Tag Archives: Grilos

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)

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

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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Filed under Portugal, Recipes, 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




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

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)


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


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

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