Tag Archives: monestrall

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

Leave a comment

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

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

3 Comments

Filed under Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Holiday Wines, Version 1.6.3, The Aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Red Wine, Spain

Luna Nueva

Today is the new moon which, if you follow these things, indicates a new beginning, a new cycle of change, a fresh start.

Take, for example, our latest wine selections at The Spanish Table. Right now we have new wines that have never before been seen outside their respective regions of origin. We also have the most recent vintages from celebrated and well known bodegas. You can thrill your palate with untried new flavors and textures or you can affirm your sense of taste memory by re-trying a favorite wine in the latest vintage (the try-it-again-for-the-first-time concept).

However you construct your newness (perhaps you wear your new with a difference) now is the perfect time to experiment with wines that are familiar yet novel.

This week we have some excellent values from Spain and Portugal as well as some stunning collector’s wines that those of you with wine cellars will be wise to pick up while they last (down the road, these will offer that most rare sense of aged newness).

 

Cooking Class Update:

The upcoming Cooking in Cazuelas class (also a new opportunity) on October 22nd is mostly full (10 tickets left), but I want to be sure to encourage those who haven’t heard about it yet to go check out www.kitchenonfire.com where the details and the signup form can be found. I am very much looking forward to this new event that features some of my favorite recipes as well as some really tasty and well matched wines. 

 

Here is a quick idea for using up the end- of-season summer vegetables from the market.

 

Grilled Vegetable Escalivada

(adapted from Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by José Andrés)

Serves 4 as an appetizer

 

1 medium Japanese style (long not fat) eggplant (about ½ lb)

1 large Yellow Onion

1 large red or yellow bell pepper

3 large tomatoes

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Spanish olive oil

2 teaspoons Sherry Vinegar

1//4 teaspoon Pebrella (dried wild Spanish Thyme)

Salt and pepper

 

Coat the vegetables with a bit of the olive oil and grill them whole over medium hot charcoal (or roast in a 400’ oven) until the vegetables are soft and the skin is charred. Remove the blackened skins, de-seed the pepper and tomatoes and roughly slice everything up in long strips. Marinate the cooked/sliced vegetables for a few hours in a shallow dish with the pebrella, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with some bread and wine.

 

Vino Blanco:

Raventos Parfum de Vi Blanc 2005 $9.99 From the same winery that produces the excellent Raventos i Blanc Cava comes this blend of 60% Macabeo and 40% Muscat that is perfect for the season. Crisp acidity meets floral aroma in a ripe but restrained style that would pair well with butternut squash or end-of-season tomatoes.

 

Ostatu Blanco 2006 $12.99 White Rioja is another seasonal favorite and this fresh, unoaked 100% Viura wine is lean, bright and pin point precise. A hint of sesame seed is typical with Viura and is found in the background of this wine. A superb autumn white.

 

Lícia Albariño 2006 $15.99 From the same winemakers who brought us the exclusive single vineyard Albariño called Finca Arantei comes this well priced second label that is now available in the new 2006 vintage. Lícia is crisp and lemony, with a hint of floral richness held in check by the dry mineral component found in all the best wines from the region.

 

Nessa Albariño 2006 $14. From Adegas Gran Vinum in D.O. Rías Baixas on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Those of you who are familiar with the Albariño varietal will be happy to find such a well priced offering and those who have yet to try this refreshing Spanish white wine will be excited by the crisply bright flavors. Josh Raynolds recently reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He summed the wine up nicely.

Light yellow. Spicy citrus and pear aromas are brightened by white flowers and ginger. Racy, precise and pleasingly bitter, with strong lemon zest and pear skin flavors. This tightly wound albarino shows a lively, persistent finish. 88 points.

 

Vino Tinto:

Padre Pedro 2005 $8.99 Did you see the September 19th 2007 article in The New York Times titled “Happiness for $10 or Less”? The wine writer Eric Asimov was excited about his latest discovery, a little Portuguese wine called Padre Pedro. He said “Our No. 1 wine, the 2002 Padre Pedro from Casa Cadaval in the Ribatejo region of Portugal… had personality, with cherry fruit, spice and smoke flavors and enough tannin to give it structure… Portugal is an excellent source for good, inexpensive wines, especially those from the Douro and those, like the Padre Pedro, from the Ribatejo region…This wine is labeled Ribatejano, which is a wine that comes from Ribatejo but doesn’t follow the appellation’s rules. It’s made from an unlikely mixture of grapes, including cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, alicante bouschet and castelão, a Portuguese grape known in other parts of the country as periquita.”

 

Altos de Luzon 2005 $18.99 At last, the new vintage of one of our most popular D.O. Jumilla wines has arrived. This blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon is lush and full while retaining balance and structure. A perfect autumn red, just in time for the season.

 

Pardevalles Gamonal  2005 $21.99 Have you tried any wines made from the Prieto Picudo grape yet? Now is your chance to check out this interesting varietal in a wine that has been the favorite of many local restaurants since its recent introduction. Sourced from the newly demarcated  Tierras de León region and aged for 6 months in oak after fermentation, this ripe herbaceous red will add spice and interest to autumn meals such as  slow cooked white beans and chorizo.

 

Pintia 2004 $60.00 The new vintage of Pintia is now in stock (in very limited quantities). This is the Toro region project of Vega Sicilia. The quality level here is, as you would expect, extremely high. The old vine Tinta de Toro used for Pintia is ponderously dark and earthy, with abundant fruit character that will last for years to come. A 95 Point rating in The Wine Advocate will add to the demand for this robust autumn red.

Leave a comment

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

Vintage Change Is Good

One of the many fun parts of being the ‘wine guy’ is finding new, exciting wines made by little known producers in far flung regions. Another rewarding part of the job is watching wines change from vintage to vintage. This week we have some excellent wines that showcase both the new and the re-new.

Our little corner of the wine world (Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile) is in a state of dramatic expansion with new wineries opening and feeding fresh products into the market. Once these new ventures are up and running, the true test of their long term prospects is how well they can maintain quality from vintage to vintage.

We are happy to report that several of our favorite wines from last year are back again in fine form, demonstrating that high quality wines are now made all across Spain. Both the Jaun Gil (old vine Monastrell from D.O. Jumilla, in hot, arid Southeastern Spain) and the Pétalos (Mencía grapes from D.O. Bierzo, in cool, green northwestern Spain) are available in their new vintages. Neither of these wines existed 10 years ago. They are very different stylistically, but both have been become very popular with both the staff and the customers of The Spanish Table.

For new-new wines this week we have a couple of whites that satisfy even the most jaded of been-there-tasted-that palates. The Montebaco Verdejo is a new wine from a winery normally associated with hearty red wines and our latest Basque white is from the lesser known D.O. Bizkaiko Txakolina region that surrounds Bilbao. Neither of these wines are well known but if you have a taste for distinctive and the finely crafted whites, both of these wines deserves your attention.

Finally, in the newer-than-new category we bring you a unique and novel concept in wine production. Patrick Campbell from Laurel Glen winery in Sonoma County has for years traveled to Argentina seeking excellent vineyards. Now that he has found the right fruit, he makes several single varietal wines in Argentina which, after primary fermentation, are loaded in bulk onto ships and transported to the Laurel Glen winery in Graton California for barrel ageing and bottling. The end result is the Terra Buena line of wines which include a Malbec, a Tempranillo, a Chardonnay and a Torrontes. These youthful, fresh, abundantly flavored wines are well priced and eco-friendly too (no shipping of heavy glass bottles).

You can check out the details on each wine below, but meanwhile, here’s a quick recipe for a wine friendly snack, adapted from the inspirational Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by celebrated chef José Andrés. He made these for a demonstration in our store back when the cookbook first came out. We’ve been making them ever since.

Green Olives filled with Piquillo Peppers and Anchovy

1 jar Ybarra pitted Gordal Olives

1 jar Matiz organic Piquillo Peppers

1 jar Ortiz skin-on Anchovy fillets in Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Toothpicks

Cut through one side of each pitted olive so that it resembles an open clam shell. Slice the peppers and the anchovy fillets into long thin strips. Wedge one strip each of pepper and anchovy into the cut side of an olive so that the strips poke out each end of the olive and clamp shut with a toothpick. Repeat this process until you have a plate full these little one-bite tapas. Drizzle with Olive oil and serve.

Vino Blanco:

Terra Buena Torrontes 2006 $10.99 Floral aroma and rich texture characterize this Argentine white wine. Abundant pear and melon fruit character with enough acidity to give the whole ensemble an unexpected lightness. A delicious bargain.

Gurrutxaga Txakoli 2006 $15.99 Our latest Basque Txakoli wine comes from the Bizkaiko Txakolina region located a bit inland from the Cantabrian coast. The firm flinty minerality of a coastal Getariako Txakolina wine is moderated here and replaced by a more pronounced yet still gentle fruitiness with notes of melon and grapefruit.

Montebaco Verdejo 2006 $17.99 Montebaco is best known as a producer of top notch Ribera del Duero red wines (see below). This is their first white wine, made in D.O. Rueda from the Verdejo grape. A lively mouthful of finely tuned quince and quinine flavors makes this an instant crowd pleaser. Josh Raynolds reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated it 89 Points and said: “Pale yellow. High-pitched citrus and pear aromas are impressively vivid and expansive. Crisp lemon-lime and orchard fruit flavors display an intriguing blend of depth and energy, picking up a zesty white pepper quality with air. Finishes clean and brisk, with very good length.”

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

Juan Gil 2005 $17.99 The biggest success story of the last year has certainly been the huge upwelling of interest in the wines of D.O. Jumilla. The dark, ripe Monastrell grape has become extremely popular among appreciators of dark, full-bodied red wines. The 2004 Juan Gil sold out in a matter of months. The new 2005 vintage delivers more of this same abundant, spicy, rich fruit character with foundational minerality.

Montebaco Crianza 2004 $23.99 We have previously carried the Semele crianza from this winery. Montebaco crianza is a fuller, more concentrated wine than the lower priced Semele. Traditional Ribera del Duero style is much in evidence here, with earthy tannins, bold black cherry fruit character along with spicy oak in the mix. Jay Miller reviewed the wine for The Wine Advocate. He rated the wine at 90 Points, saying: “The 2004 Montebaco is 100% Tempranillo aged for 15 months in French and American oak, about one-third new. The color is a glass-coating opaque purple and is followed by intense aromas reminiscent of vintage port. In the mouth the wine is super-ripe with oodles of sweet, tightly wound black fruits, a firm structure and good acidity, all of which are in harmony. Give this full-bodied, tasty wine 3-4 years of additional cellaring and drink it for 10-12 years thereafter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine