Tag Archives: hondarribi zuri

Favorites, Old and New

Wines have seasons and internal rhythms all their own.

The ebb and flow from one vintage to the next creates periods of abundance and moments of absence. With each new vintage a wine changes character, sometimes gently, other times dramatically, and then, of course, each bottle of wine develops in its own way over time.

One of the pleasures of the wine business is getting a first hand look at this evolutionary process. This week I bring you some wines that may be familiar to you from previous years as well as some new wines from well known regions and winemakers.

For one reason or another, the time is right for these wines, each in their own special way. We have some fresh white wines that are perfect for the late summer season and others that have just arrived and are drinking really well right now. We also have some reds that are new arrivals, some new vintages of familiar favorites and others that are freshly marked down in price.

Check out the suggestions below and then come see us in Berkeley for even more seasonal wine inspiration.

Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2007 Most Vinho Verde is non-vintage but this wine is produced each year from a blend of traditional grapes (Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura) from the best parcels of Aveleda’s estate vineyards. This finely tuned Vinho Verde displays fresh citrus and light floral aromas along with bright fruit character and the spritzy effervescence that is typical of wines from this region.

This wine got a nice write up today in the San Francisco Chronicle. Check out what Peter Liem (usually he writes about champagne  for Wine & Spirits, so an interesting perspective for this article) had to say About Vinho Verde, here . $8.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this summertime thirst quencher from the makers of Avinyó Cava is composed of Petit Grain Muscat, fermented to dryness and bottled with a bit of residual effervescence. The rich Muscat scent is present here but the sweetness usually associated with this grape is only barely perceived. In its place is tart citrusy fruit character and background flintiness. $14.99

Talai Berri 2007 The latest Txakoli of the summer is this wine from the town of Zarautz on the Cantabrian coast. Fresh off the boat, this crisp white wine made from the Hondarribi Zuri (as much fun to type as it is to say) grape is full of racy grapefruit-like acidity enveloping a firm mineral core. Grab some of this perfect summer wine while it is in its most vibrant stage. $20.99

Las Gravas 2003 We just got a great deal on Las Gravas. Normally it sells for $29.99 but while the supply lasts we have it for almost half of the original price.

Las Gravas, from Casa Castillo in D.O. Jumilla is a blend of 85% Monastrell and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 14 months in French oak before bottling. This aptly named (Gravas=Gravel) wine displays rocky minerality along with the rich fruit character for which this region is known. Inky dark color (the wine is bottled without filtration) and ripe berry aroma and flavor meld into a harmoniously structured wine with silky texture and more of the aforementioned minerality on the long finish. $17.99

Prima 2006 The new vintage of Prima has arrived. This dark, rich red from the Toro region is made by Mariano Garcia, one of Spain’s most celebrated winemakers. He cashed in his interest in Vega Sicilia to start a family winery called Bodegas Maurodos where the famous Mauro and San Román are made as well as the more affordable Prima. Old vine Tinto de Toro (along with 10% Garnacha) is used for this wine which sees a bit of oak before bottling. Opaque ruby color, concentrated aromas and flavors of ripe berries and a smoky/earthy foundation are combined to great effect in this wine. $19.99

Gorrondona Tinto 2007 The rare and elusive red Txakoli is difficult to find. These firmly tannic wines are lean and full of mineral flavor, with a gentle fruit character that fades quickly with age. Happily, the new Gorrondona Tinto, made from 100% Hondarribi Beltza (grown in miniscule quantities on ancient vines), is super fresh, with dark Mulberry fruit character balancing firm minerality. This is an excellent and unusual light summer red. $27.99


Filed under Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

New wines from Spain

Yes, it’s true. The floodgates are cranked wide open on the flow of Spanish wine into the USA.  

According to the Spanish Exterior Commerce Commission (ICEX), we in the USA now consume over 11 percent of all exported Spanish wine. The value of Spanish wine sold here also continues to grow by hefty margins with each passing year (15% increase in 2006 over 2005, for instance). 

What this means for you and me is that we have more choices than ever before when it come to wine from Spain. From crisp, bubbly Cava to elegant Gran Reserva Rioja (and many others in between) the options and varieties are numerous. 

At The Spanish Table we taste dozens of wines each week, searching for the best in quality and value, winnowing out the indistinct or overpriced choices that invariably crop up in such a broad and expanding market. The small percentage of wines that finally end up on our shelves represent some of the very best that Spain has to offer right now.

Happily, for those of us with a taste for tradition, some of our ‘new arrivals’ are in fact old favorites. The most intriguing element of the Spanish wine world for me is the mix of famous old bodegas (both large and small) and young, new wineries (also ranging from giant factories to tiny artisan projects). This broad range is reflected in our current batch of new arrivals.

This week we are excited to witness the return to the US market of Marqués de Murrieta, a well established and respected name in Rioja that has been off the market here for several vintages. They are back with a new importer and several excellent wines.

Also from Rioja is the new vintage of Conde de Valdemar rosado, a perennial summertime favorite here.

A big hit in its initial release last year was the basque Txakoli called Gurrutxaga. It is back in the new 2007   vintage.

Speaking of white wines, we are very excited about our latest Albariño called Paco & Lola. Don’t be put off by the silly name or the polka dotted label. This is an excellent example of what Albariño can be when made by skilled and attentive winemakers. 

We are also quite pleased with a new white wine from Rueda called Vevi. This flavor filled bottle combines high quality with low price; a combination that always makes me smile.

Finally this week, we have a unique red wine for you. The Arrels Sangre de Garnatxa is made in the Montsant region of Catalunya by local Bay Area winemakers. This small production wine is very difficult to find outside of a few San Francisco restaurants. Those of you who enjoy rich, dark reds will rejoice at the prospect of having this wine in your own personal cellar.

Here then are six choices from among the almost 600 wines we carry


Vevi Rueda 2007  This is the inaugural vintage of a custom blended Rueda wine created specially by Antonio Sanz and the importer José Pastor.  The wine is 80% Verdejo and 20% Viura. The bright lemon color mimics aromas and flavors of fresh citrus. Additional notes of melon and guava with a bit of minerality in the background add depth to this bright and refreshing wine.  $10.99


Gurrutxaga Txakoli 2007 This basque Txakoli wine comes from the little village of Mendexa along Spain’s northern Cantabrian coast (curiously, the image on the bottle is of the neighboring town, Lekeitio). Crisp, flinty minerality and grapefruity flavor combine in this spritzy, low alcohol white. $15.99


Paco & Lola Albariño 2007 This new arrival will delight Albariño lovers. Pale yellow color with green reflections, citrus and mineral aromas and white peach fruit character all combine with bright, assertive acidity in this excellent example from D.O. Rías Baixas. $19.99


Conde de Valdemar Rosado 2007 The newest vintage of this Rioja region rosado is composed of mostly Garnacha with a bit of Tempranillo added to the blend. This refreshing, summery wine is dark pink in color with ripe strawberry fruit character balancing bright, citrusy acidity.  Like a fresh breeze on a hot afternoon, this wine can cool you down and perk you up simultaneously. $10.99


Marqués de Murrieta reserva 2004 We have waited years for this wine to come back to our shores and the wait was not in vain. This excellent, mature red is everything Rioja aficionados look for in a traditional reserva. Brick red color, rich fruit character and elegantly integrated barrel tannins all contribute to the overall experience of this wine.  Josh Raynolds of Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave the wine 91 points, saying: “Fading medium red. Strawberry and cherry-vanilla aromas are complicated by cured tobacco and coffee. Light in body and supple, offering sweet red fruit flavors, gentle tannins and good back-end grip. Deepened with air, picking up darker berries and a pleasantly bitter cherry skin quality. Finishes with an echo of red fruits and vanilla. Textbook Rioja, and drinking beautifully right now.” $26.99


Arrels Sangre de Garnatxa 2004    This dark, opulent wine from the Montsant region of Catalunya has roots right here in the Bay Area. Arrels is a small production (444 cases in total) project between local Chefs Laurent Manrique (Aqua), Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade, Bocadillos), Sylvain Portay and Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji (both formerly at the Ritz Carleton, San Francisco).  The wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from a small, high altitude plot of old vines. Opaque garnet color and rich, concentrated black cherry fruit character along with tart acidity and background minerality. T-bone steaks, cooked rare on the grill would be a good match. Read more about the wine makers here in a recent SF Chronicle article. $36.99 


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Filed under Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Montecillo and More

“Where should I start?” is a common question shoppers ask when faced with literally hundreds of choices in our wine department.

We are proud of our unique selections at The Spanish Table, but newcomers can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of wines and other products, few of them familiar to those who grew up outside of Spain. Even our expatriate Spaniards can find unique and unfamiliar wines from the new wineries that are popping up all across Spain like mushrooms after a spring rain.

So, for those of you who are still wondering what the big deal is with all these Spanish wines you keep hearing about, continue reading (actually, everyone should continue reading, even the true Spanish wine aficionados, because the excellent values may well get you to re-try an old favorite or two).

If you are searching for a new favorite white wine, look no further than our newest Basque Txakoli or this week’s latest Galician Albariño. If your appetite yearns for a new wine to liven up a traditional back yard cookout, then you owe it to yourself to try the new vintage of one of our more popular young red wines from D.O. Yecla on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. For an excellent introduction to the wines of Rioja, check out our new promotion featuring the wines of Bodegas Montecillo. 

Located in the Rioja Alta town of Fuenmayor, Bodegas Montecillo has roots that stretch back to the early glory days of Rioja. Founded in 1874, this winery has crafted traditional Rioja wines for over a century. Now owned by the large Grupo Osborne (the same Osborne that decorates the Spanish roadside with immense cutout silhouettes of their trademark black bull), Montecillo continues to make young white and aged red wines of consistently excellent quality thanks to the tireless efforts of Maria Martinez Sierra.

At her post for over thirty years, Señora Martinez Sierra is a very talented and well respected winemaker. She buys the best fruit (Montecillo owns no vineyards) each season for the wines, elaborating all the red wines with varying amounts of time in French oak barrels. Her preference for bought, rather than estate grown fruit allows her to skip a vintage if the primary material is not up to her quality standards. She uses only French oak to age the wines as she feels it gives a more balanced character to the wine than American oak.  She insists that Montecillo red wines are all 100 % Tempranillo, unblended with any other varieties, a rare practice in a region where this primary grape  can be a bit thin and pallid without a boost from darker and riper varieties such as Mazuelo, Graciano or Garnacha, the traditional blending grapes of the region.

Montecillo wines are excellent examples of delicious and well priced Rioja. For a few weeks we will be selling the remaining supply of the current vintages at significantly reduced prices.

To accompany these wines I suggest a typical regional dish known as Patatas A La Riojana.


Patatas A La Riojana (adapted from My Kitchen In Spain by Janet Mendel, $14.99)

(serves 4 as a first course)


3 pounds potatoes (Russet, Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn work well)

¼ cup Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium sized onion

1 medium sized green pepper

1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoon salt

1 lb. Doña Juana brand Chorizo Riojano

2 cups water


Peel the potatoes and break them into medium sized chunks by inserting a fork and twisting (breaking the potatoes rather than slicing releases more starch and gives an interesting texture).

Dice pepper and onion into ½ inch pieces.

Heat olive oil in earthenware olla (lidded soup pot).

Add onion and pepper to the pot with 1 teaspoon of salt, Fry for a few minutes until softened.

Slice chorizo into bite sized pieces and add to pot. Fry Chorizo until slightly browned.

Add the chunked potatoes, water, paprika, remaining salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.

Cook slowly until potatoes are fully cooked and starting to fall apart. There should be enough liquid left to create a starchy broth.

Turn off heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Adjust salt to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving.



Vino Blanco:

Montecillo Blanco 2005 $7.99 (was $10.99) Pale yellow with green reflections. 100% Viura grapes (the traditional white grape of Rioja) fermented without the use of oak barrels. Abundant melon and pear aroma and flavor, crisp acidity and background notes of tarragon and beeswax.


Oreka 2006 $19.99 Our newest Txakoli wine from the Basque lands in Northern Spain is a stunner. Oreka (a Basque word that roughly translates as ‘balance’) is made from the indigenous Hondaribbi Zuri grape.  Richer and more abundantly fruity than the rather lean and mineral wines that are typical of this windswept coastal region, Oreka displays slight spritzy effervescence and a firm mineral foundation overlaid with flavors of grapefruit and quince.


Nessa Albariño 2006 $14.99 Our newest Albariño is from Adegas Gran Vinum in D.O. Rías Baixas on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Those of you who are familiar with the varietal will be happy to find such a well priced offering and those who have yet to try this refreshing Spanish white wine will be excited by the crisply bright flavors. Josh Raynolds recently reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He summed the wine up nicely.

Light yellow. Spicy citrus and pear aromas are brightened by white flowers and ginger. Racy, precise and pleasingly bitter, with strong lemon zest and pear skin flavors. This tightly wound albarino shows a lively, persistent finish. A very good value and a great choice for summer guzzling.  88 points.


Vino Tinto:

Carro Tinto 2006 $10.99 The new vintage of this popular red wine from D.O. Yecla has just arrived. Composed of a blend of a blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot, this easy drinking red will add spice and contrast to your next backyard cookout. Dark, bold and fruity with intriguing flinty background flavor.


Montecillo Crianza 2003 $8.99 (was $11.99) Made from 100% Tempranillo fruit, aged for 12 months in French oak before bottling. Dark ruby color with initial oaky aroma that gives way to rich cherry and blackberry fruit character. Savory background flavors of minerals and tannic oak.


Montecillo Reserva 2001 $15.99 (was $20.99) Made from 100% Tempranillo fruit, aged for 18 months prior to bottling. Dark garnet color with ruby reflections. Bold aromas of black cherry and minerals. Smooth, elegant texture. Flavors of plum and blackberry. An opulent wine from an excellent vintage. Mature and ready to drink now, but with cellaring potential for at least 3 – 8 more years.

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

What’s New?

I’m so glad you asked. Even though we are now in August, a month when many of us will head to the beach/mountains/countryside for a last bit of rest and relaxation before the end of summer, here at The Spanish Table we are continuing to search out new and delicious wines from Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina.

We have a new Txakoli from the Basque lands, and new Albariño from Galicia. The latest vintage of one of our favorite Rioja wines is now available as are several celebrated Malbec wines from Argentina, a great Carmenère from Chile and the most prestigious of Portuguese red wines.  

We are having a hard time figuring out what to call this growing collection of wines that encompass such a wide range of styles and nationalities. So far we’ve come up with ‘Iberian influenced’ as a catch all phrase to describe our wine selection, but we are still looking for something that rolls off the tongue a bit easier. How about ‘iberesco’?

Well, clearly I’m just making stuff up now, but I welcome suggestions from any of you that can think up something appropriate.

Meanwhile, before you decamp for somewhere other than home, please come see all our new wines and pick up a few for your trip. Chances are there won’t be a Spanish Table where you are going.

Also, make sure to pack something to eat because you never know what you’ll find for food on the road, in the air or over the water. Here is a recipe for one of my favorite travel snacks:


Kevin’s “Don’t make Me Stop This Car” Tuna Sandwich

(Serves 2 adults or four kids)


1 large can Spanish Bonito del Norte Tuna

6 Piparra peppers, destemmed and roughly chopped

4 Piquillo peppers, sliced in half lengthwise

2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard

1 stalk of celery, diced

½ teaspoon Toro Albala Vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

2 soft sandwich rolls (‘twinkles’ from Acme Bakery are a personal favorite sandwich roll)


Drain the tuna only half way. Put the tuna and the remaining juice in a bowl and flake with a fork. Mix in mustard, celery, chopped Piparra peppers, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Slice rolls in half lengthwise. Divide tuna mixture evenly and spread on the two rolls.

Layer sliced eggs and piquillo peppers on top of tuna mixture.

Close up sandwiches and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. As the sandwiches sit, the bread absorbs the moisture from the tuna and makes the whole thing taste better. Serve after a few hours of travel time.



Vino Blanco:

Uriondo Txakoli 2006 $14.99 The Txakoli continues to flow unabated a The Spanish Table. This new arrival is from D.O. Bizkaiko Txakolina, near Bilbao. Unlike the coastal D.O. Getariako Txakolina wines that are made from the Hondaribbi Zuri grape, Uriondo is composed of a blend of 70% Mune Mahatsa and  30% Txori Mahatsa (say that five times fast). Less spritzy than most Txakoli wines, with riper fruit character and less assertive minerality.


Aforado 2005 $11.99 In D.O. Rías Baixas, the Albariño grape is King, but in the O Rosal sub-zone (where Aforado comes from) other grapes such as Treixadura and Loureira also share center stage. The end result of all this blending is a white wine with more peach and pear aromas and flavors than the typical flinty, citrusy Albariño wines. At this price, Aforado makes an excellent choice for buying by the case.


Mesache Blanco 2006 $11.99 We just received the new vintage of this unique white wine from D.O. Somontano. The blend here is 35% late-harvested Macabeo, 35% Gewurztraminer, and 30% Chardonnay. This rich, floral wine displays abundant melon and pear notes. The bold, fruity, multi-layered style will appeal to Riesling lovers, and would pair well with scallops or other rich seafood.


Vino Tinto:

Cune Crianza 2004 $17.99 If you go to Rioja and walk into any small bar and request a glass of vino tinto, chances are you will be served this wine. This blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo is aged for two years (12 months in American oak barrels and 12 months in the bottle) before sale. The new 2004 vintage shows dark garnet color with black cherry fruit character and balanced oaky tannins that, combined together, create a picture perfect example of crianza Rioja.


Clos de los Siete 2005 $16.99 This is a high profile project in Argentina that combines the talents of seven celebrated French winemakers, with Michel Rolland (yes, that Michel Rolland) at the helm to create a blend from all these neighboring wineries. The individual winemakers will eventually bottle their own wines, but as the vines are still quite young, the Clos de los Siete blend is the one currently available product from this very substantial group. The blend here is 50% Malbec, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah. The wine is poised between a big, ripe, typically Argentine style and a leaner, more terroir driven French style, which is exactly what you would expect from these winemakers working in this region.


Luigi Bosca Reserva Malbec 2003 $21.99  From one of the oldest wineries in Argentina we recently received this 100% Malbec wine sourced from estate vineyards located in the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo district of Mendoza.  This finely balanced wine displays the dark color and ripe aroma of a typical Malbec, but the mid-weight tannins and the multi-layered aromas and flavors here are sophisticated and well tuned. This is one of the best Malbec wines I have tasted so far.


Secreto Carmenere 2006 $9.99 The Secreto wines are mid-tier products from the Viu Manent winery in Chile and are intended to express varietal character. The Secreto Carmenere is dark colored, ripe and fruity. A bit of spicy jalapeño pepper flavor is typical of Carmenere grapes and shows up here as a back note. Serve with boldly flavored food. Mexican tortillas and salsa with grilled skirt steak would be just about perfect.


Casa Ferreirinha Barca Velha 1999 $160.00 (extremely limited, only 6 bottles in stock) We have been looking for this wine for a long time now, and are very proud to offer it to you. Catherine in our Seattle store just wrote about Barca Velha and she did such a good job that I am shamelessly cutting and pasting her notes into my newsletter (thanks Catherine). She said “Barca Velha is the [Vega Sicilia] Unico of Portugal, only at half the price. While I knew that the winery was extremely selective about their releases, I was shocked to find out that there have only been 15 bottlings since the winery’s inception in 1952!!! Barca Velha is traditionally a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Barroca from three of Ferreira’s vineyards in the Douro Superior. Ferreira’s winemaker was sent to Bordeaux in the early 1950s to decide on a table wine style and he chose the long aging style of Chateau Lafite Rothschild so this is made on that model.  This wine is only made in vintages with the potential of greatness.  It is aged for 7 years in barrel and bottle and then tasted to decide if the vintage is great enough to “declare” a Barca Velha.  Ferreira’s Board of Directors has to be unanimous in their decision before a vintage can be declared. Declarations average 2 to 3 per decade and this has traditionally been considered the greatest wine form Portugal.

Additionally, Mark Squires of Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate recently tasted this vintage of Barca Velha and rated the wine at 94 Points. He said “The 1999 Barca Velha (Casa Ferreirinha) is Portugal’s equivalent of Grange, the seminal cult wine for a nation. The winery (Ferreira; hence, the labeling “Casa Ferreirinha,” hearkening back to a famous owner from days gone by) that first made it has long since been sold to Sogrape, Portugal’s biggest wine corporation. Some younger winemakers openly questioned whether Barca Velha was a bit of a dinosaur. Nonetheless, in this vintage at least, it seemed superlative to me, a blend of a more modern styling than seen in Casa Ferreirinha wines like the 1996 Reserva, together with a slightly old-fashioned air lingering in the background. No one will confuse this wine with some of Portugal’s well-known, high-end, modern reds like the Symington’s Chryseia or Quinta do Crasto’s Maria Teresa. It is powerful, with significant tannins and fine structure. With decanting (which it had here), it can be approached. Deep and intense, it has a focused attack of fruit on the palate, some darker fruit notes like a touch of plum, some earthiness, and grip on the finish from that fine structure. It also manages to have a little brightness and a certain refreshing note, cutting through the muscular presentation. The texture has some velvet and it was a pleasure, too. It also shows some gracefulness and complexity, and it should drink well for a couple of decades, improving steadily in the cellar over the next several years. There were 2,500 cases produced. Drink from 2008-2022.

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