Tag Archives: malbec

Bold Reds From Spain And Beyond

We have been featuring plenty of bright, refreshing white and rosado wines lately, so this week we will catch you up on some of the dark, expressive red wines that have arrived here recently.

Flor de Pingus 2006 Dominio de Pingus produces some of Spain’s most sought after wines. The newly released Flor de Pingus is produced in small quantities (I have just 6 bottles here). Produced from the low yield fruit of old vine Tempranillo grown in the clay and gravel soil of Ribera del Duero, Flor de Pingus is an elegant example of regional style. Dusty tannins play off pure, dark berry fruit. This wine combines poise with power in a finely tuned wine. Flor de Pingus is never thought of as a bargain until you consider that the flag ship Pingus retails for around 10 times the price of  Flor de Pingus. $80.00
Viña Soledad Crianza 2001 For those who remember last years’ Rioja Bordón Crianza from Bodegas Franco-Española, I have some good news. I just located a small quantity of another 2001 Crianza from the same bodega. Viña Soledad displays much of the same patina of age that gave Rioja Bordón that Gran Reserva character at a Tinto Joven price. The same brickish tint is found here along with some, but not all, of the resinous barrel character that made Rioja Bordón so evocative of Rioja wines from days long past. The tart cherry fruit character is still extant and the alcohol is an old fashioned 12.5%. The price, well, the price can’t be beat. $9.99
Carmelo Patti Malbec 2004 Carmelo Patti is a winemaking legend in the Mendoza region of Argentina. In business for over thirty years, he makes all his wines himself, by hand, in a small unmarked warehouse. Sicilian by birth, Carmelo Patti is just one of numerous Italian immigrants who have made a name for themselves in the Argentine wine business. Carmelo Patti Malbec 2004 is sourced from 30 year old vines grown at high elevation in Lujan de Cuyo. 12 months of barrel age after fermentation, followed by two years of bottle age before the wine is shipped to market ensures that the wine is fully elaborated and ready to drink upon release. Dark ruby in color, this wine expresses initial aromas of wood smoke and earth. The dark berry fruit character that Argentine Malbec is known for gets a more subtle treatment here. The fruit never overpowers the fine balance of flavors including mushrooms and tannic oak in addition to the berry and pomegranate fruit character. The mineral element comes out mostly in the long, smooth finish. $28.99
Navarro Lopez Old Vines Tempranillo Gran Reserva 2001 We featured this DO Valdepeñas wine from Bodegas Navarro Lopez in a previous release earlier in the year, to much acclaim. We are glad to now have the superlative 2001 vintage in stock. This wine is made from Tempranillo sourced from vineyards over 30 years old. After fermentation the wine ages in oak barrels of 24 months, followed by a long, slow (three years) period of bottle maturation.  The wine is showing a mature, brickish tint, with fully integrated aromas of sappy oak and tart red fruits. Delicate fruit character is lightly oxidized and ethereal. Gentle tannins adds depth and complexity to the experience.  $18.99
Casa de Casal de Loivos 2006 Cristiano Van Zeller has been instrumental in promoting the table wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley in addition to the traditional Porto from this same region. The new 2006 vintage of his wine, the sibling of the more expensive Quinta do Vale D. Maria Tinto, combines dozens of field blended traditional Douro grapes to produce a dark, assertive wine that expresses abundant brambly fruit character, firm tannins and foundational minerality. This robust red will keep well for a decade or more and should be decanted for immediate enjoyment. $48.99
Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2005 Hey, look what just walked in the door. A stray case of this well loved and hard to find Ribera del Duero red has appeared here (this happened once before with this wine) and is going fast.  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.  All three estate grown grapes are used 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. $39.99

Recipe: Father’s Day Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Show Dad that you are, in fact, not oblivious to all he has done (and continues to do) for you and the rest of the family. Make him this recipe that takes very little time, can be served hot, cold or whenever he is ready to eat and goes great with a nice glass of hearty red wine.
I liberally adapted this recipe from the new Joyce Goldstein cookbook simply called “Tapas”(2009, Chronicle books, $22.95). I have simplified a few steps by using some of the traditional Spanish products available here at The Spanish Table and added a few additional celebratory ingredients.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped green olives
2 tablespoons small currants
2 tablespoons whole pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
12 whole Piquillo peppers (8 oz. jar)
1 12 oz. jar of Tomate Frito (or tomato puree)

Directions:
In a 10 inch clay cazuela, heat the olive oil on the stove. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add the ground beef and pork to the cazuela and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, flour and paprika and cook for one more minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the olives, currants and pine nuts. Allow the meat mixture to cool to room temperature, then spoon everything out of the cazuela and set aside. Pour the Tomate Frito into the same cazuela and bring to a simmer on the stove over low heat. While the sauce is warming up, fill each Piquillo pepper with a spoonful of the meat mixture. Nestle the filled peppers in the sauce, in a circle, points facing the middle. Simmer the peppers until heated through and serve, accompanied by some good bread and any of the wines from this week’s selection.

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

Summer Wines & Padrón Peppers

Pimientos de Padrón Alert

We interrupt regularly scheduled wine news to announce the arrival of the new crop of Pimientos de Padrón. These small, seasonal  green peppers are traditional bar snacks in the north of Spain and  are one of the few fresh vegetables that we carry here. Simply fry a batch up in some good olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.  We should have these throughout the summer and into the fall. They are still the same price as last year:
$6.99 1/4 lb.

Summer Wines

As we move into the summer season, my attention is drawn to bright, refreshing white and rosado wines that cool me down from the heat of the day and awaken my appetite. I also like to pour robust reds that pair well with grilled food. Here are a few of this weeks’ new selections.

Ochoa Rosado 2008 Our newest pink wine is a classically styled offering from Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado wines. This one is made from the local Garnacha grape and is a lively, bright wine with an orange/pink hue. The light berry-like fruit character is tart and refreshing. $12.99
Ostatu Blanco 2008 The new vintage of this dry, herbaceous white Rioja has just arrived. Made from the local Viura grape (known elsewhere as Macabeo) this wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, never overwhelming the delicate fruit character with the aromas and flavors from oak barrels. This young wine displays grassy aroma and notes of kiwi fruit and green grapes. $12.99
Mas Torrontes 2008 For those who have loved the Mas Malbec from Argentina, here is a white Torrontes from the same bodega. This new arrival is floral scented (jasmine, honeysuckle)and richly fruity (apricot, crane melon). Racy acidity cuts through the perfume and maintains a fine balance. This is an excellent white to serve cold on a hot afternoon. $10.99
Siesta Brut Ernesto Catena, son of the famous Nicolás Catena (and brother of Laura, another well known winemaker) makes this sparkling wine from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Palest pink color, yeasty bread dough aroma and bright, tart fruit character are held together by fine bead bubbles. This is excellent bubbly and is one of the best examples I have yet tasted from Argentina. $17.99
Tahuan Malbec 2005 Ernesto Catena’s Malbec is a fine example of an Argentine wine that is bold and expressive without loosing the complexity that makes this region so interesting. The addition of 10% Cabernet Sauvignon adds structure to the juicy, ripe Malbec. The wine spends 12 months in oak, lending tannic depth to the final product. $18.99
Meia Encosta 2007 Portugal continues to produce some really good wines at rock bottom prices. This young wine from the Dão region is fresh and bright. Clear ruby color, cherry aroma and Gamay-like fruit character (the blend here is actually Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz) all work in harmony to express the tart,refreshing style that makes this such a perfect mid-week red. $8.99

Upcoming Spanish Wine & Food Events

On June 14th TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society) will hold their 2nd annual tasting of domestic wines made from Spanish & Portuguese grape varieties. Ft. Mason in San Francisco is the venue for this interesting event. Details can be found (and tickets purchased) on the TAPAS website. The Spanish Table will be in attendance showing off our new cookbook as well as sampling some olives and other imported Spanish snacks to go with all the local vino.

On June 22nd, I will be teaching my Paella And Wine class at the Berkeley cooking school Kitchen On Fire. Participants will get hands-on experience making (and eating) a large Paella Mixta (includes meat, seafood & vegetables) as well as a few simple tapas and a light dessert. We will sample a few appropriate Spanish wines as we go. Class starts at 6:30 pm and we should be done by around 9 pm. This popular event is limited to 30 people with a price of $65.00 per person. Sign up is through Kitchen On Fire, either on the web, or by phone 510-548-2665,(510-265-COOK).

The next TapasWalk Spanish wine & food walking tour is coming up on Wednesday June 24th. I will be leading this tour through downtown San Francisco, stopping in at five different restaurants to sample some of Spain’s unique wines accompanied by a few traditional tapas at each location. Details as well as future tour dates can be found on my blog.

On June 28th The Berkeley International Food Festival will enliven our little neighborhood with the aromas and flavors of many lands. Kabobs, tamales, samosas and other street foods will be available. Here at The Spanish Table we will be making our traditional huge paella which we hand out samples of (free of charge) to the hungry masses. In addition to the food  expect music, dancing, art and sunshine. It will be fun.

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Filed under Argentina, events, Portugal, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Renewal

Following the cycle of seasonal change, the annual wine calendar has returned once again to the moment when new wines enter the market.

In Berkeley we have just started to receive new vintages of red and white wines from Spain and Portugal (Argentina and Chile too).

First up are the red wines appearing now, followed in a few weeks by the new crop of young white wines.

Some of these ‘new’ wines have slowly matured for years, as the winemakers patiently delayed their release. Unlike many domestic wines that come with a caveat from the merchant that goes something like “This is a great wine. Don’t drink it for three years”, Iberian wines are purposely aged in the bottle at the winery before they are considered “ready to drink”.

Consider the practice of bottle ageing as one of the many little side benefits of buying Iberian wine, especially since  few people have genuine wine cellars anymore (in fact most of us consume wines within 24 hours of purchase).

Additionally this week, we have found some more great deals on some current vintage wines that have gone down a bit in price. Every little bit helps these days and these lower prices mean you do not have to sacrifice quality in order to maintain a thrifty lifestyle.

We will start to see 2008 white and rosado wines in about four to six weeks.

Martin Fierro Blanco 2007 In the San Juan region of Argentina, Bodegas Bórbore makes this white wine from a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Torrontes. This unoaked wine blends the crispness of Chardonnay with the more floral Torrontes (the indigenous white grape of Argentina). Previously available for $8.99, we just brought in a stack of this wine at a better price, now $6.99.

Martin Fierro Malbec 2006 Named after the protagonist of an epic poem about the ‘gaucho’ era, this dark, expressive wine evokes the wide open spaces and Andean backdrop of San Juan province in northwestern Argentina.  A bit leaner than the Mendoza region Malbec wines further to the south, this very well priced red has seen a few years of age, moderating the ripe fruit character and adding balance and roundness to the finished product $6.99

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) was $14.99 when first released. The price is now a bit better. $13.99

Ricardo Santos Malbec 2007 This was the first Malbec to catch my attention back when we first started stocking wines from Argentina. The 2007 vintage of this single vineyard wine has arrived and it appeals to me because, as in vintages past, this wine shows some restraint in its expression of fruit character. The dark berry flavor typical of Malbec is present to be sure, but it doesn’t overwhelm the other aspects of the wine, including tart barrel tannins, cigar box aroma and background minerality. The price on the new vintage remains, happily, unchanged. $17.99

Petalos 2007 The newest vintage of this plush red from the Bierzo region has just arrived. Produced from biodynamically farmed small hillside parcels of old vine Mencía grown in rocky slate soil around the village of Corrullón, Petalos creates a rustic first impression with obscure garnet color and loamy aroma. Opulent dark berry fruit character and fine minerality add definition and elegance.  Several months in oak barrels adds tannic depth, crating an expressive character that is unique to this region. The previous vintage came in at $23.99. The new vintage is a bit better priced at $21.99

Muga Reserva 2005 The news is good for the numerous followers of Bodegas Muga. The new 2005 Muga Reserva has just been released. This traditionally styled Rioja displays a flavor profile that is instantly recognizable to those who know and love this winery. Long, slow maturation in barrel gives Muga Reserva a distinct note of tannic oak. Extended bottle age assures that the barrel character is well integrated and balanced by bright Tempranillo fruit. The depth and complexity of Muga Reserva can be enjoyed right away, straight from the bottle (no decanting needed) and will grow more refined and elegant with a few years of age. $28.99

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Grape Love

As Valentine’s Day is this Saturday it is my duty (and a pleasurable one at that) to remind you of the many excellent ways you can express your love with a well chosen bottle of wine.  From the traditional to the unusual, a unique and delicious wine can set the right tone for a romantic evening, add the perfect accent to a cozy dinner for two or even express sentiments that words fail to convey.

Am I attributing too much power to a bottle of fermented grape juice? I think not.  From my (admittedly subjective) perspective drinking wine is about an experience of aroma and flavor that is much more fulfilling and fun when shared with another person.  I see Valentine’s Day as a perfect opportunity to experience a special bottle of wine with someone you care about.

For me, I like a rosado Cava on Valentine’s Day. The rosy hue fits in with the traditional color of the day and the bubbly wine always puts me in a celebratory mood. A white wine with a bit of extra weight and fruit character also fits the season quite well. To this end I suggest an Argentine Torrontes or an Albariño from Galicia that skews more toward the ripe style and away from the dry, flinty side of the Albariño flavor profile. For reds I think something complex and spicy but not overpowering would be a good choice for a celebration of romantic love. I have a few suggestions from South America that fit this category quite nicely, though in very different ways.

Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley and a few tickets are still available. 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. 

Cavas Hill Artesanía Brut Rosado Cava Just arrived for Valentine’s Day; this bright, rose tinted wine offers up aromas of fresh strawberry and toasted bread followed up by tangy citrus and crisp green apple flavor. Big bubbles refresh the palate and entice the appetite. $11.99

Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado Cava I talk about this wine a lot, but now is the perfect moment to serve this sparkling rosado. It’s dark pink and bubbly, which may be all you need for the occasion, but this is also a deliciously berry scented yet still dry and refreshing cava that not only looks great in the glass but also offers up classic cava aroma and flavor at a reasonable price. $14.99

Reymos Espumoso de Moscatel Sweet sparkling wine from D.O. Valencia. Rich Muscat grape scent, bosc pear and honeydew melon fruit character with light but persistent bubbles. A mere 7.5% alcohol makes this the perfect end-of-meal wine. $11.99

Arte Mayor Brut Nature Cava Dominio de la Vega is a boutique Cava producer in Valencia. They make several wines with increasing levels of age and dryness. This wine is the driest and most mature of the bunch. Zero dosage creates a crisp, lean wine with fine minerality and toasted bread aroma. We got this at a big discount and are selling it the same way. Normally a $50 bottle, we have a few on hand for $28.99

Dominio de La Vega Brut Reserva Cava The same folks who make Arte Mayor Cava also create this Brut Reserva version with a mere hint of residual sugar from a light dosage. The blend here is 80% Macabeo and 20% Chardonnay.   Crisp, toasty character is supplemented by a bit of textural heft and a slight note of baked spiced apple. Also at a significant discount this wine which originally sold for $39.99 is now available for much less while supplies last. $24.99

Do Ferreiro Albariño 2007 The new vintage of this plush, abundant Albariño has just arrived. Gerardo Mendez blends the fruit from various parcels of his small 15 acre estate to create this finely tuned wine. Slatey mineral aroma leads on to rich melon and white peach fruit character with a grapefruit-like citrus note adding counterpoint to this top shelf Galician wine.  $25.99

Cicchitti Torrontes 2007 This new Torrontes offers a different take on Argentina’s indigenous white grape. Normally grown in the northern province of Salta, Torrontes wines are rich and honeyed with a snappy tang of acidity in the background. Cicchitti uses all estate fruit from their property in Mendoza to produce a more mineral wine that retains a bit of typical Torrontes density. This unoaked wine is rich and detailed with notes of ripe apple, green herbs and a bit of tangerine peel all combined in the glass. $14.99

Cicchitti Blend 2007  This Argentine red combines ripe fruity Malbec with the more structured Cabernet Sauvignon and then tops it off with a dash of Merlot (interestingly they only print the word ‘Merlot’ in small type, perhaps as a South American version of the ‘Sideways’ backlash against the ‘M-word’ grape). The ‘blend’ alluded to in the name is 60% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot sourced from vineyards in the Valle de Uco and Lujan de Cuyo sections of Mendoza. Bold and assertive, this wine is powerful yet restrained, a positive trait that I find in well made Argentine Cabs and Cab blends. $14.99

Cicchitti Malbec 2006 (375ml) The 100% Malbec wine from Bodegas Cicchitti is dark and earthy, displaying dried leaf aroma, restrained dark berry fruit character and dusty minerality. The balance on this wine is quite fine and elegant rather than the big boozy style that some Malbec wines express. This one is currently available here in the small 375ml size, just perfect for solo diners as well as gift givers. $9.99 

Azul Profundo Pinot Noir 2006 The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Bio Bio Valley, Chile’s southernmost grape growing region. This temperate region is quickly becoming one of the most highly regarded areas in Chile for wine production. This climate is well suited to growing the fickle Pinot Noir grape. Azul Profundo is a bright and fresh wine that is reminiscent of a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast of California or the Willamette valley in Oregon. Crystalline ruby color and fresh berry aroma create an intriguing first perception. Tart, pie cherry fruit character balances but never overwhelms subtle grapeskin tannins. This unoaked red is made in miniscule quantities (only 600 cases were produced) and each bottle is hand numbered. $19.99

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Tempranillo: Here and There

In recent weeks I have been excitedly promoting California wines made from Iberian grape varieties. Imagine my surprise when, earlier this week, while grocery shopping at my local produce store (Monterey Market for you locals) I came upon a bin full of freshly picked Tempranillo grapes.

These large clusters of small, dark grapes were irresistible, especially for someone in my line of work. The fruit was sweet and ripe with thick skins and big seeds. I was pleasantly surprised that these were delicious grapes to eat out of hand, something I had not expected from a wine grape.

The availability of fresh Tempranillo reinforces my opinion that this Spanish grape is becoming more popular here with each passing harvest.

This week we have a new California Tempranillo from Paso Robles. This latest addition brings the number of domestic wines at The Spanish Table to a whopping total of eight. This small collection will continue to grow as we find more wines that come from Iberian varieties and express something of the traditional Spanish or Portuguese style.

Meanwhile, the latest arrivals from Spain are coincidentally all Tempranillo this week. I even have a newly arrived blend of Tempranillo and Malbec from Argentina, further proof that this is a grape to watch in the near term.

Coral Mustang Tempranillo 2004 Sourced from the Vista Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, this 100% Tempranillo wine is produced in small (400 cases) quantities by Penelope Gadd-Coster and her husband Frank Coster at their family winery in Healdsburg. This dark, spicy red wine expresses the rich side of Tempranillo that shows some similarity to the Tempranillo wines of the Toro region in Spain where the grape goes by the name Tinta de Toro. Coral Mustang Tempranillo is aged in second use oak barrels for 13 months which imparts a note of tannic complexity to the final product. The wine is bottled without filtration, adding to the initial impression of richness. Let this wine breath a bit before serving and the more nuanced elements (sweet red berries, black pepper, pomegranate) will come forward. $18.99

Urban Uco 2006 José Manuel Ortega founded Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier in 2000.

A banker by trade and Spanish by birth, Ortega followed his passion for wine to Argentina where he started a winery in the Uco Valley region of Mendoza province. He bought land for vineyards (currently he owns over 700 acres of which 230 are planted) and in 2004 completed a winery/hotel/restaurant complex where the wines are made. Urban Uco 2006 is a 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Malbec from the Uco Valley in the Mendoza province. The high altitude bush vines, many of them over twenty years old, produce a wine that combines the power of Malbec with the finesse of Tempranillo. This lightly (3 months) oaked blend shows gentle barrel tannins and balanced fruit character. $10.99

Urban Roble 2005 Meanwhile, back in Spain, José Manuel Ortega bought a winery in the Ribera del Duero region. The San Juan López winery was renamed Bodegas O. Fournier after the purchase in 2002. In addition to a winery dating from 1979, the purchase included 260 acres of land, 150 acres of which are established vineyards with 80 acres planted to old vine Tinta del País (Tempranillo). Urban Roble 2005 is a young red wine that exhibits abundant regional style. This robust young wine is composed of local Tinta del País grapes sourced from old vines. After fermentation the wine ages in small oak barrels for 4 months before bottling. The dark garnet color mimics aromas and flavors of ripe dark berries. Tannic oak adds contrast without overwhelming the rich fruit character. Background notes include chalky minerality and a bit of spice on the finish. $13.99

Izadi Crianza 2005 The latest vintage of this all Tempranillo wine from the heart of Rioja is made by young (UC Davis educated) Lalo Anton who is slowly taking over winemaking responsibility at Bodegas Villabuena from his father Gonzalo. Izadi is a traditionally styled Rioja where long periods of oak barrel ageing are followed by further maturation in bottle before release. This Crianza wine spent 12 months in barrel followed by an additional 12 months in bottle. Firm barrel tannins dominate the initial impression, followed closely by tart red berry fruit character. This bold, assertive wine is ready to enjoy right away but will age gracefully for years to come. $19.99

Villacreces Reserva 2001 Finca Villacreces was founded in 1994 by Pedro Garcia-Cuadrado in the heart of the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. The property, which was purchased by the Anton family (the owners of Izadi in Rioja) in 2003, has 105 acres of vineyard, much of it older vines but, with new plantings in progress, will soon have 160 acres in production. Villacreces Reserva 2001 is dark, rich and full bodied. A blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot, the wine is opaque purple in color with aromas and flavors of black cherries, cocoa powder and cedar. The substantial barrel tannins are fairly well resolved by now and the wine leaves a final impression of freshness combined with rich elegance. $36.99

Cillar de Silos Crianza 2005 The latest vintage of this full bodied Ribera del Duero is now available. Dark garnet hue and powerful aromas of ripe berries assert the bold character of this wine. A year in oak adds substantial tannins which integrate well with the expressive black cherry fruit character. Earth and mineral notes underlie the rest of the flavors and aromas. $29.99

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Filed under Argentina, California, Red Wine, Spain

Vino Iberesco

Two weeks ago I wrote about a new thing we are trying here at The Spanish Table. After many years as an all-import wine merchant, domestic wines are now starting to make an appearance on our shelves.

As mentioned in the previous newsletter, “Starting this week we have a new section of California wines made from Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Cariñena, Albariño, Verdelho and anything else I find that has Iberian origins and grows here in the USA. … These new wines, while remaining true to their California origins, are stylistically anchored in the winemaking traditions of Spain and Portugal.”

I am happy to report that you, our loyal customers, have taken a liking to these artisanal, hand made wines. The initial response was so enthusiastic that this week I have added four more domestic, Iberian styled wines to our growing selection of vino iberesco (the term I’m currently using to lump them all together).

This week I offer you a varietal Tempranillo from Santa Barbara as well as a Tempranillo blend from the Sierra Foothills. I also have two domestic dessert wines coming in this week. One is a late harvest Garnacha from Santa Barbara and the other is a Tawny Port style wine made from Bastardo (the traditional Portuguese grape variety, not the hurled insult!).

Getting back to imports, we just received the new vintage of Viña Mein, a white wine from the Ribeiro region of Galicia. This crisp, lean, wine has changed importers and, as often happens in these cases, now comes in a nice new package. The fossilized fish on the label emphasizes the flinty, fossil-like minerality found in Viña Mein while suggesting an appropriate pairing (seafood!).

We also just brought in a new Argentine Malbec that offers an abundant yet balanced expression of classic Malbec character. Maipe Malbec is not only a really tasty wine; it is a great value too (something we could all use right now). You can read more about it below.

Paella Class Update: You still have time to sign up for my paella and wine class that is taking place at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley. The date is Sunday October 19th 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.

Viña Mein 2007 The Ribeiro region of Galicia in Northwestern Spain is less well known than its neighboring coastal region Rías Baixas. Albariño is the grape of choice in Rías Baixas, while in Ribeiro the Treixadura grape predominates. If you have enjoyed the ever-increasing variety of Albariño wines now in the market, you owe it to yourself to try the similarly styled wines from D.O. Ribeiro. The flinty, crushed seashell minerality is emphasized here along with the grapefruity citrus and floral elements that are also found in Rías Baixas wines.

Viña Mein is fashioned from a blend of 80% Treixadura, 10% Godello, 5% Loureiro, and 1% to 2% each of Albariño, Torrontés, Albilla and Caiño. Bright gold color, ripe melon aroma and refreshing citrus fruit character never overwhelm the flinty mineral foundation that maintains the lean focus of this wine. $19.99

Maipe Malbec 2007 Our newest Argentine Malbec is darkly colored and boldly flavored without ever veering into the over extracted style that is common at this very reasonable price point. Ripe mulberry fruit character finds balance in dusty tannins and wild herb aromas. An underlying tart quality (gentle but present) adds complexity to this well priced wine. $10.99

Core C3 Tempranillo 2006 Dave Corey makes wine in Santa Maria, California at a winery that he and his wife Becky started in 2000. Originally they focused on Grenache and Mourvedre (known as Garnacha and Monastrell in Spain) grapes for their wines. The new C3 project also includes Dave’s sisters Melanie Corey-Ferrini and Sherri Corey-Pinero. They produce this single varietal Tempranillo in small quantities (425 cases in total) in addition to a more mature barrel aged Tempranillo/Cabernet blend called Crazy Eights. C3 Tempranillo is a fresh and lively red wine that expresses the more youthful side of tempranillo. Bright garnet color, cherry fruit character and a bit of earthy background all combine to give this wine a foothold in the traditions of both Spain and California. $17.99

Temporary Insanity 2006 Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz make the Odisea ‘Two Rows Garnacha’ that we featured in the last newsletter. Temporary Insanity is their more mature blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha and 10% Syrah. This wine ages in oak for 18 months before bottling. Dark garnet color and assertive barrel tannins create the initial impression here, with ripe berry fruit character and plush texture rounding out the picture. Like their other wines, this small production wine (125 cases in total) tastes very Spanish in style and will continue to develop for many years to come. $24.99

Candy Core Late Harvest Grenache 2004 This little bottle of sweet dessert wine from Dave and Becky Corey at Core Wine Company is made from 100% Grenache (Garnacha to us) from the Santa Barbara Highlands. The grapes are left on the vine until super ripe and then aged for 18 months in barrel (with 8 more months of bottle age) after fermentation. This opaque ruby colored wine retains bright acidity that balances the dense, perfumed sweetness and gives the wine an unexpected lively quality. $19.99 (375ml)

St. Amant Tawny St. Amant is a small California winery that was founded in 1979 by Tim and Barbara Spencer to produce Port style wines (they have since become even more well known for their Zinfandel). The non-vintage ‘Tawny’ is made from the Bastardo grape (a traditional Porto variety) sourced from the family estate vineyard in Amador County. According to Stuart Spencer (Tim Spencer died in 2006 and his son Stuart has been running the winery since that time) this wine started was an experiment in single varietal barrel aged Tawny Port style wine gone wrong. After primary fermentation and fortification (as is done in Porto) the wine was sampled and rejected as too rough and astringent. The experimental barrels were set aside and basically forgotten for several years. The wine was not racked or disturbed in any way.

Down the line curiosity prevailed and the wine was re-tasted. Time and neglect had proved beneficial to the experimental Bastardo tawny. The years of barrel age softened the acidity. The rough tannins had subsided and sweet, somewhat maderized notes of butterscotch and caramel had infused the dramatically improved wine. $33.99 (500ml)

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Filed under Argentina, California, 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