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Springtime New Arrivals

Springtime in the wine business is like a month-long birthday party/baby shower/Christmas morning all rolled into one big fiesta of opening boxes packed with many shiny, colorful objects of desire. This week we are receiving new white and red wines from some of our favorite bodegas.
In a few weeks the new rosados will arrive, as pink and precious as newborn babies.  Aged red wines that have been maturing slowly in dark,cool Spanish cellars are finally ready for release. Take advantage of this season and stock up on the new vintage of well loved favorites as well as several exciting never-before-seen wines.

2009 Ostatu Blanco
The first of the 2009 vintage Spanish white wines to reach our shores is this popular white Rioja. Fashioned from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia sourced from vines over 60 years old this tank fermented wine is fresh and herbaceous. Crisp minerality balances aromatic floral richness. White Rioja is growing in popularity thanks in part to well made wines such as this. That the wine is such a bargain adds one more reason to put this on your list of new wines to try. $12.99

2009 Laxas Albariño
The newly arrived 2009 Laxas (pronounced like ‘luscious’, with good reason) is a ripe, floral expression of the Albarino grape. A base of lemon and green melon flavors blends well with additional notes of fresh herbs, fennel and background minerality. $17.99

2009 Soalheiro Alvarinho
Vinho Verde
It used to be that Portuguese Vinho Verde was simple, spritzy, fun in a bottle. While those wines still exist (and we stock them enthusiastically), a new breed of Vinho verde can be found that features estate grown grapes with distinct pedigree, vintage specific bottlings and finely tuned wine making skills. Soalheiro Alvarinho is a standard setter for top shelf Vinho Verde. This 100% Alvarinho wine is taut and edgy. A current of electric-like acidity gives a jolt, the blow softened a bit by some well rounded pear/melon fruit character. Light effervescence moderates firm, flinty minerality. This ain’t no back porch Vinho Verde. This is some serious juice! $21.99

2008 Capellanes Joven
Pago de los Capellanes is a well known and respected bodega in the Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain. In addition to the bold, tannic,barrel matured wines that are the tradition in this region they also make this younger “Joven” style red that sees only 5 months in oak. The firm, chalky tannins are moderated here by juicy dark berry fruit character. Rocky minerality adds counterpoint. The new 2008 vintage is drinking very well right now. $17.99

2005 Ijalba Graciano
In Rioja the Graciano grape represents just 5% of a typical harvest. This dark skinned, tannic grape is often used in small quantities to beef up the lighter textured Tempranillo. Only rarely is Graciano bottled as a varietal wine and then it is usually very expensive. We are happy to see Ijalba Graciano back in the market in the new 2005 vintage. Darker and more tannic than a typical Rioja, this wine possesses a certain delicate element that comes and goes elusively as the wine is consumed. It is firm yet floral, ripe yet tart, bold yet fragile all at once. If you wear your Rioja with a difference, this is the wine for you. $21.99

Rioja Event Reloaded:



Two weeks ago in this space we announced an upcoming tasting of some rare older wines from the iconic Rioja bodega Lopez de Heredia. Well, things have evolved and the tasting has gotten bigger and less expensive simultaneously (how often do you hear that these days?).
The good news is that the importer has agreed to supply more samples for the tasting, so we are able to offer a better price for the event ($15 per person, down from $45). The other good news is that there is space for just 40 guests so reservations are a must.
Where else will you have a chance to try a 1981 white Rioja or a 1987 Tondonia Reserva? We’ll also be tasting the current releases from the 90’s as well as the famous 1970 Bosconia Gran Reserva (about which  The Wine Advocate said:”The 1970 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva is a captivating effort, with endless, well-defined nuances of pine, minerals and sweet red fruits that emerge from the glass in a breathtaking display of purity and class. It shows the extraordinary length, great expression and the pure breed of a truly great wine. 93 Points”).
Join us at The Spanish Table in Mill Valley on Thursday, April 15th  at 6:30 pm as Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia takes us through her family’s rich history and traditional wine-making process. For reservations please call (415)-388-5043.

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With Age Comes Deliciousness

‘Fresh’ and ‘young’ are desirable qualities in food and fashion. Everyone wants the latest new thing. But what happens when the hot new trend is celebrated for its age and maturity?

Try this little experiment. Say to your favorite person, “Wow, honey. That’s a fantastic outfit. You look ten years older.” Not such a good idea, right?

Now try this: “Darling, would you like another glass of 1964 Gran Reserva Rioja to go with your slow cured Jamón Iberico?”

Ah, much better!

You see, the food world rewards those who appreciate the complexity that comes with age (what else in life works like this?).

Several perfect examples of age equaling beauty have just arrived in our little store. I speak of course of the long awaited Jamón Iberico. This Spanish cured ham from the rare breed of pig known as Pata Negra (Black Foot) has finally landed in California, along with even rarer Paleta de Bellota made from the front leg of the same breed of swine, wild grazed on acorns to fatten them up before, um, processing.

A perfect accompaniment to these very exclusive cured meats is mature, aged Gran Reserva Rioja from an excellent but long past vintage. We are happy to report that a batch of some of the best Rioja from the past 60 years is arriving at The Spanish Table.

Another option: Cava, that delicious Spanish sparkling wine, ages for several years in the bottle before release. This too makes for a memorable combination when paired with some Jamón Iberico.

Doubt me? You can test this out for yourself on Thursday March 6th when we will be offering a Cava and Jamón tasting in our Mill valley store from 6pm-7:30pm. The cost for this exclusive tasting is just $12. Call the Mill Valley store (415-388-5043) to reserve you spot.

Speaking of our Mill Valley store, here is what Andy Booth, one of the owners who can often be found working in the Marin County branch of The Spanish Table, has to say about the impending arrival of some spectacular older vintages of Rioja from his good friends at Lopez de Heredia.

 

The family owned Lopez de Heredia winery has been making beautifully aged Rioja since it’s founding in 1877.  They pride themselves on continuing the tradition that Rafael Lopez de Heredia y Landeta started.  We have ordered a handful of these wines direct from the winery and they are scheduled to arrive at the beginning of March.  We are offering a presell on the wines before they arrive.  They are all extremely limited in availability.  If interested, please give us a call or email.  The presell price is available only until the wines arrive.
1942 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $840, presell price $750 (only 1 available)
1947 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $785, presell price $705 (only 1 available)
(The 1942 & 1947 Vina Bosconia are considered by many who have tried the wines extensively two of their best wines produced.)
1970 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $206, presell price $184 (12 available)
1970 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva: $206, presell price $184 (2 available)
1976 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $125, presell price $112 (12 available)
1981 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva: $89, presell price $78 (4 available)
1981 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva: $104, presell price $93 (4 available)
1976 Vina Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva: $120, presell price $107 (2 available)
This pairs perfectly with the chanterelle & gremolata pizza from Chez Panisse (as we did last weekend)
1981 Vina Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva: $89, presell price $78 (8 available)

 

Meanwhile, here in Berkeley we have some tasty new arrivals at all price ranges to share with you. The big news is the arrival of The 2005 Pago de Carraovejas Crianza and Reserva.  These hard to find wines from Ribera del Duero make an appearance each year, but supplies are limited so they sell out quickly. When we did our staff tasting of the Jamón Iberico this was the wine we paired it with.  The combination is sublime.

Also, for those looking for a bargain, we have some new ‘house wine’ as well as a new Monastrell from Almansa and the new vintage of a popular and, yes, youthful blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo from Navarra.

 

Infinitus Chardonnay/Viura 2006 $6.99 This white ‘house wine’ makes a repeat appearance here after a popular run in the last vintage. Infinitus, made by the same folks who bring you Finca Antigua and Conde de Valdemar, is a fresh and floral blend of Viura and the more well known Chardonnay. Crisp citrus flavors from the Viura encounter fuller melon flavors from the Chardonnay.

 

Valcanto Monastrell 2005 $10.99 This new Monastrell comes from Bodegas Piquera in Almansa. A bit fresher than the ripe, concentratedMonastrell wines from neighboring Jumilla and Yecla to the south, with lighter balance and leaner fruit character.

 

Ochoa Garnacha/Tempranillo 2006 $12.99 This is always a great wine for weeknight suppers and informal gatherings. The new vintage of this bright, berry scented blend from Navarra is refreshing and fruity but not cloying or sweet. A fine example of the ‘tinto joven’ style found in countless little bars all across Spain.

 

Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2005 $39.99

Pago de Carraovejas Reserva 2005 $64.00

They are back again! Pago de Carraovejas is the name of a single vineyard on the outskirts of Peñafiel in the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. Nestled in the shadow of the famous medieval fortified Castillo de Peñafiel, the 60 hectare estate grows mostly Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) along with small parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The Crianza uses all three estate grown grapes in the blend (85% Tinto Fino, 10% Cabernet, 5% Merlot). The wine ages for 12 months in mixed French/American oak barrels before bottling. The rich, dark berry fruit is backed by muscular grape skin tannins and balanced oak. With air (the more the better right now) the wine comes alive with loamy aroma and layer upon layer of ripe fruit character.

The 2005 Reserva omits the Merlot from the previous blend in favor of a 90/10 split between Tinto Fino and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Using hand selected bunches of very ripe fruit, this wine spends its first twelve months of life ageing in French oak. Currently less expressive than the Crianza, the Reserva is intended for long term storage. With time, it will reveal a core of sweet dark berry fruit which at present is cloaked in assertive tannins. For immediate gratification, decant this wine a full day ahead of when you want to drink it.

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Embrace Tradition

Part of the fun of shopping at The Spanish Table is discovering new wines from little known regions and remote corners of Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile. As much as we all love trying new things, sometimes a return to the traditional styles/regions/products that first excited our interest in all things Iberian is a good way to recalibrate our palates and remind ourselves of the origins of all this newness.

This week we are featuring some of the most traditional wines of Spain.

Bodegas Lopez de Heredia is widely acknowledged as the most traditional, the ultra-orthodox, the oldest of old-school wineries in all of Rioja. They make wines as they have done for over 100 years. Only traditional Rioja varietals are used and these grapes are blended in proportions that remain unchanged over time. Modern, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks are nowhere to be seen in the Lopez de Heredia winery. Instead, they make all their wines in large oak casks that are built and maintained by a staff of expert coopers (not too many of those around any more). The wines are built for long term storage and, as you will see from the vintage dates, are released only after many years of barrel and bottle ageing. The ‘new’ vintages we received this week are from 1996, 1997 and 1998.

This week we are also featuring an Oloroso Sherry that got written up in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, inspiring a reawakening of interest for this most traditional of Spanish wines. Additionally, we just received some new vintages of wines that build on a foundation of historic traditional while expressing a breadth of aroma and flavor that are rejuvenating wine regions which for years have lain dormant and neglected.

So take a step back from your interest in all things new (don’t worry, there’s plenty of new stuff on the way soon) and reacquaint yourself with the classic flavors of Spanish wine, and while you are at it, try (or retry) this version of one of Spain’s most iconic recipes.

Tortilla Española

(serves 6-8 as a first course)

1 lb. Potatoes ( I like Yukon gold or russet, but use what you have as long as they aren’t red or white skinned ‘jacket’ potatoes)

8 large eggs (if you can get ‘pastured’ eggs, they work best and are distinctly more flavorful. Look for them from Kaki Farms at the Berkeley farmer’s market)

2 tablespoons cold water

2 cups extra virgin Olive Oil (sounds like a lot, but you don’t consume it all)

1 tablespoon sea salt

Peel and slice the potatoes in 1/8 inch rounds. (a mandolin slicer works well for this, just be careful with this very sharp tool). Place potato slices in a bowl of water for 5 minutes to rinse off the starch and then dry them on a kitchen towel.

Heat olive oil in an 8” nonstick sauté pan or clay cazuela. Add potatoes as the oil is heating and simmerover low heat for around 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and starting to fall apart (try not to brown them). Remove cooked potatoes from the oil and drain in a colander.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk with the water and salt until smooth and uniform.

When the potatoes are barely warm to the touch, add them to the eggs and let the mixture rest for ten minutes.

Pour off all but ½ cup of olive oil from the sauté pan (you can save the leftover oil for another tortilla). Heat the pan until the oil shimmers but does not smoke. Add the potato/egg mixture to the hot oil and stir the contents of the pan with a spatula until the eggs are about half way set. Turn the heat down to low and continue cooking without stirring until the eggs are mostly set and firm. The goal here is to cook the eggs without browning them. If the finished product is pale yellow with just a hint of browning and cooked through but still moist, then you are an official tortilla expert.

Find a plate that fits snuggly over your pan or cazuela (a flat pan lid works well too). Invert the plate on top of the pan and with one hand on the pan and the other hand on the plate (here comes the tricky part) flip the pan over in one smooth motion. Hopefully, the entire tortilla is now resting on the plate. Put the pan back on the heat and add a few tablespoons of the leftover oil before sliding the inverted tortilla back into the pan, cooked side up. Turn the heat to low and let the tortilla finish cooking on the second side. Once it is firm to the touch, slide it out onto a serving plate, slice into wedges (or little squares for a traditional look) and serve with some dressed salad greens and a crisp white wine.

Vino Rosado:

Viña Tondonia Rosado 1997 $26.99 The latest vintage of this truly unique rosado is created (as it always has been) from a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and white Viura. Unlike almost all other rosado wines, this one is aged for 4 years in oak before bottling and aged for several more years in the bottle before release. Oxidized sherry-like aromas of toasted almonds and fresh hay. Distinct yet well integrated barrel tannins add complexity to the surprisingly fresh berry-like fruit character.

Vino Blanco:

Viña Gravonia 1996 $26.99 Composed of 100% Viura, aged for 2 years in oak and 8 years in the bottle. I love the sesame seed aroma and flavor that I get from this wine. It mixes well with the assertive acidity and complex yet mellow fruit character. Josh Raynolds reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated this wine at 90 Points, saying: “Yellow-gold. Musky, mineral-accented peach, yellow plum and honey aromas, with a suave vanillin nuance adding complexity. Plush and deep in pit fruit and ripe melon flavors, with a gentle acid lift adding focus. Slow-mounting citrus notes provide refreshment on the finish but this has serious heft and needs to be served with food. There’s a lot going on here.”

Nosis Verdejo 2006 $18.99 It was not so long ago that Verdejo wines from D.O. Rueda were astringent, over oxidized and musty. Changes in production methods have helped create wines of great character that exhibit fresh fruit aromas and flavors along with bright and food-friendly acidity. Nosis is one of the best of these modern Rueda region wines. The new 2006 vintage is exemplary.

Vino Tinto:

Viña Tondonia Reserva 1998 $40.99 This deeply structured red wine is made from a traditional blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo, aged for 5 years in oak before bottling without filtration. With a few more years of bottle age (or after decanting for a few hours) this wine will reveal a core of dark cherry-like fruit that compliments the firmly tannic barrel character. Josh Raynolds also reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. In October of 2006 he rated this wine at 93 Points, saying: “Dark red. Penetrating, complex bouquet of red berries, cherry skin, minerals, dried rose, tobacco , cured meat and baking spices. Youthfully taut, but opens slowly to show de ep cherry and plum flavors with suggestions of succulent herbs and graphite. This medium-bodied wine broadens on the back, the intensely flavored fruit softening and sweetening. A remarkably elegant, balanced and complex wine that’s still very young : I’d give it at least another five years of bottle aging.”

Embruix 2004 $37.99 In the ancient but recently rejuvenated Priorat region, the musician Luis Llach is commonly referred to as the ‘Catalan Bob Dylan’. He is also a well known and respected winemaker. Embruix is his younger wine (the flagship wine is called Vall Llach) made from a blend of old vine Garnacha and Cariñena with additions of younger Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Nearly opaque garnet in color with rich brandied cherry aroma and fruit character. This smooth, elegant wine is an excellent example of the local style at a very reasonable price relative to some of its neighbors.

Vino de Solera:

Dios Baco Oloroso 18.99 Few wines from Spain are more traditional than the Jerez wines from Andalucía. Lately, our best selling Oloroso Sherry (Sherry = Jerez) has been getting some good press. Last week, Jon Bonné from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about this wine for the In Our Glasses section saying: “Whoever said that sherry was wine for grandmothers should be gagged. Oloroso sherries get more air contact and fortification than finos, and this dazzling example from one of Jerez’s smaller producers mixes deep caramel with baked apple and mineral notes. A sweet hint from added Moscatel wine offsets the trademark tang. Its balance and versatility match it to everything from Chinese takeout to fruit tarts.

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