Tag Archives: hondarribi zuri

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

Favorites, Old and New

The culinary traditions of Spain and Portugal are changing how we eat here in the USA. As these flavors work their way into the hearts, minds and palates of those of us not fortunate enough to have been born into these cultures, we learn to appreciate the new ingredients and preparations as well as the variations within specific regional styles.
As soon as we discover the distinct joy of, for example, Paella, we learn that this iconic Spanish dish is made in dramatically different styles from one part of Spain to the next. “Paella must include chorizo” says one expert. “Paella must never be made with chorizo” says another. According to many regional cooks “Paella made with anything other than rabbit and snails should not be called Paella”. And so it goes, with each individual cook claiming the mantle of authenticity.
Wines too can be the subject of passionate debate due to the numerous stylistic choices made by Spanish and Portuguese winemakers. ‘Tradition’ versus ‘Innovation’ is just the entry point into detailed discussions of style and character within a specific wine region.
At The Spanish Table we like to offer a broad choice to fit every palate, so we try not to take sides. To use this week’s wine selections as examples, we have a new Vinho Verde that offers a fresh new effort from a traditional winery. We have a new Txakolí that may change a few perceptions about what Basque white wine can be. Our newest red wine discovery comes from the Vinos de Madrid region, yet tastes unlike anything else we have previously tried from this part of Spain.
So please enjoy our newest selections in wine, knowing that there is more to choose from, with new discoveries arriving every week.

Trajarinho 2008 Summertime is perfect Vinho Verde weather. This traditional style of Portuguese white wine is crisp and dry with residual effervescence. Our newest Vinho Verde, from the same winemakers as the well loved Muralhas de Monção is a blend of Trajadura and Alvarinho. Put the two together and you get…Trajarinho (clever, no?). Bright grapefruit and lime flavors blend well with crisp mineral back notes and light but persistent spritzy effervescence. $10.99

Itsas Mendi 2008 Basque Txakolí has gone from relative obscurity to cult wine status in just a few short years. We just received the newest vintage of Itsas Mendi, an excellent Txakolí made by Ana Martín, a Basque winemaker who is also one of Spain’s best known wine consultants. After establishing her reputation for top quality red wines in Rioja with Señorio de Cuzcurrita and in Ribera del Duero with Traslanzas, she returned home and started Itsas Mendi. This wine is fuller and rounder than other Txakolí wines. The lean, spritzy grapefruit character has been traded in for richer texture and notes of white peach and apricot. This well balanced offering will appeal to Albariño and Godello appreciators. $25.99

Viña Herminia Tempranillo 2007 Bodegas Aldeanueva makes Herminia from 100% Tempranillo. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel (no oak barrels) helps retain the fresh berry fruit character of the wine. Dark garnet colored, Viña Herminia displays ripe berry aroma and abundant, youthful fruit character. The new vintage has come in at a significant discount over previous years. $9.99

Camino de Navaherreros Garnacha 2008 The ‘Vin Natural’ movement in France is thriving while in Spain this style of wine is only starting to appear. Bodegas Bernabeleva, located in the unassuming Vinos de Madrid region farms bio-dynamically and minimizes manipulation in the winery (no temperature control, only indigenous yeasts). Their 80 year old Garnacha vines produce small quantities of darkly expressive fruit that is used exclusively for this cloudy, dark red. Minerals, wild herbs and ripe blackberry flavors combine in this unfiltered and untamed wine. $12.99

Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2006 Steve and Sharon (from the Seattle flagship store) just got back from visiting this winery in Spain. Sharon wrote this about the new wine: “This rare single vineyard Ribera del Duero red is a blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 12 months in oak barrels, it is an intense cherry color with purple tones. The nose is filled with ripe fruit aromas of black berries and spices. Flavors of tar and boysenberry slowly spread over the palate with glycerin contributing a rich fruity mouth feel. Well integrated oak, notes of coffee and cacao with supple tannins. Concentrated and intense, it has herbal notes with a smooth and persistent finish. A powerful and effusive wine, here is a rare opportunity to experience this wine outside of Spain.” $42.99

Pago de Carraovejas Reserva  2005 The Reserva version of Pago de Carraovejas uses the same estate grown,single vineyard fruit as the Crianza in a different blend. This wine is 78% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. 12 months of barrel age is followed by 24 months in the bottle resting in the dark before release.Bold fruit character balances firm(at present) tannins. This structured, rich, assertive wine will age gracefully for years to come. $86.00



Paella Party in Mill Valley & Berkeley

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 (that’s right, FREE paella!) and pick up a signed copy of The Spanish Table Cookbook.
¡Buen provecho!

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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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Filed under events, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

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

New Discoveries

At The Spanish Table we are always on the hunt for new wines to bring in and share with you. Sometimes we try something in a restaurant or bar that makes us start writing tasting notes on the back of napkins. Other times an eager salesperson will arrive at our door with something exciting and new. Only rarely will a trip to a large wine tasting event turn up anything of particular interest. With hundreds of wines to taste, those particularly unique or special bottles often get lost in the crowd.
Over the last few weeks I have found several wines that are the happy exceptions to this general rule.
At Viniportugal, a tasting of new Portuguese wines, I tried many distinctive (and well priced) wines that are already starting to appear here on our shelves. The Vinho Verde rosé (yep, pink Green Wine) that arrives this week is a perfect example.
A dry Moscatel from Malaga was the revelation of the recent portfolio tasting of the wines from importer Jorge Ordoñez.
Finding uniquely tasty wines is one of the things that makes my job fun, just as finding these same wines on the shelf at The Spanish Table is one of the reasons that shopping here is so much fun. I like finding unique wines. You like buying unique wines. What can I say? It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Casal Garcia Rosé NV
You love crisp, spritzy Portuguese Vinho Verde, right? Have you ever tried a Vinho Verde rosé? I bet not. Aveleda just came out with this pink version of their most popular brand, Casal Garcia. This will, I predict, become one of our most popular wines for summertime sipping. Low alcohol and light effervescence remind me of the traditional white Vinho Verde Branco. The pale pink hue and lightly fruity berry aroma and flavor are a nice change of pace from the regular version. $8.99

Botani 2008
Among the many interesting wines at the recent Jorge Ordoñez trade tasting, this one stood out as particularly intriguing. Botani is a dry Moscatel from the same Malaga region winery that produces several exemplary sweet wines from the same grape variety. The floral, concentrated aroma is classic Moscatel but the palate is crisp and only lightly fruity. This pale greenish colored wine possesses a finely tuned balance of flavors that express a fresh and unique side of this ancient region.  $21.99

Ameztoi Txakoli 2008
With the arrival of the 2008 vintage of Ameztoi, the Txakoli season has officially begun. We will see several more of these Basque wines from the new vintage over the next few weeks but this wine does just about everything I need a Txakoli to do which is to refresh but never overwhelm. Crisp, lean Hondarribi Zuri grapes barely have a chance to ripen before harvest time along the cool, green Cantabrian coast. The resulting wine is light, flinty, slightly effervescent and grapefruit tart. Add some oiled cured cantabrian anchovies, a few pickled Guindilla peppers and a wedge of Basque sheep’s milk cheese and I am pretty much set. $19.99

Altozano Tinto 2006
The good folks at Bodegas Gonzalez Byass who bring you Tio Pepe Fino Sherry are in charge of the Castilla region winery that produce this wine as well as the Altozano Blanco that many of you have been enjoying lately. This wine is a blend of 65% Tempranillo and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, part of which ages in oak for a short 4 months before bottling. Bright Tempranillo fruit gets a bit of structure and weight from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Light barrel tannins add a bit of toasty nuance without obscuring the rest of the picture. $10.99

Monjardín Crianza 2002
Castillo de Monjardín lies in the northwest corner of Navarra, in the foothills of the Pyrenées, not far from the French border. Historic ties and geographic proximity make traditional French grapes more prevalent here. Monjardín Crianza is composed of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Tempranillo. Dark color and cherry/berry fruit character receive added tannic structure form 15 months of barrel age at the winery before bottling. After 4+ years in the bottle the oak is well integrated and the wine is fully mature and ready to drink. This excellent value will only be around for a short time before the last of it is gone. $9.99

Pardevalles Gamonal 2006
The new vintage of Gamonal is in, which is good news, especially if you have been enjoying the recent arrival of several other wines made from the same Prieto Picudo grape. Once thought of as only fit for simple summertime rosado wines, Prieto Picudo is now getting more serious attention. The newly demarcated Tierra de León region is home to numerous parcels of Prieto Picudo, including some older vines. The small, pointy, olive shaped fruit produce tart wines with distinctive minerality. Gamonal 2006 uses 100% Prieto Picudo, aged for 9 monthes in oak to add depth and structure. The final result is dark, expressive and just a bit wild. $21.99

Dia de Las Madres

On Sunday, surprise Mom by  not making her breakfast.
Let her sleep in for goodness sake! But, once she is up and has had her coffee (or whatever morning ritual she normally enjoys) make her lunch. Not just any lunch, mind you. Make her this:

Kevin’s “Te Quiero, Mamá” Best Ham and Cheese Sandwich Ever

1- Acme Twinkle
(for those not residing near Berkeley’s Acme Bakery, substitute a 6″ section of the best baguette you can find)

2-ounces (about 3 slices) of Jamón de Bellota
(the ham alone will run you about $25, but feel free to substitute Jamón Serrano if you love your mother a little less)

2-ounces (about 3-4 thin slices) Idiazabal Sheep’s milk cheese from Basque Country

1-tablespoon Cadi Mantequilla (Catalan butter from the Pyrenées)

Split the bread lengthwise
Spread the butter on both cut halves and fill with the ham and cheese.
Close the sandwich and grill lightly, just enough to warm the bread, on your electric panino toaster (don’t have a panino toaster? Use your “George Foreman” grill instead, turned to low).
Serve with a small green salad and a glass of rosado.

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

Reboot

For many of the less technically inclined among us the on/off button is our solution to all electronic device issues. Everything has them these days (computers, phones, televisions, even cars). When in doubt, start over from scratch by turning everything off and back on again. The circle with a vertical line sticking out from the top is the modern ideogram for renewal (not, as I first imagined, the international symbol for coconut with a straw in it).

After a busy holiday season and a brief break from the newsletter action (by the end of December I was all talked out so I took a few weeks off for some personal defragmentation) it’s time to hit the restart button and share anew with you the ongoing excitement of the Iberian wine world.

New wines from Spain, Portugal and Latin America are arriving weekly here and the year ahead looks very promising. Improved currency exchange rates and lower fuel costs are leading to some price reductions in imported wines while the current renaissance in Iberian winemaking is both fostering innovative new wines as well as creating markets for traditional styles that were previously unknown outside their regions of origin.

At The Spanish Table we continue to bring you a selection of high quality wines at all price levels. In the year ahead we will also post more recipes, offer additional classes and organize new events to share the distinctive flavors of Spain and Portugal with you, our loyal customers.

This week brings a new version of a traditional recipe, the announcement of an upcoming class that we offer only 3 times a year and the release of some of the most anticipated wines of the season. Onward!

Lentejas Con Chorizo (Lentils with Chorizo sausage) is a popular home-style dish in Spain. This dense, meaty stew is perfect cold weather fare. I have lightened up the texture to create a soup that delivers the same flavors in a brothy version more appropriate to our moderate climate. This soup can be made in a vegetarian version by omitting the chorizo and adding a bit more smoked paprika.

 

Lentil Soup with (or without) Chorizo

(makes 6-8 portions)

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                          1 lb. dried Spanish Pardina lentils (approximately 2 cups)

2 qt. water

1 bay leaf

1 large yellow onion

2 ribs of celery (1 rib yields approximately 1/2 cup)

3 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 large leek (yields approximately 1½ cups)

2 large carrots (yields approximately 3/4 cup)

4 oz. Spanish style chorizo sausage (optional) (yields approximately 1 cup)

1 teaspoon Spanish Sweet smoked paprika (1 ½ teaspoons for the vegetarian version)

1 teaspoon whole cumin

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley or cilantro

2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar

Directions:

Rinse the dried lentils under fresh water to remove any dust or dirt. Cut the onion in quarters leaving the skin on. Roughly chop one of the ribs of celery. Combine the rinsed lentils, bay leaf, onion and celery with 2 quarts of cold water in a soup pot (preferably a Spanish earthenware olla). Bring the pot to a boil on the stove and then simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are just cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion and celery.

Finely dice the leek, carrot, remaining celery and chorizo (if using). In a separate pan heat the olive oil and sauté the diced vegetables and chorizo for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and paprika to the pan and sauté the spices briefly to release their flavors. Add the contents of the sauté pan to the soup pot and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. Mince the parsley or cilantro and add to the pot along with the Sherry vinegar. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with grilled whole grain bread and a nice bottle of red wine.

 

 

Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley. The date is Monday February 23rd at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person and includes hands-on instruction to create several tapas and a large paella mixta, all of which will be consumed during the class. Several paella-friendly Spanish wines will also be sampled. Kitchen on Fire is handling the signup for this fun and popular class. Go to their website for more details.

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

Nomad 2005 Jeff Jarvis and Jessica Tomei are husband and wife winemakers working in the Sierra foothills (Jarvis Tomei Syrah) as well as in Chile where, along with fellow American T.J. Evans, they make Nomad from a blend of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Syrah, 7 % Carmenère and 2 % Malbec. This ripe, spicy red is finely tuned and expressive with moderate barrel character and smooth texture. This small production bottling (2,000 cases in total) will reawaken your interest in Chilean wine. $14.99

 

Esboço Douro 2005 This young red wine from the Portuguese Douro Valley is made up of mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca along with a whole laundry list of other Douro grapes as is the tradition in this ancient region where field blending is the norm. Dark color and earthy aroma create a first impression much in keeping with traditional Portuguese style augmented here with ripe, youthful fruit character that is not so common in wines from this region. $14.99

 

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2004 The new vintage of this single vineyard Rioja has just arrived. Composed of the fruit of one large contiguous vineyard in the heart of DOC Rioja (extremely rare in a region full of tiny vineyard parcels) this reserve level wine is 90% Tempranillo with the remaining 10% made up of Graciano, Mazuelo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby/garnet color, moderate oak barrel aroma and dark berry fruit character. 18 months of barrel age gives the wine a tannic core that has softened over the years. This smooth, opulent, plush Rioja is tilted toward a more modern style (more fruit, less wood) without loosing sight of the traditional aged reserva character that the wine is rightfully famous for. At first release this wine was pushing $40 but things are looking better now. $28.99

 

Clio 2006 The “it wine” of the moment, this  blend of old vineMonastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon from DO Jumilla has received some out of the ballpark reviews since its first vintage in 2002. Customers call from across the country looking for this full-bodied, plush wine that combines layer upon layer of spice, vivid fruit and oak. We just got a small allocation from the distributor, most likely the only one for the year and are offering it on a first-come-first-served basis.  $47.99

 

El Nido 2006 The elder sibling of Clio. Using more Cabernet Sauvignon and less Monastrell in the blend (from the estate’s best fruit) adds a firmer tannic element to the complex and ripe fruit character. This wine is built for long term storage and will really start to show its best side in 6-8 years. Extremely limited, we have a mere 8 bottles to offer. Again, no limits on purchase quantities while supply lasts. $148.00

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

Sidra

It will come as no surprise to you, brave readers of this newsletter, that the food and wine traditions from Spain are currently quite popular on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to retailers like The Spanish Table, many unique and delicious Spanish products are finding their way into American kitchens and dining rooms, often for the first time.

In spite of all the recent attention, some of Spain’s regional specialties are still hard to find in the USA. The famous Pata Negra ham, for instance, has only just become available here. Wines from lesser known regions are found only in specialty shops like The Spanish Table.

One product that has been noticeably absent from the US market is the traditional hard apple cider from Spain’s northern coastal regions, specifically the sagardo (sidra in Spanish) from the Basque region along the border with France.

Happily, this tart, yeasty farm house cider has begun to take hold here in America. A few weeks ago I announced the arrival of the Basque cider made by Bereziartua, fulfilling a multi-year quest to find, buy and offer this product for sale to our customers. Today we have just received yet another sagardo, this one by Isastegi. Add to this the traditional sparkling cider from Asturias in three styles (one hard cider and two non-alcoholic versions) that we have carried for years and together they constitute the largest collection of sidra/sagardo on the west coast.

“So what’s the big deal with cider” you may ask?

Like Manzanilla in Jerez or Txakoli in Basque Country, the sagardo tradition is best experienced first hand. The place to learn about this traditional beverage is at a Sagardotegi, the typical cider mill that can be found all across the Basque region.

These businesses are usually part family residence, part cider mill and part seasonal restaurant. In the springtime, barrels of freshly fermented cider are tapped for thirsty crowds that gather for a taste of the new vintage as well as for the traditional Sagardotegi meal of omelets, salt cod with fried green peppers, thick bone-in rib eye steaks grilled over charcoal and walnuts in the shell with honey and cheese for dessert. This meal is usually eaten standing up so as to accommodate frequent trips to the barrel room for refills.

To get an idea of how this works, check out this video made at Bereziartua Sagardotegi. To acquaint yourself with (or revisit) the true flavor of basque sagardo, come pick up one of our two new brands of hard cider and pour them with the following recipe.

Chistorra con Sidra (basque chorizo braised in apple cider)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon, Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup, thinly sliced white onion

1 lb. basque style chistorra sausage

1 cup, basque apple cider

1 bay leaf

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a 10” clay cazuela (or sauté pan). Add the sliced onions to the oil and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes until the onions get soft and start to brown. Slice the long, skinny chistorra (sometimes spelled Txistorra) into bit sized pieces and brown lightly in the hot oil for about 6-8 minutes. If you are using a clay cazuela, bring the cider and bay leaf to a simmer in a separate pan and then add the hot liquid to the cazuela (adding cold liquid to a hot cazuela can crack it). If you are using a sauté pan you can add the cider straight to the pan without preheating it. Simmer the sausages in the cider for 20-30 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. Serve hot with some bread on the side to sop up the juices, and more cider to wash it all down.

Isastegi Sagardo This traditional Basque apple cider is cloudy gold colored with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor. This unfiltered artisan cider displays just a hint of sweet apple character along with apple skin tartness filling in the rest of the flavor profile. At six percent alcohol this makes a nice alternative to beer on a hot afternoon. $11.99

Bereziartua Sagardo This hard cider is unfiltered, cloudy, lightly effervescent and only barely sweet. Yeasty aroma and tart fermented apple flavor are what you want from this most ancient of drinks. In the Basque Country they drink it straight from the barrel in early spring and the rest of the year they drink from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99

El Gaitero Sidra Asturiana This is the most widely recognized brand of sparkling hard cider from the Asturias region on the north coast of Spain. Clear gold color, abundant effervescence and sweet red apple fruit character make this a favorite at parties and family gatherings in Asturias and elsewhere in Spain. $8.99

La Gaita Sidra $2.99

El Gaitero Verde $3.99

El Gaitero in Asturias makes several non-alcoholic apple ciders that are very similar to the regular El Gaitero in flavor, but without the booze. Pretty champagne style bottles with old style labels on the outside, lots of bubbles and sweet apple flavor on the inside.

New arrivals in the wine department:

Salneval Albariño 2007 This younger sibling to the ever popular Condes de Albarei is a fine example of well priced Albariño. Melon and citrus fruit character balances gentle minerality in this wine. Recently The New York Times praised this wine among several other Albariño wines from the Rías Baixas region, saying “Pleasing, with flavors of white peaches, cantaloupe and lemon.” You can read more of this informative article here. $10.99

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

Altos de La Hoya 2006 This wine from Jumilla has always been a benchmark Monastrell from Spain. Ungrafted old vines with fat and lush flavors of deep, sweet dark berries, some black pepper and just a touch of baked earth. Great concentration and richness. This tastes like a much more expensive wine than it is. $12.99

Juan Gil 2006 We just got in the new vintage of this popular Monastrell from Jumilla, made by Miguel Gil, one of the pioneers of this grape and this region. Dark color and concentrated blackberry aroma create the first impression, leading on to sweet dark berry fruit character and a touch of grape skin tannin. A fine example of a pure Monastrell wine. $16.99

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, sidra (cider), Spain, White Wine