Tag Archives: mendoza

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

Many Are Tasted, But Few Are Chosen

It is that time of year again.

I speak of the spring tasting season when all the wine importers and distributors conduct tastings for the trade. New wines are featured along with new vintages of familiar favorites. At these events buyers like me get a chance to sniff, sip, compare and contrast dozens (no, hundreds) of wines before choosing what to carry in the store. It all sounds like a fun time and sort of a booze cruise but it is, in fact, a bit of work (yes, I know, poor me).

I used to make a habit of trying all the white wines before moving on to reds but I found that the high acidity of white wines tended to burn out my taste buds early, leaving me with a palate too compromised to accurately taste the red wines. My routine these days is to taste first all the things I am most interested in, switching back and forth between reds and whites. Then I go back and try other wines that I might have missed the first time through. Of course I am not consuming all this wine yet even so after a few hours I have to call it quits because palate fatigue sets in and everything starts tasting the same. Afterwards, with purple teeth, smudgy notes and, most likely, a wine stained shirt I head back home to review my notes and choose what to bring in and sell.

This week I offer you a selection of new arrivals that made the cut. Some of these wines are making a first appearance at The Spanish Table while others have just changed to the latest vintage, warranting repeat investigation.

Laxas 2008 The first 2008 Albariño of the season has arrived. Laxas is a ripe pear and citrus scented wine that displays a greenish tint and a light minerality. This bright, floral white wine is a perfect choice for springtime foods such as fresh cheeses, tender salad greens and fresh vegetables. The price has thankfully not gone up in the new vintage. $17.99

Solar de Serrade Alvarinho 2007 The wine world has ‘discovered’ Portugal (a case of hiding in plain sight, if you ask me) leading to the importation of numerous new and interesting wines that previously never made it out of the country. The Vinho Verde wines of northern Portugal have for many years been associated with cheap, spritzy, non-vintage white wines that are fun, refreshing and simple.  Now we are seeing more elaborate, intriguing wines from this region including this single varietal Alvarinho (Albariño in Spain become Alvarinho in Portugal). The light spritzy effervescence of a typical Vinho Verde is found here with a much drier, more mineral foundation underlying tart citrus fruit character. This crisp, refreshing, low alcohol white wine makes an excellent aperitivo wine as well as a nice accompaniment to lighter meals. $17.99

Muralhas De Monçao Vinho Verde 2007 Another example of the many wonderful wines coming out of Portugal right now, this white wine from the Vinho Verde region is a traditional blend of Alvarinho and Trajadura, bottled with a touch of residual effervescence. Aromas and flavors of white peach and meyer lemon give this wine a bit of roundness to balance the crisp acidity and light minerality. This wine is very popular in Portugal and has happily been showing up around the Bay Area on some by-the-glass lists of numerous restaurants. Try it at home with a big salad and some grilled sardines. $15.99

Mas Malbec 2007 The new 2007 vintage of Mas Malbec serves as a reminder that this has been a consistently solid wine and a customer favorite for several vintages running.  This wine from bodegas Sur de los Andes in Argentina is a private label for the importer Luis Moya who works with the producer to create a young 100% Malbec wine in a well balanced style. Ripe fruit never overwhelms the palate, leaving room for light barrel tannins and rocky minerality. This too is the same price as last vintage. $11.99

Novecento Malbec 2007 As the season changes and the weather warms, I start to bring in more wines intended to accompany outdoor cooking.  This young Malbec from Argentina is expressive and ripe with dark berry fruit fruit character. Dust off the grill, open a bottle of Novocento and start enjoying the sunshine. $10.99

La Planta 2007 Many of you have been waiting for the new vintage of La Planta to arrive. Wait no longer. This lightly oaked red from Bodegas Arzuaga in Ribera del Duero is dark and expressive with earthy nuance and ripe fruit character. Fashioned from the local Tinto Fino grape (Tempranillo by another name) and aged for just a few months in small oak barrels, this wine has a bold character that pairs well with full flavored meaty meals. A mixed grill of chuletas de cordero (lamb chops) and morcilla (blood sausage) would be a perfect pairing here. $15.99

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

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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Wine and Travel

Have you had enough of summer vacation yet?

Technically, summer is drawing to a close but I just got word of a trip that may inspire those of you with some free time to extend summer beyond Labor Day.

Chef Maggie Pond from Bar César is leading a food and wine centered trip to Catalunya in September. This 9 day trip will focus on the myriad delights of Barcelona and the surrounding countryside. Cooking classes, trips to wineries and olive mills, scenic excursions and elegant meals are all on the agenda. In addition to Maggie and her crew, Andy Booth from The Spanish Table will be on hand to share his knowledge of the local food and wine of this fascinating region. All the details are here: http://www.barcesar.com/tour/.

Meanwhile, here in Berkeley, we have been receiving some very hard-to-find wines from top shelf producers that I feel deserve your attention.

In recent weeks I have been focusing on the excellent value priced wines that are our specialty at The Spanish Table. This week I want to alert you to some recent arrivals that are (there is no way around it) on the expensive side. These are all finely tuned wines that showcase the very best efforts of their respective winemakers. They are made in miniscule quantities and are usually not available for purchase in retail shops. Most of these wines are only found in high end restaurants (at high end prices).

This is your chance to pick up some iconic wines for near term enjoyment or to stock the wine cellar for some time in the future. Check out the details below:

 

Les Brugueres 2006 Wines from D.O.C. Priorat are almost always red, but a few examples of the rare white Priorat can be found and this is one of those. Made from a small single vineyard of 100 year old Garnacha Blanca grown in the rocky schist soil of the region, this rich white wine achieves a level of depth and concentration that is impressive (even more so when you consider that the wine is not aged in oak). Juicy peach and tart apple fruit character, mineral aroma and full bodied texture combine to create a uniquely delicious wine. $32.99 (5 bottles in stock)

 

As Sortes 2006 Rafael Palacios, of the famous Palacios winemaking family, makes this 100% Godello wine in the Valdeorras region in Northwestern Spain. In the right hands, the Godello grape makes delicate and elegantly fruity wines. Rafael Palacios makes this wine from old vine Godello (40-60 year old vines) grown at high altitude (over 600 meters). Fermented and aged in large oak foudres , this wine displays white peach and crane melon fruit character, fine minerality and leesy complexity, with only the barest hint of barrel character. Josh Raynolds from Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar rated this wine at 92 points, saying: “Pale yellow. Spicy citrus, orange and melon aromas are brightened by zesty minerals; smells like Puligny-Montrachet. Suave white peach and pear flavors lead to firm lemon zest, spice and chalky minerality on the back end. Impressively elegant and clean wine with the balance to age for a couple of years.” $45.00 (5 bottles in stock)

Emilio Rojo 2006 The Ribeiro region of Northern Spain is not well known in the USA, yet. That will change soon as this flinty, dry style of white wine gets more exposure in this country. Fashioned from a blend of 55% Treixadura, 15% Loureiro, 10% Lado, 10% Albariño and 10% Torrontés, Emilio Rojo displays aromas and flavors of flinty minerals and tart grapefruit in a finely balanced frame. This small production wine (700 cases in total) is an excellent example of Ribeiro wine and I am not alone in this opinion. Josh Raynolds from Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar rated this wine at 91 points, saying: “Pale yellow. Bitter citrus, minerals and honeysuckle on the nose, with a bright white pepper quality adding spice. Brisk, sharply focused lime and orange zest flavors offer striking depth and energy, staining the palate with mineral-accented flavor. Finishes with superb thrust and clinging citrus and bitter pear skin flavor. This won’t quit.” $52.00 (only 11 bottles in stock)

Lan Edición Limitada 2005 Bodegas Lan uses its best estate grown fruit for this dark, concentrated wine. The blend here is 80% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano. Extended maceration on the skins helps to develop the dark ruby color and 9 months of barrel age gives a balanced oak note to the finished wine. Limited availability and high scores by the wine press in previous vintages make this a wine that will not be around for long. This impressive effort will please both traditionalists and more modern palates. $49.99

 

Calvario 2005 The flagship bottle from Finca Allende is as pedigreed a Rioja as you are likely to find. The grapes for this wine are old vine fruit (mostly Tempranillo with a bit of Garnacha and Graciano added in) from a single vineyard planted in the 1940s. The wine is aged for 19 months in oak before bottling. Concentrated yet elegant, this wine has a long life ahead of it, but may be enjoyed right away if allowed to breathe for an hour before service. Jay Miller reviewed this wine for The Wine Advocate. He rated it at 95 points, saying: The 2005 Calvario comes from a single vineyard planted in 1945. It is 90% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha, and 2% Graciano aged for 16 months in new French oak. It delivers an alluring perfume of toasty new oak, wild black berry, black cherry, and floral notes. Layered and with serious depth, the wine has great concentration and balance. Give it 5-7 years in the cellar and drink it through 2035.” $136.00

 

Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2006

Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira 2006

Bodegas Achaval Ferrer was founded in 1998 in the Mendoza region of Argentina by a group of Argentine entrepreneurs including Santiago Achaval Becu and Manuel Ferrer Minetti who lent their names to the project as well as Marcelo Victoria and Diego Rosso. They brought in several partners from Italy (Italian heritage is ubiquitous in Argentina).Roberto Cipresso, famed Italian winemaker and Tiziano Siviero (retired world rally champion race car driver turned winemaker) are partners in the La Fioreta winery in Montalcino. They came to Argentina to produce a series of wines for the new bodega. The motivation behind the wines of Achaval Ferrer is to make wines that express the unique grapes (primarily Malbec) and terroirs (or terruños, if you wish) of Mendoza.

Quimera is a blended wine that is made using the best grapes from each vintage. Roberto Cipresso chooses slightly different blends each year depending on how the various vineyard sites performed that year.

Quimera 2006 is composed of 34% Malbec from the Mederano and Lujan vineyards, 32% Merlot from Tupungato, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon from Medrano and Tupungato and 12% Cabernet Franc from Tupungato. After primary fermentation the separate varieties were blended and aged in oak for 13 months. The final result is a rich, dark wine with the bold, spicy aromas and dark berry fruit character that are typical of high quality Malbec from Argentina. The addition of other grape varieties adds complexity and structure to this wine. $41.99

Finca Altamira is the flagship wine of this Bodega. This small production wine is sourced from 80 year old Malbec vines growing in Achaval Ferrer’s estate vineyard called Finca Altamira in the La Consulta region of the Uco Valley in Mendoza. This unfiltered wine is darkly colored and richly flavored while simultaneously possessing delicate fruit character that creates an intriguing interplay of flavors and aromas. $96.00

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Spain is the winner

Did you notice that Spain won the European football championship last week? Of course you did, but you also get this newsletter so you are probably among those who follow this sort of thing.

A front to back search of local sports pages last week turned up scant coverage of this important news. I think this says more about America’s ambivalence toward ‘soccer’ than it does about American interest in Spain, but whether or not you are interested in the sport you have to feel good for the Spanish. They have not won this championship in a long, long time. It reminded me of when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series after falling short for so many seasons, only for Spain this was a national moment of pride, not a regional success story.

Here at The Spanish Table we celebrate the glory of Spain each and every day with great things to eat and drink. Recently the weather in the Bay Area has taken on a decidedly Castilian tone, with hot dry air and abundant sunshine replacing our normal cool, foggy summer climate, so now is a perfect time to create a bit of Iberian ambience in your own back yard.

Break out the red and gold decorations. Fire up the grill and cook up a mess of chorizo, morcilla and chuletas.  Stock the ice chest with refreshing Spanish rosado, cava and cerveza. Crank up the stereo and blast some old school flamenco (or some Rodolfo Chikilicuatre for the younger crowd).  For the full effect, try all of the above at about 10 pm (I suggest you invite the neighbors).

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that The Spanish Table is your one-stop-shop for just about everything necessary (food, wine, décor, music) to create your very own Spanish fiesta, Portuguese festa, or a good old back yard cookout with a few creative flourishes.

Here is a recipe from my childhood in Georgia that I have adapted with a bit of Iberian flair. As a kid, ‘Pigs in Blankets’ was what we called hot dogs wrapped in biscuit dough and baked. I never really liked them much. I thought the best part was whacking the cardboard tube of pre-made biscuit dough on the edge of the kitchen counter and watching the dough expand and ooze out of the split tube.

In a recent fit of nostalgia I retooled this recipe using my own biscuit dough and little chorizos from The Spanish Table. The results have completely changed my mind about this fun and easy party snack. Try it for your self and let me know what you think.

 

Cerditos en Mantas

(Serves 4-6)

 

2.5 cups all purpose flour (and a bit more for rolling out the dough)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon salt

¼ cup cold lard

¾ cup buttermilk

12 small Spanish style chorizos (I use Doña Juana Cantimpalitos)

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cold lard and combine with the flour by squeezing the mixture through your fingers until barely mixed and somewhat lumpy. Add the buttermilk and mix briefly. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and pat or roll out to about ½ inch in thickness. Cut dough into 12 triangles, approximately 3” on each side.  Place one chorizo in the center of each dough triangle. Fold two corners of the triangle over the center of the chorizo and press with your thumb to seal the points together. Leave the ends of the chorizo exposed. Place the wrapped chorizos on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a 45o degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the dough is fully cooked and starting to brown. Plate and serve immediately.

 

Blanco Nieva Sauvignon Blanc 2007 The Rueda region of Northern Spain is best know for producing white wines from the Verdejo grape, but they also grow a fair amount of Sauvignon Blanc. This new arrival is fresh as fresh can be, with abundant citrus blossom aroma and racy acidity. In the early stage of its development this wine displays a touch of residual effervescence which will fade with time. The ripe melon fruit character is still a bit subdued, but will become more predominant in a few more months. I suggest you try this unique wine right away to experience it at its freshest, then try it again later on in the year to experience the more mellow aspect of the wine. $17.99

 

Oreka 2007 We love the Txakoli, yes we do, and this is one of our perennial favorites, now available in the latest vintage. Oreka is the top of the line bottling from the Talai Berri winery just outside of Zarautz on the Cantabrian coast. This 100% Hondaribbi Zuri wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at temperatures just barely above freezing in order to preserve the delicate fruit character of this grape. Pale yellow color with greenish reflections. Edgy minerality and grapefruit-like flavor. This is an excellent, pin point precise example of what one should expect from quality Txakoli wine.  $19.99

 

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla Rosado 2007 The pink version of Vi D’Agulla is here and man, this stuff is tasty! You may well remember my enthusiastic endorsement of Avinyó’s traditional, spritzy, white Vi D’Agulla made from Petit Grain Muscat. Now those same winemakers have decided to produce a rosado version of Vi D’Agulla using Merlot grapes.  The spritz and the minerality of the original are still present in the new wine, along with a beautiful crystalline ruby hue and a modest amount of ripe berry fruit character. $14.99

 

Ricardo Santos Malbec 2006 This was the first Malbec to catch my attention back when we first started stocking wines from Argentina. The new vintage of this single vineyard wine has arrived and it too appeals to me because, unlike some Malbecs, 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. $17.99

 

Tercos Sangiovese 2005 Wine in Argentina is more than just Malbec. This wine, made by Pedro and Patricio Santos (the sons of Ricardo Santos) is made from 100% Sangiovese, a grape that predominates in Italy. This darkly colored yet brightly flavorful red wine exhibits fresh berry fruit character with underlying tannins and tart acidity. This is the first vintage of this young wine. Tercos means ‘stubborn’ or ‘obstinate’ in Spanish, perhaps indicating a commitment to quality and tradition, or maybe it means the sons held their breath and stomped their feet until Dad let them have a winery of their own. Either way, this is a tasty bottle from a skilled winemaking family. $11.99

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2007 The Achaval Ferrer winery, just barely ten years old, is quickly becoming one of the most highly sought after sources of top shelf Argentine wines. This wine is made from 100% Malbec from their various estate vineyards. Almost opaque in color, this unfiltered wine displays the dark berry fruit character that Malbec is known for as well as a touch of barrel tannin from 10 months in French oak. Smoky aroma and tart acidity add depth to this young wine. This is an excellent value from a winery known for making some very exclusive high end bottlings. $22.99

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

New Arrivals From Argentina

A few weeks ago I hosted a wine tasting at the California Shakespeare Festival that featured a few of our latest arrivals from Argentina. I poured a couple of red wines made from the Malbec grape and a white Torrontes. Judging from the pleasantly surprised responses (smiles, happy oohs and aahs, requests for seconds) many of you have yet to try the numerous new wines from Argentina. I only recently started buying Argentine and Chilean wine for our store, but I have been very pleased with the wines in general and am happy to continue my research in order to bring you the very best of the overwhelming array of brands and styles now finding their way to our shores.

At The Spanish Table in Berkeley I’m adding a new display rack and reorganizing a bit to make room for more wines from South America, so if you have not yet had an opportunity to experience these new red, white and rosado wines, now is your chance.

This week, in addition to our latest arrivals from Spain, we are featuring a handful of new arrivals from Argentina’s Finca Carlos Pulenta. The Tomero and Vistalba wines are excellent examples of contemporary Argentine wine making.

Food-wise, the center of a big Argentine meal is usually grilled meat in its many forms, though beef will certainly play a leading role. If a multi course meal comprised of steaks, chops, sausages and organ meats seems a bit too carnivorous for you, perhaps the following recipe adapted from Argentina Cooks! By Shirley Lomax Brooks ($24.95) will add balance to your meal:

Tomates Rellenos – Tuna and Vegetable Stuffed Tomatoes (serves 4)

4 large ripe tomatoes

2 large tins (12 ounces) Spanish Bonito del Norte Tuna

2 cups cooked vegetables, any combination of peas, carrots, green beans, corn kernels and lima beans

½ cup Delouis brand Aioli

Dash of Piri Piri pepper sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 green onions chopped

2 teaspoons fresh parsley, cilantro or dill

Make the tomato shells by cutting the tops off tomatoes and carefully scooping out the pulp and seeds. Drain the tuna and mix with your choice of vegetables and the aioli. Stir in Piri Piri, garlic, onions and green herbs. Fill the tomato halves with the shrimp salad and chill briefly before serving.

Now, on to the wine!

Vinos Blancos:

Tomero Torrontes 2006 $15.99 Produced in the Cafayate Valley in the Northern Argentine province of Salta, this aromatic white wine will charm you with scents of orange blossom, crane melon and white peach. The rich aromas add depth to the dry, mineral background and bright apricot-like fruit character of the wine.

Lagar de Cervera 2006 $20.99 From the producers of La Rioja Alta red wines comes the newest vintage of this always excellent Albariño which is bold and ripe, with fine minerality, medium body, and loads of tropical fruit.

Aforado 2005 $11.99 In D.O. Rías Baixas, the Albariño grape is King, but in the O Rosal sub-zone (where Aforado comes from) other grapes such as Treixadura and Loureira also share center stage. The end result of all this blending is a white wine with more peach and pear aromas and flavors than the typical flinty, citrusy Albariño wines. At this price, Aforado makes an excellent choice for buying by the case.

Vinos Tintos:

Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 $16.99 In the Mendoza region of Argentina vineyards grow in the dessert climate thanks to a controlled system of irrigation channels. Tomero is the title given to the vineyard worker in charge of water distribution. Tomero Cabernet is a rich red wine produced from estate grown fruit from the Valle de Uco region within Mendoza. Dark Garnet color and black cherry aroma lead to dry tannins and black currant fruit character. The whole ensemble is balanced and well integrated which lends a certain elegance to the wine.

Tomero Malbec 2004 $16.99 The Malbec grapes for this wine are, like the Cabernet, sourced from estate vineyards in the Valle de Uco region. Steel tank fermentation (i.e. no oak) allows the bold fruit character of the wine to predominate. Spicy background notes add complexity. This youthful red is ripe, but not ‘over the top’ as some other Malbec wines can be.

Vistalba Corte-C 2004 $11.99 This blend of estate grown Malbec (85%) and Merlot (15%), grown in the Luján de Cuyo region of Mendoza is aged, in part, in oak barrels for 12 months prior to bottling, then the bottled wine is aged for another 6 months before sale. Dark plum color and spicy oak aroma adds depth to the plum-like fruit character. This ripe, smooth red wine will pair well with cookout fare as well as more elaborate meat-centric preparations.

Can Blau 2005 $17.99 We’re back in Spain now. This D.O. Montsant wine has been getting lots of positive feedback from customers. Josh Raynolds reviewed this blend of 50% Cariñena, 35% Syrah and 15% Garnacha wine for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and rated it 90 Points. His description matches mine, but his wording is better. He said: “Bright ruby. Focused, fresh and brisk on the nose, with energetic cherry and candied licorice aromas. Intense mineral notes add complexity and depth to the explosive blackberry and cherry fruit, with notes of candied violet and rose coming up on the back. Finishes with superb intensity and length. An excellent value, and built for cellaring.

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