Tag Archives: monastrell

Madeira tasting at The Spanish Table in Mill Valley

Join us in Mill Valley Thursday, August 4th as we taste through the full spectrum of Madeira styles – from dry to sweet. Madeira is probably thebookleast-known category of wine here at the store, which is a shame, as they’re fabulous both at the start of a meal and with desserts. Manny Berk, truly an expert on Madeira, will be on-hand to educate us on these varied and unique wines.  He has re-published Noel Cossart’s, “Madeira – An Island Vineyard”, which details the fascinating history of Madeira with notes on vintages, special tastings, etc. (Tasting fee includes a copy of the book.) We’ll set out a variety of cheeses and other snacks that will pair nicely with the wines. There is a lot of interest in this tasting, and space is limited. For more information or to reserve a spot, please call the Mill Valley store: (415) 388-5043)

Joe’s Wine News:

cono%2042008 Primitivo Quiles Cono 4
This is one of the oldest wineries in Alicante and is famous for their amazing 1948 Fondillon and Raspay.  The Cono 4 is a new, younger monastrell that is very tasty.  Floral blackberry, rose, cracked pepper, and a touch of chocolate on the finish.  Great balance and acidity, to boot. A tremendous value wine at  $11.99.

yunquera2010 Valduero Yunquera Albillo
Best known as a producer of excellent red wines, Bodegas Valduero also makes one white wine from a little known grape called Albillo. Just 2 % of the estate vineyards at Bodegas Valduero are planted to Albillo.

Yunquera is made from 100% Albillo fermented in stainless steel and allowed to rest on its lees to give the wine weight and textural richness. It displays citrus blossom aroma with additional notes of fresh green herbs, petrol and bees wax on a firm mineral foundation. The golden color makes me think of this as a perfect white wine for cooler weather and richer meals. $16.99

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

Father’s Day

Talk about trend spotting; everybody is coming into The Spanish Table for supplies to make paella for Father’s Day. Nothing could make us happier. Around here we live to inspire you to make paella or any other Spanish or Portuguese dish. Helping you pair your special meal with a delicious bottle of wine is my personal priority.  So on a day reserved for celebrating Dads and all they do for us, here are some gift ideas that will be every bit as welcome as a power tool or a neck tie.


2001 Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva In Rioja, Gran reserva wines are only produced in the best years. 2001 was one of the best vintages in recent memory. Perfect growing conditions (hot days, cold nights, rain in the spring, dry at harvest time) produced the kind of fruit that make wines worth ageing for a decade before sale. Faded brick red color, fully resolved barrel character and delicate fruit flavors. This is a classic Gran Reserva for one knock out price. $23.99

2003 Raspay In a world of wines that are modern and rich, it is a special treat to find a winery still making a wine like they have for centuries. . .and being successful with it. The Primitivo Quiles Raspay is Monastrell from Alicante that is aged and totally different from any other Monastrell that can be found here in the US. Imagine this if you will a red fruit salad tossed with baking spice, roses and lavender. Velvety on the pallet with a lingering note of sweet red berries. Very impressive. $20.99

2005 Capellanes Crianza This bold, earthy red wine is a personal favorite, but I’m not the only one to love this dark,expressive Crianza from Ribera del Duero. The 2005 vintage scored 91 points in The Wine Advocate. They said: “The 2005 Crianza is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 12 months in seasoned French oak. Slightly deeper in color, it has a fragrant nose of smoke, pencil lead, vanilla, espresso, and blackberry jam. Medium bodied, dense, and structured, the wine has layers of spicy black fruit and enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years. Long and pure in the finish, it will drink well through 2015.” $33.99

Niepoort 10 year Tawny Porto 10 year Tawny Porto is a blend of several vintages with an average age of around 10 years. The base wines are kept in small oak casks until blending, then bottled just prior to sale. Proper blending is a difficult skill to master, and the winemakers at Niepoort are acknowledged experts in this area. Once bottled, the tawny Ports do not continue to develop in the bottle as the vintage Ports do. They also last longer than Vintage port once opened, and can be enjoyed for 6-8 weeks before noticeable oxidation occurs. This amber gold colored wine shows complex aromas of nuts and citrus peel. The oak adds a touch of tannic dryness to the wine. Brandy-like warmth and bright acidity balance the honeyed sweetness of the wine. Serve Niepoort 10 year Tawny Porto with dessert (chocolate desserts pair extremely well with this wine) or after a meal accompanied by good company and lively conversation. $39.99

New Orleans Reserve Madeira The RWC historic Series Madeiras are a collaboration between The Rare Wine Company and Vinhos Barbeito. The goal here is to produce wines that evoke the mature vintage Madeiras of days long past. The New Orleans Special Reserve is a blend of Tinta Negra Mole, Verdelho, Bual, Malvasia and Terrantez. Produced from old family stock in small 70 case batches by Ricardo Freitas, grandson of the founder Mario Barbeito, this rose gold colored wine is lightly sweet with spicy aroma, brandied raisin fruit character, abundant nutty complexity and delicate, ethereal texture. $65.00

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Reboot

For many of the less technically inclined among us the on/off button is our solution to all electronic device issues. Everything has them these days (computers, phones, televisions, even cars). When in doubt, start over from scratch by turning everything off and back on again. The circle with a vertical line sticking out from the top is the modern ideogram for renewal (not, as I first imagined, the international symbol for coconut with a straw in it).

After a busy holiday season and a brief break from the newsletter action (by the end of December I was all talked out so I took a few weeks off for some personal defragmentation) it’s time to hit the restart button and share anew with you the ongoing excitement of the Iberian wine world.

New wines from Spain, Portugal and Latin America are arriving weekly here and the year ahead looks very promising. Improved currency exchange rates and lower fuel costs are leading to some price reductions in imported wines while the current renaissance in Iberian winemaking is both fostering innovative new wines as well as creating markets for traditional styles that were previously unknown outside their regions of origin.

At The Spanish Table we continue to bring you a selection of high quality wines at all price levels. In the year ahead we will also post more recipes, offer additional classes and organize new events to share the distinctive flavors of Spain and Portugal with you, our loyal customers.

This week brings a new version of a traditional recipe, the announcement of an upcoming class that we offer only 3 times a year and the release of some of the most anticipated wines of the season. Onward!

Lentejas Con Chorizo (Lentils with Chorizo sausage) is a popular home-style dish in Spain. This dense, meaty stew is perfect cold weather fare. I have lightened up the texture to create a soup that delivers the same flavors in a brothy version more appropriate to our moderate climate. This soup can be made in a vegetarian version by omitting the chorizo and adding a bit more smoked paprika.

 

Lentil Soup with (or without) Chorizo

(makes 6-8 portions)

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                          1 lb. dried Spanish Pardina lentils (approximately 2 cups)

2 qt. water

1 bay leaf

1 large yellow onion

2 ribs of celery (1 rib yields approximately 1/2 cup)

3 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 large leek (yields approximately 1½ cups)

2 large carrots (yields approximately 3/4 cup)

4 oz. Spanish style chorizo sausage (optional) (yields approximately 1 cup)

1 teaspoon Spanish Sweet smoked paprika (1 ½ teaspoons for the vegetarian version)

1 teaspoon whole cumin

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley or cilantro

2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar

Directions:

Rinse the dried lentils under fresh water to remove any dust or dirt. Cut the onion in quarters leaving the skin on. Roughly chop one of the ribs of celery. Combine the rinsed lentils, bay leaf, onion and celery with 2 quarts of cold water in a soup pot (preferably a Spanish earthenware olla). Bring the pot to a boil on the stove and then simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are just cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion and celery.

Finely dice the leek, carrot, remaining celery and chorizo (if using). In a separate pan heat the olive oil and sauté the diced vegetables and chorizo for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and paprika to the pan and sauté the spices briefly to release their flavors. Add the contents of the sauté pan to the soup pot and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. Mince the parsley or cilantro and add to the pot along with the Sherry vinegar. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with grilled whole grain bread and a nice bottle of red wine.

 

 

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

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

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) will reawaken your interest in Chilean wine. $14.99

 

Esboço Douro 2005 This young red wine from the Portuguese Douro Valley is made up of mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca along with a whole laundry list of other Douro grapes as is the tradition in this ancient region where field blending is the norm. Dark color and earthy aroma create a first impression much in keeping with traditional Portuguese style augmented here with ripe, youthful fruit character that is not so common in wines from this region. $14.99

 

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2004 The new vintage of this single vineyard Rioja has just arrived. Composed of the fruit of one large contiguous vineyard in the heart of DOC Rioja (extremely rare in a region full of tiny vineyard parcels) this reserve level wine is 90% Tempranillo with the remaining 10% made up of Graciano, Mazuelo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby/garnet color, moderate oak barrel aroma and dark berry fruit character. 18 months of barrel age gives the wine a tannic core that has softened over the years. This smooth, opulent, plush Rioja is tilted toward a more modern style (more fruit, less wood) without loosing sight of the traditional aged reserva character that the wine is rightfully famous for. At first release this wine was pushing $40 but things are looking better now. $28.99

 

Clio 2006 The “it wine” of the moment, this  blend of old vineMonastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon from DO Jumilla has received some out of the ballpark reviews since its first vintage in 2002. Customers call from across the country looking for this full-bodied, plush wine that combines layer upon layer of spice, vivid fruit and oak. We just got a small allocation from the distributor, most likely the only one for the year and are offering it on a first-come-first-served basis.  $47.99

 

El Nido 2006 The elder sibling of Clio. Using more Cabernet Sauvignon and less Monastrell in the blend (from the estate’s best fruit) adds a firmer tannic element to the complex and ripe fruit character. This wine is built for long term storage and will really start to show its best side in 6-8 years. Extremely limited, we have a mere 8 bottles to offer. Again, no limits on purchase quantities while supply lasts. $148.00

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Filed under Chile, Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Giving And Getting

Now is the time for holiday parties. Chances are you are invited to, or are yourself hosting, a gathering of family, friends and/or coworkers in the near future. Even in today’s gloomy economic climate holiday traditions must be observed. Disowning your relatives or ignoring your friends is not a good solution, no matter how tempting the prospect may be. No, what you need is a good old fashioned get together, a meet n’ greet, a turn up the music and dance your troubles away house party to get you in the holiday mood. So maybe you eat a little too much and drink a more than you should. And maybe you talk a bit too loud and say a few things you ought not to say. The point right now is catharsis, a letting go of all that has transpired over the past year and an embracing of a (hopefully) bright future to come.

If the mere suggestion of holiday entertaining makes you start patting your pockets and pleading poverty, rest assured that I am not suggesting a no holds barred festival of extravagance. No, that perspective would be way too 20th century for this time, place and season. Here and now we need to celebrate in a modest fashion with those we hold dear. Sharing a meal, along with some good wine of course, is a perfect expression of holiday conviviality. If the spirit of the moment leads you to dance and sing with wild abandon, so be it. At least you didn’t pay a fortune to have a good time.

Here are some of the latest additions to the wine selection at The Spanish Table. Combine these wines with any of the delicious and traditional holiday foods now filling our shelves (turrónes, mantecados, polvorones, cardos, bacalao and so many other tasty treats) and you have the makings of a great party or a thoughtful gift. Come visit us in Berkeley for even more holiday entertaining ideas.

 Adamado 2007 One of my favorite Portuguese Vinho Verde wines just came in with a big price drop (how often do you here that these days?). Adamado is a vintage Vinho Verde from the Ponte do Lima sub-zone where the wines a re fuller and richer than the typical non-vintage Vinho Verde. Slight effervescence, low alcohol (10.5%) and ripe Viognier-like fruit character paired with flinty minerality makes this an excellent cocktail wine for holiday entertaining. $7.99 (was $10.99)

Cavas Hill Reserva Artesanía The new wine from Cavas Hill is fresh and lively with abundant frothy bubbles and tart green apple fruit character. This well priced blend of traditional cava grapes (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo) will liven up your next tapas party. The attractive packaging makes this a good choice for gift giving as well. $10.99

Condesa Eylo 2007 This racy new white wine from the Rueda region is made of 97% Verdejo & 3% Sauvignon Blanc. Aromas of fresh grass and granny smith apple along with intense flavors of lemon peel and honeydew melon are weighty on the palate while the finish is light, lingering and dry. $14.99

CARM 2006 Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira (CARM) is a small family-run business in the Douro valley of Portugal, dedicated to the production of wine and olive oil. We have carried the excellent olive oil but never the wines, until now. The red CARM 2006 is a bold and assertive blend of several organically farmed traditional Portuguese grape varieties including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. This barrel aged red is dark and earthy with rich fruit character and finely tuned tannins. $15.99

Lustau East India Solera After a long hiatus, this well loved sweet Oloroso Sherry is back in stock just in time for the holiday season when many customers pour it as a traditional after dinner drink. Sweet raisin and fig fruit character encounters abundant toasted almond and burnt toffee aroma. This wine is dark, dense and sweet yet possesses bright acidity that lifts the flavors and enlivens the texture, creating a complex and nuanced drink. $29.99

Primitivo Quiles Fondillón Reserva 1948 This unique wine is back for the holidays. 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. $67.00

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Portugal, Red Wine, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Wine Strategy

Everywhere I turn these days, I find people watching their budgets more closely than before.  As the current gyrations of financial markets continue, increasing uncertainty leads to difficult choices about where to spend our dwindling resources. In tough economic times we all need to prioritize our expenses.

When it comes to putting wine on the dinner table, the good news is that frugality does not need to include deprivation. What is needed is a good strategy.

With some careful shopping, excellent wines can be found for very reasonable prices. I write this with confidence because my primary responsibility around here is to find wines that combine high quality with low price.

For those of you who have shopped at The Spanish Table for years, this is not news. You know that Spain and Portugal are consistent sources of great wine values. Last year we added wines from Argentina and Chile to our collection because we saw the ever-increasing level of quality and value coming from these countries. In the last month we have started carrying a few Iberian style wines from right here in California that compare favorably in price and quality to their counterparts from distant shores.

My (admittedly partisan) coping strategy is simple, if a bit blunt. Tough times require good wine.

A simply prepared dinner, accompanied by a uniquely delicious bottle of wine is a surefire stress reducer.  The company of family and friends around the dinner table is both gratifying and economical.  Share a well made and well priced wine with your friends and you will earn both their gratitude and their respect.

Currently, The Spanish Table carries over 160 wines that are priced under $15 per bottle, with an additional 150 wines that come in under $30 per bottle. Included among these are some new wines that just arrived this week.

Continue reading to check out our latest new wines and remember that this is just a sample of the distinctly delicious and oh so affordable wines that you will find every day at The Spanish Table.

 

Hidalgo Clásica Amontillado This well priced Amontillado Sherry from the famous Bodegas Hidalgo–La Gitana exhibits light raisin fruit character as well as abundant toasted almond aroma and flavor. This medium dry Sherry makes an excellent accompaniment to full flavored cheeses, cured meats and other salty snacks. $11.99

 

Calcari 2007 If you are weary from drinking oaky white wines loaded with the flavors of coconut, vanilla and melted butter then this may well be the wine you have been searching for. Pares Balta, a Catalan winery in the heart of D.O. Penedès, makes this white wine from the local Xarel-l0 (more or less pronounced cha-rel-OH) grape usually reserved for the production of sparkling Cava. This unoaked, single varietal wine is stripped bare of all superfluous elements, leaving behind a crisp wine that is flinty and lean with tart grapefruit flavor and chalky minerality. $16.99

 

Solà Fred 2006 In the Montsant region of Catalunya, Celler el Masroig makes Solà Fred, a blend of 90% Cariñena and 10% Garnacha, fermented in tank without passing through any period of ageing in oak barrels. The result is a fresh, light, balanced wine with expressive fruit character and gentle grape skin tannins. Clear ruby color, abundant fresh berry aroma, bright acidity and almost weightless texture combine to create a wine that refreshes the palate and stimulates the appetite. $11.99

 

Luzon Verde 2007 This is a big wine for a small price. We just received the new 2007 vintage of this crowd pleasing 100% Monastrell wine from the Mediterranean Jumilla region. Bodegas Luzon makes this wine from their organically farmed vineyard (their other wines are not organic). Dark color, bold fruit character and bright acidity combine to express the youthful, primary quality of this rich red wine. $10.99

 

Alaia 2005 This dark, robust red is a blend of 50% Prieto Picudo (a little known grape that thrives in this region) along with 45% Tempranillo and 5% Merlot. Aromas of mushrooms and fresh earth encounter ripe blackberry fruit character and mid-weight barrel tannins (the wine spends 9 months in oak). A spicy finish rounds out the picture. $12.99

 

Tajinaste Tinto Tradicional 2007 This unique wine comes from the Orotava Valley of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands.  Agustín García founded Bodegas Tajinaste in 1981. He produces this wine from the local Listán Negro grape. This unoaked wine (they make a barrel aged red too) is cloudy lavender in color with light texture and sweet floral perfume. Firm minerality creates a foundation which supports fresh mulberry fruit character and gentle tannins.  $21.99

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Red Is Back

It has been a summer full of tasty and interesting white and rosado wines.

We have seen both Basque Txakoli and Catalan Vi D’Agulla in white and pink versions.

Listan Blanco from the Canary Islands made a first appearance here as did white Maria Gomes from Portugal in two versions, sparkling and still.

Bubbly Cava (white as well as rosado) has been particularly popular all summer long.

As we shift into the fall season, I am starting to see new red wines, many of which are coming in at very reasonable prices.

This week we feature red wines that have just arrived in Berkeley. Some of these are familiar labels that have changed to a new vintage, while other familiar brands are now more attractively priced. This week too, we have several red wines that are altogether new at The Spanish Table.

To taste these wines at their best, try this simple and fast recipe that I cobbled together last week from some of the uniquely delicious products from The Spanish Table. This dish relies on the tasty new Barcelos Linguiça (a Portuguese style sausage made nearby in Tracy, California) for flavoring and needs no seasoning other than salt and pepper.

FYI: Joe Barcelos himself will be here in the Berkeley store sampling his products this Sunday, September 7th from 12 noon – 4 pm. Come meet the Linguiça man, taste his wares and then takes some home (along with a few new red wines, of course) and try this recipe.

 

Linguiça and White Beans

Ingredients:

¼ cup – Portuguese extra virgin olive oil

1 cup – thinly sliced onion

3 – sliced piquillo peppers (we have the fresh ones for sale right now)

1 lb. – Barcelos Linguiça (I like the ‘hot’ style)

1jar (23 oz.) – Gutarra brand white beans in brine (I like the young ‘Pochas’ beans)

1 cup – boiling water

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a 10” clay cazuela or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and a small pinch of salt. Sauté the onions until they are soft and starting to brown (about 5 minutes). Slice the Linguiça into bite sized pieces and add to the onions and oil. Sauté the Linguiça until lightly browned (about 10 minutes). Add the sliced piquillo peppers (sauté for 5 minutes if using fresh). Rinse the white beans under running water and add them to the cazuela. Add the boiling water (cold water can crack a hot cazuela) and simmer the whole mixture briefly (two minutes). Adjust the salt and pepper to taste, ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread and red wine.

Navarro Lopez Old Vines Crianza 2001 500 years ago, if you were a member of the Spanish royal court, you drank wines from the Valdepeñas region that lies south of Toledo. Today, after centuries of obscurity, the region is making a comeback. This wine, made from Tempranillo, is earthy, tart and savory, as is the style in D.O. Valdepeñas. 12 months of barrel age (not something they did 500 years ago) has rounded the flavors, added a bit of tannic complexity and sweet oak aroma to the wine. This traditional, very ‘Spanish tasting’ wine was a good value at $13.99. Now, the price is much better, so we just bought a bunch of it. This is a fine candidate for buying by the box. $8.99

Barbadillo Tinto 2005 The same folks who make Barbadillo Sherries and the ever popular Barbadillo Palomina Fina white wine also make this young red wine from a blend of estate grown Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a local grape called Tintilla. Classified as a Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz, this versatile red wine is tart and youthful with primary grape fruit character and some underlying tannins. $9.99

 

Paso a Paso 2006 Bodegas Volver in D.O. La Mancha makes this lightly oaked (6 months in barrel) Tempranillo that used to be called Mano a Mano in previous vintages. Ripe cherry/blackberry fruit character overlaps with the medium weight oak tannins, creating a unified wine that will bring a bit of Spanish style to a wide range of foods. $10.99

 

Masia de Bielsa Tinto 2007 Earlier this season we featured the Masia de Bielsa rosado. We just received the tinto version of this Garnacha wine from D.O. Campo de Borja that was featured last week in the San Francisco Chronicle (read about it here). This juicy, bright, youthful red, fashioned from old vine fruit sees no time in oak. The ripe berry aroma and tart acidity that one expects from Campo de Borja Garnacha are all to be found in this well composed wine. $10.99

 

Viña Cobos Felino 2007 The Californian winemaker Paul Hobbs crafts this Malbec at his Viña Cobos winery in Argentina. The newest release of Felino is a bold, dark, unfiltered wine that ages for eight months in oak before bottling. Abundant (but not overwhelming) dark berry fruit character blends with flavors of spicy black pepper and foundational minerality. $19.99

 

Primitivo Quiles Raspay Tinto “Brut”2002 We just received the latest vintage of this oh-so-traditional Monastrell from Alicante. Less ripe than most of the Monastrell currently coming from neighboring Jumilla, Raspay is leaner, earthier and lighter in color than Jumilla Monastrell too. Dried cherry and raisin fruit along with savory, earthy flavors characterize this wine. $21.99

 

 

 

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Sidra

It will come as no surprise to you, brave readers of this newsletter, that the food and wine traditions from Spain are currently quite popular on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to retailers like The Spanish Table, many unique and delicious Spanish products are finding their way into American kitchens and dining rooms, often for the first time.

In spite of all the recent attention, some of Spain’s regional specialties are still hard to find in the USA. The famous Pata Negra ham, for instance, has only just become available here. Wines from lesser known regions are found only in specialty shops like The Spanish Table.

One product that has been noticeably absent from the US market is the traditional hard apple cider from Spain’s northern coastal regions, specifically the sagardo (sidra in Spanish) from the Basque region along the border with France.

Happily, this tart, yeasty farm house cider has begun to take hold here in America. A few weeks ago I announced the arrival of the Basque cider made by Bereziartua, fulfilling a multi-year quest to find, buy and offer this product for sale to our customers. Today we have just received yet another sagardo, this one by Isastegi. Add to this the traditional sparkling cider from Asturias in three styles (one hard cider and two non-alcoholic versions) that we have carried for years and together they constitute the largest collection of sidra/sagardo on the west coast.

“So what’s the big deal with cider” you may ask?

Like Manzanilla in Jerez or Txakoli in Basque Country, the sagardo tradition is best experienced first hand. The place to learn about this traditional beverage is at a Sagardotegi, the typical cider mill that can be found all across the Basque region.

These businesses are usually part family residence, part cider mill and part seasonal restaurant. In the springtime, barrels of freshly fermented cider are tapped for thirsty crowds that gather for a taste of the new vintage as well as for the traditional Sagardotegi meal of omelets, salt cod with fried green peppers, thick bone-in rib eye steaks grilled over charcoal and walnuts in the shell with honey and cheese for dessert. This meal is usually eaten standing up so as to accommodate frequent trips to the barrel room for refills.

To get an idea of how this works, check out this video made at Bereziartua Sagardotegi. To acquaint yourself with (or revisit) the true flavor of basque sagardo, come pick up one of our two new brands of hard cider and pour them with the following recipe.

Chistorra con Sidra (basque chorizo braised in apple cider)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon, Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup, thinly sliced white onion

1 lb. basque style chistorra sausage

1 cup, basque apple cider

1 bay leaf

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a 10” clay cazuela (or sauté pan). Add the sliced onions to the oil and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes until the onions get soft and start to brown. Slice the long, skinny chistorra (sometimes spelled Txistorra) into bit sized pieces and brown lightly in the hot oil for about 6-8 minutes. If you are using a clay cazuela, bring the cider and bay leaf to a simmer in a separate pan and then add the hot liquid to the cazuela (adding cold liquid to a hot cazuela can crack it). If you are using a sauté pan you can add the cider straight to the pan without preheating it. Simmer the sausages in the cider for 20-30 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. Serve hot with some bread on the side to sop up the juices, and more cider to wash it all down.

Isastegi Sagardo This traditional Basque apple cider is cloudy gold colored with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor. This unfiltered artisan cider displays just a hint of sweet apple character along with apple skin tartness filling in the rest of the flavor profile. At six percent alcohol this makes a nice alternative to beer on a hot afternoon. $11.99

Bereziartua Sagardo This hard cider is unfiltered, cloudy, lightly effervescent and only barely sweet. Yeasty aroma and tart fermented apple flavor are what you want from this most ancient of drinks. In the Basque Country they drink it straight from the barrel in early spring and the rest of the year they drink from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99

El Gaitero Sidra Asturiana This is the most widely recognized brand of sparkling hard cider from the Asturias region on the north coast of Spain. Clear gold color, abundant effervescence and sweet red apple fruit character make this a favorite at parties and family gatherings in Asturias and elsewhere in Spain. $8.99

La Gaita Sidra $2.99

El Gaitero Verde $3.99

El Gaitero in Asturias makes several non-alcoholic apple ciders that are very similar to the regular El Gaitero in flavor, but without the booze. Pretty champagne style bottles with old style labels on the outside, lots of bubbles and sweet apple flavor on the inside.

New arrivals in the wine department:

Salneval Albariño 2007 This younger sibling to the ever popular Condes de Albarei is a fine example of well priced Albariño. Melon and citrus fruit character balances gentle minerality in this wine. Recently The New York Times praised this wine among several other Albariño wines from the Rías Baixas region, saying “Pleasing, with flavors of white peaches, cantaloupe and lemon.” You can read more of this informative article here. $10.99

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

Altos de La Hoya 2006 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. $12.99

Juan Gil 2006 We just got in the new vintage of this popular Monastrell from Jumilla, made by Miguel Gil, one of the pioneers of this grape and this region. Dark color and concentrated blackberry aroma create the first impression, leading on to sweet dark berry fruit character and a touch of grape skin tannin. A fine example of a pure Monastrell wine. $16.99

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Favorites, Old and New

Wines have seasons and internal rhythms all their own.

The ebb and flow from one vintage to the next creates periods of abundance and moments of absence. With each new vintage a wine changes character, sometimes gently, other times dramatically, and then, of course, each bottle of wine develops in its own way over time.

One of the pleasures of the wine business is getting a first hand look at this evolutionary process. This week I bring you some wines that may be familiar to you from previous years as well as some new wines from well known regions and winemakers.

For one reason or another, the time is right for these wines, each in their own special way. We have some fresh white wines that are perfect for the late summer season and others that have just arrived and are drinking really well right now. We also have some reds that are new arrivals, some new vintages of familiar favorites and others that are freshly marked down in price.

Check out the suggestions below and then come see us in Berkeley for even more seasonal wine inspiration.

Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2007 Most Vinho Verde is non-vintage but this wine is produced each year from a blend of traditional grapes (Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura) from the best parcels of Aveleda’s estate vineyards. This finely tuned Vinho Verde displays fresh citrus and light floral aromas along with bright fruit character and the spritzy effervescence that is typical of wines from this region.

This wine got a nice write up today in the San Francisco Chronicle. Check out what Peter Liem (usually he writes about champagne  for Wine & Spirits, so an interesting perspective for this article) had to say About Vinho Verde, here . $8.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this summertime thirst quencher from the makers of Avinyó Cava is composed of Petit Grain Muscat, fermented to dryness and bottled with a bit of residual effervescence. The rich Muscat scent is present here but the sweetness usually associated with this grape is only barely perceived. In its place is tart citrusy fruit character and background flintiness. $14.99

Talai Berri 2007 The latest Txakoli of the summer is this wine from the town of Zarautz on the Cantabrian coast. Fresh off the boat, this crisp white wine made from the Hondarribi Zuri (as much fun to type as it is to say) grape is full of racy grapefruit-like acidity enveloping a firm mineral core. Grab some of this perfect summer wine while it is in its most vibrant stage. $20.99

Las Gravas 2003 We just got a great deal on Las Gravas. Normally it sells for $29.99 but while the supply lasts we have it for almost half of the original price.

Las Gravas, from Casa Castillo in D.O. Jumilla is a blend of 85% Monastrell and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 14 months in French oak before bottling. This aptly named (Gravas=Gravel) wine displays rocky minerality along with the rich fruit character for which this region is known. Inky dark color (the wine is bottled without filtration) and ripe berry aroma and flavor meld into a harmoniously structured wine with silky texture and more of the aforementioned minerality on the long finish. $17.99

Prima 2006 The new vintage of Prima has arrived. This dark, rich red from the Toro region is made by Mariano Garcia, one of Spain’s most celebrated winemakers. He cashed in his interest in Vega Sicilia to start a family winery called Bodegas Maurodos where the famous Mauro and San Román are made as well as the more affordable Prima. Old vine Tinto de Toro (along with 10% Garnacha) is used for this wine which sees a bit of oak before bottling. Opaque ruby color, concentrated aromas and flavors of ripe berries and a smoky/earthy foundation are combined to great effect in this wine. $19.99

Gorrondona Tinto 2007 The rare and elusive red Txakoli is difficult to find. These firmly tannic wines are lean and full of mineral flavor, with a gentle fruit character that fades quickly with age. Happily, the new Gorrondona Tinto, made from 100% Hondarribi Beltza (grown in miniscule quantities on ancient vines), is super fresh, with dark Mulberry fruit character balancing firm minerality. This is an excellent and unusual light summer red. $27.99

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With Age Comes Deliciousness

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

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

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

Ah, much better!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2005 $39.99

Pago de Carraovejas Reserva 2005 $64.00

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

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

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Monastrell, Mi Amor

Yes, it’s true. I’m in love with a grape.

The object of my affection is the big, juicy, dark, thick skinned Monastrell grape grown throughout Mediterranean Spain (already well known in France where it is called Mourvèdre, this grape is seen in the wines of Bandol and Châteauneuf-du-Pape). In Alicante, Jumilla and Yecla the popularity of this varietal is increasing with each vintage.  Once used as a bulk wine shipped out to various parts of Spain to add depth to a thin vintage, many Spanish winemakers now bottle this varietal on its own or in blends where it plays a substantial, not a supporting role.

Monastrell has become extremely sought after here in the USA thanks to some high profile bottlings as well as some reliable young wines that have proved to be excellent values from vintage to vintage.

This week I remind you about the 2005 Clio, a Monastrell blend that has seriously impressed the wine world in recent vintages. We have also just received a second shipment of the 2005 Juan Gil, a 100% Monastrell that showcases the varietal all by itself. The 2005 Casa Castillo, one of the first Monastrell wines to be bottled as a single varietal wine is back at a better price.  I also have late harvest Monastrell from Alella (just outside of Barcelona) and fortified sherry-like Monastrell from Alicante, produced from stocks that date back to 1948. Now is an excellent time to try this very sought after varietal in all its permutations.

Also this week, we have some tasty bargains that offer big flavor at a small price. Check out the Bodegas Fontana wines below to see what I mean.

In other news, Paella Class is filling up fast, but a few spaces still remain for any of you who wish to learn about this most famous of Spanish dishes. We will be making and eating a big paella accompanied by some tapas to nibble on while the paella cooks. We will also taste five Spanish wines to go with all the food. The date is February 25th at 6:30 pm. The location is Kitchen On Fire cooking School here in Berkeley. The cost is $65 per person. Registration and details can be found at the Kitchen On Fire website.

 

Mesta Tempranillo 2006 $6.99 (was $8.99) Our newest ‘house wine’ comes from Bodegas Fontana in central Spain near Cuenca.

In Spanish shepherd-speak a ‘mesta’ is a meeting of shepherds to sort out intermingled flocks. This young Tempranillo from central Spain is a perfect red wine for all sorts of informal gatherings. Fresh berry fruit character and light tannins make this a well priced option for lighter meals as well as back porch sipping.

 

Fontal Tempranillo Roble 2004 $9.99 (was $11.99) This wine from Bodegas Fontana (like the previous wine) shows what a bit of barrel age does to Tempranillo. The fresh berry fruit character is now nuanced with gentle tannins and spicy aromatic complexity.

 

Casa Castillo 2005 $10.99 (was $12.99) This is a dark ruby colored wine with bright aromas of fresh red berries, and a medium to full-bodied cherry-like fruit character.  A brief period of oak barrel ageing (6- 8 months) lends a bit of tannic dryness to the wine, adding balance to the rich fruit and a bit of spice to the finish.

 

Juan Gil 2005 $16.99 We just got in a second shipment of this popular Monastrell from Jumilla, made by Miguel Gil, one of the pioneers of this grape and this region. Dark color and concentrated blackberry aroma create the first impression, leading on to sweet dark berry fruit character and a touch of grape skin tannin. A fine example of a pure Monastrell wine.

 

Raspay Tinto “Brut” 2001 $19.99 In the Alicante region along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Bodegas Primitivo Quiles are best known for a fortified wine called Fondillón, made from the local Monastrell grape in a style similar to Sherry. The same old vine Monastrell also goes into this traditionally styled red wine.  The ruddy, brick red tint and savory tannic aroma give way to dried cherry fruit character. This is no fruit bomb. The old-school Spanish style is very well represented in this bottling that wins my vote for best label art too.  Serve this with a selection of embutidos from The Spanish Table such as Lomo Embuchado, Jamón Serrano and dry cured Chorizo.

 

Clio 2005 $46.00 Old vine Monastrell from Jumilla is what Clio is mostly made from (along with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon). These thick skinned grapes are picked at full ripeness and treated with great care at every step in this wine’s elaboration. The end result is a dark, full bodied red that will best accompany a full-flavored meaty meal. Josh Raynolds recently reviewed the new vintage of Clio for The International Wine Cellar. He rated the wine 93 points saying: “Inky purple. Vibrant red and dark berries on the nose, with sexy vanillin oak, Asian spices, fresh flowers and bright minerality. A silky, graceful midweight, displaying vivid raspberry and blackberry flavors and slow-building tannic grip. More tangy than the 2004, and at least as elegant, finishing with outstanding clarity and persistence.”

 

El Nido 2005 $140.00 The flagship wine from this celebrated Jumilla region winery is made from the same fruit as the Clio but the proportions are switched around. El Nido is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% old vine Monastrell. Josh Raynolds also reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated it 94 points, saying “Opaque violet. Seductively perfumed bouquet of red and dark berry liqueur, graphite, Asian spices and incense. This saturates every nook and cranny of the palate with flavors of sweet raspberry, boysenberry, candied licorice, cinnamon and vanilla. Impressively fresh for such flavor impact, thanks to gentle tannins and vibrant finishing minerality. A lingering, subtle strawberry quality underscores this wine’s impression of elegance over brute force.

 

Dolç Mataró $33.99 (500ml) The long forgotten Mataró grape, a relative of the better known Monastrell is used to produce tiny quantities of this sweet dessert wine. Super-ripe late harvest Mataró is hand selected, crushed and macerated in its own juice to extract the maximum of color and flavor from the skins. After fermentation the wine ages for a scant few months in barrel before bottling with minimal filtration in stylish 500ml bottles.  The final result is a sweet wine with opaque purple color, the aroma of fresh violets and a sweet fruit character that for all its intensity still possesses a certain delicacy.

 

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 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.

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