Tag Archives: graciano

Springtime New Arrivals

Springtime in the wine business is like a month-long birthday party/baby shower/Christmas morning all rolled into one big fiesta of opening boxes packed with many shiny, colorful objects of desire. This week we are receiving new white and red wines from some of our favorite bodegas.
In a few weeks the new rosados will arrive, as pink and precious as newborn babies.  Aged red wines that have been maturing slowly in dark,cool Spanish cellars are finally ready for release. Take advantage of this season and stock up on the new vintage of well loved favorites as well as several exciting never-before-seen wines.

2009 Ostatu Blanco
The first of the 2009 vintage Spanish white wines to reach our shores is this popular white Rioja. Fashioned from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia sourced from vines over 60 years old this tank fermented wine is fresh and herbaceous. Crisp minerality balances aromatic floral richness. White Rioja is growing in popularity thanks in part to well made wines such as this. That the wine is such a bargain adds one more reason to put this on your list of new wines to try. $12.99

2009 Laxas Albariño
The newly arrived 2009 Laxas (pronounced like ‘luscious’, with good reason) is a ripe, floral expression of the Albarino grape. A base of lemon and green melon flavors blends well with additional notes of fresh herbs, fennel and background minerality. $17.99

2009 Soalheiro Alvarinho
Vinho Verde
It used to be that Portuguese Vinho Verde was simple, spritzy, fun in a bottle. While those wines still exist (and we stock them enthusiastically), a new breed of Vinho verde can be found that features estate grown grapes with distinct pedigree, vintage specific bottlings and finely tuned wine making skills. Soalheiro Alvarinho is a standard setter for top shelf Vinho Verde. This 100% Alvarinho wine is taut and edgy. A current of electric-like acidity gives a jolt, the blow softened a bit by some well rounded pear/melon fruit character. Light effervescence moderates firm, flinty minerality. This ain’t no back porch Vinho Verde. This is some serious juice! $21.99

2008 Capellanes Joven
Pago de los Capellanes is a well known and respected bodega in the Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain. In addition to the bold, tannic,barrel matured wines that are the tradition in this region they also make this younger “Joven” style red that sees only 5 months in oak. The firm, chalky tannins are moderated here by juicy dark berry fruit character. Rocky minerality adds counterpoint. The new 2008 vintage is drinking very well right now. $17.99

2005 Ijalba Graciano
In Rioja the Graciano grape represents just 5% of a typical harvest. This dark skinned, tannic grape is often used in small quantities to beef up the lighter textured Tempranillo. Only rarely is Graciano bottled as a varietal wine and then it is usually very expensive. We are happy to see Ijalba Graciano back in the market in the new 2005 vintage. Darker and more tannic than a typical Rioja, this wine possesses a certain delicate element that comes and goes elusively as the wine is consumed. It is firm yet floral, ripe yet tart, bold yet fragile all at once. If you wear your Rioja with a difference, this is the wine for you. $21.99

Rioja Event Reloaded:



Two weeks ago in this space we announced an upcoming tasting of some rare older wines from the iconic Rioja bodega Lopez de Heredia. Well, things have evolved and the tasting has gotten bigger and less expensive simultaneously (how often do you hear that these days?).
The good news is that the importer has agreed to supply more samples for the tasting, so we are able to offer a better price for the event ($15 per person, down from $45). The other good news is that there is space for just 40 guests so reservations are a must.
Where else will you have a chance to try a 1981 white Rioja or a 1987 Tondonia Reserva? We’ll also be tasting the current releases from the 90’s as well as the famous 1970 Bosconia Gran Reserva (about which  The Wine Advocate said:”The 1970 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva is a captivating effort, with endless, well-defined nuances of pine, minerals and sweet red fruits that emerge from the glass in a breathtaking display of purity and class. It shows the extraordinary length, great expression and the pure breed of a truly great wine. 93 Points”).
Join us at The Spanish Table in Mill Valley on Thursday, April 15th  at 6:30 pm as Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia takes us through her family’s rich history and traditional wine-making process. For reservations please call (415)-388-5043.

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Filed under events, Portugal, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

After The Turkey

It’s all over for another year, except for the Turkey sandwiches.

My thanks go out to all of our loyal customers who came and took advantage of the excellent wine values that combine high quality with low price here at The Spanish Table.

Personally, I had a great Thanksgiving. Some wonderful friends did all the cooking and asked only that I bring some appropriate wines for the occasion.  To go with the Heritage Turkey (breasts roasted, thighs/legs braised), stuffing, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes with gravy we had a rosado Cava to start (Mont Ferrant), moved on to a Reserva Rioja (Viña Tondonia 1999) and finished with a sparkling Moscatel (Reymos) to accompany the pumpkin pie. The Spanish wines were a perfect compliment to the very American menu.

Today it is back to work and happily so because I have yet more new wines (and a few return engagements and new vintages of old favorites) to share with you.  Read on to discover some excellent choices to liven up your table this holiday season and beyond.

 

Wine Maps: We just got in some nifty new Iberian wine maps. They measure 24” X 36” and are up to date with all the latest new wine regions in Spain and Portugal (as well as the neighboring regions of France and North Africa too).  This accurate and thorough map is something we (and you, judging from the many requests) have been searching for over the last several years with no success until now.  This poster sized print is (as they say in the poster biz) ‘ready for framing’ and makes a nice gift. $27.99

 

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

 

Zuazo Gaston Vendimia Seleccionada 2006 The enterprising crew at Beaune Imports have brought in several new (to the California market) Rioja reds from a small winery in the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone.  The young Vendimia Seleccionada is made up of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano, aged for 5 months in oak. This is a soft, gentle red wine with berry-like fruit character and almost no noticeable oak flavor or aroma.  $12.99

Zuazo Gaston Crianza 2005 The more mature of the two new Zuazo Gaston wines we just received is composed of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano. It spends 14 months in oak followed by several years of bottle age. This is a balanced wine with mellow complexity and depth that asserts itself gently, never overwhelming the palate. $15.99

 

Ijalba Graciano 2004 The latest release of this unique Rioja has just arrived.  The Graciano grape represents a mere 5% of the total grape harvest in Rioja. Usually reserved for blending with the lighter bodied Tempranillo, this grape is rarely bottled on its own.  This dark garnet colored wine is rich without being overly fruity. It is tannic too but not in a woody or coarse way. Smooth dark berry fruit and background minerality add further nuance. $21.99

 

Valduero Crianza 2004 A popular favorite Ribera del Duero is back in the latest vintage. This dark, earthy, tannic red made from the local Tinto Fino grape is bold and full bodied. Substantial barrel tannins need some air before revealing an inner core of black cherry fruit character. Decant this one in the morning and serve it for dinner. Otherwise, cellar this one for several years and enjoy it over the next decade or more. $27.99

 

Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2005 Our allocation of this dark, expressive Ribera del Duero wine sold out months ago. As luck would have it, we just received a few of the very last bottles from the excellent 2005 vintage. I won’t go into too many details here. Suffice to say that what we have (less than a case) is still at the same price as the initial offer from earlier in the year. Get some while it lasts. $39.99

 

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American Wine / Iberian Style

Are you ready for something new?

“But of course” you say.

Well, check this out: The Spanish Table in Berkeley now carries domestic wines.

Yes, it’s true. Starting this week we have a new section of California wines made from Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Cariñena, Albariño, Verdelho and anything else I find that has Iberian origins and grows here in the USA.

Over the last decade local grape growers have planted ever increasing quantities of Iberian varieties. With each passing season these grapes are attracting more and more attention from winemakers who, like many wine drinkers, are always looking for something unique and tasty. Presently, the number of producers making high quality wine from these grapes is just now reaching the threshold of commercial viability as a category.

Vino Iberesco (new phrase – you heard it here first) is now available in a sufficiently broad range of styles that I feel the time is right to include a few of them in our collection. These new wines, while remaining true to their California origins, are stylistically anchored in the winemaking traditions of Spain and Portugal.

This week we have a white Verdelho from Lodi, a barrel aged Tempranillo/Garnacha blend from Lake County as well as a Garnacha from the Sierra Foothills. More Vino Iberesco wines will arrive in the weeks to come.

Rest assured however that even as we venture into new territory with domestic wines, our commitment to the many excellent wines of Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile remains unwavering. This week we offer you the latest vintages of some well known favorites that have just arrived from regions such as Bierzo, Montsant and Rueda. In the weeks ahead we will be stocking up on Sherry, Port and Madeira for the upcoming Holiday season.

The ever expanding range of choices at The Spanish Table, unmatched elsewhere, is now even broader. Check out the new arrivals below and come pick up some familiar favorites. While you are here, try some of our new domestic wines too and discover these newly transplanted flavors of Iberia.

Paella Class Alert: The ever popular Paella class at local cooking school Kitchen On Fire is coming around again. This hands-on class will take place on Sunday October 19th at 6:30 pm. The fee is $65/person which includes active participation in the making and eating of several tapas, a big paella mixta, and dessert. Several wines will be tasted along the way.

Here is the blurb from the Kitchen On Fire website

http://www.kitchenonfire.com//course_class.php?class=444

where you may sign up for this class:

Join Kevin Hogan from The Spanish Table to learn first-hand the joys of the Spanish rice dish known as Paella. Kevin will share his knowledge and experience in all things Paella-related. The class will include some hands-on participation to prepare a mixed poultry/meat/seafood Paella that will be consumed at the culmination of the class. Participants will also get a chance to make and sample some simple tapas while waiting for the Paella to cook. Kevin is the wine buyer for The Spanish Table in Berkeley and will be sharing some Paella-friendly wines as well. Come to class with an appetite for adventure and be rewarded with a plateful of Paella wisdom.

Alta Mesa Cellars Verdelho 2007 Ron Silva has, for years, pioneered the cultivation of Portuguese grape varieties in the Central Valley. His vineyards are renowned among local winemakers and are the source for much of the fruit that goes into many new Iberesco styled wines. In addition to growing and selling grapes, Ron also makes a bit of wine himself. He made this bright, refreshing white wine from his estate grown Verdelho vines. This unoaked wine evokes the flavors of Portugal while remaining firmly grounded in California. Rich floral aroma encounters delicate melon and citrus flavors. A bit of mineral foundation adds depth to the gentle, harmonious fruit character. $14.99

Odisea Two Rows Garnacha 2006 Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz founded Odisea a few years ago to make wines in the style of Southern France and Northern Spain. Using fruit from Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, these winemakers have crafted several different wines that, tasted blind, could easily pass as Spanish. Two Rows Garnacha, produced in miniscule amounts (90 cases in all) is a blend of 76% Garnacha, 12% Tempranillo and 12% Petite Sirah. A brief period of barrel ageing, as is typical with Spanish roble wines, adds a hint of oaky complexity to the wine. The crystalline ruby color, tangy, bright fruit character and background earthy/mineral notes are reminiscent of a Calatayud Garnacha or a young wine from Rioja Baja. $19.99

Tejada 2005 Back in 1999 Spanish natives Celia Tejada and her brother Ivo started this small family winery in Lake County. Celia made a name for herself as the Vice President of product development at Pottery Barn before also deciding to get into the wine business. The Tejada siblings planted part of their new 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. Local winemaker Byron Kosuge is involved in the winemaking process which includes a certain amount of time in oak followed by a period of bottle ageing as is done in Spain. The end result 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

Mantel Blanco Verdejo 2007 This used to be a popular favorite at The Spanish Table but has been missing in action for a couple of vintages. Happily, this fresh, citrusy white wine from the Rueda region in Northern Spain is back in the new 2007 vintage and is just as lively and refreshing as we remember from days gone by. This unoaked Verdejo varietal wine is pale yellow in color with citrus blossom aroma and flavor notes of pineapple and guava. $12.99

La Planella 2006 This young red wine from is made at the Joan D’Anguera winery located in the town of Darmos in the Montsant region of Catalunya. Each year the composition of this wine changes to reflect the best grapes of the vintage. The newly released 2006 La Planella is made up of 40 % Mazuelo (aka Cariñena), 20% Syrah, 20% Garnacha and 20 % Cabernet Sauvignon. The blended wine spends 11 months in oak before bottling. This dark garnet colored offering displays a combination of earthy aromas and flavors combined with concentrated cherry and black plum fruit character. The savory elements comingle with the fruity aspects to create a dynamic and vivid wine. $19.99

Tilenus Roble 2005 It is no secret that I am much enamored with the wines of the Bierzo region in Northwestern Spain. The hay loft and dried leaf aromas, the cranberry and pomegranate fruit character and the underlying wet slate minerality all combine to create a distinctive and fresh style that evokes for me the best elements of Loire Valley Chinon, village level Burgundy or even a young Piemontese Barbera. The new Tilenus Roble, made from the local Mencía grape is a fine example of the regional style. This wine spends a few scant months in oak which is not a practice I find adds much to most Mencía wines but in this case the judiciously limited time in barrel adds a note of tannic complexity that compliments the wine. $21.99

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Filed under California, Red Wine, Spain, Uncategorized, 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

Personal Favorites

Spanish wine can be a hard thing to define in general terms. Just about every region in Spain makes at least a little bit of wine and the regional variation, numerous grape varieties and the personal styles of individual winemakers can cover an almost infinite range of possibilities.

At The Spanish Table we take pride in offering a wide variety of wines from all across the Iberian Peninsula, and reading this newsletter is one of the best ways to learn about these exciting, enticingly new wines.

My normal habit is to put aside my own personal preferences and to promote new and interesting wines regardless of whether or not I plan to add the wine to my personal collection, but for you, the reader of this newsletter, it might be helpful to calibrate my perspective (for all wine writing is, after all, a matter of personal perspective) by sharing some of my personal favorites with you. 

I tend to take home younger wines, though you will find a few more mature bottles in the list below. I, like you, love a wine that delivers excellent quality at a great price, so you won’t see any expensive icon wine on this week’s list (not that I don’t love these wines as well, but a shopkeeper’s budget has certain limitations). What follows are some new items as well as some well loved favorites, all of which have found a place at my dinner table in recent weeks.   

Also, since I’m going ‘first-person’ on you this week, here is a recipe from my past that has caught up to me in the best of ways.

I grew up in the south where traditional recipes and regional specialties are more respected than in many other parts of the country.  One of the traditional foods I grew up with, and hated, was the dreaded Pimento Cheese Spread. Usually made with ‘American’ cheese, mayonnaise and tasteless pimentos from a jar, this was not a dish that I looked back on with great fondness. Recently, I found myself longing for the flavors of my formative years in Georgia and since nostalgia and food memory are sentiments only barely tethered to logic and reality, I decided to re-try some recipes from my younger days. Not satisfied with simple replication, I wanted to use my more recently acquired Spanish cooking habits to update these traditional southern standbys. I upgraded the ingredients, added a bit of Spanish flair and, well, all I can say is y’all are going to love the results.

 

Kevin’s Pimentón Cheese Spread (serves 6 as an appetizer)

½ lb.                Manchego Tierno Cheese (the youngest Manchego)

½ lb.                 Idiazabal Cheese

5             whole Piquillo peppers

6             pitted green Manzanilla olives

¼ cup   Ybarra mayonesa (made with 100% olive oil)

½ tsp.                 Pimentón de la Vera Dulce (smoked sweet paprika)

1 tsp.     Salt

 

Cut rind off cheeses and grate finely. Dice piquillo peppers and olives. Combine grated cheese, diced peppers and olives in a bowl with mayonesa, pimentón and salt. Mix completely and refrigerate for an hour before serving on bread. Melt the cheese spread on toast under the broiler for a hot version of this updated classic.

 

Aviny0 Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 Without a doubt, the white wine I take home most often is this spritzy, dry Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya. This refreshing grapefruity white wine is low in alcohol but big on taste. It makes a welcoming aperitif for guests and a perfect Sunday afternoon cocktail after yard work or washing the dogs.

 

Puerta Novas Crianza 2001 $12.99 My wife and I were recently surprised by this wine. When first released, Puertas Novas was quite firm and oaky, but time has been kind to this Toro region red.  With dinner the other night this proved to be a supple, rich, balanced wine (made from the local version of Tempranillo, appropriately named Tinto de Toro). No longer strictly a ‘steak wine’, Puertas Novas now has an elegance that reflects both the wine’s pedigree (2001 was an excellent vintage) and the skill of the winemakers (for those who still want the bigger, more structured version, Valpiculata Reserva 2001 is also still available for $23.99).

 

Viña Valoria 2005 $14.99 Many of you have come in looking for the perfect red wine to serve with paella and I very often recommend this young Rioja. A few scant months of barrel age lend the slightest touch of barrel character to this blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano. The pure, plum-like fruit character is juicy and refreshing, never overwhelming lighter foods such as rice or pasta dishes (paella specifically!).

 

Servilio Roble 2006$15.99 This new arrival from Ribera del Duero is bold and ripe. Dark color and a hint of meat locker aroma hint at what to serve with this young red wine. Grilled lamb chops, carne asada, crispy fried Morcilla or whatever meaty meal you prefer will taste even better when accompanied by this wine.  At home we love to serve this wine with the Berkshire pork chops we get from Café Rouge here in Berkeley.

 

Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating. This is the only Reserva Rioja wine made from the rare Graciano grape. Usually Graciano, which accounts for a mere 5% of the annual harvest in Rioja, is used to blend in with the lighter Tempranillo. Graciano lends structure to blended Rioja. On its own, Graciano can be quite firm and tannic, but with 24 months in barrel followed by another two years of bottle ageing, the wine has become quite elegant and mature. Braised beef brisket with pearl onions and potatoes was what I served with this wine.

 

Raspay Tinto “Brut” 2001 $19.99 In the Alicante region along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Bodegas Primitivo Quiles are best known for a fortified wine called Fondillón, made from the local Monastrell grape in a style similar to Sherry. The same old vine Monastrell also goes into this traditionally styled red wine.  The ruddy, brick red tint and savory tannic aroma give way to dried cherry fruit character. This is no fruit bomb. The old-school Spanish style is very well represented in this bottling that wins my vote for best label art too.  I served this with a selection of embutidos from The Spanish Table such as Lomo Embuchado, Jamón Serrano and dry cured Chorizo.

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Holiday Wines, Version 1.3, The Holiday Party Edition

It’s party season. Parties at the office, parties at friends houses, parties at home.  It can get overwhelming if you are not prepared. Long festive luncheons with old colleagues, slow Sunday suppers with relatives from out of town or an impromptu potluck in the break room at work can all be accomplished with ease if you have a well stocked pantry and/or wine cellar.

Foods that require little or no preparation are essential, as are tasty wines in a variety of styles.  A jar of our exclusive lemon stuffed olives, a wedge of 12 month aged Manchego cheese and a frothy bottle of Cava can go a long way toward creating a fun and celebratory atmosphere any time, anywhere. Silky and elegant red wines set the perfect tone at the dinner table and are perfect accompaniments to traditional slow cooked simple meals like Fabada made with genuine Asturian white beans, Chorizo and Morcilla sausage. Little ivory wedges of Almond Turrón and crumbly Mantecado cookies are well matched to aged, dark amber colored Amontillado or Oloroso from Jerez and make a perfect end to any holiday get together.

For a quick and tasty appetizer, try this recipe that I cobbled together after tasting an amazing version of this dish at my favorite local Portuguese restaurant, La Salette in Sonoma. I served this at a Port tasting that I put together a few weeks ago.  Since then I’ve had several requests for the recipe so I am printing it here for those who would like to make it at home.

 

Patê de Sardinha (Sardine Paté)

(serves 4 as an appetizer)

 

1-can Matiz sardines, drained

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup diced onion

2-tablespoons extra virgin cup olive oil

1-tablespoon mayonnaise

1-tablespoon chopped cilantro

1-tablespoon chopped parsley

1-tablespoon Piri Piri hot sauce

1-teaspoon salt

 

Put everything in the food processor and pulse to blend (should end up with a consistency somewhere between chopped liver and hummus). Adjust lemon juice/Piri Piri/salt to taste. Chill for one hour (or over night) and serve with crusty bread.

 

D’Abattis Gran Cava 2004 $17.99 This bone dry vintage sparkler, made from 100% Parellada (one of the traditional Cava grapes) is toasty and green apple crisp with fine bubbles and yeasty aroma. California winemaker, Master Sommelier and Bay Area resident Emmanuel Kemiji is involved in this traditional Catalan winery.  Serve this wine with a mix of fried lemon slices and tiny fried anchovies. Let the festivities ensue.

 

Mont Ferrant  Blanes Nature Cava 2003 $17.99 From one of the oldest Cava producers in Spain, this traditional blend of Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo is bright, lively and very dry. Mont Ferrant also makes the ever-popular Brut Rosado Cava that many of you know and love. This wine is more traditional in style and makes an elegant cocktail as well as a dinner wine. Try it with oysters on the half shell.

 

Can Blau 2006 $17.99 The new vintage of this well loved red from the Montsant region has just arrived. This dark, opulent blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too.  Previous vintages have all scored highly in the press and the new vintage is right up there quality-wise. For a soul warming winter meal, pour this with a traditional Cocido (the Spanish version of Italian ‘Bolito Misto’, or for you New Englanders, ‘Boiled Dinner’).

Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 Here’s an odd one for you. This is the only Reserva Rioja wine made from the rare Graciano grape. Usually Graciano, which accounts for a mere 5% of the annual harvest in Rioja, is used to blend in with the lighter Tempranillo. Graciano lends structure to blended Rioja. On its own, Graciano can be quite firm and tannic, but with 24 months in barrel followed by another two years of bottle ageing, the wine has become quite elegant and mature. If Crown Rib Roast is in your holiday plans, this wine will add the perfect Spanish accent to the meal.

 

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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