general coming out of Portugal.  The Portuguese wine industry has paid close attention what has worked well in Spain over the last ten years and is applying the lessons learned from the recent success of their neighbor to the east. With recent infrastructure improvements, private investors from within Portugal as well as from other countries are building new wineries and producing an ever widening array of wines across a broad range of styles and price points. Indigenous grape varieties are being recuperated and ancient growing regions are being renovated. Portugal is embracing tradition while simultaneously recognizing the need for modern wine production technology.

In the year ahead I expect to see more Portuguese wines showing up on local restaurant wine lists. At The Spanish Table I am adding a few wines from the tasting last week (read about them below) that I think are perfect choices to help you become more familiar with a country whose wines deserve more attention. Look forward to more choices in Portuguese reds (and whites too) as the year progresses.

Locally, I just read on the internet that a Catalan tradition known as a ‘Calçotada’ is happening next Monday in Napa at Ubuntu restaurant.

‘Calçots’ are a variety of green onion (somewhere between a scallion and a leek) that are traditionally harvested at this time of years,  grilled over a wood fire and wrapped in newspaper where they steam a bit before being consumed out of hand after a dip in rich, nutty/peppery Romesco sauce and a sprinkle of sea salt. Never having attended the real deal in Catalunya, I am anxious to check this out for myself. I’ll report back if I make it up to Napa on Monday.

Speaking of Romesco sauce, you can buy one of several brands of Romesco sauce here at The Spanish Table and liven up not only grilled onions but also just about anything grilled from fish to beef. If you are feeling like making your own, here is a recipe adapted from the César Cookbook that many customers rave about.

Salsa Romesco (makes about 2 cups)


1 cup blanched marcona almonds

4 dried ñora peppers

½ cup day old bread pieces

¾ cup piquillo peppers

1 clove garlic

¾ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon picante smoked paprika

¾ cups extra virgin Spanish olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar


Toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes until light brown, then allow to cool. Rehydrate ñora peppers by simmering in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. After the peppers have cooled in the water remove them and soak up the remaining water with the day old bread.  Pulse the room temperature nuts in a food processor until coarsely ground.  Add the rehydrated ñoras, piquillo peppers, soaked bread, garlic, salt, sugar and smoked paprika to the food processor and blend to a thick paste. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil followed by the lemon juice and both vinegars. Blend to a slightly chunky puree. Serve this in a bowl alongside grilled vegetables, fish, meat or just about anything that could use a little zing. The unused portion keeps well in the fridge for a week.

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.

Capote Velho This non-vintage red ‘vinho de mesa‘ from Portugal really delivers on freshness and versatility. This is a full liter (1.5 regular sized bottles) of wine with gentle berry-like fruit character, bright acidity and soft grape skin tannins coupled with a moderate level of alcohol (11.5%). Like a no name house wine in a little Portuguese bar or restaurant, this red tastes great by itself and will also accompany, but not overshadow, a broad range of foods. I just retried this wine a few days ago and not only is it in perfect shape but it has gone down a buck in price since the last time I ordered it. This is an amazing bargain. $10.99 (1 liter)

Quinta de San Francisco Tinto 2005 From a little known region called DOC Óbidos located just north of Lisbon comes this red wine composed of 60 % Castelão, 20% Aragonez and 20 % Touriga Nacional. Garnet colored with a brickish tinge, this wine displays initial aromas of fresh berry and fresh portland cement. I get more mineral notes and light mulberry fruit character on the palate along with a bit of black pepper spice. Eight months of barrel age lends a gentle tannic note to the wine. One of my favorite wines from the recent Viniportugal trade tasting. $11.99

Cartuxa Évora 2004 This wine has a long history in the Alentejo region of eastern Portugal. The winery was established in 1896 on the site of an ancient Carthusian monastery. In 1957 Vasco Maria Eugenio de Almeida bought and refurbished the winery which now carries his name as part of his philanthropic efforts to improve the Alentejo region. Cartuxa is composed of a blend of of Periquita, Aragonez, Trincadeira, Moreto and Alfrocheiro grapes. The wine displays dark garnet color that fades to brick red at the rim of the glass. Loamy mushroom aroma intermingles with the scent of fresh earth. The wine mixes flavors that are savory and lean (black olive, oak, white pepper) with bold fruit flavors of black currant and plum. Firm tannins add texture and indicate that this wine will hold its character even after years in the cellar. We featured the 2003 vintage of this wine in our wine club a few years ago, priced at $25.00. Would you believe that the price has gone down a bit since then? $21.99

Altozano Blanco 2007 This fresh, food friendly Spanish white wine was the big hit of our recent Gonzalez-Byass wine dinner at César in Oakland. Made by the same folks who bring you the ever popular Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, this Castilla region blend of Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc is bright and tangy with green herb aroma and grapefruity citrus flavor. $9.99

Beronia Crianza 2005 Another wine featured and enjoyed at the recent Gonzalez-Byass wine dinner was this barrel aged Rioja from Beronia (the Rioja region winery of Gonzalez-Byass). This blend of mostly Tempranillo blended with small amounts of Garnacha and Mazuelo spends 12 months in oak (American and French) before bottling. The barrel character plays a prominent role here but never overwhelms the cranberry and cherry fruit character. The various elements in this wine are well knit, unlike some wines where the oak envelopes the wine like a woolen blanket, obscuring all other scents and flavors. This is a very “Spanish tasting” wine at a very reasonable price. $14.99

Tejada 2005 This Tempranillo/Garnacha blend was the best seller of our recent experiment in wines made from Iberian grapes grown in California. Back in 1999 Spanish natives Celia Tejada and her brother Ivo started this small family winery in Lake County. They planted part of their 80 acre property with 3.5 acres of Tempranillo and Garnacha (the grapes they remembered from home). This small estate vineyard is the source for the fruit that goes into two Tejada wines (this one and a more mature reserva). The blend here is 58% Tempranillo and 42% Garnacha. This is a dark garnet colored wine with fresh red berry fruit character, mid-weight barrel tannins and a lean, savory element that helps retain the Spanish style of the wine. $21.99


Filed under California, Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Wine and Travel

Have you had enough of summer vacation yet?

Technically, summer is drawing to a close but I just got word of a trip that may inspire those of you with some free time to extend summer beyond Labor Day.

Chef Maggie Pond from Bar César is leading a food and wine centered trip to Catalunya in September. This 9 day trip will focus on the myriad delights of Barcelona and the surrounding countryside. Cooking classes, trips to wineries and olive mills, scenic excursions and elegant meals are all on the agenda. In addition to Maggie and her crew, Andy Booth from The Spanish Table will be on hand to share his knowledge of the local food and wine of this fascinating region. All the details are here: http://www.barcesar.com/tour/.

Meanwhile, here in Berkeley, we have been receiving some very hard-to-find wines from top shelf producers that I feel deserve your attention.

In recent weeks I have been focusing on the excellent value priced wines that are our specialty at The Spanish Table. This week I want to alert you to some recent arrivals that are (there is no way around it) on the expensive side. These are all finely tuned wines that showcase the very best efforts of their respective winemakers. They are made in miniscule quantities and are usually not available for purchase in retail shops. Most of these wines are only found in high end restaurants (at high end prices).

This is your chance to pick up some iconic wines for near term enjoyment or to stock the wine cellar for some time in the future. Check out the details below:


Les Brugueres 2006 Wines from D.O.C. Priorat are almost always red, but a few examples of the rare white Priorat can be found and this is one of those. Made from a small single vineyard of 100 year old Garnacha Blanca grown in the rocky schist soil of the region, this rich white wine achieves a level of depth and concentration that is impressive (even more so when you consider that the wine is not aged in oak). Juicy peach and tart apple fruit character, mineral aroma and full bodied texture combine to create a uniquely delicious wine. $32.99 (5 bottles in stock)


As Sortes 2006 Rafael Palacios, of the famous Palacios winemaking family, makes this 100% Godello wine in the Valdeorras region in Northwestern Spain. In the right hands, the Godello grape makes delicate and elegantly fruity wines. Rafael Palacios makes this wine from old vine Godello (40-60 year old vines) grown at high altitude (over 600 meters). Fermented and aged in large oak foudres , this wine displays white peach and crane melon fruit character, fine minerality and leesy complexity, with only the barest hint of barrel character. Josh Raynolds from Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar rated this wine at 92 points, saying: “Pale yellow. Spicy citrus, orange and melon aromas are brightened by zesty minerals; smells like Puligny-Montrachet. Suave white peach and pear flavors lead to firm lemon zest, spice and chalky minerality on the back end. Impressively elegant and clean wine with the balance to age for a couple of years.” $45.00 (5 bottles in stock)

Emilio Rojo 2006 The Ribeiro region of Northern Spain is not well known in the USA, yet. That will change soon as this flinty, dry style of white wine gets more exposure in this country. Fashioned from a blend of 55% Treixadura, 15% Loureiro, 10% Lado, 10% Albariño and 10% Torrontés, Emilio Rojo displays aromas and flavors of flinty minerals and tart grapefruit in a finely balanced frame. This small production wine (700 cases in total) is an excellent example of Ribeiro wine and I am not alone in this opinion. Josh Raynolds from Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar rated this wine at 91 points, saying: “Pale yellow. Bitter citrus, minerals and honeysuckle on the nose, with a bright white pepper quality adding spice. Brisk, sharply focused lime and orange zest flavors offer striking depth and energy, staining the palate with mineral-accented flavor. Finishes with superb thrust and clinging citrus and bitter pear skin flavor. This won’t quit.” $52.00 (only 11 bottles in stock)

Lan Edición Limitada 2005 Bodegas Lan uses its best estate grown fruit for this dark, concentrated wine. The blend here is 80% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano. Extended maceration on the skins helps to develop the dark ruby color and 9 months of barrel age gives a balanced oak note to the finished wine. Limited availability and high scores by the wine press in previous vintages make this a wine that will not be around for long. This impressive effort will please both traditionalists and more modern palates. $49.99


Calvario 2005 The flagship bottle from Finca Allende is as pedigreed a Rioja as you are likely to find. The grapes for this wine are old vine fruit (mostly Tempranillo with a bit of Garnacha and Graciano added in) from a single vineyard planted in the 1940s. The wine is aged for 19 months in oak before bottling. Concentrated yet elegant, this wine has a long life ahead of it, but may be enjoyed right away if allowed to breathe for an hour before service. Jay Miller reviewed this wine for The Wine Advocate. He rated it at 95 points, saying: The 2005 Calvario comes from a single vineyard planted in 1945. It is 90% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha, and 2% Graciano aged for 16 months in new French oak. It delivers an alluring perfume of toasty new oak, wild black berry, black cherry, and floral notes. Layered and with serious depth, the wine has great concentration and balance. Give it 5-7 years in the cellar and drink it through 2035.” $136.00


Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2006

Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira 2006

Bodegas Achaval Ferrer was founded in 1998 in the Mendoza region of Argentina by a group of Argentine entrepreneurs including Santiago Achaval Becu and Manuel Ferrer Minetti who lent their names to the project as well as Marcelo Victoria and Diego Rosso. They brought in several partners from Italy (Italian heritage is ubiquitous in Argentina).Roberto Cipresso, famed Italian winemaker and Tiziano Siviero (retired world rally champion race car driver turned winemaker) are partners in the La Fioreta winery in Montalcino. They came to Argentina to produce a series of wines for the new bodega. The motivation behind the wines of Achaval Ferrer is to make wines that express the unique grapes (primarily Malbec) and terroirs (or terruños, if you wish) of Mendoza.

Quimera is a blended wine that is made using the best grapes from each vintage. Roberto Cipresso chooses slightly different blends each year depending on how the various vineyard sites performed that year.

Quimera 2006 is composed of 34% Malbec from the Mederano and Lujan vineyards, 32% Merlot from Tupungato, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon from Medrano and Tupungato and 12% Cabernet Franc from Tupungato. After primary fermentation the separate varieties were blended and aged in oak for 13 months. The final result is a rich, dark wine with the bold, spicy aromas and dark berry fruit character that are typical of high quality Malbec from Argentina. The addition of other grape varieties adds complexity and structure to this wine. $41.99

Finca Altamira is the flagship wine of this Bodega. This small production wine is sourced from 80 year old Malbec vines growing in Achaval Ferrer’s estate vineyard called Finca Altamira in the La Consulta region of the Uco Valley in Mendoza. This unfiltered wine is darkly colored and richly flavored while simultaneously possessing delicate fruit character that creates an intriguing interplay of flavors and aromas. $96.00


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Filed under Argentina, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Bargain Whites

With our recent spell of hot weather, white wines have been much in demand at The Spanish Table. With the continuing devaluation of the dollar relative to the ascendant euro, well priced white wines are increasingly hard to find.

So what’s a wine buyer to do when caught between rising prices from wholesalers and demand for bargains from customers? I, for one, go shopping. Yes, I dig deeper, paw through catalogs, query my sales reps and basically start turning over rocks looking for tasty, refreshing and reasonably priced white wines.

Guess what? I have found some really delicious Spanish whites that will satisfy your thirst and compliment your meals without busting your budget. These wines come from all across Northern Spain, from Catalunya to Galicia and points in between. None of them are from the current vintage. A year or two in the bottle has toned down the electrifying jolt of acidity that one finds in many newly released Spanish white wines while allowing the green melon and white peach fruit character to emerge. With these wines the bold burst of youthful energy is exchanged for a mellower, more evolved maturity (just like me, no?). I would not recommend cellaring any of the wines on this week’s list as these beauties are all intended for near term consumption. Enjoy them over the course of the summer and as you do, be sure to toast yourself for stocking up on such well priced refreshment. 

If you are in need of inspiration for something to serve with a nice bottle of Spanish white wine, may I suggest this recipe that I tried last week at Bar Cesar in Berkeley where Maggie Pond continues to amaze and inspire me with her take on traditional Spanish tapas.


Cucumber Gazpacho

(Adapted from César: Recipes from a Tapas Bar by Olivier Said, James Mellgren and Maggie Pond)

Serves eight as a first course



8 cups                   peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber (about 4 cucumbers)

1 ¼ cups             best quality extra virgin Spanish olive oil

1 cup                     ice water

1 clove                 garlic

1/3 cup                                cava vinegar

2 tablespoons   fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons       sea salt

¼ teaspoon       ground black pepper

½ teaspoon       ground cayenne pepper



Combine all ingredients except for 1/2 cup of cucumber and ¼ cup of olive oil (reserve these for garnish). Puree in two batches in a blender until smooth. Adjust salt and vinegar to taste. Chill gazpacho in refrigerator (a few hours at least, over night is better). Serve in small bowls or cups garnished with reserved cucumber and a drizzle of olive oil.


Paella alert: The ever popular and always delicious Paella class at Kitchen On Fire is back. On Friday June 13th at 6:30 pm I will be leading a bunch of enthusiastic food lovers in this hands-on class that is guaranteed to give all participants the knowledge and confidence to make this classic Spanish one-pot meal at home. Whether you want to make paella for two or for two hundred this high spirited class will reward you with a plateful of Paella wisdom. We’ll be making a few tapas and trying some wines too (hey, it’s me teaching the class, so we’ve got to try some wines, don’t you think?). Go to the Kitchen On Fire website to sign up. This will be the only class like this all summer and the class is limited to 20 participants so act now to secure your spot.


Lagar de Bouza 2006 Many of you will remember this Galician Albariño wine from its initial introduction last year.  It is the color of fresh hay and exhibits delicate aromas of citrus and chamomile. Typical Albariño minerality and green grape fruit character are found here in a restrained, gentle style. $8.99


Raventos Perfum de Vi Blanc 2005 This wine comes from Raventos i Blanc, the makers of one of our best Cavas. This blend of 60% Macabeo and 40% Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya has exchanged its youthful boldness for mature spiciness. Aromas of wintergreen, allspice and green herbs add unusual complexity to this unoaked white wine, underscoring what I perceive as a bit of ginger ale-like flavor (store manager Caty says she tastes “afri-cola”) on the palate. Intriguing! $8.99


Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2006 This rare Bierzo region white made from the local Godello grape is ripe and round. Gentle green plum aroma gains reinforcement from flavors of white peach and honeydew melon. Golden yellow color and weighty Viognier-like texture help to create a full bodied yet gentle wine that will compliment spicy summer fare (think Thai take out)and, come to think of it, would also make a fabulous white sangria. $11.99


Blanco Nieva Pie Franco 2005 This top shelf white from Rueda is made from 100% ungrafted old vine Verdejo. The sandy soil of Rueda protected the local vines during the phyloxera blight of the early 20th century. The remaining vines are as big as tree stumps and produce miniscule quantities of tiny but flavor filled grapes which, after being harvested by hand, are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks to retain the maximum of fresh fruit character. A few years of bottle age have softened the tart acidity and turned what was once reminiscent of granny smith apples and grapefruit into something closer to golden delicious apples and meyer lemons.  $14.99


Señorío de Sarría Rosado 2007 Navarra is the traditional home of Spanish rosado wines. This new arrival is made from 100% Garnacha which, after harvest, undergoes 24 hour cold maceration on the skins before fermentation in tanks (no oak). The pink wines of this region have been made this way for as long as anyone can remember. The bright aroma and flavor of fresh strawberries is front and center here. Additional watermelon flavor lingers on the finish. Pour this on the back patio after a long work week and experience transcendent relaxation. Just be sure to buy at least two bottles because you can drain that transcendent relaxation pretty fast during the course of a warm summer evening. $10.99


Riolanc Vendimia Seleccionada 2006 For you dyed in the wool red wine drinkers, here’s one for you. We just got a new shipment of this young red wine from the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, made from 100% old vine Tempranillo. Whole bunch fermentation is used here to create a wine with great freshness and bright fruit character. This too is an excellent choice for sipping in the back yard by the paella fire. $10.99


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