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Summertime Thirst Quenchers

As we head into the month of August I feel the need to offer up some suggestions for warm weather beverages that will satisfy your thirst, awaken your appetite and remind you of good times had (or yet to come) in sunny Spain.

This is the first week in recent months that we don’t have a new rosado wine to offer, but we do have loads of these perfect summer wines on the shelf.

On the other hand, after much whining on my part about the lack of Spanish beer in the American market, I am happy to report that this week we received not one but two excellent cervezas from Spain. 

The new 2007 versions of a few of my all time favorite white wines are now available, as are some unique and interesting red wines from Chile and Portugal.

Check out the latest arrivals below, and while you are at it, take a moment to consider the following recipe that I prepared last weekend for a large birthday party.

Grilled sardines are hugely popular in Portugal and Galicia. These small fish are inexpensive to buy, are sustainably harvested and are really good for you. This version, wrapped in grape leaves, makes an interesting and tasty presentation.

 

Sardinas Asadas En Hojas de Parras (Grilled Sardines in Grape Leaves)

(Serves 8 as an appetizer)

 

Ingredients:

8             whole fresh sardines

8             jarred grape leaves

4             bay leaves (fresh or dried)

¼ cup   sea salt

2             lemons, cut in wedges

 

Directions:

Prepare your grill (gas or charcoal) as you normally would. Clean the sardines (scales off, innards and gills out, head and tail stay on). Sprinkle the salt over the cleaned sardines, making sure to get some salt inside the fish as well as outside.  Place one half of a bay leaf inside the belly cavity of each sardine. Roll up each fish in a grape leaf (use 2 leaves if they are small or if the sardines are big) leaving the head and tail partly exposed. Grill the wrapped fish over a hot fire for approximately 5 minutes on each side. The grape leaves will ‘shrink wrap’ around the fish and prevent them from drying out or burning.  Unwrap the cooked sardines, squeeze a little lemon over the top and eat the fish, discarding the bones and the grape leaf wrapper.

 

Alhambra Lager This beer, from Granada in the south of Spain, takes its name from the famous Moorish palace in that ancient town. This crisp and refreshing lager is well known in Spain and finally available here for the first time. $14.99/6 pack

 

Estrella Damm This popular Beer from Barcelona is now available here for the first time. Enjoy this light, refreshing beer just like they do in Barcelona where countless nights on the Ramblas (the wide pedestrian boulevard that is Barcelona’s epicenter of eating, drinking and people watching) have included at least one (sometimes many) small glasses of this famous lager.  $14.99/6 pack

 

Santiago Ruiz 2007 Bodegas LAN, located in Rioja, is known for their red wines, but this winery also produces a white wine in the Rías Baixas region in Galicia. Santiago Ruiz is a blend of Albariño, Loureiro and Treixadura fermented in tank (no oak). This relatively full bodied (for the region) wine pairs bright acidity with abundant melon and citrus fruit character. The fresh 2007 vintage has just been released and is drinking at its best right now. $19.99

 

Montebaco Blanco 2007 Like the previous bodega, Montebaco makes red wine in one region (Ribera del Duero) and white wine in another (Rueda). The new vintage of Montebaco blanco is made from the Verdejo grape and displays aromas and flavors of tropical fruits such as guava and pineapple along with a mineral back note. $17.99

 

Calcu 2006 In the Chilean Mapuche Indian dialect ‘Calcu’ means magician (or witch doctor, depending on the translation). This years’ blend (it changes with each vintage) is composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Carmenere and 15% Cabernet Franc from the Valle de Colchagua region of central Chile. This wine displays dark garnet color and rich, berry-like aroma. Spicy, peppery Carmenère adds contrast to the deeply structured Cabernet Sauvignon. The rich fruit character, reminiscent of fresh mulberries lingers on the palate. Grilled spicy sausages, fresh corn on the cob and the full compliment of American summer foods will compliment this wine quite well.  $10.99   

 

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. Regular price $19.99

 

Twisted Tinto 2006 The immense, steeply terraced Douro Valley in Portugal has, for centuries, been the source of Port wines. Forward thinking wineries have, in recent years, been re-purposing the fruit of the Douro to produce red, white and rosé wines of excellent quality. Dirk Niepoort is one of the leading proponents of unfortified Douro wines. ‘Twisted’ is one of several names given to Niepoort’s most affordable red wine, depending on where you buy it. In Portugal the wine is called ‘Diálogo’, in Germany it goes by ‘Fabelhaft’, in Estonia they call it ‘Öö Ja Päevand in Finland it is ‘Sarvet’. The wine itself is composed of a wide range of typical Douro grapes including Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão among others. Twisted Tinto is dark garnet in color with aromas and flavors of fresh berries and a touch of tannic oak (20% of the wine is aged in barrel for one year). $15.99

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

Rites of Spring

I can always tell that spring has arrived in the Bay Area when customers start buying white wine, large paella pans and gas rings for cooking paella in the back yard. With the arrival of warmer sunny weather it seems as though we, in unison, as if responding to some primal instinct, turn our thoughts to outdoors cooking and eating.

Although it may not be sunny and warm on the East Coast, Eric Asimov from The New York Times wrote an informative article about the white wines of Rueda a few weeks ago and many of you have responded enthusiastically by clipping the article and bringing it in to use as a shopping guide. Of course we don’t have all the same wines in California that are available to shoppers in New York, but we do have some of the wines that were mentioned as well as some personal favorites that they missed. These wines are refreshingly different from many domestic whites and pair well with a first-of-the-season back yard paella.

Here is a recipe for a springtime paella that I adapted from a recipe that one of the owners of The Spanish Table, Steve Winston, included in The Spanish Table Cookbook.

Asparagus and Shrimp Paella

(serves 4-5 as a main course)

Ingredients:

6 cups canned clam juice

1 Tblspn Pebrella (dried wild Spanish thyme)

8 cloves garlic (half the cloves lightly crushed and whole, the other half chopped)

1/3 cup Spanish olive oil

1 lb. fresh Asparagus, cut in 1 inch segments

1 tspn. sweet Spanish paprika

1/2 tspn. Spanish saffron

1 ½ lb. large shrimp in the shell, peeled and cut in half crosswise

2 cups Bomba rice

Directions:

Combine the clam juice with the pebrella, shrimp shells and the lightly crushed garlic cloves in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the broth and continue to simmer.

Heat the olive oil in a 6 portion paella pan on the stove top. Sautee the asparagus segments in the oil for one minute. Add the chopped garlic, saffron and paprika and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add all the simmering stock to the paella pan and continue to cook at a medium simmer for ten minutes. Add the shrimp and push down into the partly cooked rice. Continue to cook the rice at a low simmer for an additional ten minutes. When all the broth has been absorbed, turn off the heat and rest the paella for five minutes before serving.

 

Las Brisas Rueda 2006 $10.99 This fresh young blend of Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc is a wonderful ‘back yard white’. It is described well by The new York Times as possessing “Citrus and herbal aromas with stony mineral flavors.”

Montebaco Verdejo 2006 $14.99 (was $18.99) For those seeking 100% Verdejo wine from Rueda, you will not find many as good as this for the price. Straw colored with a green tinge, floral aroma and grapefruit-like flavor all combine with bright acidity to create a refreshing and complex wine for springtime dining. The New York Times gave this wine 2 1/2 stars and described it as “Richly textured yet zesty with honeysuckle, pear and citrus flavors.” The price just got better on this wine, but the 2006 vintage is coming to an end so this bargain will not last long.

Oro de Castilla 2007 $14.99 The first of the 2007 Spanish white wines to arrive in our store is this 100% Verdejo from Hermanos Villar in Rueda. Richly floral in aroma yet crisp and bright on the palate, this new wine will please those who know and love Rueda whites as well as newcomers to the varietal and the region.

Solar de Serrade Alvarinho 2006 $17.99 In Portugal, Vinho Verde is often thought of (with good reason) as a simple, spritzy white wine for picnics and parties. This Vinho Verde on the other hand is a whole different story. Made from the Alvarinho grape (Albariño in Spain), this elegantly dry and flinty white wine is finely balanced and fragrant. If you are curious about just how good Vinho Verde can be, this is a perfect place to begin your investigation.

Verasol Garnacha 2005 $8.99 (was $10.99) Here is another great bargain in Spanish wine (red, this time) for springtime enjoyment. This young Garnacha from the Campo de Borja region is youthful yet not simple. The fresh berry fruit is moderated by a touch of minerality which adds complexity and balance. This wine is a bit more reserved than some others from the same grape and region, making it a more elegant option than is common with young Garnacha. The price just dropped a few dollars which is good news too.

Aresan 2002 $16.99 Do you want to taste the future of Spanish wine? This is a good place to start. Bodegas Aresan, located in the Castilla-La Mancha village of Villarrobledo near Albacete is one of a handful of Spanish wineries currently converting to a new designation called ‘Vino de Pago’. This new label will be used only for wines that are produced from estate grown fruit and are produced in a winery located on the same property as the vineyards. So, no buying grapes from somewhere else and no transporting grapes to a distant winery, but any grape varieties can be used that suit the taste of the winemakers even if they are not typical of the region a whole.

This wine, for instance, is a blend of 65% Tempranillo (a traditional variety in La Mancha) along with 35% Cabernet Sauvignon (not permitted in D.O. La Mancha wines). The estate grown fruit is harvested by hand and carefully sorted before crushing and fermentation. After nine months of barrel age, the wine is bottled and shipped. This decidedly modern wine is dark and powerful. Cigar box aromas encounter blackberry fruit character and smoky tannins. The wine starts out firm and structured but becomes more elegant and complex as it opens. California Cabernet appreciators will find much to love about this handsomely packaged wine that sells elsewhere for over $30.

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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.

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine