For many of the less technically inclined among us the on/off button is our solution to all electronic device issues. Everything has them these days (computers, phones, televisions, even cars). When in doubt, start over from scratch by turning everything off and back on again. The circle with a vertical line sticking out from the top is the modern ideogram for renewal (not, as I first imagined, the international symbol for coconut with a straw in it).
After a busy holiday season and a brief break from the newsletter action (by the end of December I was all talked out so I took a few weeks off for some personal defragmentation) it’s time to hit the restart button and share anew with you the ongoing excitement of the Iberian wine world.
New wines from Spain, Portugal and Latin America are arriving weekly here and the year ahead looks very promising. Improved currency exchange rates and lower fuel costs are leading to some price reductions in imported wines while the current renaissance in Iberian winemaking is both fostering innovative new wines as well as creating markets for traditional styles that were previously unknown outside their regions of origin.
At The Spanish Table we continue to bring you a selection of high quality wines at all price levels. In the year ahead we will also post more recipes, offer additional classes and organize new events to share the distinctive flavors of Spain and Portugal with you, our loyal customers.
This week brings a new version of a traditional recipe, the announcement of an upcoming class that we offer only 3 times a year and the release of some of the most anticipated wines of the season. Onward!
Lentejas Con Chorizo (Lentils with Chorizo sausage) is a popular home-style dish in Spain. This dense, meaty stew is perfect cold weather fare. I have lightened up the texture to create a soup that delivers the same flavors in a brothy version more appropriate to our moderate climate. This soup can be made in a vegetarian version by omitting the chorizo and adding a bit more smoked paprika.
Lentil Soup with (or without) Chorizo
(makes 6-8 portions)
Ingredients: 1 lb. dried Spanish Pardina lentils (approximately 2 cups)
2 qt. water
1 bay leaf
1 large yellow onion
2 ribs of celery (1 rib yields approximately 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek (yields approximately 1½ cups)
2 large carrots (yields approximately 3/4 cup)
4 oz. Spanish style chorizo sausage (optional) (yields approximately 1 cup)
1 teaspoon Spanish Sweet smoked paprika (1 ½ teaspoons for the vegetarian version)
1 teaspoon whole cumin
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper.
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley or cilantro
2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar
Rinse the dried lentils under fresh water to remove any dust or dirt. Cut the onion in quarters leaving the skin on. Roughly chop one of the ribs of celery. Combine the rinsed lentils, bay leaf, onion and celery with 2 quarts of cold water in a soup pot (preferably a Spanish earthenware olla). Bring the pot to a boil on the stove and then simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are just cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion and celery.
Finely dice the leek, carrot, remaining celery and chorizo (if using). In a separate pan heat the olive oil and sauté the diced vegetables and chorizo for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and paprika to the pan and sauté the spices briefly to release their flavors. Add the contents of the sauté pan to the soup pot and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. Mince the parsley or cilantro and add to the pot along with the Sherry vinegar. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with grilled whole grain bread and a nice bottle of red wine.
Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley. The date is Monday February 23rd at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person and includes hands-on instruction to create several tapas and a large paella mixta, all of which will be consumed during the class. Several paella-friendly Spanish wines will also be sampled. Kitchen on Fire is handling the signup for this fun and popular class. Go to their website for more details.
Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99
Nomad 2005 Jeff Jarvis and Jessica Tomei are husband and wife winemakers working in the Sierra foothills (Jarvis Tomei Syrah) as well as in Chile where, along with fellow American T.J. Evans, they make Nomad from a blend of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Syrah, 7 % Carmenère and 2 % Malbec. This ripe, spicy red is finely tuned and expressive with moderate barrel character and smooth texture. This small production bottling (2,000 cases in total) will reawaken your interest in Chilean wine. $14.99
Esboço Douro 2005 This young red wine from the Portuguese Douro Valley is made up of mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca along with a whole laundry list of other Douro grapes as is the tradition in this ancient region where field blending is the norm. Dark color and earthy aroma create a first impression much in keeping with traditional Portuguese style augmented here with ripe, youthful fruit character that is not so common in wines from this region. $14.99
Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2004 The new vintage of this single vineyard Rioja has just arrived. Composed of the fruit of one large contiguous vineyard in the heart of DOC Rioja (extremely rare in a region full of tiny vineyard parcels) this reserve level wine is 90% Tempranillo with the remaining 10% made up of Graciano, Mazuelo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby/garnet color, moderate oak barrel aroma and dark berry fruit character. 18 months of barrel age gives the wine a tannic core that has softened over the years. This smooth, opulent, plush Rioja is tilted toward a more modern style (more fruit, less wood) without loosing sight of the traditional aged reserva character that the wine is rightfully famous for. At first release this wine was pushing $40 but things are looking better now. $28.99
Clio 2006 The “it wine” of the moment, this blend of old vineMonastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon from DO Jumilla has received some out of the ballpark reviews since its first vintage in 2002. Customers call from across the country looking for this full-bodied, plush wine that combines layer upon layer of spice, vivid fruit and oak. We just got a small allocation from the distributor, most likely the only one for the year and are offering it on a first-come-first-served basis. $47.99
El Nido 2006 The elder sibling of Clio. Using more Cabernet Sauvignon and less Monastrell in the blend (from the estate’s best fruit) adds a firmer tannic element to the complex and ripe fruit character. This wine is built for long term storage and will really start to show its best side in 6-8 years. Extremely limited, we have a mere 8 bottles to offer. Again, no limits on purchase quantities while supply lasts. $148.00