Tag Archives: jerez

Small Drinks

Past experience has shown that in the beginning of the year, after all the gifts have been given/received and the parties have been thrown/attended, what is most desired is a small glass of something delicious to drink after the sun goes down at around 4:30 in the afternoon.  Once the holiday indulgence has been dispensed with, many of us move into a “small is beautiful” state of mind when it comes to our taste in wines. A little snifter of aged Tawny Port or maybe  a ‘copita’ of amber tinted Amontillado Sherry are the preferred drinks for a season of dampness and darkness, hopefully enjoyed in the comfort of home. Traditionalists may opt for the wing back chair, hard bound book and crackling fire for the full effect. Modernists get to a similar place with a comfy sofa, iPad and flat screen TV tuned to playoffs. Whatever your personal style, know that at The Spanish Table you will find a fine selection of wines best enjoyed in small quantities. Conveniently these wines also come in small format bottles, making them quite affordable too. Here are just a few among the many options available to you either in our shops or by mail through our web site.

15yr_oloroso_maestro__57835El Maestro Sierra Oloroso Sherry
El Maesto Sierra is a small family owned Sherry producer. They make a range of wines, from dry to sweet. They specialize in Sherry  with more age than is typical for the region. Maestro Sierra Oloroso is a dark, nutty Oloroso that spent 15 years in the winery before bottling. Toasted walnut aroma and gentle brandied raisin fruit character are what you find here. $17.99 (375 ml)

px_diosbaco__18319Dios Baco PX Sherry
The wines of Dios Baco are perennial favorites at The Spanish Table. Their nutty, dry Amontillado is delicious as is this dark and sweet Pedro Ximenez Sherry, sold in small bottles. Figs, dates and raisins are what you taste when sipping a small glass of this dense, aromatic wine. It also makes a fabulous match with chocolate truffles. $15.99 (500 ml)

 

otima_10_year_tawny__23444Warre’s Otima 10 year Tawny Port Warre’s, a long established Port producer with a stellar reputation, makes this Tawny Port that blends wine from numerous vintages with the final blend averaging 10 years in age. Spice cake aromas blend seamlessly with sweet red plum fruit character. This bright, complex, medium fruity Port wine will compliment a wide range of circumstances. Pair it with ripe cheeses, fruit desserts or shortbread cookies. It is also delicious all by itself. $23.99 (500 ml)

 

img_3774__92859Barbeito VB Madeira This is a rare blended Madeira that combines Verdelho and Boal grapes. Varietal names are not permitted on Madeira labels unless the wine contains at least 85% of the varietal in question, thus this wine is labeled ‘VB’ as a sort of coded  allusion to what is in the bottle. Two single casks of wine, one of 2001 Verdelho and another of 2003 Boal were aged separately and blended by Ricardo Freitas in roughly equal proportions (a bit more Verdelho than Boal) to create a medium dry wine with the bright acidity and dry nutty character of the Verdelho balancing the darker, richer, light raisiny character of the Boal. $42.99 (500 ml)

Cooking Classes

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The good folks at Kitchen On Fire cooking school have invited us back for another series of Spanish cooking classes. In the next few months you have several opportunities to get some hands-on experience making (and eating!) traditional Spanish food.
On Monday February 21st 2011, join me, Kevin Hogan (TST Berkeley’s wine buyer), as I share my passion for cooking in Spanish terracotta cookware. We will make several appetizers, a main dish and dessert, all prepared in Spanish clay cazuelas. This fun,informal evening is both a class and a full meal. Details and registration are to be had here: https://www.kitchenonfire.com/classes/view/id/1389/

On Monday April 11th I will once again offer the ever-popular Paella class. This is your chance to get hands-on experience making a big Paella as well as several classic tapas and a light dessert. Come with an empty stomach and an open mind. You will be rewarded with a plateful of paella wisdom. More information and on-line sign up can be found at www.kitchenonfire.com ( not yet up on the calendar as of this moment. Call 510-548-2655 for registration and details).

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Jerez – The Final Frontera

“Don’t call it Sherry. Call it Jerez.” That is what Javier Hidalgo said several years ago at a talk he gave here in California. The president of Hidalgo-La Gitana, one of the worlds most recognized Jerez experts, knows what he is talking about. The word ‘Sherry’ has long held associations of crystal decanters full of sweet amber colored wine served from sideboards in stuffy parlors. On the other hand, Jerez is the drink of choice in Southern Spain and is the original wine for pairing with tapas.
Jerez is earning the attention of a whole new generation of wine drinkers as they discover just how wonderful these wines are, especially when served with salty foods like Jamon Serrano, olives, aged cheeses and white anchovies.
The Contra Costa Times recently published an informative article by Jessica Yadegaran (in which we are quoted and listed as a source) about the recent upsurge of interest in Jerez. Increased demand for these unique wines has led to more selections in the market.
We just got in some excellent new Jerez wines from Valdespino, a bodega that has been missing from local shops since the last member of the Valdespino family sold off the remaining stocks of wine in 1999. These are excellent, top shelf examples of what Jerez has to offer. The Spanish Table carries the largest v
ariety of Jerez in the Bay Area so remember that these new wines are just the latest arrivals in our extensive collection.
Valdespino Deliciosa Manzanilla Almost as clear as water, this flinty dry wine displays toasted almond and sea breeze aroma backing up a yeasty flavor of freshly baked bread. Lean and mineral by itself, this wine really works its magic when paired with a broad range of classic tapas. $15.99 (375ml)
Valdespino Ynocente Fino This rare single vineyard Fino, made from Palomino Fino grapes sourced from the famous Macharnudo estate, is the only Fino still fermented in oak (these days most Finos are fermented in tank then aged in cask). Pale straw in color, this wine possesses aromatic notes of almonds and walnuts, yeast cake, toasty oak and minerals. It is denser and more concentrated than a typical Fino. $19.99 (375ml)
Valdespino Amontillado Contrabandista This dark amber colored wine is richly scented with aromas of toasted nuts and burnt toffee. A hint of raisin fruit character comes from the addition of a small amount of sweet Pedro Ximenez wine. Bright acidity maintains the balance of flavors. As an added bonus, the label is fabulous and would make a great gift (I don’t usually mention label art but this one is gorgeous!). $34.99

New Beronia Offerings:

Beronia has been our top selling Rioja since we introduced it to beronia.gifeveryone a couple of years ago.  Many of you are familiar with the current releases of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva as being terrific values and great for many occasions.
To add to this selection, we recently brought in a limited quantity of their old and rare Gran Reservas (including the hard to find
large format bottles) as well as an extremely rare Palo Cortado Sherry and their special Millenium bottling of Oloroso:

1975 Beronia Gran Reserva – $82
1978 Beronia Gran Reserva – $73
1981 Beronia Gran Reserva – $53
1982 Beronia Gran Reserva – $72
1982 Beronia Gran Reserva 1.5 ltr (Magnum) – $109
1982 Beronia Gran Reserva 3 ltr (Double Magnum ) – $170
1982 Beronia Gran Reserva 5 ltr (Jeroboam) – $249
1982 Beronia Gran Reserva 6 ltr (Imperial) – $290
1987 Beronia Gran Reserva – $49.99
1994 Beronia Gran Reserva – $53
1979 Gonzalez Byass Palo Cortado de Anada (Sherry) – $142
NV Gonzalez Byass Millenium Oloroso – $172

Upcoming Events:

Paella Class

The next Paella & Wine class at Kitchen On Fire is coming up on Monday, April 5th at 6:30 pm.
If you have always wanted to learn how to make the iconic rice dish from Spain (or are interested in perfecting your technique) this is your opportunity to get some hands-on experience with a big pan and a bunch of fresh ingredients.
We will make a few tapas while the paella cooks and try a few paella-friendly wines too. Registration is exclusively through Kitchen On Fire on their web site or by phone (510-548-2665).

TapasWalk

After a very successful first season, TapasWalk is back again with a summer schedule of dates running twice a month from April through September. For those who missed it last year,
TapasWalk is a Spanish wine & food walking tour of downtown San Francisco that I do as a personal project outside of my wine buying duties here at The Spanish Table.
You can find all the details at www.salondelvino.wordpress.com

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Time For Jerez

In my time at The Spanish table I have seen a reoccurring post-holiday phenomenon that I hope to turn into a local tradition. After all the rich, indulgent holiday meals, many of our customers turn to Jerez (Sherry) as their drink of choice in the new year. A small glass of Manzanilla, Amontillado or Oloroso seems to be just what we all want right about now.
These traditional wines, unique to Spain, range from lean and dry to dense and sweet. They pair well with a wide variety of foods and can be enjoyed before, during or after a meal. Locally we have more choices than ever for places to try a glass of Jerez wine. Here in the East Bay we have Barlata and Cesar pouring several by-the-glass selections. In San Francisco, Gitane, Contigo and NOPA are excellent destinations for Jerez sampling. At The Spanish Table we carry a broad selection of Jerez wines to suit all tastes. Here are just a few suggestions to get your new year off to a good start:

La Cigarrera Manzanilla This pale, straw colored wine with aromas of fresh hay and sea breeze is completely dry with yeasty scent and flavor. A few salted almonds, olives or some sliced Jamón Serrano alongside a small chilled glass of Manzanilla is a classic Spanish experience. $11.99 (375ml)

San Leon Reserva de Familia Bodegas Argueso makes several grades of Manzanilla. This version is selected from the best barrels and was originally intended for the personal use of the winemakers’ families. Bracingly dry and nutty, this wine displays freshness, balance and a crisp, precise character found only in the best wines from this region. $32.99

Viña AB Amontillado This amber colored wine from Gonzales Byass is quite dry (some Amontillado can be lightly sweet) with lightly oxidized aromas of walnut/hazelnut and toasted oak. Brandy-like warmth adds to the final experience. $16.99

Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso
Dark amber/gold in color, this dry Oloroso from the small Gutierrez Colosia winery displays aromas of beach air, wood smoke and toasted walnuts as well as a hint of burnt sugar and whisky barrel on the finish.  $15.99 (375 ml)

Upcoming Events
Special Guest Chef

Barlata in Oakland is hosting a week long appearance by guest chef Albert Assin from Barcelona. Normally Chef Assin can be found behind the counter at Pinotxo, his tapas bar in Barcelona’s Boqueria market.
Visitors to this famed public market will remember Pinotxo as the small bar in the center of the market where hordes of hungry customers spill out into the aisles as they await a chance to sample chef Assin’s food.
Daniel Olivella, the owner of Barlata (and B-44 in San Francisco) invited Assin to do a guest chef stint here after the two teamed up for a few demonstrations of Catalan cuisine at the Worlds Of Flavor conference in Napa this past November.
Chef Assin will be at Barlata this weekend, as well as next week (with some evenings at B-44 in San Francisco too). Check with the good folks at Barlata (510-450-0678) for exact times and details.

Cooking Class

The recent release of the long awaited cookbook Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking by Paula Wolfert has spurred renewed interest in the terracotta cazuelas, ollas and cocotes that we sell here. We did a clay pot class a few years ago at Kitchen On Fire cooking school in Berkeley and now that class is happening again.
Cooking in clay is an ancient way to transform simple ingredients into delicious meals. All of the fantastic foods for this class, from quick cooked appetizers to slow braised stews and even dessert, will be prepared using Spanish clay cookware.
The date for this class is Monday February 8th at 6:30 pm. Registration is exclusively through Kitchen On Fire, on their web site or by phone at (510)-548-COOK (2665). The class is limited to 30 participants so early registration is advised.

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Aged & Fortified

As the year draws to a close, and with holiday celebrations in full swing, I want to take just a moment to thank all of you for your continuing support and enthusiasm for what we do here at The Spanish Table.
My holiday wish for each and every one of our loyal customers is that you get a few precious moments (somewhere/somehow, in the next week or two) to breath, relax and reflect upon the past year in all its aspects, positive and otherwise. In keeping with my function here, may I suggest that a small glass of aged Port, Madeira or Jerez (Sherry) wine, sipped slowly in the comfort of your own home, is a very appropriate way to contemplate the past and its relationship to the now and the soon to come.These days, young and quick gets all the attention while old and slow gets pushed to the side and too often forgotten altogether. When you drink a glass of 30 year old Amontillado you  acknowledge the benefits that only come with time and maturity. A 20 year old Tawny Port contains wines from many past vintages, only reaching their full potential over decades of slow elaboration. Madeira wines, from that eponymous island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, hearken back to the days of sailing ships and the Age of Discovery, a time long gone that nonetheless still figures prominently in the modern history of Spain and Portugal. These wines teach us, in no uncertain terms, that age has its benefits and that some things (many of the best ones) take time to create. So pour yourself a little glass of history, and another one for your friends and loved ones, even spilling out a few drops on the bare ground in memory of those no longer extant. Here are a few choices to ease you out of this year and into the next one:

Del Duque VORS Amontillado
The VORS designation is a recent addition to Sherry nomenclature, used to indicate wines that are at least 30 years old. These fortified wines are held for decades in the winery, getting topped off each year with small quantities of fresh stock to protect the wine from oxidation. This richly aromatic wine displays scents of dried fruit, toasted almonds and fresh hay. On the palate it is completely dry and elegant, offering up flavors of walnuts, more almonds and the barest hint of raisin-like fruit character . Brandy-like warmth makes this a particularly appropriate wine for sipping on a cold evening. $39.99(375ml)

Apostoles VORS Palo Cortado Palo Cortado is the rarest of Jerez wines. 30 year old Palo Cortado is even rarer still. Drawn from the best barrels in the bodega, Palo Cortado wines are usually held aside for the personal consumption needs of the wine makers’ families and friends. This particular wine, from the famed Bodegas Gonzalez Byass was recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle where Jon Bonné recommended it as one of his favorite gift wines. This amber/gold colored wine offers a sublime combination of the toasted walnut and almond flavors present in the Palomino Fino grape paired with the raisin and fig fruit character that comes from the small percentage of Pedro Ximénez blended into this wine. $39.99 (375ml)

Williams & Humbert Don Guido VOS PX A few years ago the VOS designation was created for Jerez wines with at least 20 years of barrel age. WIlliams & Humbert are a well known producer with significant stocks of aged Sherry. This one is dark mahogany colored with rich aromas and flavors of raisins, dates, figs and baking spices. Dense texture and caramel/toffee sweetness adds further complexity to this rich, sweet sherry that pairs well with dark chocolate. Served in small glasses after a meal this can be dessert all by itself $49.99

Ramos Pinto 20 Year Tawny Port In Portugal, Ramos Pinto is a well loved name in the Port wine trade. This winery owns some of the best vineyard sites in the Douro Valley. Their Quinta da Bom Retiro vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards in the region, is the source of all the grapes for this Tawny Port that is one of Ramos Pinto’s most popular wines. The wine is a blend of past vintages with an average age of 20 years, more or less. This amber colored wine displays dried fruit aromas yet is quite dry on the palate. Toasted almonds, walnut skin and coffee bean notes add to the finely tuned balance of flavors. Serve this wine with salty cured meats before dinner or, alternately, alongside a selection of aged cheeses after a meal. $72.00

Barros 1979 Colheita Port Founded in 1913, Barros is a relatively young addition to the world of Port wines, but they managed to build their reputation with their vintage ports and their amazing Colheitas which have won numerous international competitions world wide. Colheita Port (Tawny Port from a single vintage) is nutty and dry with just the barest hint of fruit character. The 1979 Colheita is dark amber in color with brandy-like warmth and aroma. Nutty complexity and background notes of baking spices and toasted oak create a long and aromatic finish. This 500 ml bottle comes in a nifty wooden box, making a gorgeous gift for someone celebrating a 30th anniversary this year. $93.00 (500ml)

Historic Series Madeira


Earlier this week Eric Asimov wrote an interesting piece in The New York Times about
pairing Madeira with savory foods. He specifically mentioned the Historic Series Madeiras from The Rare Wine Company. These unique wines include a portion of older wines blended with a larger portion of younger stocks intended to recreate the flavor of Madeira from days long gone by.
We are proud to carry these wines at The Spanish Table and I can personally vouch for just how great they are when served during (as well as after) a meal.  I have tried these wines with everything from fois gras and lobster to simple rice and pasta dishes. My personal favorite Madeira pairing leans toward anything involving cheese. If you have not yet experienced this distinctive food/wine combination, here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:

RWC Charleston Sercial Sercial, the driest of the Madeira grapes, creates lean, flinty wines with marked almond aroma and flavor. Toasted barrel character and burnt caramel back notes add to the long and complex experience of this amber/gold colored wine. $49.99

RWC Boston Bual The medium sweet Bual grape is the most popular choice for many Madeira appreciators. This dark amber colored wine is richly aromatic with notes of toffee, tangerine, cloves, burnt match stick, and a hint of brandied raisin.The acidity washes over the palate leaving lingering flavors of minerals, burnt sugar and candied orange zest. $49.99

RWC New York Malmsey Madeira wines made from the Malmsey (or Malvasia) grape reside at the sweet end of the spectrum. The New York Malmsey is dark mahogany in color with rich aromas of dates, figs, raisins and baking spices. Flavors of butterscotch and caramel add to the opulent character of this wine. Bright acidity leaves the flavors practically etched on the tongue. Traditionally served after a meal, New York Malmsey is a dessert course all by itself, but will work beautifully with some aged cheese. $49.99

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Popularity Contest

This weekend many of us will devote ourselves to a trade association’s annual awards ceremony that, over the years, has grown into the enormous spectacle known as ‘The Oscars’.

I love movies as much as anyone (heck, I was a film student in college), but I am always surprised at our collective desire to participate in the Academy Awards. To my jaded eye, the whole thing is a big budget version of ‘salesman of the year’.

You see, back in my corporate days (after I realized that the filmmaker thing was not working out, but before I decided to chuck it all in and sell wine for a living) I was the guy behind the curtain pressing buttons and flipping switches for innumerable awards ceremonies. It didn’t matter who was getting awarded. Realtors, software developers and athletic footwear marketers all got the same thrill out of a bit of recognition and popularity backed up by fog machines, wiggly lights and big screen video images of themselves all choreographed to (almost invariably) Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best‘ blasting from an oversized sound system.

Now we find ourselves in the era of the ‘social network’ where popularity and celebrity have moved into a whole new sphere.

On the internet these days everyone has the same questions:

“Will you ‘follow’ me?”

“Will you ‘friend’ me?”

“Will you ‘link’ to me?”

The personal is now public and the ability to attract a crowd, an audience, a fan base has become a goal for many of us as we go about our daily lives.  Internet sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Myspace have created opportunities for sophisticated self promotion that were previously only available to bona fide celebrities (movie stars, musicians, politicians and so forth) who accept, grudgingly at times,  that public exposure is a part of their job. Thanks to the internet we can now all look forward to not just 15 minutes of fame but a whole lifetime in the spotlight, if we wish.

All this seeking of approval got me thinking about the relative popularity of wines from The Spanish Table (yes, I can turn anything into a wine question). Looking back over the last year or so I can definitely point to numerous wines that have met with great popular success. Few of these wines were supported by high scores or glowing reviews in the wine press but nonetheless, with a little encouragement on our part, these wines have found their way into your shopping basket and onto your table over and over again. So today I offer you a ‘greatest hits’ selection (by no means complete) of some customer favorites here in Berkeley.

Obra Roble 2006 This lightly oaked Tempranillo from DO Ribera del Duero sells out regularly here.  Darkly tinted and abundant with earthy aroma and ripe berry fruit character, this wine from Bodegas J.C. Conde, known for their much more expensive ‘Neo’, is a well priced expression of typical Spanish style from this well loved region. $10.99

Peñafiel Joven 2004 This really is a wine that people buy by the box. Our most popular ‘house wine’ is an unoaked Tempranillo from DO Ribera del Duero. The years have been kind to this wine. The juicy, assertive flavor has softened with age, creating a smooth wine with gentle fruit character (more mulberry than blackberry) and dusty minerality. $6.99

D’Abbatis Blanc de Blanc 2005 This bone dry vintage sparkler, made from 100% Parellada (one of the traditional Cava grapes) is toasty and crisp with fine bubbles and yeasty aroma. A hint of grapefruit and green apple add complexity and balance to this sparkling wine that always sells out quickly. $17.99

Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado I would be remiss if I did not mention this well loved and darkly tinted bubbly wine even though I just put it in the newsletter (again) last week. This berry scented yet still dry and refreshing Cava not only looks great in the glass but also offers up classic Cava aroma and flavor at a very reasonable price. $14.99

Fefiñanes Albariño 2007 America has recently realized that Spain makes excellent white wines. The grape responsible for this awakening is Albariño and in DO Rías Baixas few Albariños are as well made as Fefiñanes. This is to be expected as they have been making wine in this region longer than just about everyone else. This is a finely balanced wine that blends lean minerality with tart citrus fruit character. Crisp and refreshing, this top shelf Albariño has been a great success vintage after vintage. $24.99

Dios Baco Amontillado In the Jerez region of southern Spain, a small glass of dry Sherry is  the cocktail of choice. Here in the USA Jerez wines have suffered from years of misperception (no, Sherry is not all treacle sweet), but thanks to wines like Dios Baco Amontillado that stereotype is starting to fade from view. This amber/gold colored wine is nutty and dry, with just a hint of raisiny fruit character in the background. Customers at The Spanish Table have chosen this wine year after year as a favorite choice when just a little glass of something delicious is in order. $22.99

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

Holiday Wine Bargains

The evidence is clear:

  • Spanish sweets (turrones, mantecados, polvorones, roscos de vino, etc.) are piled high in the center of the store.
  • White icicle lights are strung up over the shelves.
  • Hector is dressing up the front window with tiny evergreen trees and spray-on snow.
  • Augie Rios is singing “Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus?” over and over on the iTunes.

The Holiday season has most definitely arrived at The Spanish Table.

Are you ready?

I am.

I’ve been shopping, shopping, shopping for wines that will enliven your holiday season without emptying your wallet. The news in this regard is very good. Wholesalers are eager to move more inventory during this slower than normal season and have offered us many great deals on numerous excellent wines from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile. I am buying bunches of these wines and stacking them to the ceiling to ensure that you all get a chance to partake in the bargains that we normally do not see at this time of year.

Check out the following new items (plus a few repeats for those of you who have been occupied elsewhere lately) that are guaranteed to get your wine cellar in shape for the Holiday Season.

Aforado 2005 Albariño grapes (along with small percentages of Caino and Loureira) go into this crisp, dry white wine from Galicia on Spain’s Atlantic coast. Abundant citrus fruit character with a foundation of fine minerality. A few years of bottle age have softened the acidity and mellowed the fruit character, creating a gentle version of what was once a tart, tangy wine. When first released this was a $15 wine, but is now ‘house wine’ priced at $6.99 (with a special discounted ‘house wine’ price of $5.99 when purchased by the case).

Peñafiel Joven 2004 Young, lightly oaked Ribera del Duero wines have been growing in popularity lately. Peñafiel Joven spends a few brief months in oak, adding the merest whiff of barrel character to this darkly colored, richly flavored red wine fashioned from the thick skinned Tinto Fino grape. $6.99 ($5.99/each, by the case)

Luis Alegre Joven 2006 This light, youthful, unoaked Tempranillo, made in the small Rioja region hill town of Laguardia is a traditional style of red wine made using the maceración carbonica method of whole cluster fermentation that produces fresh, fruity wines in a matter of weeks. This style is favored by the local winemakers in Spain but is not seen very often in the export market where mature, aged wines predominate. This bright, floral red can be served alone, with assorted tapas or at the beginning of a meal as a starter wine. $7.99 (was $12.99)

Servilio Roble 2006 We featured this lightly oaked Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero earlier in the year as one of our Wine Club wines. This dark, full bodied wine is produced from estate grown Tinto Fino and displays ripe fruit character, earthy aromas and moderate complexity. Originally priced at $15.99, we have the remainder of the 2006 vintage priced at $10.99.

Hidalgo Clásica Amontillado This well priced Amontillado Sherry from the famous Bodegas Hidalgo–La Gitana exhibits light raisin fruit character as well as abundant toasted almond aroma and flavor. This medium dry Sherry makes an excellent accompaniment to full flavored cheeses, cured meats and other salty snacks. $11.99

Nectar PX This sweet sherry, made by Gonzalez Byass (the makers of Tio Pepe Fino) is golden amber colored, richly sweet and aromatic. Dried fig and raisin flavors combine with a hint of nutty background flavor. An excellent way to finish a big holiday meal. $17.99

Cyan Crianza 2002 This textbook Toro displays dark garnet color, dense texture and heady aromas of black coffee, cherry brandy and tannic oak. The flavor is ripe and bold, with black cherry fruit character and notes of cocoa powder and coffee bean on the finish. Made from the fruit of 20-30 year old Tinto de Toro vines, this wine normally sells for $21.99 but is now available for $14.99.

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

Wine Strategy

Everywhere I turn these days, I find people watching their budgets more closely than before.  As the current gyrations of financial markets continue, increasing uncertainty leads to difficult choices about where to spend our dwindling resources. In tough economic times we all need to prioritize our expenses.

When it comes to putting wine on the dinner table, the good news is that frugality does not need to include deprivation. What is needed is a good strategy.

With some careful shopping, excellent wines can be found for very reasonable prices. I write this with confidence because my primary responsibility around here is to find wines that combine high quality with low price.

For those of you who have shopped at The Spanish Table for years, this is not news. You know that Spain and Portugal are consistent sources of great wine values. Last year we added wines from Argentina and Chile to our collection because we saw the ever-increasing level of quality and value coming from these countries. In the last month we have started carrying a few Iberian style wines from right here in California that compare favorably in price and quality to their counterparts from distant shores.

My (admittedly partisan) coping strategy is simple, if a bit blunt. Tough times require good wine.

A simply prepared dinner, accompanied by a uniquely delicious bottle of wine is a surefire stress reducer.  The company of family and friends around the dinner table is both gratifying and economical.  Share a well made and well priced wine with your friends and you will earn both their gratitude and their respect.

Currently, The Spanish Table carries over 160 wines that are priced under $15 per bottle, with an additional 150 wines that come in under $30 per bottle. Included among these are some new wines that just arrived this week.

Continue reading to check out our latest new wines and remember that this is just a sample of the distinctly delicious and oh so affordable wines that you will find every day at The Spanish Table.

 

Hidalgo Clásica Amontillado This well priced Amontillado Sherry from the famous Bodegas Hidalgo–La Gitana exhibits light raisin fruit character as well as abundant toasted almond aroma and flavor. This medium dry Sherry makes an excellent accompaniment to full flavored cheeses, cured meats and other salty snacks. $11.99

 

Calcari 2007 If you are weary from drinking oaky white wines loaded with the flavors of coconut, vanilla and melted butter then this may well be the wine you have been searching for. Pares Balta, a Catalan winery in the heart of D.O. Penedès, makes this white wine from the local Xarel-l0 (more or less pronounced cha-rel-OH) grape usually reserved for the production of sparkling Cava. This unoaked, single varietal wine is stripped bare of all superfluous elements, leaving behind a crisp wine that is flinty and lean with tart grapefruit flavor and chalky minerality. $16.99

 

Solà Fred 2006 In the Montsant region of Catalunya, Celler el Masroig makes Solà Fred, a blend of 90% Cariñena and 10% Garnacha, fermented in tank without passing through any period of ageing in oak barrels. The result is a fresh, light, balanced wine with expressive fruit character and gentle grape skin tannins. Clear ruby color, abundant fresh berry aroma, bright acidity and almost weightless texture combine to create a wine that refreshes the palate and stimulates the appetite. $11.99

 

Luzon Verde 2007 This is a big wine for a small price. We just received the new 2007 vintage of this crowd pleasing 100% Monastrell wine from the Mediterranean Jumilla region. Bodegas Luzon makes this wine from their organically farmed vineyard (their other wines are not organic). Dark color, bold fruit character and bright acidity combine to express the youthful, primary quality of this rich red wine. $10.99

 

Alaia 2005 This dark, robust red is a blend of 50% Prieto Picudo (a little known grape that thrives in this region) along with 45% Tempranillo and 5% Merlot. Aromas of mushrooms and fresh earth encounter ripe blackberry fruit character and mid-weight barrel tannins (the wine spends 9 months in oak). A spicy finish rounds out the picture. $12.99

 

Tajinaste Tinto Tradicional 2007 This unique wine comes from the Orotava Valley of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands.  Agustín García founded Bodegas Tajinaste in 1981. He produces this wine from the local Listán Negro grape. This unoaked wine (they make a barrel aged red too) is cloudy lavender in color with light texture and sweet floral perfume. Firm minerality creates a foundation which supports fresh mulberry fruit character and gentle tannins.  $21.99

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

A Blogging We Shall Go

If you were wondering who the last person in the Bay Area to get a blog is, you just found him.

Yes, I have finally joined the crowd (‘come on, all the kids are doing it’) and re-purposed this newsletter in an on-line version. The same newsletter that you now receive is also posted at www.spanishtable.wordpress.com along with an archive of previous editions that grows day by day.

If you have ever wanted to go back and find a favorite recipe, or share a wine description with friends who are not on the email list, you can now search or browse through years worth of past newsletters. You can also respond to my weekly chatter with thoughts and perspectives of your own. You can get RSS updates of new content as soon as it is posted (exciting, no?) and also link to the site from your own blog.

Of course, if none of this on-line stuff holds any allure for you, the email version will continue just as it does now.

Meanwhile, here in Berkeley we are receiving our annual but short lived allotment of fresh piquillo peppers from those intrepid folks at Happy Quail Farms.

These sweet red peppers, originally from the Navarra region in Northern Spain, are usually only found in cans and jars, but for a brief period you can experience the distinct joy of fresh piquillos grown nearby in East Palo Alto.

These thick skinned peppers need to be roasted to bring out their best flavors. It is a simple process that can be done on the barbecue grill or over a gas flame on the stove. A short video that I made a while back that illustrates the method of preparing fresh piquillos at home can be found here:

Getting back to wine, we have some new ‘house wines’ from Chile this week as well as a few new arrivals from Argentina and Portugal. Check out the new stuff below.

Viu Manent Sauvignon Blanc 2007 This bright, aromatic white wine from the Colchagua Valley in Chile is the latest of our ‘house wines’ (all priced at $6.99 per bottle with a special price of $5.99 per bottle in a full mix-n-match case of ‘house wines’). Abundant floral aroma and refreshing citrus and melon flavor. $6.99

Viu Manent Carménère 2007 This varietal wine from the Colchagua valley in Chile features the local Carménère grape in a ripe, youthful style that is a perfect match for spicy food. Dark purple color mimics dark berry fruit character with added contrast from subtle notes of jalapeño pepper. $6.99

La Guita Manzanilla Our friends at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants are (sadly) no longer importing this delicious dry Sherry. We have a case or two left of the small 375ml size, after which there will be no more La Guita for the foreseeable future. Now is your last chance to pick up a bottle of this pale straw colored white wine that combines aromas of sea breeze and freshly mowed hay with flavors of chamomile and toasted almonds. $8.99 (375 ml)

Tiza Malbec 2005 This Argentine red wine from the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo region in Mendoza is produced from estate grown old vine Malbec. Aged in barrel for 12 months, this dark, full bodied wine has abundant ripe fruit character to balance the assertive oaky tannins. The Wine Advocate rated this wine at 90 points, describing it as “a ripe, smooth-textured, spicy wine with vibrant fruit, silky tannin, and a fruit-filled finish. $17.99

Chaminé 2007 Cortes de Cima is a small family owned winery in the Alentejo region of Portugal run by the husband and wife team of Hans and Carrie Jorgensen. Hans is originally from Denmark and Carrie is an American (and a Cal alumna to boot). They have found a home in the small town of Vidigueira where they now raise their kids and make their wines. Chaminé is a youthful, unoaked blend of 54% Aragonez (aka Tempranillo), 36% Syrah, 6% Touriga Nacional, 3 % Trincadeira and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh, lively fruit character blends effortlessly with soft, velvety grape skin tannins and a bit of minerality on the finish. $17.99

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

Strike

It happens every time I travel in Western Europe. Soon after arriving (sometimes even during the flight over) I discover that whatever plans I have made for a certain day will require significant alteration because of one of several varieties of huelga de trabajo (labor strike). Sometimes it’s the bus drivers or garbage collectors and other times it’s the museum ticket takers or other less than crucial service providers, but still it always comes as a surprise to me the visiting foreigner and has a way of messing up my plans. Of course it could also be a Saint’s birthday, bank holiday or other state mandated day off that brings everything to a full stop, leaving us hapless tourists to wander aimlessly in search of amusement, which helps explain why the local residents never seem too put out by the break from routine. They are used to it.

At present, truck drivers in several EU countries are staging protests over the cost of fuel. Unlike the ‘vacation surprises’ that don’t make much news over here, these current strikes are being felt far and wide. The effects are particularly noticeable in the world of imported wine. Suppliers here are running out of certain products and have no estimate on when they will receive new shipments.

So what are wine drinkers to do in this moment of uncertainty? Fear not, I say, for we have plenty of options and choices still available. While the flood of new products is experiencing a temporary lull, we still have hundreds of wines in stock from all across Spain and Portugal (Argentina and Chile too). If your favorite brand is momentarily missing from the shelf, take this opportunity to try a neighboring wine with similar characteristics. It is just like being on a trip to Spain and realizing that you have to change you plans because the trains are not running or your favorite restaurant has abruptly closed for a month long vacation (a month? what must that be like?) leading you to try some alternate place that can often turn into a wonderful new experience.

Speaking of new experiences, this Sunday, June 29th, Berkeley will host the 3rd annual International Food Festival. The Spanish Table will be cooking up a big paella and handing out samples right here in the store starting at 1 pm. This has been one of the big hits of the festival in previous years and will be a tasty introduction to any of you that have yet to experience the fun and excitement of paella first hand.

I will be demonstrating a simple and delicious tapa recipe at 3:30 pm on the Kitchen On Fire cooking stage in the bank parking lot down the street from The Spanish Table. Here is the recipe I will be doing. Come see me on Sunday and get a taste of this quick and easy appetizer, and then take this recipe home and make this for yourself.

I’ll see you at the fiesta!

 

Olivada and Piquillo Montadito (makes about 35-40)

 

1 lb. pitted olives (green or black)

1 sml can of anchovies (55gr./2 oz. net weight)

1 clove garlic

1 sml. Jar piquillo peppers (185 gr./6.5 oz. net weight)

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 ‘baguette’ style French bread

 

Pit olives if necessary. Slice peppers into thin strips. Slice bread into 1/2 inch rounds. Finely mince garlic and combine with olives, anchovies and olive oil in a food processor. Process until mostly smooth. Add a bit more oil if it seems too chunky (it should be spreadable). Spread one teaspoon of olivada on each slice of bread, edge to edge. Garnish with one strip of pepper. Serve.

 

While we await new products, here are some ‘greatest hits’ from recent newsletters:

 

Luis Pato Espumante Bruto This is the first Portuguese sparkling wine to arrive here at The Spanish Table. Luis Pato, the celebrated and somewhat controversial wine maker works in the Beiras region of Portugal. This sparkling wine is made mostly from the Maria Gomes grape and (starting with this bottling) also includes 5% Arinto in the blend. Lean toasty aroma and tart, leesy fruit character combine with frothy effervescence to create a uniquely refreshing wine. $15.99

 

Bereziartua Apple Cider At last, it has arrived! Many of us have been waiting for years to get our hands on some genuine Basque sidra. 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 from harvest time through the winter and then in spring and summer they drink the rest from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99

 

Raventos Perfum de Vi Blanc 2005 This wine comes from Raventos i Blanc, the makers of one of our best Cavas. This blend of 60% Macabeo and 40% Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya has exchanged its youthful boldness for mature spiciness. Aromas of wintergreen, allspice and green herbs add unusual complexity to this unoaked white wine, underscoring what I perceive as a bit of ginger ale-like flavor (store manager Caty says she tastes “afri-cola”) on the palate. Intriguing! $8.99

 

Nuevomundo Cabernet/Carmenere Reserve 2005 This Chilean blend of organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from the Maipo Valley is dark and spicy with underlying complexity from 14 months of oak barrel ageing. The more firmly structured Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 60% of the blend and finds counterpoint in the spicy Carmenere which accounts for the other 40%. $11.99

 

Viña Catajarros Élite Rosado 2007 The Cigales region in northern Spain is, along with Navarra, the traditional home of many excellent rosado wines. This particular wine (the first 2007 rosado to arrive from Spain) is produced mostly from Tempranillo with, interestingly, 10% white Verdejo added to the blend. Vivid rose pink color and strawberry aroma blends well with watermelon fruit character and a racy jolt of acidity (from the Verdejo) that maintains the bright, refreshing quality of this wine. $12.99

 

Tio Pepe The best known Fino on the planet is back with a new distributor after a brief hiatus. Gonzalez-Byass makes Tio Pepe from the Palomino Fino grape in the Jerez region of Southern Spain. This dry, nutty wine is ubiquitous in Andalucia and is a perfect accompaniment to toasted almond, olives, cured meats, cheeses and other salty foods. The price has gone down too (how often do you hear that these days), so try some for yourself and see what the fuss is all about. $16.99

 

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Filed under Argentina, Chile, Fortified Wine, Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, rosado, sidra (cider), Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

WPLJ

One of the big differences between this newsletter and a blog(note: this was written before transferring everything to this format) is that you the readers do not get to comment on what I write and have it posted alongside my weekly ramblings. Occasionally a reader responds to something I’ve written, adding context or perspective that I had not considered, leading me to share their insights with the rest of you. This was the case last week when Jim Kaatz commented on my ‘Portonic’ cocktail recipe. He asked, “Have you ever heard the Mother’s of Invention (Frank Zappa) song WPLJ (white port and lemon juice)? I always thought they were kidding! I guess not!”

Ah yes, Frank Zappa. His name, like a pebble tossed into the cloudy pool of my personal memory, creates concentric waves of nostalgia. Growing up in Atlanta Georgia in the 1970s, high school would have been less educational and much duller without Frank Zappa’s articulate rebelliousness and mind-blowing electric guitar solos (an irresistible combination for just about every teenaged male born in the last fifty years). I had forgotten that MPLJ was the first track off of his 1970 album Burnt Weenie Sandwich. But ‘FZ’ (fanboys called him that even before we ourselves were called ‘fanboys’), genius composer that he was, did not actually write MPLJ.

A quick search of the internets (ain’t modern life grand?) reveals that MPLJ does indeed stand for White Port and Lemon Juice, the favorite drink of the original composer, ‘Lord’ Luther McDaniels who originally recorded the song back in 1956 (here in Berkeley, no less) with his short-lived doo-wop group called The Four Deuces. Before Zappa covered the song in 1970 the original version was used as the jingle for Italian Swiss Colony wines (another cue for nostalgia) to sell their, you guessed it, white port.

After the Zappa version came out in 1970, the New York radio station WABC changed their name to WPLJ and featured the kind of music, ‘album oriented rock’, or AOR in radio lingo, that I loved during that time (Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra and so on), but I didn’t grow up in New York so that is perhaps more of a topic for someone else.

Type WPLJ into youtube (we didn’t have that back in the 70s, let me tell you) and you can listen to both versions of this classic song (the links, for the search-impaired are http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNA-jRm-nvQ for the original, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLFjkEpwGfE&feature=related for the Zappa cover). 

Many thanks to Jim Kaatz for starting me down this path of internet fueled remembrance. Also, though Frank Zappa is no longer with us, ‘Lord Luther’ is supposedly (if the internet, source of all wisdom, can be trusted) still making music and living in Salinas, just as he did fifty years ago as a younger man singing with The Four Deuces.

But I digress. What is new in the wine world at The Spanish Table? Plenty, but this week only some of it is actually wine. I am very excited to (finally) report that we have secured a supply of Basque apple cider at an excellent price. We also have Spanish and Portuguese beer, new Manzanilla Sherry and a sparkling white wine from Portugal that is growing in popularity with each passing week. And, yes, we have plenty of white Port and more new wines for summertime sipping too, so whatever your personal preferences are beverage-wise, come visit and see what’s happening here in the heart of Berkeley, home of great things to eat, drink and sing about.

“Well I feel so good, I feel so fine
I got plenty lovin’, I got plenty wine
White Port & Lemon Juice,
White Port & Lemon Juice,
I said White Port & Lemon Juice,
Ooh what it do to you!”

Bereziartua Apple Cider Many of us have been waiting for years to get our hands on some genuine Basque sidra. 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 from harvest time through the winter and then in spring and summer they drink the rest from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99

Estrella Galicia Beer When visiting wineries in Spain I often get the same bizarre sounding question. “Would you like a beer before we taste the wines?” Traveling in Spain can be hot, thirsty work, so this is actually a reasonable way to proceed. While Spain has many excellent beers, this excellent lagar from Galicia is currently the only Spanish beer available here in California. Blonde color, yeasty aroma and crisp flavor are just what you want after a hot day to reawaken the appetite. $10.99 (6 pack)

Sagres Beer In Portugal, this is a major brand. Sagres is served everywhere. This classic lagar style brew is crisp and light with clean hoppy flavor. It makes a perfect accompaniment to a classic Portuguese sardine sandwich. $7.99 (6 pack)

Luis Pato Espumante Bruto I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago. We ran out for a brief period, but it is now in stock once again. This is the first Portuguese sparkling wine to arrive here at The Spanish Table. Luis Pato, the celebrated and somewhat controversial wine maker works in the Beiras region of Portugal. This sparkling wine is made mostly from the Maria Gomes grape and (starting with this bottling) also includes 5% Arinto in the blend. Lean toasty aroma and tart, leesy fruit character combine with frothy effervescence to create a uniquely refreshing wine. $15.99

San León Manzanilla Clásica Previously unavailable in the USA, San León is a new addition to our selection of Jerez wines. Herederos de Argüeso has been making wine in Jerez since 1822. They produce a full range of Sherry but they specialize in the production of Manzanilla. This wine, with an average age of 8 years, is palest straw colored and full of yeasty, saline aroma (like a fresh sea breeze) and toasted almond and chamomile flavors. If you are a Manzanilla lover this is an excellent new wine to add to your list. If you have not yet had a chance to try this most distinctive Spanish wine, this is the perfect place to start. $12.99 (375ml)

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Filed under beer, Portugal, Spain, White Wine