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Cerveza y Sidra

The weather is warm, the Labor Day weekend is upon us, Cal is back in session, everybody but you and me has run off to the dessert for Burning Man and the Bay Bridge is closing for three days. Pick the reason that best suits your purpose but it all boils down to this: it’s Beer O’Clock in Berkeley.
After years of my constant whining about the lack of beer from Spain and Portugal, the local distributors have conspired to shut me up by supplying some really great beers that I now offer to you.
This week we have brought in all the beer we could find from Spain and Portugal (and one from Argentina too!). They are conveniently stacked up tall in the middle of the store and will surely add a new and unique level of refreshment to your weekend plans.
We have a few well known major brands that will be familiar to many of you. We also now carry a  few more esoteric brews including a new version of  Barcelona’s best selling beer designed by none less than Chef Ferrán Adriá from elBulli. We also just received a unique and delicious barrel aged red ale from Argentina.  Additionally, we have re-stocked our Basque hard apple cider, now available in the oh-so-cute half bottle size as well as the traditional 750ml bottles.
Of course we continue to bring in new, interesting  wines including numerous red, white and rosado wines that will refresh your palate and awaken your appetite on a warm evening, but, as they always say to me when I visit the bodegas in Spain, “before we try the wines, would you like a beer?”

Estrella Galicia While Spain has many excellent beers, this well known (in Spain) lager from Galicia was, for many years, the only Spanish beer available here in California. Blond color, yeasty aroma and crisp flavor are just what you want after a hot day. $10.99 (6 pack)
Estrella Damm For those who have visited Barcelona, this beer will be very familiar to you and will rekindle fond memories of that Catalan metropolis. This crisp, lager style beer is now in good supply here in the USA and makes a perfect addition to a Spanish themed party or meal. $10.99 (6 pack)
Estrella Damm Inedit Celebrated chef Ferrán Adriá from elBulli teamed up with Estrella Damm to create this distinctive Spanish beer. The attractive 750 ml bottle comes with a little booklet tied to the neck explaining the concept (“The beer specifically created to pair with food.”) and offering serving suggestions (“It is recommended that Inedit is enjoyed in a white wine glass and kept in an ice bucket after serving.”). A hybrid  of a traditional lager and a Belgian style Wit beer, this cloudy amber colored brew is fairly crisp on the front end with notes of orange peel and baking spice (cloves, nutmeg and allspice) on the finish. A bit of hoppy density adds interest and will appeal to appreciators of local microbrews. $10.99 (750 ml bottle)
Barbaroja Red Ale In the Argentine town of Escobar, 50 kilometers north of Buenos Aires, Cerveceria Barba Roja makes a wide range of craft brews. They make a special barrel aged “strong” (so named due to it’s 9% ABV) red ale that we just started carrying here. Opaque, reddish brown color, aromas of black coffee and wood smoke, and bold but balanced flavors of toasted malt and caramel. A champagne style cork seals this 750 ml bottle of oh-so-food friendly red ale. This is really interesting and deserves your attention. $12.99 (750 ml)
Sagres In Portugal, this is a major brand. Sagres is served everywhere. This classic lager style brew is crisp, light, slightly fruity and perfect on a hot evening.  $7.99 (6 pack)
Sagres Bohemia This dark beer from Sagres starts off crisp and hoppy. The toasted, malty richness comes on quickly and adds a bit of black coffee-ish flavor to the beer. $7.99 (6 pack)
Super Bock Not actually a ‘bock’ beer, this popular Portuguese lager (technically a malt liquor due to the 5.6% alcohol by volume) is light blond color with clean corn flavor and light hoppy finish. Serve this cold on a hot day and taste it at its best. $7.99 (6 pack)

In northern Spain, where the cool moist climate is not always conducive to grape growing, the local drink of choice is hard apple cider. In the bars of San Sebastian they pour sidra from the bottle held high overhead in an outstretched arm into wide glass tumblers. At the local sidrerias the Sagardo (cider in Basque) streams straight from large wooden kegs and accompanies a meal of fried salt cod with peppers and onions, huge bone-in ribeye steaks and walnuts and cheese for dessert. The meal is consumed standing up to facilitate frequent trips back and forth from the barrel room. From time to time a staffer will yell “Txotx!” and everyone lines up to get another glass of cider.
Experience the Basque hard cider tradition at home with Isastegi Sidra Natural. This is not sweet apple juice. Cloudy green gold in color with yeasty apple barrel aroma and tart, fino sherry-like flavor are what you will find here. Once opened this cider oxidizes rapidly so the bottle needs to be consumed quickly (not usually a problem). We now carry the half sized bottles which are great for small groups or when cider is served as an apperitivo before moving on to other drinks (for the full-bore Isastegi experience we also carry the traditional glassware, just like they use in Spain).
$8.99 (750 ml)
$4.99 (375 ml)
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Filed under Argentina, beer, Portugal, sidra (cider), Spain

Memorial Day

Got big plans for the holiday weekend? Of course you do. Chances are you’ll be firing up the grill and (hopefully) pouring a little vino. To facilitate the choosing of appropriate beverages for Memorial Day, here are a few new options for your consideration.
Don Simon Sangria You want the real Spain? Put aside visions of bullfights and flamenco dancers and visit a Spanish supermarket or gas station where regular folks take care of everyday business. And what will you find there? You will find wines from Don Simon, usually packaged in juice box style cartons. So imagine my excitement to find Don Simon Sangria on offer from a local distributor. This big 1.5 Liter jug of pre-made Sangria needs only a garnish of seasonal fruit and some ice to turn your back yard into a little slice of Spain. $10.99
Estrella Damm For those who have visited Barcelona, this beer will be very familiar to you and will rekindle fond memories of that Catalan metropolis. This crisp, lager style beer is now in good supply here in the USA and makes a perfect addition to a Spanish themed party or meal. $10.99 per 6 pack.
Van Zellers Douro Branco 2007 The table wine renaissance in Portugal’s Douro Valley has produced numreous red wines of distinction and quality. Now more white wines are starting to make an appearance. Cristiano van Zeller at Quinta do Vale D. Maria makes this crisp white wine that exhibits fresh herbaceous aroma, bright acidity and gentle melon-like fruit character. $17.99
Gurrutxaga 2008 The Basque white wine called Txakoli has become a favorite of many wine drinkers who have grown tired of heavily oaked, densely fruity white wines. Bodegas Gurrutxaga is a small family winery in Mendexa producing minuscule quantities of this crisp, lean white wine composed of a tongue twisting blend of 60% Hondarribi Zuri, 20% Mune Mahatsa and 20% Txori Mahatsa. Bright acidity and slatey minerality characterize this refreshing summertime wine. $19.99
Gurrutxaga Rosado 2008 An alternative to traditional white Txakoli, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of strawberry fruit character. Low (10.5%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99
Rento 2001 Bodegas Renacimiento de Olivares makes traditionally styled red wines from old vine Tinta del País (Tempranillo)in the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. Originally in the $40+ range, we just secured a small quantity of the 2001crianza at a very nice price. Darkly tinted, this rich, earthy red expresses classic regional style. $19.99
Preludio Tempranillo 2007 Yes, Argentina offers much more than just Malbec for red wine enthusiasts. The newly arrived 2007 vintage of this Tempranillo from Tempus Alba displays bright berry-like fruit along with a modest note of barrel character. $13.99

Vega Sicilia Pre-Arrival Offer

In DO Ribera del Duero Vega Sicilia produces Spain’s most famous wines. The rare and expensive Unico is produced only in excellent vintages and is intended for long term storage. The second label, Valbuena is sourced from younger vines and is ready to drink at a younger age. A second brand called Alion, created in 1992 and produced at a separate facility comes in at a more affordable price (relatively speaking). More recently a new bodega in DO Toro produces a wine called Pintia that has garnered much praise and attention from the press and public.
We are offering these wines on a pre-arrival basis for those of you who wish to partake in the enjoyment of an icon. This will be your one chance to pick these wines up at slightly better than usual prices and the only opportunity to pick up Unico and Valbuena which won’t be available in the store. Give a call if these are of interest to you.
1999 Vega Sicilia Unico $380.00
2004 Vega Sicilia Valbuena $150.00
2005 Alion $76.00
2006 Pintia $62.00
(Magnums are available too. Contact us for pricing)

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Uncategorized, White Wine

Summertime Thirst Quenchers

As we head into the month of August I feel the need to offer up some suggestions for warm weather beverages that will satisfy your thirst, awaken your appetite and remind you of good times had (or yet to come) in sunny Spain.

This is the first week in recent months that we don’t have a new rosado wine to offer, but we do have loads of these perfect summer wines on the shelf.

On the other hand, after much whining on my part about the lack of Spanish beer in the American market, I am happy to report that this week we received not one but two excellent cervezas from Spain. 

The new 2007 versions of a few of my all time favorite white wines are now available, as are some unique and interesting red wines from Chile and Portugal.

Check out the latest arrivals below, and while you are at it, take a moment to consider the following recipe that I prepared last weekend for a large birthday party.

Grilled sardines are hugely popular in Portugal and Galicia. These small fish are inexpensive to buy, are sustainably harvested and are really good for you. This version, wrapped in grape leaves, makes an interesting and tasty presentation.

 

Sardinas Asadas En Hojas de Parras (Grilled Sardines in Grape Leaves)

(Serves 8 as an appetizer)

 

Ingredients:

8             whole fresh sardines

8             jarred grape leaves

4             bay leaves (fresh or dried)

¼ cup   sea salt

2             lemons, cut in wedges

 

Directions:

Prepare your grill (gas or charcoal) as you normally would. Clean the sardines (scales off, innards and gills out, head and tail stay on). Sprinkle the salt over the cleaned sardines, making sure to get some salt inside the fish as well as outside.  Place one half of a bay leaf inside the belly cavity of each sardine. Roll up each fish in a grape leaf (use 2 leaves if they are small or if the sardines are big) leaving the head and tail partly exposed. Grill the wrapped fish over a hot fire for approximately 5 minutes on each side. The grape leaves will ‘shrink wrap’ around the fish and prevent them from drying out or burning.  Unwrap the cooked sardines, squeeze a little lemon over the top and eat the fish, discarding the bones and the grape leaf wrapper.

 

Alhambra Lager This beer, from Granada in the south of Spain, takes its name from the famous Moorish palace in that ancient town. This crisp and refreshing lager is well known in Spain and finally available here for the first time. $14.99/6 pack

 

Estrella Damm This popular Beer from Barcelona is now available here for the first time. Enjoy this light, refreshing beer just like they do in Barcelona where countless nights on the Ramblas (the wide pedestrian boulevard that is Barcelona’s epicenter of eating, drinking and people watching) have included at least one (sometimes many) small glasses of this famous lager.  $14.99/6 pack

 

Santiago Ruiz 2007 Bodegas LAN, located in Rioja, is known for their red wines, but this winery also produces a white wine in the Rías Baixas region in Galicia. Santiago Ruiz is a blend of Albariño, Loureiro and Treixadura fermented in tank (no oak). This relatively full bodied (for the region) wine pairs bright acidity with abundant melon and citrus fruit character. The fresh 2007 vintage has just been released and is drinking at its best right now. $19.99

 

Montebaco Blanco 2007 Like the previous bodega, Montebaco makes red wine in one region (Ribera del Duero) and white wine in another (Rueda). The new vintage of Montebaco blanco is made from the Verdejo grape and displays aromas and flavors of tropical fruits such as guava and pineapple along with a mineral back note. $17.99

 

Calcu 2006 In the Chilean Mapuche Indian dialect ‘Calcu’ means magician (or witch doctor, depending on the translation). This years’ blend (it changes with each vintage) is composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Carmenere and 15% Cabernet Franc from the Valle de Colchagua region of central Chile. This wine displays dark garnet color and rich, berry-like aroma. Spicy, peppery Carmenère adds contrast to the deeply structured Cabernet Sauvignon. The rich fruit character, reminiscent of fresh mulberries lingers on the palate. Grilled spicy sausages, fresh corn on the cob and the full compliment of American summer foods will compliment this wine quite well.  $10.99   

 

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. Regular price $19.99

 

Twisted Tinto 2006 The immense, steeply terraced Douro Valley in Portugal has, for centuries, been the source of Port wines. Forward thinking wineries have, in recent years, been re-purposing the fruit of the Douro to produce red, white and rosé wines of excellent quality. Dirk Niepoort is one of the leading proponents of unfortified Douro wines. ‘Twisted’ is one of several names given to Niepoort’s most affordable red wine, depending on where you buy it. In Portugal the wine is called ‘Diálogo’, in Germany it goes by ‘Fabelhaft’, in Estonia they call it ‘Öö Ja Päevand in Finland it is ‘Sarvet’. The wine itself 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 aromas and flavors of fresh berries and a touch of tannic oak (20% of the wine is aged in barrel for one year). $15.99

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