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Football Wine

Are you planning on watching football on Sunday?  If so, what will you be drinking?

You know where I’m going with this, right? I’m about to suggest some new and interesting wines to pair with a traditional Superbowl Sunday menu, but if football is not your thing (hey, that’s OK) keep reading anyway because these new arrivals are worth knowing about and trying even without any official justification.

This week we have a trio of new wines from Chile made by Bodegas Montes. The Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère blend will all compliment a wide variety of party foods, from chips and dip to chicken wings as well as more traditional accompaniments like fresh ceviche or dry cured chorizo. Montes also makes wine in Argentina under the Kaiken brand. We have the new Kaiken Malbec this week for all you Malbec fans out there (which seems to include pretty much all of us).

Speaking of Malbec, we have another new one to try, this time from the well known Achaval Ferrer winery. Their 2006 Malbec is a top shelf selection at a very reasonable price.  If meat is on the menu this weekend then by all means pour this wine with the meal to taste it at its best. 

Meanwhile, back in Spain new vintages are being shipped our way. The latest arrival here is the 2003 vintage of one of my favorite Priorat wines, Odysseus Tinto. The news here is very good indeed. Not only is this an excellent wine but the 2003 is actually a bit lower in price than the previous vintage (how often do you hear that these days?).

Finally, if your Sunday plans mandate beer rather than wine, I understand. Old habits are hard to change and that’s fine because you can still add an Iberian twist to your beer appreciation. We have excellent Spanish, Brazilian and Portuguese Lagars as well Portuguese Bock and Argentine micro brewery Ale, already chilled and ready to enjoy. 

Now, before we move on to the wines, I have a few event notes to share with you.

My Paella And Wine class on Feb. 25 is still open for enrollment. Check out kitchenonfire.com for all the details.

If you would like to venture further a field (a lot further) to learn about the wonders of Iberian wines you can join Steve Winston and his wife Sharon Baden (the founding owners of The Spanish Table) on a spectacular 15 day cruise. Steve and Sharon have been invited to present a series of wine tastings during a Lindblad Expeditions cruise from Morocco to Portugal, Spain, France and England.  Every evening at dinner, complimentary wines will be served focusing on a particular region of Spain, Portugal or France with brief discussions of the wines, the regions and the grape varietals. April 28, 2008 is the departure date. The details are all here: http://www.expeditions.com/Treasures437.asp

 

Now, on to the wines:

 

Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2007 $13.99 This crisp, refreshing white wine from the Leyda valley in Chile is ripe with tropical fruit aroma. Bright, citrusy acidity and a bit of grassy background flavor make this an excellent cocktail wine. Serve this with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing, and okay, a few chicken wings too. Racy, refreshing, remarkable.

 

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2006 $13.99  This Pinot Noir, made in small quantities from fruit grown in the Leyda Valley as well as the Casablanca region of Chile shows bright cherry color and fresh berry fruit character right up front. The light oak note comes from eight months of barrel age and becomes more apparent as the wine opens.  If you think that all Chilean wines are big and bold, this lighter style may surprise you in the best of ways. Chips and salsa will go great with this wine.

 

Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère 2006 $13.99 This wine is a good example of how, when done right, Chilean Carmenère can be distinctly spicy and rich. The winemakers at Montes blend this traditional grape with a large proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon to achieve a structured complexity that compliments the peppery Carmenère. The fruit comes from the Apalta Valley, one of Chile’s best grape growing regions. Serve this wine with spicy pork ribs or carnitas tacos for a bold and hearty game day treat.

 

Kaiken Malbec 2004 $11.99 Kaiken is a Mapuche word for a particular Snow Goose that migrates across the Andes between Chile and Patagonia, just as Bodegas Montes has crossed the mountains to start making wine in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This dark, rich red wine is 100% Malbec from the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza. Inky dark purple color and concentrated sweet fruit aroma. Ripe berry and spicy pepper flavors will compliment grilled meats and any food that is at last a little bit picante.

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2006 $22.99 This young winery was founded in 1998 but has achieved great success in a short period of time. This wine, the entry level product for the winery, is 100% Malbec from the high altitude Vistalba region. Obvious care has been taken to produce a rich and opulent wine that still retains a certain level of finesse and detail. The ripe berry fruit character balances foundational minerality which, in turn, compliments a bit of spicy/herby background aroma. This is beef wine, from burgers to porterhouse steak. There is really no other option, but would you want it any other way?

 

Odysseus Tinto 2003 $41.99 Wines from the Priorat region in Catalunya have gotten pretty pricy of late, so I am very happy to offer this new version of one of our favorite small production Priorat reds at a better than usual price. Composed of a blend of 35% Garnacha, 35% Cariñena and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon with the last 10% composed of Touriga Nacional, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Caladoc, this unique and intriguing wine offers abundant pleasure for those know to ask for it. This is a plush wine that exhibits dark color, ripe fruit character and that distinctive mineral element that makes Priorat wines so interesting. If you want a big red for the big game, this is it.

 

Cerveza Estrella Galicia $10.99 (6 pack) Fresh, hoppy lagar from the north of Spain.

Cerveja Sagres $6.99 (6 pack) Another tasty lagar, this time coming from Portugal.

Super Bock $7.99 (6 pack) A strong beer (technically, malt liquor) from Portugal. Hearty!

Cerveja Skol $7.99 (6 pack)  One of Brazil’s most popular beers.  This lagar will remind you of Rio.

Jerome Cerveza Rubia $5.99 (660ml. bottle) The first micro brewery in Argentina makes this Belgian style ale in Mendoza. Hoppy and rich, this proves that Mendoza is good for more than just wine.

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

Back to School?

It’s that time again.

Hey, wait a minute.  Is it really “that time again” already? I keep flipping the pages of my wall calendar back and forth between August and September trying fruitlessly to shake loose a few more weeks of summer and wondering where the days went.

Yes, it really is “that time again”, arriving a bit early this year, but the changes in Berkeley (a college town at heart) are already evident.  University professors and staff are gearing up for the fall semester. Campus residence halls are abuzz with activity as new students arrive laden with personal possessions. In the morning, grade school and high school students trudge past my window on their way from home to class and back again in the afternoon, dragging rolling luggage filled with books and homework behind them. In the early evening my local park swells with crowds of young boys at football practice, sprinting back and forth in unison to the short repeated bursts from the coach’s whistle. No question about it, school is back in session.

Wine, of course, knows no season, and while some wines are better with summer meals and others are more suited to winter fare, new and delicious wines (and beer) continue to arrive at The Spanish Table year round.  

In case you have been elsewhere lately and may have missed out on some of the recent new products at The Spanish Table we are playing catch up this week with some highlights from our recent acquisitions.

Here too is an easy plan, not even a recipe, for a simple meal that needs no cooking and tastes best served on an overturned packing box or on the tailgate of your truck.

Welcome back everybody!

 

Kevin’s Moving Day Spanish Picnic

(Serves 4)

 

1 Palacios Spanish dry cured chorizo

¼ lb. sliced Redondo Iglesias Serrano ham

½ lb. Don Alonso Aged Manchego Cheese

1 jar The Spanish Table Lemon Olives

1 jar Matiz Piparras pickled green peppers

1 jar Ferrer Gazpacho

1 sml.  Arte Oliva Ali Oli

1 large bottle Vichy Catalan sparkling mineral water

1 bottle Muga Rosado wine

 

Slice the chorizo thinly on the bias. Tear the pre-sliced ham into rustic bite sized bits. Slice the cheese into thin triangles. Splash the olives and peppers out into a bowl, mixed together.  The gazpacho is ready to go, just serve it chilled with bread and Ali Oli on the side. Crisp, cold rosado and salty, sparkling mineral water satisfy your thirst. ¡Salud!

 

Cerveza:

Jerome Cerveza Roja $4.99

Jerome Cerveza Negra $4.99

Named after the family German shepherd (who’s profile is featured prominently on the label) Jerome Brewing Company is a pioneer in the production of small batch (and I mean really small, as in 5 barrels a day) Argentine ales. Using pure Andean water and top quality ingredients, this small company shows that Argentina’s wine renaissance is spreading to the beer market too. We currently carry the Roja, a bold, hoppy ale that reminds me of some of our local bay Area brews, as well as the Negra, a dark and creamy version of a British stout.

 

Vino Rosado:

Muga Rosado 2006 $12.99 From one of our favorite D.O.C. Rioja wineries, Bodegas Muga, comes one of the best rosado wines of the summer. This pale, salmon colored blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Viura makes a wonderful companion to lighter food as well as being supremely refreshing on a hot afternoon.

 

Artazuri Rosado 2006 $12.99 This dry rosado is made from 100% Garnacha grapes grown in the high altitude vineyards of D.O. Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This perennial customer favorite displays gentle fresh berry scent along with a bright citrus fruit character. The finely detailed aromas and flavors blend effortlessly in this excellent summertime wine.

 

Vino Blanco:

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but the flavor is dry and grapefruity. The assertive bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.

 

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.

 

Uriondo Txakoli 2006 $14.99 This wine 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.

 

Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2006 $16.99 D.O. Bierzo is known primarily as a red wine region, but this Bierzo region white wine is made from the local Godello grape that is more common in neighboring D.O. Valdeorras.  This yellow gold colored wine is fermented in temperature controlled tanks that preserve all the fresh citrus and melon aromas that are typical of the Godello grape. Bright acidity adds to the refreshing quality that makes this such a perfect accompaniment to composed salads, pasta or poultry as well as a full range of seafood.

 

Soalheiro Vinho Verde 2006 $21.99 Typically, Vinho Verde is light, spritzy and simple non-vintage white Portuguese wine. These days, as people discover the joys of Vinho Verde we are seeing more and more higher priced wines from this region. Soalheiro is a vintage wine produced from the Alvarinho (Albariño in Spain = Alvarinho in Portugal) grape. Well known in Portugal as a top shelf Vinho Verde, this wine is just starting to find a market here in the USA. Flinty mineral background lays a foundation for light floral aroma and bright citrus fruit character. This finely detailed and multi-layered wine cries out for choriço and clams, salt cod and potatoes or other such traditional Portuguese fare.

 

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.

 

Arbanta 2005 $10.99 An excellent young Rioja produced from Organic fruit.  Recently rated 89 Points by The Wine Advocate, Jay Miller reviewed the wine, saying “The 2005 Biurko Gorri Arbanta offers superb value, among the best in my Spanish tastings. It is 100% Tempranillo, tank fermented and aged. Medium ruby in color, it exhibits remarkable aromatic complexity for its price point with cherries, red currants, and spice in evidence. The wine is elegant, balanced, and fruity right through the lengthy finish. Drink it over the next 1-3 years.

 

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 2004 vintage shows dark garnet color with black cherry fruit character and balanced oaky tannins that combine to create a picture perfect example of crianza Rioja.

 

Can Blau 2005 $17.99 This D.O. Montsant wine has been getting lots of positive feedback from customers.  Josh Raynolds reviewed this blend of 50% Cariñena, 35% Syrah and 15% Garnacha wine for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and rated it 90 Points. His description matches mine, but his wording is better. He said: “Bright ruby. Focused, fresh and brisk on the nose, with energetic cherry and candied licorice aromas. Intense mineral notes add complexity and depth to the explosive blackberry and cherry fruit, with notes of candied violet and rose coming up on the back. Finishes with superb intensity and length. An excellent value, and built for cellaring.

 

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.

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

Outdoor Entertainment

Among the many reasons to love living in the Bay Area are the numerous outdoor concerts, plays and other performances that reappear each year like seasonal fruits and vegetables when the weather gets warm.

Last night I was at the California Shakespeare Festival pouring samples of a few Argentine wines we carry. Several theater patrons commented on how the fragrant Sur de los Andes Torrontès white wine was a perfect match for the cool twilight hour before the performance.

This weekend I’ll be packing a picnic for an outing (on public transit, of course) to Stern Grove in San Francisco to see Os Mutantes (legendary Brazilian psychedelic band from the 60s) and Los Amigos Invisibles (unique and super-danceable Venezuelan jazz/funk). A dry, spritzy, low alcohol Portuguese Vinho Verde will surely be among my pic-i-nic basket goodies (‘Oh Yogi, this wine is dee-licious’).

The San Francisco Mime Troupe is celebrating their 48th season of free political theatre in the parks around the Bay Area (this weekend in Berkeley at Cedar Rose Park). Usually, as we wait for the show to start, I spread a blanket on the grass and open a bottle of Spanish rosado. The wine pairs beautifully with tuna stuffed piquillo peppers and other light fare (it’s a good match with progressive politics too).

Some of these events take a bit of advance planning and preparation. When you see that an event is ‘free admission’, as many are, you will always need to plan on arriving early and claiming a space for your group or be prepared to enjoy the performance from a distance (sometimes a very long distance). Bring food of course (including wine and extra water), but also a newspaper or magazine to read while you wait and an extra sweater or blanket for the always unpredictable Bay Area weather. Also, though these events are often free and open to the public, a cash donation of some sort helps insure that these cultural events continue to reappear in years to come (don’t worry about the where and the how…the volunteers with the collection buckets will find you).

These events only last until the start of the rainy season so it’s important to get out there and enjoy the cultural cornucopia while it lasts. Here are some trusty favorites as well as some new arrivals from The Spanish Table’s wine department to jump start your pre-show picnic plans.

Cerveza:

Jerome Cerveza Roja $6.99 (660ml)

Jerome Cerveza Negra $6.99 (660ml)

Just in time for the heat of summer comes this lineup of microbrewery ale from Argentina.

Named after the family German Sheppard (who’s profile is featured prominently on the label) Jerome Brewing Company is a pioneer in the production of small batch (and I mean really small, as in 5 barrels a day) Argentine ales. We currently carry the Roja, a bold, hoppy ale that reminds me of some of our local bay Area brews, as well as the Negra, a dark and creamy version of a british stout.

Blanco:

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 The Avinyó Cava that we carry (the traditional Brut Reserva As well as the new Brut Rosado) is always top notch. This small winery also produces a traditional summer wine called Vi D’Agulla (translates literally as ‘needle wine’). This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but only gently sweet. The light bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.

Barbadillo Palomino Fino 2006 $6.99 It’s back! The most popular white wine in Spain has returned in the new vintage. Made from the local Palomino Fino grapes, blended with a bit of Viura so I’m told, this young white wine from Cadiz in the south of Spain is refreshingly simple and bright. Add some melon and citrus and you have the makings of an excellent Sangria blanco.

Sur de los Andes Torrontés 2006 $11.99 For an Argentine version of Sangria blanco, try using this ripe, Viognier-like white wine from Mendoza. Rich, floral aromatics and peachy fruit character call out for some stone fruit and sparkling tonic water.

Granbazan Ambar 2005 $21.99 This excellent top shelf Albariño displays a flinty mineral foundation underlying bright citrus fruit and slightly oxidized complexity. Very popular in Spain, but almost unheard of in the USA.

Rosado:

Artazuri Rosado 2006 $12.99 The newly arrived 2006 vintage of this dry rosado is made from 100% Garnacha grapes grown in the high altitude vineyards of D.O. Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This perennial customer favorite displays gentle fresh berry scent along with a bright citrus fruit character. The finely detailed aromas and flavors blend effortlessly in this excellent summertime wine.

Tinto:

Arbanta 2005 $10.99 An excellent young Rioja produced from Organic fruit. Recently rated 89 Points by The Wine Advocate, Jay Miller reviewed the wine, saying “The 2005 Biurko Gorri Arbanta offers superb value, among the best in my Spanish tastings. It is 100% Tempranillo, tank fermented and aged. Medium ruby in color, it exhibits remarkable aromatic complexity for its price point with cherries, red currants, and spice in evidence. The wine is elegant, balanced, and fruity right through the lengthy finish. Drink it over the next 1-3 years.

Torremayor Crianza 2004 $12.99 Viña Santa Marina is an innovative winery located in the far flung Extremadura region in western Spain. They make a popular wine called Gargola as well as this barrel aged crianza wine made from 100% Tempranillo. Bright cherry-like fruit with firm but well-integrated tannins. An excellent value.

Peique Mencía 2006 $13.99 One of my favorite young Mencía grape wines from D.O. Bierzo has just arrived in the new 2006 vintage. Vibrant fresh cherry fruit character encounters dry oak leaf aroma and flinty background mineral aroma and flavor. Perfect for summer cookouts in the back yard or wherever you may be.

Collectors wines:

Hacienda Monasterio 2003 $42.99 Peter Sisseck of Pingus fame makes this dark colored and deeply flavorful D.O. Ribera del Duero wine. It is a perennial favorite that we receive limited quantities of once a year. Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave this wine 92 points, saying “Deep ruby. Explosive, sexy aromas of cherry, plum, incense, freshly ground coffee and succulent herbs. Focused and deep, with red and dark berry flavors complicated by candied violet, smoky bacon and cracked pepper. A ripe, weighty wine with a dense, chewy texture and compelling freshness, especially for the year. Finishes with a note of sweet cherry preserves, fine tannins and excellent length.”

Hacienda Monasterio Reserva 2001 $72.00 The Hacienda Monasterio Reserva from the phenomenal 2001 vintage has just arrived. Using the same carefully selected fruit as the younger crianza wine, this Reserva sees longer barrel maturation to smooth out the tannins and bring out the dark berry fruit character. This very special wine is very limited in availability. We have one 12 bottle case to share with you, so act soon if you want some for your cellar.

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Uncategorized, White Wine