Tag Archives: garnacha blanca

Learning About Spain

The Wine Academy of Spain, an educational organization run by Pancho Campo (Spain’s first Master of Wine) stopped in San Francisco last week as part of a US tour currently wrapping up in Washington DC.
I joined a group of Spanish wine enthusiasts for the three day seminar that covered all of Spain’s regions, grapes and winemaking styles. I got to brush up on my Spanish wine knowledge and tried many new wines as well as some familiar favorites.
Esteban Cabezas and his crew did a fabulous job of squeezing a ton of information into a short space of time. I gleaned all sorts of tidbits of information that I will be sharing with you in the days and weeks to come.
My thanks and appreciation go out to The Wine Academy of Spain and to Catavino for sponsoring my attendance to the seminar (I won the scholarship for my why-I-love-Spanish-wine blog entry). Hopefully I passed the exam and in a few weeks will have a handsome Spanish Wine Educator certificate to hang on the wall.
I retried a few wines at the Wine Academy of Spain course that are making a repeat appearance here as a result of a good showing at the seminar. Check out this week’s wine notes for the Aria Brut Cava, Gramona Imperial Cava and the red Fra Guerau Monsant. They are now back in stock and drinking beautifully.

Espelt Vailet 2007 After my recent trip to the Empordá region of Spain (up along the French border on the Mediterranean side) I have been eagerly buying all the wine from this little known, rocky, sparsely populated corner of the globe. A few weeks back we featured the red from Espelt as well as the rosado. The white wine from Espelt has just come back in stock and I recommend it this week as a new option for those seeking bright, fresh white wines with distinctive character. The blend is 60% Garnacha Blanca and 40% Macabeo (Viura for you white Rioja fans). Crisp minerality is supplemented here with a bit of green herb and citrus character. $12.99
Aria Brut This Cava has been a well loved favorite and is finally back in stock here in Berkeley. This frothy blend of the three traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada)presents a fresh, balanced side of Cava with a bit of green apple fruit adding counterpoint to the mineral foundation. $10.99
Gramona Imperial 2004 For those who appreciate the complexity of long aged Cava, this vintage sparkler is always a welcome sight. 3-4 year of cellar age gives this wine a very Champagne-like character. Adding 10% Chardonnay to the blend of 50% Xarel-lo and 40% Macabeo adds to the similarity with French bubbly. Yeasty brioche aroma, an elegant mineral backnote and a bit of brandied fruit on the finish. $31.99
Fra Guerau 2003 This was one of the first wines that caught my attention back when I started with The Spanish Table. I recently retasted Fra Guerau and was reminded of the pure pleasure that comes from this blend of numerous grapes (Syrah, Garnacha, Cariñena, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Monastrell) from the Montsant region. Dark garnet color, sweet berry fruit character and well integrated barrel character (thanks to several years of bottle age) make this an easy wine to pair with all kinds of food. $13.99
Zaumau Priorat 2008 Carlos Escolar make miniscule quantities of wine in DOC Priorat. Old vine Garnacha and Samsó (the local name for Cariñena) are blended here in an unoaked red that expresses the rocky terruño of the region in a pure, darkly colored, ripely fruited style. Foregoing the barrel ageing regimen brings the price down significantly for this wine from a region not known for bargains. $17.99
Viña Lanciano Reserva 2001 Nothing says ‘Spain’ quite like a slowly matured Tempranillo from Rioja. This wine,from the superlative 2001 vintage, is composed of the best estate grown fruit from Bodegas LAN. Two years in the barrel followed by 5 years resting in the bottle in the cellar have created an elegant, traditional wine that blends tannic oak with tart cherry fruit character. Aromas of fresh earth, cured meat and wood smoke add depth and nuance to this excellent example of old school Rioja. $28.99

TapasWalk In The News

Last Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle ran a feature on the Spanish wine & food walking tour that I do called TapasWalk. Using my tour as an example, Janet Fletcher wrote a detailed piece on the burgeoning tapas scene now happening in downtown San Francisco. “In this new little world straddling North Beach, the Financial District and Russian Hill,” Fletcher wrote, “a Bay Area tapas enthusiast with good walking shoes can do the sort of bar hopping that many Spaniards enjoy nightly.” She included a lexicon of useful terminology for those less familar with Spanish cuisine as well as a few recipes for traditional tapas that you can make at home (with a few ingredients from The Spanish Table, of course). If you missed it in the paper last week you can still read the article online here.


Txakolí Wisdom


In tandem with last week’s San Francisco Chronicle article by Janet Fletcher about the downtown tapas scene, Jon Bonné put together a detailed and up-to-date summary of the current state of Basque Txakolí wine. If you have yet to experience the distinct joy of Txakolí, this article tells you all you need to know to get started. We carry all the Txakolí wines and (just between you and me) we even have some of the elusive Txakolí rosado still in stock.

Txakolí Etiquette

If you have visited San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country you probably noticed how the local bartenders pour the Txakolí wine with an outstretched arm from high overhead. Now our good friends from Vinos Unico have made an instructional video that shows just how to pour Txakolí like a pro. Check them out here:


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Sense Of Place

Welcome back to our continuing Spanish wine round up. This week the glory that is Spanish regionalism is in full effect as we hopscotch around this diverse land tasting wines of all types and styles. This week the ever changing selection of new vino at The Spanish Table includes some traditional and familiar names, but also several white and red wines from parts of Spain that are only recently getting their fair share of attention. Each of these wines express the character and style of their respective regions. Read on to discover a half dozen uniquely delicious wines that will compliment your meals, excite your intellect and inspire your imagination.

Benaza Godello 2008 Benaza marks our first foray into the Monterrei region in Northwestern Spain. Mostly Godello with small additions of Doña Blanca and Treixadura, this white wine displays gentle aromas and flavors of white peach supported by slatey minerality. If you have enjoyed Albariño from Rías Baixas, this Monterrei region Godello should be your next new wine experience. $13.99

Talai Berri 2008 The 2008 Talai Berri Txacolí is now in stock. Lean minerality, tart citrus fruit character and slight effervescence combine to create a precise and intriguing white wine fashioned from the Basque grape called Hondarribi Zuri. Perfect summertime refreshment. $21.99

Odysseus Garnacha Blanca 2008 The new vintage of Odysseus Garnacha Blanca has just arrived. This white from DOC Priorat is initially dense and floral, then the mineral structure kicks in and balances the richness. This layered, complex wine is made in tiny quantities by the father and daughter team of Josep and Sylvia Puig at their Viñedos de Ithaca winery in Gratallops. $26.99

Finca Viladellops 2005 Vinícola Viladellops is a small family winery located in the DO Penedès village of Viladellops near Olèrdola and dates back to 1875. Finca Viladellops 2005, the flagship of this winery, is composed of 40% Garnacha along with 30% Syrah and 30% Marcelan (a French hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha).  The addition of Syrah and Marcelan adds structure to the bright, cherry-like Garnacha. Savory barrel tannins are well integrated, with tart fruit character and flinty minerality coming forward as the wine opens. $18.99

Viladellops Garnacha & SMC 2006 The second wine from Vinicola Viladellops is composed primarily of Garnacha along with small additions of Syrah, Merlot and Cariñena (the ‘SMC’ of the title). The grapes in this rocky section of DO Penedès tend toward a lean, savory style which emphasizes the mineral notes in the wine as well as bright fruit character. $11.99

Ysios Reserva 2002 Ysios, the newly built bodega, designed by Santiago Calatrava and located in the Rioja town of Laguardia, makes only ‘Reserva’ level wines. Long slow maturation in oak barrels followed by several years of bottle age are requirements for Reserva Rioja. Estate grown Tempranillo is used exclusively here. The wine spent 14 months in barrel and has been in the bottle ever since. Over time the wine has taken on a light patina of age, delivering elegant, fully integrated barrel character and smooth, lightly oxidized fruit. This wine, normally twice this price but put on sale by the distributor to make room for the arrival of the new vintage, is available briefly here while the supply lasts. $14.99

A Plateful Of
Paella Wisdom



Steve Winston is coming down from our flagship store in Seattle to make paella and sign copies of his new book. This is your chance to meet the man who started The Spanish Table and chat with him about all things related to the culinary traditions of Spain and Portugal.
Steve is a veritable treasure trove of food and wine esoterica. He has accumulated much of this knowledge in his new cook book. Stop in on Sunday August 9th at 1 pm (or Saturday August 8th in Mill Valley) to quiz him on what (and where) to eat in Spain and Portugal. While you are here you can sample his famous Paella and pick up a signed copy of The Spanish Table Cookbook.
¡Buen provecho!

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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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Holiday Wines, Version 1.5, The Little Gift

By now, unless you are like me, you have probably taken care of your major holiday responsibilities. The office party is over and done with, the big holiday meal is in process and the gift shopping is winding down. Nevertheless, something will come up, as it always does, leading you to need one more small gift (or a few) to satisfy last minute situations. Secret Santa, stocking stuffer, hostess gift, call it what you will, sometimes the small gesture speaks louder than the grandiose one.

To satisfy this need we carry a variety of wines in small bottles. The labels are mostly well known and the wine inside the little bottle is identical to the wine in the full sized version.  These bottles fit into even the smallest of picnic hampers (or lunch boxes) and add just the right touch to a gift basket of assorted holiday goodies. They make perfect accompaniments to intimate dinners as well as lavish multi-course (and multi-wine) meals. These fabulous wines in diminutive sizes come in many styles and varieties. Here ar4e some of our current selections:

 

Quinta dos Grilos 2004 $10.99 (375ml) 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 wine is bright and savory, with cherry-like fruit overlaying a tannic core. Chirp!

 

Muga Reserva 2003 $13.99 (375ml) Muga Reserva, one of the most celebrated wines from Rioja is just as tasty in the small bottle as it is in the big one. Dark color, loamy aroma and rich elegant fruit character are what one looks for in a wine such as this. You will not be disappointed.

 

Arzuaga Crianza 2004 $15.99 (375ml) The Ribera del Duero region is known for bold, earthy red wines. Bodegas Arzuaga makes exactly this style of wine. Dark color, smoky/oaky tannins and rich multi-layered fruit character. In the sprit of all things tiny, serve this wine with a traditional Ribera del Duero meal of tiny, thin cut lamb chops quickly grilled over vine cuttings. Muy tipico.

 

Odysseus garnacha Blanca 2005 $22.99 (500ml)

Odysseus PX 2005 $26.99 (500ml)

Penélope Garnacha Blanca 2005 $31.99 (500 ml.) 

Penélope Garnacha Peluda 2005 $34.99 (500 ml.)

“Small is beautiful”, the motto of Viñedos Ithaca, is reflected in many ways. Viñedos Ithaca sits on a small 50-acre property of steep hillside vineyards near the little village of Gratallops. The wines they make are all produced in limited (almost miniscule) quantities. The flagship wine is the red Odysseus (the Puig family is much enamored with Greek mythology), a wine that has garnered many awards and much accolade in the few years since its creation. Additionally, they make several unique and distinctive white wines as well as a stunning rosado.  As if that were not enough, Viñedos Ithaca also produces not one but two spectacular late harvest dessert wines, one white and one red.

Odysseus Garnacha Blanca is a rare white Priorat wine made from native Garnacha Blanca grape.  Notes of peach, pear, and honeysuckle on the nose with a long, silky finish and great complexity in the mouth. Great personality crafted in an original style. The wine was carefully fermented in the “old-style” without temperature control and a unique maceration within the French oak barrel for 8 hours. Limited production of 400 cases. Odysseus PX is made from  Pedro Ximénez, best known as a sweet sherry grape. After discovering a parcel of old vine PX within their vineyards Josep and Sylvia decided to vinify the PX separately.  The final result is a unique rich, dry white wine and the only still wine made from PX grapes in Spain. Apricots, peaches, nectarines and green apple find room in the nose with additional highlights of roses. Higher toned than the Garnacha Blanca showcasing abundant bright fruit a wonderful mouth feel and a finish of golden raisins. Limited production of 150 cases. Penélope Garnacha Blanca is a totally natural sweet wine using hand selected late harvest Garnacha Blanca fruit from the oldest vineyards near Scala Dei. Aromas of white peach, wet stone, jasmine and honeysuckle with a touch of mint and melon.  On the palate it is slight meaty and creamy with juicy stone fruit flavors.  Pure, clean and round.  250 500-ml. bottles produced (yes, bottles, not cases). Penélope Garnacha Peluda is fashioned from late harvest Garnacha Peluda (the same grape is picked earlier for the Odysseus Tinto) fermented with minimal manipulation. Opaque garnet color.  Spicy clove and dried fig aromas. Gentle and balanced sweetness with flavors of pomegranate and cranberry.  Distinctly different style of sweet wine. Miniscule quantities produced.

 

Maestro Sierra Amontillado $21.99 (375 ml)

Maestro Sierra Oloroso $15.99 (375ml)

Maestro Sierra was founded in 1832 by Jose Antonio Sierra, who, as a master carpenter, was responsible for building barrels for all the major Sherry bodegas. Recognized as one of the top coopers in the area, he longed to become involved in the Sherry trade itself. As this business was dominated by the nobility, a start-up such as his was not very welcome. After many hardships he was able to establish and grow his business becoming one of the top Almacenistas (stockholders) of high quality Jerez wines. Poking fun at his struggle, the label depicts an allegorical fox hunt with the “Nobles” hunting the fox (Maestro Sierra).

Pilar Pla Pechovierto currently owns Maestro Sierra. Doña Pilar is a widow whose husband was a direct descendent of the Sierra family. She respected her husband’s wish that the winery remain in operation after his death and over the last thirty years she has kept the winery open, selling very limited stocks of wine to a few of the large bodegas. Because the wines have virtually remained unmoved due to the almost non existent business, the stocks at Maestro Sierra are some of the oldest in Jerez. The soleras at the winery are easily over 60 years old and some maybe close to 100 years old.

Maestro Sierra Amontillado is amber gold in color with a rich aroma of almonds and fresh hay. A very gentle note of raisin-like fruit character is present here. This wine pairs well with aged cheeses and cured meats. The Maestro Sierra Oloroso is dark amber with flavors of walnuts, butterscotch and figs. Serve this wine in a small glass to your special someone, after a big meal, on the bear skin rug, next to the roaring fire, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

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