Tag Archives: mencia

Vintages Past & Present


Special deal on Rioja Alta

The wines of Rioja Alta (not to be confused with the region of the same name) have a long history dating back to 1890. The winery was founded to meet the needs of wine drinkers in France when the French vineyards had  been devastated by the phylloxera mite. A bodega was built in Haro near the train station where wines could be shipped to the coast by rail and from there by boat to thirsty customers in France and all across Europe.
Today this winery still produces barrel aged wines in the same Bodega in Haro. The wines of Rioja Alta SA are slowly aged for years in the cellar before sale as is the local tradition. We just received a batch of two wines from the last decade which are mature and ready to drink right now. Of course, if you are not in a hurry these wines may be put down for some point in the not too distant future (like the next 10 years or so).
For now we have these two wines well off of normal pricing. These prices will stay the same until the wine is gone so now is a perfect opportunity to pick up these excellent wines at a nice discount. All of these wines may be purchased in our store or on line at spanishtablewines.com

2002 Vina Alberdi Reserva
The entry level Reserva from Rioja Alta is this 100% Tempranillo wine that displays garnet color, aromas of dark berries and earth with well integrated barrel notes and bright fruit character. This was $21.99 the last time we carried it. Now it is $15.99.
2000 Vina Ardanza Reserva The wine that made Rioja Alta famous is this oh-so-traditional Reserva. This blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Garnacha is a earthy and smoky at first with a supple undercurrent of dark fruit character. The classic Rioja notes of cigar box, saddle leather and dusty earth are all present as background notes. This complex, elegant wine was going for $38.99 but while the current supply lasts we have this one for $29.99.

New Vintages of D. Ventura from Ribeira Sacra
In the Ribeira Sacra region of Northwestern Spain, Ramon Losada makes 3 distinctly different wines from the local Mencia grape. The old vine vineyards are located in the steeply terraced river valley that cuts through the heart of this ancient region. These terraced vineyards, originally built by the Romans, had long ago fallen into ruin and are only now being rebuilt and reused.
These are all excellent expressions of an ancient region that is just beginning to renew its true potential. They are also some of my current favorite wines in the shop.

2008 Vina Caneiro
The boldest of the D. Ventura wines, this exclusive bottling sourced from small plots of old vine Mencia grown on the steep slopes of the Sil River Valley is opulent and silky while still retaining a fresh, lively balance of flavors. Notes of cranberry and pomegranate mingle with flinty minerality. This dark and abundant wine never veers into the overly extracted or the syrupy. $24.99
2008 Pena do Lobo This wine, from one of the two the Sil River vineyards is 100% Mencia from vines that are over 80 years old. This dark ruby colored wine displays great purity with  subtle mulberry fruit character balancing flinty background minerality. $19.99
2008 Vina do Burato Composed of 100% old vine Mencia from D. Ventura’s Minho River property, this light red is fresh and youthful with the dried leaf aroma that is typical of Mencia. This is the leanest of the D. Ventura wines. It maintains a fine balance of flavors with moderate alcohol content (12%) and will compliment fresh vegetables, poultry, rice and pasta. $17.99

Upcoming Events:

We are hosting an exciting Lopez de Heredia wine tasting next month.  Join us in the Mill Valley store onThursday, April 15th as Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia takes us through her family’s rich history, traditional wine-making process, and of course, many of their world-class wines from La Rioja Alta.

We’ll start at 6:30 pm and will spend two hours enjoying their current releases, a handful of older bottlings and even their 1970 Vina Bosconia.  We will also pair these great food wines with a few of our favorite Rioja-inspired Tapas – lamb anyone?
To read up on the winery before the event, here’s a link to the Lopez de Heredia website and another link to a New York Times article that ran last year.  Eric Asimov makes the point that this classic winery has in a way become cutting-edge, as many winemakers are now following classic, natural and artisanal practices in their vineyards and winemaking.
We are taking reservations for the event now, so come in or give us a call to confirm your attendance (415 388 5043).  The tasting is $45 per person.  We are really looking forward to this event – see you there.

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Filed under events, Red Wine, Spain, Uncategorized

D.O. Monterrei – Lobarzán & Ladairo

Let us focus on a specific wine region; DO Monterrei, located in Northwestern Spain just across the border from Portugal. Granted D.O. status only in 1994, Monterrei is home to hot weather and deep red clay soil. Small family wineries, not big industrial producers, are the norm in this diminutive region. Just 20 wineries operate here, making wine from 1700 acres of vineyard land. This little known area is usually thought of (when it is thought of at all) as a source of fresh white wines made from Godello and Treixadura grapes. The red wines are less well known, but share much in common with reds from neighboring DO Bierzo and DO Ribeira Sacra. The Mencía grape is the predominant red variety here and most of the wines are fermented in tank, forgoing the barrel ageing regimens so common in other parts of Spain.
We are focused on red wines from Monterrei because they offer a different perspective on Spanish wine. Lighter in tone than the wines from the rocky, arid heartland, the wines from Northwestern Spain have a lean purity and (often, though not always) a moderate level of alcohol that is refreshing in these days of big, bold reds. I find similarities here to the reds of the Loire valley in France (another region known mostly for its white wines), with firm minerality, tart fruit character and quirky individuality.
Castro de Lobarzán is a small family winery located in the home of José Fernández Feijóo (3rd generation winemaker) near the small town of Vilaza. He and his family personally work 11 acres of vineyard land to grow the fruit for their wines. The small winery, located in what amounts to a large garage adjacent to the family home, produces both a white Godello/Treixadura blend as well as a red that combines Mencía with the local clone of Tempranillo called Arauxa (ar-ow-sha). Lobarzán Tinto 2006 is a fifty-fifty blend of Mencía and Arauxa, aged briefly in tank before bottling (no room for oak barrels in the family garage/winery). A few years of bottle age has mellowed this wine a bit from its original firmly flinty incarnation. The twiggy/leafy character of Mencía adds contrast to the cherry/berry fruit of the Arauxa, while a bit of loamy funk can be found lurking in the background here. When first released last year this was a $20 +/- wine, but the world is not yet clamoring for DO Monterrei reds so the importer José Pastor made us a deal on the remaining stock. We are selling the rest of the vintage (not much of it left) at $11.99.
Adegas Ladairo (‘Bodega’ becomes ‘Adega’ in Galicia) was founded in 1984 by Jose Luiz Vaz Vilela in O Rosal (not to be confused with the coastal town of the same name) near Oimbra in DO Monterrei. Ladairo Mencía 2007 is a monovarietal wine that is fermented in tank (they do a barrel aged version as well). This light bodied red displays tart cranberry fruit character and earthy minerality. A bit closed at first, the wine expresses its full nature with a quick decantation. This simple, young wine will find a good match with lighter meals such as rice or pasta where meat is not at the center of the plate. Originally priced around $17, this too comes from Jose Pastor at a special reduced price of $9.99

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Filed under Red Wine, Spain, Uncategorized

Monasterio de Corias, Guilfa 2006

Let’s look at the most unique Spanish wine to have passed this way in a while.
I should start by saying that Asturias, along Spain’s Northern coast, is much better known for cheese and apple cider than for wine. The weather is too cool and wet for most grapes, so when we start talking about wines from the Cangas region in Asturias we are not talking about wines of abundant production or wide distribution. Monasterio de Corias is, in fact, the only Cangas region winery that is currently available here in California.
This bodega is, as the name suggests, housed in an ancient Benedictine monastery that had fallen in to semi ruin until it was restored for use as a winery in 2001. Historic records indicate that the monks were growing grapes here in the 9th century AD but in modern times the acreage devoted to grape cultivation has dwindled to approximately 250 acres. Just six producers are making wines in the region today.
Coria Guilfa 2006 is an intriguing blend of indigenous grapes. Verdejo Negro (no relation to the white Verdejo from further south), Mencía and Carrasquín are the grapes of choice in Cangas. The wine, perhaps as a result of the Mencía in the blend, has some similarities with wines from nearby Bierzo or Ribeira Sacra where Mencía predominates. Corias Guilfa is lighter in color and texture than the wines from neighboring regions. The alcohol in Corias Guilfa is also a moderate 12.5%. 6 months of barrel age has left no overtly woody notes in the finished wine. An almost Burgundian balance lifts the aromas and flavors, creating a bright, harmonious wine. Subtle hints of loamy aroma and dusty minerality never intrude on the pure expression of red berry fruit character.  A simple roast chicken or grilled fish would work well with this light yet elegant red wine.

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Filed under Red Wine, Spain

Summer Wines

It’s shaping up to be an interesting summer for wine here at The Spanish Table. New arrivals continue to pop up like mushrooms after a thunderstorm while some trusty favorites are, on the other hand, arriving late or not at all. This week marks the better-late-than-never return of Muga Rosado in a brief appearance that will quickly sell through. We also have a new rosado from Navarra that will certainly please traditionalists and newcomers alike. For those who seek unique wines made from less well known varieties we have a stunning new white wine from Bierzo(yes, white Bierzo) made from Godello and Doña Blanca as well as a new 100% Xarel-lo white from Penedès. The Mencía that was so popular in last month’s wine club is now on the shelf for all to enjoy as is a new red wine from Montsant made from 100% Samsó. Add to these the hundreds of choices among the many wines from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile (with a bit of California thrown in for good measure)that you find here on a regular basis and you need never worry about drinking boring wine ever again.

Muga Rosado 2008
The new vintage of Muga Rosado that many of you have been waiting for is finally in stock, but only for a brief moment. We got ten cases and may not get any more. As always this is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and a small amount of Viura. The 2008 is a bit darker and drier than previous years but still expresses freshness and edgy minerality. $13.99

Siete Rosado 2008
The newest ‘Vino de Terrunyo’ private label wine from José Pastor is this fresh rosado from Navarra. Following the tradition in Navarra, this wine is made from the Garnacha grape. Watermelon color and ripe strawberry aroma play off of bright acidity and red berry frut character. This is a fun, summer wine for back yard sipping. $11.99

Mengoba Blanco 2007
The Bierzo region of Spain is best known for red wines but here is an excellent white Bierzo made from Godello and Doña Blanca. The delicate softly fruity grapes here are given extra depth and weight by leaving the wine on the lees for 7 months before bottling. Finely tuned and gently expressive, this top shelf white has immediate appeal as well as the potential to age well for several years. $33.99

Calcari 2008
The choices for varietal Xarel-lo wines are not numerous. Luckily we have this 100% Xarel-lo white from Pares Balta which is excellent and has just arrived in the new 2008 vintage. Lean, flinty and mineral with just a hint of tart citrus fruit character, this wine will please those who like their white wines really dry. $19.99

Clos de Noi 2007
The Montsant region of Spain is best known as a source of garnacha based wines but the local version of Cariñena, known as Samsó, is the other predominant red variety here. This 100% Samsó wine is inky dark and abundantly aromatic and flavorful. Cherry brandy aroma and sweet berry fruit character balance rocky minerality and assertive tannins. A hint of wild herb adds intrigue to the experience. $14.99

El Castro de Valtuille 2005
This is the more serious, structured elder sibling of the young Castro de Valtuille Mencía that many of you are currently enjoying. Sourced from Bierzo region Mencía vines with an average age of 40-80 years, El Castro de Valtuille spends 14 months in used oak barrels before bottling. This wine is dark and expressive yet still retains some of the bright freshness of the younger wine. The dark color creates an initial impression that reinforces the aromas of wet slate and a sort of twiggy scent that I describe as autumn leaf pile (the kind you rake up in your yard). This pronounced mineral element is coupled with extracted cranberry/pomegranate fruit character. $36.99

You want points? We got points!


The Wine Advocate, home of Robert Parker’s influential 100 point rating system, has just published their reviews of 654 Spanish wines. We are proud to have many of the top rated wines available for purchase. Here are a few of the high scoring wines for you to consider:

2006 Clos Erasmus Laurel- 93 points
“The 2006 Laurel sports aromas of slate/mineral, black licorice, incense, black cherry, and blackberry liqueur. Ripe, sweet, and structured on the palate, this lengthy, succulent effort has enough tannin to support another 4-6 years of cellaring and will have a drinking window extending from 2014 to 2026. Laurel, one of Priorat’s greatest values dollar for dollar, is sourced from the younger vines of the estate and from declassified barrels of Clos Erasmus itself.” $39.99
2006 Clos Erasmus – 97 points
“As usual Clos Erasmus is one of Spain’s finest wines. The 2006 Clos Erasmus offers an ethereal bouquet of balsam and sandalwood, incense, liquid mineral, black cherry, and black raspberry. Dense, rich, and voluptuous on the palate, it has plenty of well-concealed ripe tannin, tons of fruit, and potential complexity.” $198
2006 Mas Doix Vinyes Velles – 97 points
“The 2006 Costers de Vinas Viejas amps it up considerably. It yields an enthralling, sexy/kinky bouquet of toasty new oak, liquid minerality, lavender, incense, and wild berries. Complex, elegant, and La Tache-like, it appeals to both the senses and the intellect. It is a remarkable effort that should evolve for 5-7 years but is difficult to resist now.” $126
2006 Nido El Nido – 97 points
“The 2006 El Nido is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Monastrell aged for 26 months in new oak. Aromas of wild blueberry and black currant are room-filling. Dense, layered, and totally hedonistic, it has serous depth and concentration, impeccable balance, and a 60-second finish.” $148
2006 El Clio – 95 points
“The purple/black 2006 Clio is composed of 70% old vine Monastrell and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 26 months in new oak. It offers up a super-sexy nose of underbrush, incense, lavender, blueberry muffin, and black currant. Voluptuous and creamy on the palate, this loaded, well-balanced wine is a total turn-on. For those who prefer their flavor in moderation, look elsewhere. Drink this pleasure-bent effort from 2011 to 2021.” $47.99
2006 Flor de Pingus – 94 points
“The 2006 Flor de Pingus spent 14 months in new French oak. Deep purple in color, it gives up a superb bouquet of toasty oak, spice box, mineral, incense, black cherry, and blackberry. Youthful, full-bodied, intense, and powerful on the palate, it retains an elegant personality despite its size. Splendidly balanced, it will evolve for 4-6 years and deliver prime drinking from 2013 to 2026. It is a superb value in great wine considering that the price of Pingus Junior is one-tenth that of Pingus.” $85.00

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Filed under Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Contigo

The wait is over. Contigo has finally opened.
It took Brett Emerson two years to build the restaurant of his dreams in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. He shared the long process, from his original inspiration (on a trip to Spain, of course) through the long construction phase to the final result that is Contigo on his blog In Praise Of Sardines. He first came to our attention here in Berkeley when we noticed him repeatedly shopping for large quantities of clay cazuelas in various sizes. Knowing that where one sees cazuelas, good food often follows, we waited patiently for his efforts to bear fruit. That patience (on our part as well as Brett’s) has paid off as Contigo is now up and running, serving excellent food inspired by Chef Emerson’s Iberian experiences.
Now open seven nights a week, Contigo serves a well chosen selection of hot and cold appetizers, several larger dishes and a mostly Spanish selection of wines . The small dishes include fresh seasonal vegetables (asparagus and fava beans – and leaves –  are currently featured), seafood (fried anchovies, local squid cooked in their own ink) and several more meaty choices (ox tail croquetas, pork belly bocadillos). From the wood burning oven come a few pizza-like flat breads and several main course sized meat and seafood dishes cooked in those clay cazuelas we love so well. Paired with a glass of dry Manzanilla Sherry, a bubbly Cava or a rich Vino Tinto the food at Contigo evokes the traditional flavors of Spain coupled with Brett Emerson’s skill and imagination.

Happily, the public embrace of Contigo has been immediate. Amanda Gold’s review in The San Francisco Chronicle came out today so expect even larger than usual crowds (my strategy at present is to go after the dinner rush on Monday when the wait is minimal – wait, why am I telling you this? That’s supposed to be my little secret!).
In Berkeley we are currently seeing new vintages of some trusty favorites as well as trying an experiment in wine packaging.
In response to the overwhelming popularity of Capote Velho Tinto I am now carrying the same wine in the economical, environmentally friendly ‘Bag in Box’ size.  While I am confident that the wine in the bottle is identical to the wine in the box (I tasted both the bottle and the box versions side by side to make sure the same flavors carried over from one to the other), only time will tell if you, our customers, are willing to set aside preconceptions about ‘box wine’ and give this a try. The combination of low price and high quality makes the decision pretty simple.
Also coming in this week is the new supply of Basque apple cider (Sagardo!) that many of you have been waiting for as well as our short lived annual allotment of Txakoli Rosado. Additionally, this week we have a couple of new reds from unique grapes, including a new Mencía from Bierzo as well as a new Prieto Picudo from the newly created Tierra de León region.


Tapaswalk update

In response to the numerous inquiries regarding Tapaswalk (a wine and food class/walking tour that winds its way through downtown San Francisco stopping in at several of the Spanish styled restaurants that are shaking up the local dining scene) I have created a summer long schedule that should give everybody time to pick a date that works for you.
I will be offering Tapaswalk every other week on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting May 27th. The Tuesday classes will be on June 9th, July 7th, August 4th, September 1st, September 29th and October 27th. The Wednesday classes will be on May 27th, June 24th, July 22nd, August 19th, September 16th, September 30th and October 14th.
The classes all start at 6 pm and last approximately 2 hours. The cost is $65 per person. More details can be found here. Reservations should be made via email at salondelvino(at)gmail(dot)com.

Capote Velho 5 Liter ‘Bag in Box’ My original review of this wine said “What A bargain! This non-vintage red wine from who knows where in Portugal has absolutely no pedigree but really delivers on freshness and versatility. This wine possesses gentle berry-like fruit character and moderate tannins coupled with a moderate level of alcohol (11.5%). Like a no name house wine in a little Portuguese bar or restaurant, this red tastes great by itself and will also accompany, but not overshadow, a broad range of foods.” We now offer this same wine in the more economical, environmentally friendly ‘Bag in Box’ size that contains five full liters of wine for $6.00 per liter (equals $4.00 per regular 750ml bottle). The pour spigot keeps the air out, maintaining the freshness of the wine  for as long as it takes to finish the whole thing. $29.99
Isastegi Sidra 2008 The new vintage of Isastegi has arrived and , hey, the price is better this year! This tart, yeasty hard apple cider is a refreshingly different drink to accompany a full range of pintxos (Basque tapas). Try it with sizzling chorizo from the grill or bacon wrapped dates. $8.99
Ameztoi Rubentis 2008 It appears but once a year and now is the moment. The dry, crisp Txakoli wine from Basque country is rarely found in the rosado version. The abundantly mineral Txakoli style is supplemented with pale pink color and the barest whiff of tart strawberry. Pour this one when the weather is hot and experience true refreshment. $19.99
Guitian Sobre Lias 2005 This is my current favorite white wine at Daniel Olivella’s Barlata in Oakland. Made in the Valdeorras region from the local Godello grape, this wine spent several months ageing on its lees (the skins, pulp and sediment from the wine making process) to give an added note of yeasty complexity to the gentle, white peach and melon fruit character. $11.99
Castro De Valtuille Mencía Joven 2006 This unoaked young wine from the Bierzo region was, in previous vintages, called Castro Ventosa. Newly repackaged, this fresh young red displays the typical Mencía style in an unadorned, pure version. Twiggy, dried leaf aroma adds intrigue to the cranberry/pomegranate fruit character and underlying minerality. White beans and chorizo would make a good match here. $14.99
Preto Tinto 2007 Tierra de León is one of Spain’s newest wine regions. One of the unique local grapes of this region is Prieto Picudo, a fruity, high acid variety that was almost extinct before efforts in this region to recuperate the variety. Preto Tinto is dark garnet colored with leafy Mencía-like aroma, flinty minerality and mulberry fruit character. This unoaked wine expresses the Prieto Picudo grape in a pure, unadulterated form (this is the same producer as the Preto Rosado mentioned a few weeks ago). $21.99

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Filed under events, rosado, sidra (cider), Spain, 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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Filed under Argentina, Chile, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Drink In The Season

 

So, I’m walking to work this morning and I’m thinking about the priorities of the business day. I have wines to buy, people to call, events to plan (typical daily minutiae) and as I plod along I look up and, in a moment of sudden realization, say to myself “Holy smokes, the trees are turning yellow”.

Yep, summer is drawing to a close and, as usual, the gingko trees on my block are the first sign that the days are getting shorter and the nights are growing cooler as the season changes. Soon (hopefully) rain will return to this part of the world and the Bay Area hills will once again turn from brown to green.

This in-between season calls for foods that take advantage of the bounty of the harvest. We still have tomatoes and corn and eggplant, but now we also find shell beans, acorn squash and (soon) wild mushrooms.

This season calls for (begs for, pleads for, kicks and screams and rolls around on the floor for) tart, yeasty hard apple cider. In the Basque country this is a traditional springtime drink, but the flavors of this unique beverage evoke all the best elements of autumn in America.

Our latest batch of new wines also compliments the flavors of the season. This week we have several unique and delicious wines from some little known producers as well as from some well established bodegas.

Now is the moment to break out your olla, the traditional earthenware bean pot of Spain, and cook up a batch of pardina lentils, garbanzos, or big creamy Judión beans (my favorites). Once cooked, these legumes will serve as the beginning of any number of traditional recipes but they are also delicious all by themselves.

The following recipe takes full advantage of the unique products from The Spanish Table. Judión beans from Astorga (the bean capital of Spain), Serrano ham bones (a Spanish Table exclusive) and the lidded clay bean pots from Spain that cook slowly and evenly, insuring soft, fully cooked, unbroken beans.

Judión beans with Serrano Ham bone

(Serves 6-8 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

1 lb – Spanish dried Judión beans

1 – Serrano ham bone (joint end)

1 – earthenware olla (bean pot)

1 – teaspoon, sweet smoked paprika

2 – tablespoons, sea salt

Directions:

Rinse the dried beans under running water to remove any dust or debris. Soak the beans over night in the olla filled with water. The next day, drain the water and refill with fresh cold water to cover the soaked beans by two inches. Heat the olla over a medium flame on the stove. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer the beans for one hour before adding the ham bone and paprika. Continue simmering the beans for another hour or two until the beans are fully cooked but not falling apart. Add more water as needed to keep the beans submerged at all times. Add the salt only after the beans are fully cooked.

Serve along side grilled meats or fish. Alternately, add a few whole chorizos, morcillas and chunks of slab bacon to the bean pot and cook for another hour to create a version of Fabada Asturiana.

Isastegi Sagardo Kit Basque apple cider (cloudy gold colored with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor) is proving to be quite popular since its recent introduction here. Anyone who has tried this hard cider in Spain will tell you that you need the traditional cider glass to experience the drink at its best. We now have these thin glass tumblers, imprinted with the Isastegi logo (a limited edition) for sale. In our new Basque cider gift set you get a bottle of Isastegi Sagardo Naturala and two glasses for $19.99 ($11.99 for the cider alone). You can buy extra glasses for $4.99 each.

Con Class 2007 The new vintage of Con Class is here. This Rueda region white wine is an unoaked blend of Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc. Floral aroma blends well with citrus and tropical fruit flavors. This tart and refreshing wine is versatile and very food friendly. $12.99

El Chaparral 2007 The new vintage of El Chaparral is, as always, crafted from old vine Garnacha fruit from the Navarra region in Northern Spain. This medium bodied red wine combine fresh berry fruit character with a bit of black pepper spice and minerality that ad a ‘Rhone-like’ character to the wine. $15.99

Viña do Burato 2007 The new vintage of this wine from Ribeira Sacra in Northwestern Spain is bright and youthful, medium bodied and relatively low in alcohol (12.5%). Firm minerality and delicate floral combine with gentle fruit character. This small production wine (400 cases) is a rare treat from a region that deserves much more attention. $19.99

Azamor 2004 The Alentejo region of Portugal continues to be a source of new, interesting, nicely priced wines. This blend of numerous grapes (Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Franca, Trincadeira, Syrah, Merlot) displays dark color and smooth, elegant fruit character. A bit of gamey/earthy background adds complexity and depth this well made but not yet well known wine. $19.99

Beronia Gran Reserva 1996 If you have wanted to experience the distinct pleasure of a mature Gran Reserva Rioja but have been put off by the high prices that these wines command now is your chance to taste this style at a price that won’t make you hesitate. This wine spent two years in oak and has been ageing gracefully in the bottle for the past decade. Brownish brick red in color with gentle aromas of oak and coffee bean, this wine possesses elegant fruit character that evokes brandied cherries and cranberries. A wine for contemplation at a no-brainer price. $24.99

 

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Filed under Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, sidra (cider), Spain, White Wine

More New Stuff

Oh boy, I sure love springtime in the wine business. New wines arrive daily and opening all the boxes full of pretty, colorful bottles is like a birthday party or Christmas morning. This week marks the return of some tried and trusted favorites as well as more new wines to taste for the first time. The cavalcade of crisp whites and berry scented rosado wines continues unabated. A few reds (new and returning) are also arriving this week. Check out the options below and come see us in Berkeley to experience this bounty of vinous delights first hand.

 

Hermanos Lurton Rueda 2005 $6.99 This year America has fully embraced the white wines of Rueda with gusto and prices are climbing (supply and demand in action). Happily, we found a great deal on a small amount of very well priced Rueda from a well known wine family just in time for warmer weather. This blend of Verdejo and Viura is pale yellow colored with green reflections. White peach and melon fruit character adds depth to this citrusy wine.

Melipel Rosado 2007 $10.99 last week we mentioned another different Argentine rosé and it was gone before the weekend was over. This week we feature another wine made from the Malbec grape. Melipel is full of strawberry aroma and flavor. It is fruity yes, but not sweet. The bright acidity keeps the wine fresh and never cloying. If you tried last weeks pink wine, this week is more of the same style.

Viña Catajarros Élite Rosado 2007 $12.99 The Cigales region in northern Spain is, along with Navarra, the traditional home of many excellent rosado wines. This particular wine (the first 2007 rosado to arrive from Spain) is produced mostly from Tempranillo with, interestingly, 10% white Verdejo added to the blend. Vivid rose pink color and strawberry aroma blends well with watermelon fruit character and a racy jolt of acidity (from the Verdejo) that maintains the bright, refreshing quality of this wine.

Monopole 2007 $17.99 The latest vintage of white Rioja from CUNE has just arrived. This fresh, herbaceous, citrusy wine is made from 100% Viura, hand harvested, cold macerated and fermented in stainless steel to preserve the maximum of fresh fruit character. The aromas of green apple and fresh herbs are carried along by flavors of grapefruit and lemon. Reach for this distinctive tall bottle when you want a top notch unoaked white wine to serve with fresh spring vegetables, delicately flavored cheeses or raw seafood.

La Vendimia 2006 $14.99 This youthful, fresh red wine comes from the Palacios Remondo winery in Rioja. An even 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, the wine spends just 4 months in oak before bottling. Garnet colored, this wine is feather light texture-wise with bright fresh cherry fruit supported by a gentle touch of tannic oak. A whole roast chicken rubbed with garlic and smoked paprika would be a perfect match here.

Condado de Sequeiras 2006 $18.99 If you follow my ramblings here with regularity you have probably noticed my sincere affection for red wines made from the Mencía grape. Mostly found in the Bierzo region of northwestern Spain, we are starting to see more Mencía coming from the neighboring region of Ribeira Sacra. Condado de Sequeiras is produced from the fruit of a 20 acre parcel of 80 year old Mencía located on the terraced banks of the Minho River in Ribeira Sacra. Steel tank fermentation allows the varietal character to shine without interference from oaky aromas or flavors. This dark garnet colored wine displays rich black currant fruit character and distinctive wet slate minerality. If you have enjoyed some of our other Mencía wines (we carry many of them) then you owe it to yourself

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

The Big Store and The Big Scores

Oh dear, I am falling behind in my updates to you about all that is going on here at The Spanish Table. I missed last week, for which I sincerely apologize, but the pace of business has quickened considerably on several fronts and I should update you on these developments before any more time passes.

First off, we have all been working long hours to install a temporary outpost of The Spanish Table on the ground floor of Macy’s in Union Square. For the next two weeks you can find the familiar faces you know from our Berkeley and Mill Valley stores (mine included) at Macy’s in San Francisco as we help them celebrate all things Spanish during their annual spring flower show. The theme this year is ‘A Mosaic of Spain’. For our part, we have set up a mini-Spanish Table on the ground floor of the main building, right by the escalators, in between the watches and cosmetics. While we will not be spritzing you with perfume or offering makeovers, we will be sampling chorizo, olives, turron and other favorites from The Spanish Table.

Want more? There will be Flamenco dancers in the menswear department. In housewares, Bay Area chefs such as Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade, Bocadillos), Maggie Pond (Cesar), Daniel Olivella (B-44) and Tyler Florence (he’s Spanish, right?) will be demonstrating a broad range of Spanish recipes with wine pairings hosted by our own Andy Booth. Bedding and furniture on the 7th floor will feature a showing of black and white photographs of Spain. Abundantly colorful floral displays will be found throughout the store. What more can I say other than “would you like to put that on your Macy’s card?”

Meanwhile, The Wine Advocate has just released their latest reviews of several hundred Spanish wines including many of our tried and trusted favorites. This influential publication always brings in new customers interested in trying some of the wines they have just read about. For those of you who have already been trying and buying, I thought it might be fun to compare what I said (and when I said it) about some of the wines that are just now getting their justly deserved bit of attention from The Wine Advocate.

Here we go:

7/12/07- I said:

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 autumn leaf aroma and flinty background minerality. Perfect for summer cookouts in the back yard or wherever you may be.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

“90 Points-The 2006 Joven saw no oak. Dark ruby-colored, it offers an expressive bouquet of mineral, blue fruits, and black cherry. Smooth, seamless, and elegant, this is a superb introduction to the Mencia grape as well as an exceptional value.”

12/6/07- I said:

Can Blau 2006 $17.99 The new vintage of this well loved red from the Montsant region has just arrived. This dark, opulent blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too. Previous vintages have all scored highly in the press and the new vintage is right up there quality-wise. For a soul warming winter meal, pour this with a traditional Cocido (the Spanish version of Italian ‘Bolito Misto’, or for you New Englanders, ‘Boiled Dinner’).

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
92 points -The 2006 Can Blau is one of the finest values in the marketplace. Composed of 40% Carinena, 40% Syrah, and 20% Garnacha, this purple-colored wine has great aromatics for the price point. It offers up smoke, pain grille, pencil lead, scorched earth, blueberry, black cherry, and blackberry. Balanced, round, and ripe on the palate, the wine already reveals some complexity and enough structure to blossom for another 2-3 years.”

10/19/07- I said:

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 $18.99 Produced from a blend of mostly Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano, this Crianza level wine spends an extended period (2 years) ageing in French and American oak barrels, with an additional year of bottle ageing before release. The bright cherry-like fruit and resiny tannic barrel character that are typical of traditional Crianza Riojas are present here in a finely tuned frame. Serve this wine with sliced Serrano ham or cured Spanish chorizo for a classic flavor pairing.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

“90 Points –The 2000 Pecina Crianza is 95% Tempranillo with the balance Graciano and Garnacha from organically farmed estate fruit. It was aged for 24 months in seasoned American oak before being bottled unfiltered (as are all of these wines). Dark ruby-colored with a brick rim, it exhibits a nose of cedar, earth, mushroom, tobacco, and blackberry. This leads to a stylish, elegant wine with good concentration and depth that should drink well for another 6 years. It is an excellent value in traditional Rioja.”

9/6/07- I said:

Pétalos 2006 $23.99 The 2001 vintage of Pétalos was a profound experience for me. I’d never previously tried any Mencía grape wines from D.O. Bierzo but this wine won me over instantly with its combination of poise and power. Loamy dried leaf aroma and berry-like fruit with deep, dark garnet color. Subsequent vintages have reaffirmed my appreciation of this grape/region/producer. The 2005 was opulent and assertive. The new 2006 shows more elegance and precision.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
91 points -The 2006 Petalos del Bierzo is purple-colored with a fragrant nose of violets, lavender, mulberry, and blueberry. Ripe, supple, and sweetly fruited, it will evolve for 2-3 years and drink well through 2015. This estate was started in 1998 by Alvaro Palacios. It has steep hillside vineyards and 60- to 100-year-old vines planted in 100% Mencia, a varietal indigenous to Bierzo, a cool-climate D.O.”

11/8/07 – I said:

Alto Moncayo 2005 $43.00 Garnacha is the most widely planted red grape in Spain but you won’t find many as good as what Alto Moncayo makes in D.O. Campo de Borja just south of Rioja. Deep ruby color, extracted aromas of ripe berries and a bright, spicy character that is a perfect match for red meat.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

95 points -The 2005 Alto Moncayo is a selection of older Garnacha vineyards. Purple colored, it is more expressive aromatically with enticing aromas of pain grille, spice box, floral notes, black cherry and black raspberry. Richer, more layered, and intense, this superb effort has a 60+ second finish.”

10/19/07- I said:

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 $28.99 It’s the time of year when a little late harvest sweet wine is particularly appealing. The new vintage of the celebrated Casta Diva is a lush Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
90 points -The 2006 Casta Diva “Cosecha Miel” Moscatel undergoes barrel-fermentation in new oak which is gradually arrested for bottling in the following spring. The nose offers up floral notes and honey along with peach, apricot, ginger, and marmalade. Medium-sweet, intense, and long, this tasty elixir will pair well with fruit desserts.”

2/14/08-I said:

Primitivo Quiles Fondillón Reserva 1948 $63.00 Historically, Fondillón was called Vino Noble de Alicante not only because it was enjoyed by royalty (Louis XIV is said to have enjoyed the wine) but also as an indication of a winemaking style that achieves 16% alcohol by volume without resorting to fortification of the wine with spirits as is done in Jerez.

Late harvest Monastrell is picked at ultimate ripeness and the sugars in the grape convert to alcohol at a higher rate than normally. After many years in the solera the wine looses its red color and turns a ruddy shade of amber. Nutty sherry-like aroma and flavor balance gentle but not cloying sweetness. Serve this wine with afternoon cookies and tea. A small glass after dinner is also nice.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

93 Points –The 1948 Fondillon Gran Reserva is drawn from a solera begun in 1948 but the wine is not fortified. Dark amber/brown in color, it has aromas reminiscent of an Amontillado sherry including almonds, ginger, dates, and assorted dried dark fruits. It finishes sherry-like but without the alcohol and the bite. There is nothing else quite like this uniquely styled dry wine.”

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Misc.Wine, Red Wine, Spain

Holiday Wines, Version 1.6.3, The Aftermath

In this phase of the Holiday Season, just getting off the sofa can require more effort than you can muster.  If you have been celebrating Christmas then chances are you’re reading this from deep within a wasteland of shredded and discarded ribbon and wrapping paper. Brush off the lethargy (and the cookie crumbs from breakfast that are stuck to your new sweater) and rejoin the world. If Christmas is not your thing, you too can come back out from hiding. The scary Santas are mostly gone and the city is once again open for business.

 As the Holiday season, and the year, winds down I want to take this brief opportunity to thank you, our newsletter subscribers, for allowing us past your spam filters and onto your desktop on a (mostly) weekly basis these past 12 months.  

I know it’s a busy, marketing driven world out there. We all get a constant stream of sales pitch wherever we go in the real world as well as on-line. If, amidst all this you are still taking the time to check up on what’s happening wine-wise at The Spanish Table then you deserve our sincere appreciation.

In exchange for your attention this past year I have offered you a first peek at the many new and exceptional wines that flow through our little store year in and year out. This ‘insider information’  leaves newsletter subscribers well equipped to discover the many new wines now available for purchase for the first time here in our part of the globe.

In the New Year we will continue to bring you the best of the Iberian wine world. Even in the face of unprecedented currency exchange rates, these imported wines from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile will continue to provide superlative quality at exceptional prices. I hope you will join us on this continuing journey.

Meanwhile, we just got in some of my all-time favorite wines in larger than usual quantities and we have priced them all lower than usual too. Come see our big pile of wine and pick up a bargain or four. I promise it will be worth your effort.

 

Arribeño Roble 2003 $6.99 ($5.99 by the case) Arribeño Roble is a young Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero red that fully expresses the character of the region. Dark garnet color, loamy forest floor aroma and firm grape skin tannins. Light oak aroma comes from a short 4 months of barrel age. Black cherry fruit character and a smoky finish round out the picture. This wine is one of The Spanish Table’s ‘House Wine’ selections. These great bargains are all $6.99 by the bottle with a special (mix & match) discount of $5.99/each with full case purchase.

 

Altos de La Hoya 2006 $9.99 (was $11.99) This wine from Jumilla has always been a benchmark Monastrell from Spain. Ungrafted old vines with fat and lush flavors of deep, sweet dark berries, some black pepper and just a touch of baked earth. Great concentration and richness. This tastes like a much more expensive wine than it is. Another wine that we managed to negotiate a special price on.

 

Pétalos 2006 $19.99 (was $23.99) We just got a great deal on one of my personal favorite wines from D.O. Bierzo in northwestern Spain. The grape here, as in all Bierzo reds, is Mencía. This wine displays dark garnet color with leafy aroma and tangy pomegranate fruit character.

Josh Raynolds with Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave this wine

91 points, saying: “Ruby-red. Vibrant red berry and cherry aromas are underscored by pungent minerality and rose; this smells like a great Chambolle-Musigny. Sweet raspberry and floral pastille flavors are enlivened by brisk acidity and gain sweetness with air. Very suave, focused and strikingly pure wine with superb complexity and poise”.

 

Les Terrasses 2005 $29.99 (was $36.99) Andy Booth, co-owner of The Spanish Table reports: “This has been one of my favorite Priorats for years, especially because I could afford it. The price has crept up over the years but we managed to negotiate a great price on this. Chewy but supple black cherry, currant and berry flavors mingle perfectly with dusty cocoa, dried flowers and a touch of anise. Elegant tannins frame this nicely and the acidity makes this wine sing on the finish…and I like the song.

 

 

 

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Filed under Red Wine, Spain