Tag Archives: meia encosta

Vinho Tinto

Way back last month I was telling you about the white wines of Portugal.
My opinion was (and is) that Portuguese white wines “excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences”. I also noted that Portuguese whites tend to be ridiculously affordable so it really pays to explore these lesser known wines.
This week I am focused on Portuguese red wines. They have been getting some good press lately, and deservedly so. They, like the whites, offer excellent quality, often at very reasonable prices.
I have been finding some really good Portuguese reds lately. If you have not yet tried these wines I have some excellent suggestions that will give you a good perspective on the prevalent style/regions/producers currently coming out of Portugal.
A few weeks ago Eric Asimov wrote in the New York Times about the red wines from the Douro region. Of the ten wines he reviewed in New York (where the selection is often quite different than what we get in California) he chose as his favorite the young Altano Tinto 2006 ($9.99). He described it as “Dry and balanced with complex, lingering aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers” which sounds about right to me. I find the wine to be youthful and on the gentle side for a Douro red. The dark berry fruit character is but a bit subdued in comparison to other wines from this region. This lends the wine a gentle food-friendly quality that never overwhelms lighter fare.
Another well priced Douro red is Twisted Tinto 2007 ($14.99), the entry level wine from Niepoort, maker of top quality Porto as well as several high end red and white wines. This wine is composed of a wide range of typical Douro grapes including Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão among others. Twisted Tinto is dark garnet in color with expressive aromas of fresh berries and minerals, tart cherry fruit character and a touch of tannic oak.
I am also finding plenty of excellent bargains in Portuguese regions outside the Douro Valley.  The young Meia Encosta Tinto 2007 ($8.99) 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.
From a small region called Óbidos located just north of Lisbon comes Quinta de São Francisco Tinto 2005 ($11.99) composed of 60% Castelão, 20% Aragonez and 20% Touriga Nacional. Garnet colored with a brickish tinge, this wine displays initial aromas of ripe berry and crushed rocks. I get more mineral notes and light mulberry fruit character on the palate along with a bit of black pepper spice. Eight months of barrel age lends a gentle tannic note to the wine.
The Spanish Table Wine Club is currently featuring the Cunha Martins Reserva from the Dão region. Most of this went into the club but I have a few spare bottles on hand for general consumption. Cunha Martins Reserva 2004 ($14.99) is a field blend of numerous grapes including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro Preto, Bastardo and Jaen. The wine was aged for 18 months in oak before bottling. This is a darkly tinted wine with dense texture, and fruit character reminiscent of mulberries and black plums.  Backnotes of black olive and wood smoke remind us of the wine’s Dão heritage, expressed here in a rich, silky style that will compliment an autumn menu of slow roasted meats and winter squash.
For something at a good price but with a bit of age we go again to the Dão region for Quinta da Cabriz Reserva 2005 ($19.99). This barrel aged blend of 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz and 20% Alfrocheiro possesses a bit of the old fashioned Dão rusticity framed by dark plum fruit character and well integrated oak. This mature expressive wine will be a perfect match with a broad range of traditional autumn fare such as slow cooked white beans with chunks of Linguiça sausage and the Portuguese smoked bacon called Toucinho Defumado (FYI, we sell the beans/sausage/bacon as well as the wine!).

 

 

Los Hermanos Fernández


The Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain has been transformed over the last few decades. From its origins as an agricultural region mostly known for farming (sugar beets) and livestock (sheep), Ribera del Duero is now one of the most highly regarded wine regions in all of Spain. One of the pioneering winemakers in Ribera del Duero, a former beet farmer named Alejandro Fernández, started his own winery which quickly earned a reputation for excellence. His Tinto Pesquera became a game changing wine in Ribera del Duero. The region was transformed. Wine grapes became the crop of choice for local farmers, many of whom also went on to great success.
A less well known part of this story is that, unbeknownst to many of us here in the USA, Alejandro Fernández has a brother named Federico who also makes wine. His winery is small and his wines adhere to a traditional style that is fast fading from view in Ribera del Duero. Federico Fernández insists on slow barrel ageing to elaborate his wines. In the modern rush to market this practice is used less and less by the larger wineries. Federico still adheres to the old practice of classifying his wines as Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva depending on how much time they spend ageing in oak. Federico Roble 2007 ($17.99) is the young wine from this bodega. Made from the local version of Tempranillo called Tinto Fino, this wine spends just six months ageing in barrel before bottling. The resulting wine expresses the earthy minerality of the region in a bold, fresh style.  Federico Crianza 2005 ($31.99) spends 12 months in barrel and several years in bottle before release. The tannins are substantial and chalky when the wine is first opened. With air the wine reveals a core of trail dust, saddle leather, black cherry fruit and an intriguing gamey note on the finish. As ever, the pairing for all good Ribera del Duero is lamb in all its guises (chops, roasts, stews, you name it).

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Filed under Portugal, Red Wine, Spain

The Hits Keep On Coming

The wine section at The Spanish Table is an ever changing place. You just never know what will roll in the door around here from week to week. Right now I am enamored with the refreshing summer white wines (with one pink exception) from Spain and Portugal that sometimes get overshadowed by the abundance of deliciously interesting (or is that interestingly delicious?) red wines from these countries. The white Albariño and Verdejo varietal wines from Spain were the first to receive attention from American wine drinkers. We continue to be attracted to these wines for the citrus and mineral aromas and flavors that create bright,refreshing wines that can stand on their own yet also work well with food. Now we are seeing more wines from Spain that are made from the Godello grape, a variety that often produces soft, gentle wines with flavors of melon and stone fruit. In Portugal, new white wines from all across the country are making inroads here in the USA where once only Vinho Verde was found. Encruzado is a white grape that is now showing up regularly in many of the white wines from Portugal. Even the long neglected Portuguese rosé wines are making a comeback, as illustrated by the current popularity of pink Vinho Verde which, like an AM radio pop song from a summer long past, will live on in memory as a nostalgic time stamp long after the season is over.
Casal Garcia Rosé NV Aveleda just came out with this pink version of their most popular brand, Casal Garcia. The first shipment came and went in a matter of weeks, but happily there is now more. I predicted that this would become one of our most popular wines for summertime sipping and so far my statement holds true.  Low alcohol and light effervescence remind me of the traditional white Vinho Verde. The pale pink hue and lightly fruity berry aroma and flavor are a nice change of pace from the regular version. $8.99
Meia Encosta Branco 2008 The red version of Meia Encosta has been a big success so now we bring you the white wine from this Dão region producer known as Vinhos Borges. Meia Encosta Branco is a gentle, refreshing and lightly floral blend of Encruzado, Malvasia and Bical. This unoaked, medium-weight white wine shows some fruity ripeness as well as a foundational layer of green herbs and minerals. $7.99
Castelo do Papa Godello 2008 The Valdeorras region is the traditional home of Godello varietal wines. Softer and gentler than many Spanish whites, this Godello varietal wine displays notes of white peach and apricot along with underlying minerality to maintain balance. $14.99
Can Feixes Blanc Selecció 2008 The Penedès region of Catalunya is best known for sparkling Cava but the local grapes can make some truly stunning still wines as well. Can Feixes is composed of 40% Parellada, 30% Macabeo(known elsewhere as Viura), 20% Chardonnay and 10% of the rare Malvasía de Sitges. Like a wine version of a Gin & Tonic, this wine has a bit of quinine-like minerality along with a refreshing blast of lime zest. This new 2008 vintage has just been released. $14.99
Shaya Verdejo 2008 The Verdejo grape predominates in the Rueda region of Northern Spain. The sandy soils have protected many old ungrafted vines from the phyloxera mite that devastated the vineyards of Europe 100 years ago. Shaya uses these old vines in a monovarietal wine that is a fine example of just how good Rueda whites can be. Bright grapefruit flavor and lightly floral aroma combine with a distinctly mineral foundation. This wine is well balanced and elegant. $13.99
La Cana Albariño 2008 Galician Albariño wines tend to tilt toward a floral/citrusy style or a flinty/mineral expression. The newly released first vintage of la Cana is decidedly mineral. Added complexity and textural weight comes from extended ageing on the lees (bits of grape skin, pulp and sediment). This new wine from Spanish wine guru Jorge Ordoñez (best known for his hearty red wines) is a fine addition to his portfolio. $17.99

Top 40


Speaking of pop songs, all the recent Moon Landing 40th Anniversary celebrations have me thinking about some of my early favorites from the late 1960s when AM radio was the main source for new music (pre Youtube &  MTV).
Check out these songs that made a big impression on me back in the day, then choose a few of the wines from this week’s selection to help make your own memories of the summmer of 2009.





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

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