Tag Archives: montsant

Learning About Spain

The Wine Academy of Spain, an educational organization run by Pancho Campo (Spain’s first Master of Wine) stopped in San Francisco last week as part of a US tour currently wrapping up in Washington DC.
I joined a group of Spanish wine enthusiasts for the three day seminar that covered all of Spain’s regions, grapes and winemaking styles. I got to brush up on my Spanish wine knowledge and tried many new wines as well as some familiar favorites.
Esteban Cabezas and his crew did a fabulous job of squeezing a ton of information into a short space of time. I gleaned all sorts of tidbits of information that I will be sharing with you in the days and weeks to come.
My thanks and appreciation go out to The Wine Academy of Spain and to Catavino for sponsoring my attendance to the seminar (I won the scholarship for my why-I-love-Spanish-wine blog entry). Hopefully I passed the exam and in a few weeks will have a handsome Spanish Wine Educator certificate to hang on the wall.
I retried a few wines at the Wine Academy of Spain course that are making a repeat appearance here as a result of a good showing at the seminar. Check out this week’s wine notes for the Aria Brut Cava, Gramona Imperial Cava and the red Fra Guerau Monsant. They are now back in stock and drinking beautifully.

Espelt Vailet 2007 After my recent trip to the Empordá region of Spain (up along the French border on the Mediterranean side) I have been eagerly buying all the wine from this little known, rocky, sparsely populated corner of the globe. A few weeks back we featured the red from Espelt as well as the rosado. The white wine from Espelt has just come back in stock and I recommend it this week as a new option for those seeking bright, fresh white wines with distinctive character. The blend is 60% Garnacha Blanca and 40% Macabeo (Viura for you white Rioja fans). Crisp minerality is supplemented here with a bit of green herb and citrus character. $12.99
Aria Brut This Cava has been a well loved favorite and is finally back in stock here in Berkeley. This frothy blend of the three traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada)presents a fresh, balanced side of Cava with a bit of green apple fruit adding counterpoint to the mineral foundation. $10.99
Gramona Imperial 2004 For those who appreciate the complexity of long aged Cava, this vintage sparkler is always a welcome sight. 3-4 year of cellar age gives this wine a very Champagne-like character. Adding 10% Chardonnay to the blend of 50% Xarel-lo and 40% Macabeo adds to the similarity with French bubbly. Yeasty brioche aroma, an elegant mineral backnote and a bit of brandied fruit on the finish. $31.99
Fra Guerau 2003 This was one of the first wines that caught my attention back when I started with The Spanish Table. I recently retasted Fra Guerau and was reminded of the pure pleasure that comes from this blend of numerous grapes (Syrah, Garnacha, Cariñena, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Monastrell) from the Montsant region. Dark garnet color, sweet berry fruit character and well integrated barrel character (thanks to several years of bottle age) make this an easy wine to pair with all kinds of food. $13.99
Zaumau Priorat 2008 Carlos Escolar make miniscule quantities of wine in DOC Priorat. Old vine Garnacha and Samsó (the local name for Cariñena) are blended here in an unoaked red that expresses the rocky terruño of the region in a pure, darkly colored, ripely fruited style. Foregoing the barrel ageing regimen brings the price down significantly for this wine from a region not known for bargains. $17.99
Viña Lanciano Reserva 2001 Nothing says ‘Spain’ quite like a slowly matured Tempranillo from Rioja. This wine,from the superlative 2001 vintage, is composed of the best estate grown fruit from Bodegas LAN. Two years in the barrel followed by 5 years resting in the bottle in the cellar have created an elegant, traditional wine that blends tannic oak with tart cherry fruit character. Aromas of fresh earth, cured meat and wood smoke add depth and nuance to this excellent example of old school Rioja. $28.99

TapasWalk In The News

Last Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle ran a feature on the Spanish wine & food walking tour that I do called TapasWalk. Using my tour as an example, Janet Fletcher wrote a detailed piece on the burgeoning tapas scene now happening in downtown San Francisco. “In this new little world straddling North Beach, the Financial District and Russian Hill,” Fletcher wrote, “a Bay Area tapas enthusiast with good walking shoes can do the sort of bar hopping that many Spaniards enjoy nightly.” She included a lexicon of useful terminology for those less familar with Spanish cuisine as well as a few recipes for traditional tapas that you can make at home (with a few ingredients from The Spanish Table, of course). If you missed it in the paper last week you can still read the article online here.


Txakolí Wisdom


In tandem with last week’s San Francisco Chronicle article by Janet Fletcher about the downtown tapas scene, Jon Bonné put together a detailed and up-to-date summary of the current state of Basque Txakolí wine. If you have yet to experience the distinct joy of Txakolí, this article tells you all you need to know to get started. We carry all the Txakolí wines and (just between you and me) we even have some of the elusive Txakolí rosado still in stock.

Txakolí Etiquette

If you have visited San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country you probably noticed how the local bartenders pour the Txakolí wine with an outstretched arm from high overhead. Now our good friends from Vinos Unico have made an instructional video that shows just how to pour Txakolí like a pro. Check them out here:


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Summer Wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You want points? We got points!


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

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

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Bar Lata

What is it about a small Spanish tapas bar that inspires thirst, hunger and conviviality all at the same time? The atmosphere is informal and friendly, the food is simple and ready to serve, the wines are well chosen and everything is modestly priced. It’s fast food for people who care about what they consume.

So why has ‘tapas’ become a pejorative word that evokes a fad several years past its prime?

My often voiced opinion is that the tapas concept has been turned on its head. The word ‘tapas’ has become restaurant code for ‘tiny appetizer’. A round of tapas with friends is a self contained snack while an appetizer is the first course of a full meal. This distinction has been hard to make due to a lack of proper tapas bars here in our part of the world. That is about to change.

Yesterday Daniel Olivella from B44 in San Francisco opened his new Bar Lata on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

In keeping with tradition the space is diminutive and simply decorated.  A long and varied list of cold and hot tapas is well paired with a wine selection that covers all of Spain. A unique collection of “canned” (lata = can) items are made in house and, in homage to the many superlative canned foods of Spain, are served in little oval shaped metal tins (the Lata de Pulpo was a traditional mix of octopus and potatoes dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a hearty dusting of smoked paprika).

Last night, seated in the corner with a view of the entire space I contentedly sipped a glass of cold, crisp Manzanilla while all around me the many wines of Spain, objects of my personal and professional passion, were flowing busily from bottle to glass. On one table a red Garnacha blend from Montsant was passed around amongst a cheery group of six. On another table bottle after bottle of Galician Albariño was happily consumed by an increasingly boisterous couple. Up front at the bar glasses of frothy Cava were handed out to a group of newly arrived patrons.

“This” I said to my wife “is my kind of place”.

In honor of my newfound home away from home, this week we feature a few the wines seen at (or inspired by) Bar Lata that are also found here at The Spanish Table. They have a pretty extensive list so if you go and try something you like, let me know and if I don’t have it already, I’ll get it.

Meanwhile across the Bay: I will be leading a wine class next week in San Francisco on Thursday March 19th at 7 pm at 18 Reasons (593 Guerrero St @ 18th St), a gallery in the Mission whose motto is “bringing the community together through food and art”.  The theme the evening is “Spanish Bubbles” and will include a tasting of sparkling Cava, lightly effervescent Txakoli from Basque Country and Vi D’Agulla from Catalunya as well as a sweet sparkling Muscat from Valencia. Background notes on the wines will be available during the event along with discounted purchasing opportunities. Appropriate snacks (dare I call them ‘tapas’?) will be prepared by the 18 Reasons crew. All of this can be had for the extremely tasty price of $10 ($5 dollars for 18 Reasons members). Go to their web site, http://18reasons.org/ for details and directions or call them at (415)-252-9816.

San León Manzanilla Clásica This wine, with an average age of 8 years, is palest straw colored and full of yeasty, saline aroma (like a fresh sea breeze) and toasted almond and chamomile flavors. If you are a Manzanilla lover this is an excellent new wine to add to your list. If you have not yet had a chance to try this most distinctive Spanish wine, this is the perfect place to start. $12.99 (375ml)

Gran Barquero Fino In the hills of Andalucia, just south of Cordoba in D.O. Montilla-Moriles they make fortified wines using the Pedro Ximénez grape.  These wines share the same production techniques as Sherry from D.O. Jerez further south. Gran Barquero Fino is pale straw colored, bracingly dry, lean and full of toasted almond aroma. $17.99

Sete Cepas Albariño 2007 This well priced Albariño is pale yellow tinged with green. Grapefruit aroma, lean minerality and light, refreshing texture are all to be found in this young white wine from Galicia. $12.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this wine 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. This wine was originally $14.99 but is on sale while it lasts for $11.99

Can Blau 2007 This dark, opulent Montsant region blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too. Judging from the number of bottles of Can Blau that I saw being poured at Bar Lata in Oakland the other night, this is a real crowd pleaser. Personal experience affirms this perspective. $16.99

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 Produced from a blend of mostly Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano, this Crianza level wine spends an extended period (2 years) ageing in French and American oak barrels, with an additional year of bottle ageing before release. The bright cherry-like fruit and resiny tannic barrel character that are typical of traditional Crianza Riojas are present here in a finely tuned frame. Serve this wine with sliced Serrano ham or cured Spanish chorizo for a classic flavor pairing. $19.99

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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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New wines from Spain

Yes, it’s true. The floodgates are cranked wide open on the flow of Spanish wine into the USA.  

According to the Spanish Exterior Commerce Commission (ICEX), we in the USA now consume over 11 percent of all exported Spanish wine. The value of Spanish wine sold here also continues to grow by hefty margins with each passing year (15% increase in 2006 over 2005, for instance). 

What this means for you and me is that we have more choices than ever before when it come to wine from Spain. From crisp, bubbly Cava to elegant Gran Reserva Rioja (and many others in between) the options and varieties are numerous. 

At The Spanish Table we taste dozens of wines each week, searching for the best in quality and value, winnowing out the indistinct or overpriced choices that invariably crop up in such a broad and expanding market. The small percentage of wines that finally end up on our shelves represent some of the very best that Spain has to offer right now.

Happily, for those of us with a taste for tradition, some of our ‘new arrivals’ are in fact old favorites. The most intriguing element of the Spanish wine world for me is the mix of famous old bodegas (both large and small) and young, new wineries (also ranging from giant factories to tiny artisan projects). This broad range is reflected in our current batch of new arrivals.

This week we are excited to witness the return to the US market of Marqués de Murrieta, a well established and respected name in Rioja that has been off the market here for several vintages. They are back with a new importer and several excellent wines.

Also from Rioja is the new vintage of Conde de Valdemar rosado, a perennial summertime favorite here.

A big hit in its initial release last year was the basque Txakoli called Gurrutxaga. It is back in the new 2007   vintage.

Speaking of white wines, we are very excited about our latest Albariño called Paco & Lola. Don’t be put off by the silly name or the polka dotted label. This is an excellent example of what Albariño can be when made by skilled and attentive winemakers. 

We are also quite pleased with a new white wine from Rueda called Vevi. This flavor filled bottle combines high quality with low price; a combination that always makes me smile.

Finally this week, we have a unique red wine for you. The Arrels Sangre de Garnatxa is made in the Montsant region of Catalunya by local Bay Area winemakers. This small production wine is very difficult to find outside of a few San Francisco restaurants. Those of you who enjoy rich, dark reds will rejoice at the prospect of having this wine in your own personal cellar.

Here then are six choices from among the almost 600 wines we carry

 

Vevi Rueda 2007  This is the inaugural vintage of a custom blended Rueda wine created specially by Antonio Sanz and the importer José Pastor.  The wine is 80% Verdejo and 20% Viura. The bright lemon color mimics aromas and flavors of fresh citrus. Additional notes of melon and guava with a bit of minerality in the background add depth to this bright and refreshing wine.  $10.99

 

Gurrutxaga Txakoli 2007 This basque Txakoli wine comes from the little village of Mendexa along Spain’s northern Cantabrian coast (curiously, the image on the bottle is of the neighboring town, Lekeitio). Crisp, flinty minerality and grapefruity flavor combine in this spritzy, low alcohol white. $15.99

 

Paco & Lola Albariño 2007 This new arrival will delight Albariño lovers. Pale yellow color with green reflections, citrus and mineral aromas and white peach fruit character all combine with bright, assertive acidity in this excellent example from D.O. Rías Baixas. $19.99

 

Conde de Valdemar Rosado 2007 The newest vintage of this Rioja region rosado is composed of mostly Garnacha with a bit of Tempranillo added to the blend. This refreshing, summery wine is dark pink in color with ripe strawberry fruit character balancing bright, citrusy acidity.  Like a fresh breeze on a hot afternoon, this wine can cool you down and perk you up simultaneously. $10.99

 

Marqués de Murrieta reserva 2004 We have waited years for this wine to come back to our shores and the wait was not in vain. This excellent, mature red is everything Rioja aficionados look for in a traditional reserva. Brick red color, rich fruit character and elegantly integrated barrel tannins all contribute to the overall experience of this wine.  Josh Raynolds of Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave the wine 91 points, saying: “Fading medium red. Strawberry and cherry-vanilla aromas are complicated by cured tobacco and coffee. Light in body and supple, offering sweet red fruit flavors, gentle tannins and good back-end grip. Deepened with air, picking up darker berries and a pleasantly bitter cherry skin quality. Finishes with an echo of red fruits and vanilla. Textbook Rioja, and drinking beautifully right now.” $26.99

 

Arrels Sangre de Garnatxa 2004    This dark, opulent wine from the Montsant region of Catalunya has roots right here in the Bay Area. Arrels is a small production (444 cases in total) project between local Chefs Laurent Manrique (Aqua), Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade, Bocadillos), Sylvain Portay and Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji (both formerly at the Ritz Carleton, San Francisco).  The wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from a small, high altitude plot of old vines. Opaque garnet color and rich, concentrated black cherry fruit character along with tart acidity and background minerality. T-bone steaks, cooked rare on the grill would be a good match. Read more about the wine makers here in a recent SF Chronicle article. $36.99 

 

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Holiday Wines, Version 1.3, The Holiday Party Edition

It’s party season. Parties at the office, parties at friends houses, parties at home.  It can get overwhelming if you are not prepared. Long festive luncheons with old colleagues, slow Sunday suppers with relatives from out of town or an impromptu potluck in the break room at work can all be accomplished with ease if you have a well stocked pantry and/or wine cellar.

Foods that require little or no preparation are essential, as are tasty wines in a variety of styles.  A jar of our exclusive lemon stuffed olives, a wedge of 12 month aged Manchego cheese and a frothy bottle of Cava can go a long way toward creating a fun and celebratory atmosphere any time, anywhere. Silky and elegant red wines set the perfect tone at the dinner table and are perfect accompaniments to traditional slow cooked simple meals like Fabada made with genuine Asturian white beans, Chorizo and Morcilla sausage. Little ivory wedges of Almond Turrón and crumbly Mantecado cookies are well matched to aged, dark amber colored Amontillado or Oloroso from Jerez and make a perfect end to any holiday get together.

For a quick and tasty appetizer, try this recipe that I cobbled together after tasting an amazing version of this dish at my favorite local Portuguese restaurant, La Salette in Sonoma. I served this at a Port tasting that I put together a few weeks ago.  Since then I’ve had several requests for the recipe so I am printing it here for those who would like to make it at home.

 

Patê de Sardinha (Sardine Paté)

(serves 4 as an appetizer)

 

1-can Matiz sardines, drained

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup diced onion

2-tablespoons extra virgin cup olive oil

1-tablespoon mayonnaise

1-tablespoon chopped cilantro

1-tablespoon chopped parsley

1-tablespoon Piri Piri hot sauce

1-teaspoon salt

 

Put everything in the food processor and pulse to blend (should end up with a consistency somewhere between chopped liver and hummus). Adjust lemon juice/Piri Piri/salt to taste. Chill for one hour (or over night) and serve with crusty bread.

 

D’Abattis Gran Cava 2004 $17.99 This bone dry vintage sparkler, made from 100% Parellada (one of the traditional Cava grapes) is toasty and green apple crisp with fine bubbles and yeasty aroma. California winemaker, Master Sommelier and Bay Area resident Emmanuel Kemiji is involved in this traditional Catalan winery.  Serve this wine with a mix of fried lemon slices and tiny fried anchovies. Let the festivities ensue.

 

Mont Ferrant  Blanes Nature Cava 2003 $17.99 From one of the oldest Cava producers in Spain, this traditional blend of Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo is bright, lively and very dry. Mont Ferrant also makes the ever-popular Brut Rosado Cava that many of you know and love. This wine is more traditional in style and makes an elegant cocktail as well as a dinner wine. Try it with oysters on the half shell.

 

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

Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 Here’s an odd one for you. This is the only Reserva Rioja wine made from the rare Graciano grape. Usually Graciano, which accounts for a mere 5% of the annual harvest in Rioja, is used to blend in with the lighter Tempranillo. Graciano lends structure to blended Rioja. On its own, Graciano can be quite firm and tannic, but with 24 months in barrel followed by another two years of bottle ageing, the wine has become quite elegant and mature. If Crown Rib Roast is in your holiday plans, this wine will add the perfect Spanish accent to the meal.

 

Maestro Sierra Amontillado $21.99 (375 ml)

Maestro Sierra Oloroso $15.99 (375ml)

Maestro Sierra was founded in 1832 by Jose Antonio Sierra, who, as a master carpenter, was responsible for building barrels for all the major Sherry bodegas. Recognized as one of the top coopers in the area, he longed to become involved in the Sherry trade itself. As this business was dominated by the nobility, a start-up such as his was not very welcome. After many hardships he was able to establish and grow his business becoming one of the top Almacenistas (stockholders) of high quality Jerez wines. Poking fun at his struggle, the label depicts an allegorical fox hunt with the “Nobles” hunting the fox (Maestro Sierra).

Pilar Pla Pechovierto currently owns Maestro Sierra. Doña Pilar is a widow whose husband was a direct descendent of the Sierra family. She respected her husband’s wish that the winery remain in operation after his death and over the last thirty years she has kept the winery open, selling very limited stocks of wine to a few of the large bodegas. Because the wines have virtually remained unmoved due to the almost non existent business, the stocks at Maestro Sierra are some of the oldest in Jerez. The soleras at the winery are easily over 60 years old and some maybe close to 100 years old.

Maestro Sierra Amontillado is amber gold in color with a rich aroma of almonds and fresh hay. A very gentle note of raisin-like fruit character is present here. This wine pairs well with aged cheeses and cured meats. The Maestro Sierra Oloroso is dark amber with flavors of walnuts, butterscotch and figs. Serve this wine in a small glass to your special someone, after a big meal, on the bear skin rug, next to the roaring fire, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

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Big Reds

At The Spanish Table we are firm believers in eating and drinking according to the seasons. Throughout the summer we have focused our attention on the cool, refreshing white and rosado wines that go so well with summer meals as well as the bold, youthful red wines that are perfect accompaniments to meat on the grill. 

As we move into late summer we start to bring in more hearty, mature red wines as well as richer, more aromatic whites. 

This week we have some new wines that fit these descriptions perfectly. Like the first robin of spring these wines are harbingers of the season to come. It may not feel like it yet in the Bay Area, and we still have plenty of pink/white/red summertime wines, but as the season progresses we will continue to shift our focus toward these more autumnal flavors and characteristics.

Meanwhile, our friends at Happy Quail Farms have been delivering fresh Piquillo peppers to us for the first time. The search for a source for fresh Piquillos has been something of a grail quest for me over the last few years ever since trying one that our store manager (and food newsletter editor) Caty Salas grew in her yard in Oakland. I was so impressed with this homegrown version of the classic Navarra regional specialty that I made a video to commemorate the event.

Now, with access to the plump, crunchy fresh Piquillos from Happy Quail, I get to expand my repertoire of pepper recipes. Here is the recipe for a little tapa that I served to visitors last weekend.

 

Kevin’s Roasted Fresh Piquillo Peppers with Ventresca Tuna

Serves 4 as an appetizer

 

½ lb. fresh Piquillo peppers (5-6 peppers)

1- 4 0z. can Ortiz Ventresca Tuna

3 tablespoons Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Toro Albala PX Vinegar

1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

 

Char the peppers briefly over a flame to blister the skin. Let the peppers cool and remove the blackened skin along with the stem end and the seeds. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Drain the tuna and gently separate the pieces into big flakes. Arrange the peppers in a pile on a serving plate and top with the flaked tuna. Drizzle on the oil and vinegar. Sprinkle parsley over the top and salt to taste.

 

Cerveza:

Skol Beer $10.99 In our continuing quest for interesting beer we recently started selling some rare and tasty Argentine micro brewery ales. Based on the success of those new products, this week we are bringing in one of Brazil’s most popular beers.  This crisp, refreshing lager is said to induce sentimental nostalgia among the local Brazilian population. I like the 11.2 ounce bottles. They remind me of the diminutive cañas (small glasses of draft beer) served in Spain.

 

Vino Blanco:

Versatus 2006 $12.99 Galician white wines from the Ribeiro region have not gotten as much attention as the Albariño wines from neighboring Rías Baixas. Versatus is a D.O. Ribeiro wine composed of equal parts Treixadura, Palomino, Godello and Torrontes. The flinty, mineral element is predominant in this crisp, light bodied wine.

 

Santiago Ruiz 2006 $17.99 The newest vintage of this bright, aromatic white wine from Galicia is a blend of estate grown Albariño, Treixadura and Loureiro, vinified completely in stainless steel. Pale lemon color with aromas of citrus blossom and tropical fruits. Crisp acidity and background minerality add balance to the wine and maintain the refreshing quality that makes this such a perfect wine for pairing with light appetizers and seafood.

 

Do Ferreiro 2006 $24.99 The new 2006 vintage of this 100% Albariño wine reminds us of why this producer retains almost cult status among Spanish white wine appreciators. The various components of this wine (color, texture, aroma, flavor) are precise and balanced. The gently perfumed floral aspect never overwhelms the citrusy fruit character which in turn balances the firm minerality. An excellent wine for a special meal.

 

Vino Tinto:

Vina Herminia Tempranillo 2005 $11.99 Located in the Rioja Baja subzone of D.O.C. Rioja, at the southeastern end of the region, Viña Herminia belongs to the Luis Caballero group of companies, also owners of Lustau in Jerez. This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from a combination of estate grown fruit as well as fruit purchased from the local coop. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel (no oak barrels) helps retain the fresh berry fruit character of the wine. Dark garnet colored, Viña Herminia displays ripe berry aroma and abundant, youthful fruit character.

 

Convento Oreja Roble 2005 $15.99 This young Ribera del Duero region wine, fashioned from the local Tinto del País grape and aged for 4 months in oak is structured and ripe while retaining a certain youthfulness. Dark berry aromas and flavors with gentle tannins and background minerality.

 

Corpus del Muni Roble 2005 $17.99 A blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Garnacha produced just outside of Toledo in central Spain. Dark garnet color with aromas of berries and spicy oak. Black cherry fruit character with earthy tannins. A few months of barrel age lends complexity to the blend without stripping the final product of its youthful demeanor.

 

Termes 2005 $26.99 The Toro region wines from Bodegas Numanthia Termes have become very popular among our customers who appreciate concentrated, powerful red wines. The more exclusive Numanthia and Termanthia (the latter rated a perfect score of 100 by The Wine Advocate in the 2004 vintage) have already sold out in their previous vintage, but the newest release is this, the youngest of their wines. Sourced from small plots of old vine Tinto de Toro and aged in oak for 16 months before bottling, this rich, structured, tannic red allows those of us on a budget to taste at least something from this highly rated producer. Give this one lots of air and serve with wild boar or grilled buffalo steak.

 

Alonso del Yerro 2005 $35.99  This wine is made from 100% Tempranillo sourced from the family owned 65 acre vineyard. Aged for 12 months in oak before bottling, this wine captures the essence of the Ribera del Duero region. Dark garnet color, rich fruit character and firmly tannic structure are what one looks for in wines from this region. Alonso del Yerro expresses all of these attributes in a finely balanced offering that possesses both elegance (not a common descriptor in this region) and precision.

 

Mas de Can Blau 2004 $42.99 We love the inky dark, juicy, ripe Can Blau from D.O. Montsant and so do you. It is so popular that we have trouble keeping it in stock. Now this producer has released a more mature version produced from the fruit of their oldest vineyards and aged for 20 months in oak before bottling. This is a big, powerful red that will age well for years to come. Mas de Can Blau has been well reviewed by both Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. Both publications awarded the wine 92 Points.

Josh Raynolds (IWC) wrote: “Deep, saturated red. Explosively perfumed nose features exotic scents of blackberry, cassis, cola, sandalwood, patchouli and smoked meat. Broad, deep and remarkably sweet, with lush dark fruit flavors showing remarkable depth and purity. Intense mineral accents and firm tannins add structure and precision.

Jay Miller (WA) said: “The 2004 Mas de Can Blau, the first vintage of this cuvee, comes from the estate’s oldest Cariñena, Garnacha, and Syrah vines. It received malolactic fermentation in barrel, was aged for 20 months in new French oak, and bottled unfiltered. Dark ruby/purple-colored, it offers a flamboyant nose of pain grille, scorched earth, tar, and kirsch. Full-bodied with a supple texture, the wine has layers of sweet fruit, nicely integrated oak, tannin, and acidity, in its racy personality. Drink this outgoing wine over the next 8-10 years.”

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