Tag Archives: dão

Vinho Tinto

Way back last month I was telling you about the white wines of Portugal.
My opinion was (and is) that Portuguese white wines “excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences”. I also noted that Portuguese whites tend to be ridiculously affordable so it really pays to explore these lesser known wines.
This week I am focused on Portuguese red wines. They have been getting some good press lately, and deservedly so. They, like the whites, offer excellent quality, often at very reasonable prices.
I have been finding some really good Portuguese reds lately. If you have not yet tried these wines I have some excellent suggestions that will give you a good perspective on the prevalent style/regions/producers currently coming out of Portugal.
A few weeks ago Eric Asimov wrote in the New York Times about the red wines from the Douro region. Of the ten wines he reviewed in New York (where the selection is often quite different than what we get in California) he chose as his favorite the young Altano Tinto 2006 ($9.99). He described it as “Dry and balanced with complex, lingering aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers” which sounds about right to me. I find the wine to be youthful and on the gentle side for a Douro red. The dark berry fruit character is but a bit subdued in comparison to other wines from this region. This lends the wine a gentle food-friendly quality that never overwhelms lighter fare.
Another well priced Douro red is Twisted Tinto 2007 ($14.99), the entry level wine from Niepoort, maker of top quality Porto as well as several high end red and white wines. This wine is composed of a wide range of typical Douro grapes including Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão among others. Twisted Tinto is dark garnet in color with expressive aromas of fresh berries and minerals, tart cherry fruit character and a touch of tannic oak.
I am also finding plenty of excellent bargains in Portuguese regions outside the Douro Valley.  The young Meia Encosta Tinto 2007 ($8.99) from the Dão region is fresh and bright. Clear ruby color, cherry aroma and Gamay-like fruit character (the blend here is actually Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz) all work in harmony to express the tart,refreshing style that makes this such a perfect mid-week red.
From a small region called Óbidos located just north of Lisbon comes Quinta de São Francisco Tinto 2005 ($11.99) composed of 60% Castelão, 20% Aragonez and 20% Touriga Nacional. Garnet colored with a brickish tinge, this wine displays initial aromas of ripe berry and crushed rocks. 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.
The Spanish Table Wine Club is currently featuring the Cunha Martins Reserva from the Dão region. Most of this went into the club but I have a few spare bottles on hand for general consumption. Cunha Martins Reserva 2004 ($14.99) is a field blend of numerous grapes including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro Preto, Bastardo and Jaen. The wine was aged for 18 months in oak before bottling. This is a darkly tinted wine with dense texture, and fruit character reminiscent of mulberries and black plums.  Backnotes of black olive and wood smoke remind us of the wine’s Dão heritage, expressed here in a rich, silky style that will compliment an autumn menu of slow roasted meats and winter squash.
For something at a good price but with a bit of age we go again to the Dão region for Quinta da Cabriz Reserva 2005 ($19.99). This barrel aged blend of 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz and 20% Alfrocheiro possesses a bit of the old fashioned Dão rusticity framed by dark plum fruit character and well integrated oak. This mature expressive wine will be a perfect match with a broad range of traditional autumn fare such as slow cooked white beans with chunks of Linguiça sausage and the Portuguese smoked bacon called Toucinho Defumado (FYI, we sell the beans/sausage/bacon as well as the wine!).

 

 

Los Hermanos Fernández


The Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain has been transformed over the last few decades. From its origins as an agricultural region mostly known for farming (sugar beets) and livestock (sheep), Ribera del Duero is now one of the most highly regarded wine regions in all of Spain. One of the pioneering winemakers in Ribera del Duero, a former beet farmer named Alejandro Fernández, started his own winery which quickly earned a reputation for excellence. His Tinto Pesquera became a game changing wine in Ribera del Duero. The region was transformed. Wine grapes became the crop of choice for local farmers, many of whom also went on to great success.
A less well known part of this story is that, unbeknownst to many of us here in the USA, Alejandro Fernández has a brother named Federico who also makes wine. His winery is small and his wines adhere to a traditional style that is fast fading from view in Ribera del Duero. Federico Fernández insists on slow barrel ageing to elaborate his wines. In the modern rush to market this practice is used less and less by the larger wineries. Federico still adheres to the old practice of classifying his wines as Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva depending on how much time they spend ageing in oak. Federico Roble 2007 ($17.99) is the young wine from this bodega. Made from the local version of Tempranillo called Tinto Fino, this wine spends just six months ageing in barrel before bottling. The resulting wine expresses the earthy minerality of the region in a bold, fresh style.  Federico Crianza 2005 ($31.99) spends 12 months in barrel and several years in bottle before release. The tannins are substantial and chalky when the wine is first opened. With air the wine reveals a core of trail dust, saddle leather, black cherry fruit and an intriguing gamey note on the finish. As ever, the pairing for all good Ribera del Duero is lamb in all its guises (chops, roasts, stews, you name it).

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Vinho Branco

It was not so long ago (10 years, more or less) that the white wines of Spain started becoming well known in the USA. The Galician white wines made from the Albariño grape opened the door for numerous other Spanish white wines that have grown ever more prevalent in the ensuing years.
The white wines of Portugal have suffered a similar lack of familiarity and availability here. Aside from the light, spritzy wines from the northern Vinho Verde region, many Portuguese white wines continue to languish in obscurity.
Fortunately, more white wines from Portugal are finding their way to our shores and we can now explore a wider range of options.
Portugal’s numerous wine growing regions are home to many indigenous grape varieties that go into a broad range of unique and delicious white wines. Grape varieties such as Antão Vaz, Encruzado, Arinto and Trajadura may not yet be not yet be familiar to the American public but the wines made from these grapes are bright, lively, food friendly and easy to love.
This week we offer you a selection of newly arrived Portuguese white wines that will excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences. These wines are all well priced to give you added incentive to try something new.
Please consider the following choices when investigating what may well become your next new favorite white wine.

Gazela This crowd pleasing Vinho Verde is back at a price that makes it easy to please said crowd without busting the budget. The wine displays pale yellow/green color, light texture, with classic Vinho Verde spritzy effervescence, grapefruit aroma, and flinty background minerality. $6.99

Terra Antiga 2008
Vinho Verde continues to excite us, thanks to a consistent ramp-up in quality as the years go by. This is a vintage wine (most Vinho Verde is non-vintage)made from Alvarinho and Trajadura grapes in a finely tuned style. Edgy grapefruit and mineral notes add context to tart green apple fruit character. Light effervescence ties it all together. $9.99

Alornha Arintho 2008
This Ribatejo region white made from 100% Arinto is lush and expressive. Quince aroma and green melon fruit character combine with plump texture and medium acidity. $10.99.

Quinta da Romeira Arinto 2008
The Bucelas region, just north of Lisbon, is best known for white wines made from the Arinto grape. This particular example is a medium bodied wine that displays bright yellow/gold color, ripe pineapple scent, abundant citrus fruit character and light mineral foundation. $12.99

Grilos Branco 2008
The red Grilos has been a big hit and now we just brought in the white version of this Dáo region wine. The scent is reminiscent of ripe strawberries creating a dramatic contrast to the lean, grassy, mineral notes and that come out on the palate. $10.99

Monte da Peceguina Branco 2007
This Alentejo region blend of 60% Antão Vaz, 20% Arinto and 20% Roupeiro is elegant and balanced. Made in minuscule quantities (425 cases in total) by a small family winery, this unoaked white wine combines flinty mineral notes with gentle melon and citrus fruit character. $21.99



“Uma autêntica receita de Portugal”

The cuisine of Portugal, like it’s wines, deserves more attention. A recently released cookbook , The New Portuguese Table ($32.50 at The Spanish table) by James Beard award winner and noted Portuguese food authority David Leite gives a much needed boost to the food of his ancestral homeland.
Searching through this gorgeous, full color, hardbound cook book I found a recipe that  not only pairs well with Portuguese white wines, but also coincides with the height of our local tomato season. Try this “tomato jam” as a way to use up some of late summer’s bounty.

Doçe de Tomate
(adapted from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite)

Ingredients:
2 lbs. Ripe Tomatoes (the riper the better)
2 cups sugar
2 Lemons
1 inch long piece of cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/4 cup Ruby Porto

Directions:
In a small pot of boiling water, dunk each tomato for 30 seconds, then cool in a bowl of ice water for two minutes. This will make the tomato skin easy to remove. Cut the peeled tomatoes in half across their equator and squeeze the halves gently to remove the seeds. Chop the peeled, seeded tomatoes finely. Peel wide strips of zest from the lemons.
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or until the jam thickens.
Remove the lemon zest, cinnamon stick and cloves, spoon the jam into clean glass jars and refrigerate over night before serving. The jam will keep for several weeks in the fridge (for extended shelf life, use the traditional hot water bath canning method just as with other fruit preserves).

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The Hits Keep On Coming

The wine section at The Spanish Table is an ever changing place. You just never know what will roll in the door around here from week to week. Right now I am enamored with the refreshing summer white wines (with one pink exception) from Spain and Portugal that sometimes get overshadowed by the abundance of deliciously interesting (or is that interestingly delicious?) red wines from these countries. The white Albariño and Verdejo varietal wines from Spain were the first to receive attention from American wine drinkers. We continue to be attracted to these wines for the citrus and mineral aromas and flavors that create bright,refreshing wines that can stand on their own yet also work well with food. Now we are seeing more wines from Spain that are made from the Godello grape, a variety that often produces soft, gentle wines with flavors of melon and stone fruit. In Portugal, new white wines from all across the country are making inroads here in the USA where once only Vinho Verde was found. Encruzado is a white grape that is now showing up regularly in many of the white wines from Portugal. Even the long neglected Portuguese rosé wines are making a comeback, as illustrated by the current popularity of pink Vinho Verde which, like an AM radio pop song from a summer long past, will live on in memory as a nostalgic time stamp long after the season is over.
Casal Garcia Rosé NV Aveleda just came out with this pink version of their most popular brand, Casal Garcia. The first shipment came and went in a matter of weeks, but happily there is now more. I predicted that this would become one of our most popular wines for summertime sipping and so far my statement holds true.  Low alcohol and light effervescence remind me of the traditional white Vinho Verde. The pale pink hue and lightly fruity berry aroma and flavor are a nice change of pace from the regular version. $8.99
Meia Encosta Branco 2008 The red version of Meia Encosta has been a big success so now we bring you the white wine from this Dão region producer known as Vinhos Borges. Meia Encosta Branco is a gentle, refreshing and lightly floral blend of Encruzado, Malvasia and Bical. This unoaked, medium-weight white wine shows some fruity ripeness as well as a foundational layer of green herbs and minerals. $7.99
Castelo do Papa Godello 2008 The Valdeorras region is the traditional home of Godello varietal wines. Softer and gentler than many Spanish whites, this Godello varietal wine displays notes of white peach and apricot along with underlying minerality to maintain balance. $14.99
Can Feixes Blanc Selecció 2008 The Penedès region of Catalunya is best known for sparkling Cava but the local grapes can make some truly stunning still wines as well. Can Feixes is composed of 40% Parellada, 30% Macabeo(known elsewhere as Viura), 20% Chardonnay and 10% of the rare Malvasía de Sitges. Like a wine version of a Gin & Tonic, this wine has a bit of quinine-like minerality along with a refreshing blast of lime zest. This new 2008 vintage has just been released. $14.99
Shaya Verdejo 2008 The Verdejo grape predominates in the Rueda region of Northern Spain. The sandy soils have protected many old ungrafted vines from the phyloxera mite that devastated the vineyards of Europe 100 years ago. Shaya uses these old vines in a monovarietal wine that is a fine example of just how good Rueda whites can be. Bright grapefruit flavor and lightly floral aroma combine with a distinctly mineral foundation. This wine is well balanced and elegant. $13.99
La Cana Albariño 2008 Galician Albariño wines tend to tilt toward a floral/citrusy style or a flinty/mineral expression. The newly released first vintage of la Cana is decidedly mineral. Added complexity and textural weight comes from extended ageing on the lees (bits of grape skin, pulp and sediment). This new wine from Spanish wine guru Jorge Ordoñez (best known for his hearty red wines) is a fine addition to his portfolio. $17.99

Top 40


Speaking of pop songs, all the recent Moon Landing 40th Anniversary celebrations have me thinking about some of my early favorites from the late 1960s when AM radio was the main source for new music (pre Youtube &  MTV).
Check out these songs that made a big impression on me back in the day, then choose a few of the wines from this week’s selection to help make your own memories of the summmer of 2009.





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

Summer Wines & Padrón Peppers

Pimientos de Padrón Alert

We interrupt regularly scheduled wine news to announce the arrival of the new crop of Pimientos de Padrón. These small, seasonal  green peppers are traditional bar snacks in the north of Spain and  are one of the few fresh vegetables that we carry here. Simply fry a batch up in some good olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.  We should have these throughout the summer and into the fall. They are still the same price as last year:
$6.99 1/4 lb.

Summer Wines

As we move into the summer season, my attention is drawn to bright, refreshing white and rosado wines that cool me down from the heat of the day and awaken my appetite. I also like to pour robust reds that pair well with grilled food. Here are a few of this weeks’ new selections.

Ochoa Rosado 2008 Our newest pink wine is a classically styled offering from Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado wines. This one is made from the local Garnacha grape and is a lively, bright wine with an orange/pink hue. The light berry-like fruit character is tart and refreshing. $12.99
Ostatu Blanco 2008 The new vintage of this dry, herbaceous white Rioja has just arrived. Made from the local Viura grape (known elsewhere as Macabeo) this wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, never overwhelming the delicate fruit character with the aromas and flavors from oak barrels. This young wine displays grassy aroma and notes of kiwi fruit and green grapes. $12.99
Mas Torrontes 2008 For those who have loved the Mas Malbec from Argentina, here is a white Torrontes from the same bodega. This new arrival is floral scented (jasmine, honeysuckle)and richly fruity (apricot, crane melon). Racy acidity cuts through the perfume and maintains a fine balance. This is an excellent white to serve cold on a hot afternoon. $10.99
Siesta Brut Ernesto Catena, son of the famous Nicolás Catena (and brother of Laura, another well known winemaker) makes this sparkling wine from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Palest pink color, yeasty bread dough aroma and bright, tart fruit character are held together by fine bead bubbles. This is excellent bubbly and is one of the best examples I have yet tasted from Argentina. $17.99
Tahuan Malbec 2005 Ernesto Catena’s Malbec is a fine example of an Argentine wine that is bold and expressive without loosing the complexity that makes this region so interesting. The addition of 10% Cabernet Sauvignon adds structure to the juicy, ripe Malbec. The wine spends 12 months in oak, lending tannic depth to the final product. $18.99
Meia Encosta 2007 Portugal continues to produce some really good wines at rock bottom prices. This young wine from the Dão region is fresh and bright. Clear ruby color, cherry aroma and Gamay-like fruit character (the blend here is actually Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz) all work in harmony to express the tart,refreshing style that makes this such a perfect mid-week red. $8.99

Upcoming Spanish Wine & Food Events

On June 14th TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society) will hold their 2nd annual tasting of domestic wines made from Spanish & Portuguese grape varieties. Ft. Mason in San Francisco is the venue for this interesting event. Details can be found (and tickets purchased) on the TAPAS website. The Spanish Table will be in attendance showing off our new cookbook as well as sampling some olives and other imported Spanish snacks to go with all the local vino.

On June 22nd, I will be teaching my Paella And Wine class at the Berkeley cooking school Kitchen On Fire. Participants will get hands-on experience making (and eating) a large Paella Mixta (includes meat, seafood & vegetables) as well as a few simple tapas and a light dessert. We will sample a few appropriate Spanish wines as we go. Class starts at 6:30 pm and we should be done by around 9 pm. This popular event is limited to 30 people with a price of $65.00 per person. Sign up is through Kitchen On Fire, either on the web, or by phone 510-548-2665,(510-265-COOK).

The next TapasWalk Spanish wine & food walking tour is coming up on Wednesday June 24th. I will be leading this tour through downtown San Francisco, stopping in at five different restaurants to sample some of Spain’s unique wines accompanied by a few traditional tapas at each location. Details as well as future tour dates can be found on my blog.

On June 28th The Berkeley International Food Festival will enliven our little neighborhood with the aromas and flavors of many lands. Kabobs, tamales, samosas and other street foods will be available. Here at The Spanish Table we will be making our traditional huge paella which we hand out samples of (free of charge) to the hungry masses. In addition to the food  expect music, dancing, art and sunshine. It will be fun.

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

Spain in California

Every school kid in California learns about the Spanish heritage of this part of the world, going back to the days of ‘Alta California’ and ‘El Camino Reál’, but the names of Spanish explorers of the American west coast, names like De Anza, Cabrillo and Portola are no longer associated with historic figures. In modern times these Spanish family names are given to streets, shopping centers and housing sub-divisions. California’s Spanish history is, it seems, hiding in plain sight.

I’m currently reacquainting myself with the vestiges of colonial Spain here in the Bay Area and have noticed that (unlike the Spanish explorers from previous centuries) Spanish food and wine heritage is very much in evidence at present. In particular, this week I want to draw your attention to a few upcoming local events that highlight our shared Spanish history.

First up is a taste of ‘Alta California’ thanks to an enterprising group that goes by the name of ‘TAPAS’, which stands for Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society (hey, it’s a stretch, but it works). According to their website this local organization “is dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of wines made from all native Iberian grape varietals.”

If you want to experience what the Spanish explorers left behind (other than place names) you can try various wines made from grapes such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Albariño grown right here in California (and elsewhere in the USA) at an event hosted by TAPAS on Saturday August 9th at Copia (the wine/food museum) in Napa. Billed as “the most extensive tasting of American produced Iberian grape varietals ever offered”, this promises to be a detailed look at how domestic winemakers are responding to the current interest in all things Iberian.

Next in line for a little bit of the  California/Spain mashup treatment is a TV show (the cultural net gets widely cast around here) featuring our favorite dish, Paella, as prepared by local paellero to the stars, Gerard Nebesky. 

On Wednesday July 30th (9 pm PST) The Food Network will air an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay wherein the famous New York chef, restaurateur and TV personality will compete against Gerard Nebesky in a round of dueling Paellas.

The show was shot a few months ago in San Francisco and the final dishes created by Señores Flay y Nebesky were judged by Daniel Olivella, Executive Chef of B44 Restaurant in San Francisco as well as by our very own Andy Booth, co-owner of The Spanish Table (these guys know more than a thing or two about paella). Everyone involved in the show was sworn to secrecy about the final result (backed up by signed non-disclosure agreements) so we don’t yet know who actually prevailed in the competition. All will be revealed next Wednesday evening when the show airs for the first time.

For a first hand experience with Gerard’s Paella you can attend a big screen viewing of ‘Throwdown’ during the Wednesday June 30th broadcast, accompanied by the real thing. Gerard will be making his signature paella at Bistro de Copains in Occidental (Sonoma County) for a select group of Paella aficionados. For $30 you get paella, salad and the show, as well as the chance to rub elbows with a genuine TV star (Gerard, not Bobby). Reservations are required for this event. You can contact them by phone at (707)-874-2436.

Here in Berkeley we are excited to announce the arrival of new vintages from some favorite wineries as well as a few totally new items that we are very happy to share with you. What follows are my recommendations from the latest arrivals at The Spanish table in Berkeley.

 

Muga Blanco 2007 The newest vintage of Bodegas Muga’s popular white wine has arrived.  Made from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, briefly aged for 4 months in French oak, this wine is poised between the rich, fleshy style of barrel aged white wine and the crisp, herbal style of the same wine aged in tank. The oak never dominates but only adds a touch of complexity to this excellent and well priced wine. $18.99

 

Muga Rosado 2007 Another perennial customer favorite from Muga is this rosado wine made from Tempranillo, Garnacha and, interestingly, a bit of white Viura too. This pale pink wine is crisp and lean, not cloying and fruity. The bright acidity and gentle berry-like fruit character maintain a fine balance of berry/citrus aromas and flavors. $14.99

 

Parés Baltà Ros de Pacs 2007 If you are looking for a tasty organic rosado for serving at your dinner table or sipping on your back porch, then consider this dark and fruity wine from the Penedès region of Catalunya. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is full of strawberry aroma and flavor, with sufficient acidity to keep the wine bright and refreshing. $11.99

 

Sur Bonarda 2006 We just got a great deal on a stack of this Argentine red wine from a high quality producer in the Mendoza region. The indigenous Bonarda grape produces dark, full bodied wines.  This wine is 100% Bonarda. It is garnet colored and expressive, with blackberry fruit character balancing the amargo back note that Bonarda is known for. $10.99

 

Capote Velho What A bargain! This non-vintage red wine from who knows where in Portugal has absolutely no pedigree but really delivers on freshness and versatility. This is a full liter of wine that possesses gentle berry-like fruit character and moderate 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. $11.99 (1 Liter)

 

Grilos 2005 This red wine from the Dão region in Portugal is an excellent example of the improvements taking place in the region. No longer home to just funky/earthy/rustic reds, winemakers in the Dão region now make many bright and intriguing wines such as this blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro grapes that age for a mere 6 months in oak before bottling. Tart red berry fruit character and lightly oaked tannic core combine with aromas of pomegranate and wet stones. Was $15.99, now $12.99

 

Vina Alberdi Reserva 2001 The wines of La Rioja Alta are among the most traditionally styled of Rioja reds. The new Viña Alberdi, from the superlative 2001 vintage, has just arrived. Odd label change (blue skinned matrons in red sun dresses sipping wine) notwithstanding, this old school Rioja is brick red in  color with toasty barrel aromas along with notes of cigar box, cedar and minerals. Pie cherry and dark plum fruit character are in balance with the other elements. This is an excellent choice for long term cellaring but is drinking very well right now if given some air before service. $24.99

 

 

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

Vintage Tuna

I just tried a new product here at The Spanish Table that is so good that I am stepping away from my usual wine related patter to alert you to this new taste treat.

My new favorite product is a 2004 vintage canned tuna.

Ageing canned fish is a well respected tradition in many Spanish homes. Some people (those with great forethought and discipline) even wait over a decade before opening the tin.

Ortiz, one of the top brands of canned bonito del norte tuna packed in olive oil, have recently started marketing several reserva varieties of canned tuna that are aged on purpose before sale. These vintage dated products develop a richer, creamier texture and a nutty, delicate flavor over time.

I know, I know, many of you will be skeptical when I sing the praises of ‘old canned goods’ but this is something you need to just try for yourself. Take one small can of regular Ortiz tuna and compare it side by side with the same sized can of Ortiz Reserva de la Familia 2004 vintage tuna. I already think of Ortiz tuna as on of life’s great pleasures, so you can imagine my surprise when I tasted the vintage variety and found it to be a deliciously different version of the original.

To taste this line caught, dolphin safe tuna at its best (and to get back to my primary mission) pair it with some of the fresh white and rosado wines from this week’s selections. These warm weather wines will refresh your thirst and stimulate your appetite without emptying your wallet.

If eating tuna straight from the can with a fork seems wrong to you (it is hard to resist!) then may I suggest the following simple appetizer that I have been served at numerous wineries and informal gatherings in Spain.

Tuna and Piquillo montaditos (serves 4 as a tapa, 2 per person)

Ingredients:

2 4 oz. cans of Ortiz Reserva 2004 Bonito del Norte tuna

8 whole jarred piquillo peppers

8 ½” slices of baguette

¼ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 tblspn. flor de sal (sea salt)

8 toothpicks

Directions:

This simple preparation calls for the best quality ingredients. Open the cans of tuna and drain some, but not all, of the oil. Divide the contents of each can in fourths and fill each pepper with tuna. Top each slice of bread with a filled pepper and secure with a toothpick. Drizzle the peppers with the best olive oil you can find and sprinkle with top quality sea salt. Plate and serve. That’s all there is to it!

Paella alert-two weeks away: 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.

Ameztoi Rubentis 2007 This rosado Txakoli, the first of its kind, was the big hit of last summer in its inaugural vintage. Ignacio Ameztoi Aranguren, a 7th generation basque winemaker produces this wine from the fruit of his 50 acre vineyard in the Getaria region overlooking the Cantabrian Sea. Rubentis is composed of a blend of indigenous Hondarribi Zuri (white) and Hondarribi Beltza (red), creating a light pink colored wine with just a touch of residual effervescence. The refreshing grapefruit and mineral notes found in the white Ameztoi are supplemented here with a slight note of wild strawberry. We have just a few cases of this wine so act now if you wish to try it for yourself. $18.99

Gurrutxaga Rosado 2007 Following on the success of Ameztoi Rubentis, DeMaison Imports has brought yet another rosado Txakoli to our shores. Gurrutxaga Rosado is made in the little coastal village of Mendexa in the heart of the basque lands. This wine is made from 100% Hondarribi Beltza, the traditional red grape of this region. Aromas of wet limestone punctuated by bright flavors of grapefruit and tannic grape skin remind me of traditional white Txakoli, here with the addition of intriguing pale pink color and the aroma of unripe strawberry. $18.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Another DeMaison import (their ship recently came in… literally) is this new vintage of refreshing, spritzy white wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava. Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this summertime thirst quencher 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. $14.99

Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2007 We just received the new vintage Vinho Verde from Aveleda in Portugal. Most Vinho Verde is non-vintage but this wine is produced each year from a blend of traditional grapes (Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura) from the best parcels of Aveleda’s estate vineyards. This finely tuned Vinho Verde displays fresh citrus and light floral aromas along with bright fruit character and the spritzy effervescence that is typical of wines from this region. $8.99

Quinta da Cabriz Branco 2007 If you have wanted to try white Portuguese wines beyond Vinho Verde, this white Dão region wine will be a real treat. Quinta da Cabriz makes some excellent and well priced red wines, but their white wine is only now making it to our part of the world. Composed of 40% Encruzado, 20% Malvasia, 20% Cerceal and 20% Bical, this unoaked blend of typical Portuguese grapes is fresh and delicate with moderate acidity and white peach fruit character. $10.99

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Portugal On My Mind

At The Spanish Table in Berkeley I buy wines with a very specific national focus. Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. That’s it.

Still, selecting wines from just the countries we represent, I go through periods of intense interest in one style or region or winemaker and I take home lots of wines from wherever/whatever/whomever is my current obsession. Lately I have been really enjoying the wines from Portugal, specifically the reds from the Dão region and the whites from Vinho Verde.

Not so long ago Dão wines were often rustic, chunky reds that displayed little in the way of freshness or complexity. These days, and especially this time of year, I have been enjoying a range of Dão wines, both young and more mature, that show off the improvements in quality for wines from this region.

In Vinho Verde, as with Dão, the quality level is rising with each year. Intrepid importers who once only shipped inexpensive, non-vintage blends for summertime picnics now supply us with some top notch varietal wines from this region on Portugal’s northern border.

As spring continues to unfold in the Bay Area I find that these Portuguese wines match the season perfectly. Lively, youthful aromas, bright fruit character and intriguing mineral notes pair wonderfully with a springtime menu. These wines, many of which have yet to be discovered by food and wine lovers in our little corner of the globe, offer a clear sense of place with styles and characteristics that are distinctly Portuguese.

To get a feeling for these wines, I suggest pairing them with a typical Portuguese dish, and few foods in Portugal are more typical than salt cod. Here is a classic version of a baked casserole that also has the advantage of using up some of those hard boiled Easter eggs that many of you will have on hand right now.

Salt Cod and Potato Casserole – adapted from The Food of Portugal by Jean Anderson

(Serves 6 as a main course)

Ingredients:

1 lb. Dried salt cod fillet

1 Large yellow onion

2 lbs. Yukon Gold (or Russet) potatoes

1/3 cup Minced parsley

1 tblspn. Butter

3 tblspns. Portuguese olive oil

3 Hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut in wedges

12 Oil cured black olives, pitted

1 tblspn. Salt

1 tblspn. Ground black pepper

Directions:

One day ahead, soak the Salt Cod in cold water, changing the water twice in 24 hours.

The next day, drain the Cod and poach it in 1 quart of simmering water on the stove for twenty minutes or until the fish starts to flake apart.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While waiting for the oven to come up to temperature, slice the onion in thin rings and sauté in a clay cazuela on the stove top with the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until the onion has softened and taken on a bit of color. Remove the onions when cooked. Peel and slice the potatoes in thin rounds and add them to the cazuela with the rest of the olive oil. Sauté the potatoes until they start to soften and fall apart. Mix in the cooked onions along with the salt, pepper and half of the parsley. Tuck big flakes of the cod into the potato and onion mixture. Top with the pitted olives and bake uncovered in the oven for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and garnish with wedges of hard boiled eggs and the rest of the parsley. Serve with a green salad and any of the wines below.

Broadbent Vinho Verde $10.99 An excellent example of top quality Vinho Verde. Composed of 50% Loureiro, 40% Trajadura and 10% Padernã it is light in color with lemon and grapefruit aromas. On the palate it offers more citrus as well as a bit of flinty minerality carried along by slight effervescence that makes the wine refreshing and easy to drink.

Ponte de Lima Adamado 2006 $9.99 This Vinho Verde is fresh and a bit fuller bodied than some others from this region. The extra dollop of fruit character is round and generous, adding weight to the flinty/spritzy Vinho Verde style. I pair this with a composed salad of butter lettuce, white asparagus and top shelf Ventresca tuna.

Solar de Serrade Alvarinho 2006 $17.99 In Portugal, Vinho Verde is often thought of (with good reason) as a simple, spritzy white wine for picnics and parties. This Vinho Verde on the other hand is a whole different story. Made from the Alvarinho grape (Albariño in Spain), this elegantly dry and flinty white wine is finely balanced and fragrant. If you are curious about just how good Vinho Verde can be, this is a perfect place to begin your investigation.

Quinta dos Grilos 2005 $15.99 Grilo is Portuguese for cricket, and while you won’t find any crickets in this wine, the flavor may remind you of a warm summer night in the back yard, grilling something tasty, swatting mosquitoes and listening to the (you guessed it) crickets. From the Dao region of Portugal, this red wine is bright and savory, with cherry-like fruit overlaying a tannic core. Chirp!

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.

Cardeal Reserva 2002 $13.99 This Dão wine is made from 100% Touriga Nacional, one of the traditional varieties used in Porto. This wine was aged in barrel for over a year and has bed come softer and rounder from several years of bottle age. Still, the barrel character gives this wine a bit more of the old school Dão character, blending well with the dark berry fruit. Serve this with some grilled sardines for a traditional pairing.

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Filed under Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, White Wine