Tag Archives: moscatel

Thansgiving Favorites

Thanksgiving Day, fast approaching, is, for all its historic significance, really all about the food. This is a time when traditional recipes, true family heirlooms, take center stage. Every family, it seems, has at least a few time tested recipes that, were they left unmade, would diminish if not ruin the occasion. Forgetting, or purposely omitting, the creamed onions, candied yams, chestnut stuffing, ambrosia, or whatever family favorite is firmly entrenched in memory risks making everyone around the Thanksgiving table just a little less thankful.
Here at The Spanish Table, as we celebrate our ninth Thanksgiving in Berkeley, we feel particularly thankful that many of you, our loyal customers, have come to rely on us year after year for wines that compliment a traditional Thanksgiving meal. This week we present a few of the wines that have become traditional favorites on Thanksgiving Day (plus one new idea that we know you are going to love). We will be closed on Thanksgiving Day but we are open the rest of the week to help you get ready for the start of the holiday season.

10y_tawny_barros__06775Barros 10 Year Tawny Port

This barrel aged tawny Port is a blend of  mature stocks with an average age of ten years (some older, some younger). This wine displays a golden amber hue tinged with salmon pink reflections. Aromas of almonds and toffee caramel are matched by gentle fruity flavors of apricot and peach. This lightly sweet wine is warm and nutty on the finish. Serve after a nice meal to assist with the contemplation of life’s big questions. $28.99


musva_moscatel__36839Musva Sparkling Moscatel

This is a non-vintage sparkling Moscatel that works its magic best at the end of a meal. It is medium sweet, low in alcohol, aggressively bubbly and aromatic. Notes of baking spices (cloves, nutmeg, allspice) make this an excellent wine to serve with an autumn pear tart (or, even better, good ol’ American pumpkin pie). $11.99


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2007 Goliardo Loureiro Tinto
This rare red wine,  from the Atlantic coastal Rias Baixas region best known for white Albarino wines, is made by Raul Perez, a Galician winemaker known for his high level of skill and eccentric style. This lavender hued wine offers up cool climate floral mulberry fruit character with spicy white pepper in the background along with finely tuned minerality. If you appreciate American PInot Noir, French Burgundy or cru Beaujolais, this may well become your new favorite wine. Originally this was a $58 bottle. We have the last of the 2007 vintage at a very attractive price. $29.99

Rioja Bordon

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Just in time for the Holiday season, a new supply of Rioja Bordon has arrived at The Spanish Table. The 12 month aged Bordon Crianza is now available in the 2006 vintage. The fabulously elegant 2001 Gran Reserva makes a repeat appearance after selling out earlier in the year. Put tradition on the table this year with either of these Turkey friendly reds.

2006 Rioja Bordon Crianza 2005_rioja_bordon_crianza_franco_espanolas__84510
This is a classic Rioja Crianza at an outstanding price. Bright cherry fruit character balances mature oak barrel aroma and firm tannins. The flavors of tart berries and Spanish earth intermingle on the palate. This is a perfect wine for serving with cured meats and hot tapas. $13.99
2001 Rioja Bordon Gran Reservaimg_3894__14099
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

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Moscatel & Chestnuts

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Halloween is coming up next Sunday, followed closely by the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos. A fall tradition popular in Catlunya but less familiar here is “La Castañada”. On November 1st All Saints Day  (Dia de Todos los Santos) is marked with a traditional meal of roasted Chestnuts and sweet Moscatel wine. Panellets (little round cookies made from Marzipan and pine nuts) and Boniato (roasted Sweet Potato) are also traditionally served during this autumn day dedicated to remembering loved ones who have passed away.
In support of this tradition The Spanish Table is stocking up on Moscatel wine in a broad range of styles. We have the traditional sweet Moscatel made in Alicante that is lightly fortified and abundantly sweet as well as others that range from lightly sweet wines from Catalunya, aromatic yet dry Moscatel from the Malaga region further south and even a fabulous sparkling desert wine from Valencia that is lightly sweet and abundantly bubbly. All of these wines will fit perfectly into a menu featuring the flavors of autumn and  may well inspire a new tradition in your home. Here are just a few suggestions (among numerous others) to get you going:

2007_esmeralda_torres__292932008 Viña Esmeralda
This medium sweet blend of Moscatel and Gewürtztraminer is floral and aromatic with notes of rose petal and lavender. Honeyed melon fruit character is held in check by bright acidity. This is one of the most traditional wines to serve for ‘La Castañada’ accompanied by roasted chestnuts, almond cookies and sweet potatoes. $15.99

botani__091592009 Botani Botani is a dry Moscatel from the Sierras de Malaga region. The floral, concentrated aroma is classic Moscatel, redolent of honeysuckle and orange blossom,  but the palate is crisp and dry with citrus and mineral notes. This pale straw colored wine possesses a finely tuned balance of flavors that express a fresh and unique side of this ancient region. $19.99


musva_moscatel__36839Musva
This is a non-vintage sparkling Moscatel that works its magic best at the end of a meal. It is medium sweet, low in alcohol, aggressively bubbly and aromatic. Notes of baking spices (cloves, nutmeg, allspice) make this an excellent wine to serve with an autumn pear tart (or, even better, good ol’ American pumpkin pie). $11.99

poveda_moscatel__08060Salvador Poveda Moscatel Here is a sweet dessert wine from a well known and long established company located in the town of Monovar near Valencia. The wine is dark amber in color with abundant floral perfume and flavors of ripe figs, dates and golden raisins. Serve this wine with full flavored cheeses, nut desserts or in a small glass all by itself after a big meal. $10.99

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Moscatel

The Muscat grape (known in Spain as Moscatel) is thought to be the oldest cultivated grape variety on the planet. Many different wine grapes are descended from primal Muscat vines cultivated thousands of years ago in the Middle East (or maybe Greece, nobody is really sure). The unique, unchanging aspect that distinguishes Muscat is a rich floral aroma that is present when the fruit is fresh as well as in the wines made from this grape. The distinctive rich honeyed perfume is the scent of freshly crushed grapes at harvest time. Spanish Moscatel  has a long history stretching back thousands of years. The Moscatel variety is grown all across Spain and the wines made from this most ancient of grapes come in a range of styles from sweet to dry or somewhere in between.Traditional Moscatel Dulce is a sweet wine, made in a sherry-like style (fortified) in the south as well as a golden late harvest style in the north and east of Spain. These wines are traditionally served with light desserts at the end of a meal. Less well known are the dry and off-dry table wines made from Moscatel.  These wines retain the rich floral aroma that Moscatel is known for but with less (or none of) the residual sugar that usually pushes Moscatel into the dessert wine category. They can be still, sparkling or lightly spritzy. They retain bright acidity that combines with the floral aromatics to create a wine with weight and substance that is also balanced and food-friendly. The closest comparisons would be the aroma and texture of Viognier offset by the edgy grapefruit and mineral character of Albariño. These wines are pefect accompaniments to a broad range of autumn and winter flavors as well as many traditional holiday foods.


Botani 2008
Botani is a dry Moscatel from the Sierras de Malaga region. Victoria Ordoñez, sister of the famous wine marketer Juan Ordoñez, makes this wine at the small family winery. The floral, concentrated aroma is classic Moscatel, redolent of honeysuckle and orange blossom,  but the palate is crisp and dry with citrus and mineral notes. This pale straw colored wine possesses a finely tuned balance of flavors that express a fresh and unique side of this ancient region. $21.99

 

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2008 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 are flavors of tart grapefruit and background flintiness. This spritzy, low alcohol white wine makes a unique and distinctive apperitivo at the start of a festive gathering. $11.99

 

Viña Esmeralda 2008 This medium sweet blend of Moscatel and Gewürtztraminer is floral and aromatic with notes of rose petal and lavender. Honeyed melon fruit character is held in check by bright acidity. In Spain this is a traditional wine to serve during during the holidays accompanied by some almond cookies or the anise flavored fried pastries known as rosquillas. $14.99

Gramona Gessamí 2008 In the Catalan language gessamí means jasmine. This is a perfect descriptor for the aroma of this Penedès region blend of Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürtztraminer. The rich floral perfume wafts out of the glass at arms length. Put the glass to your lips and take in the crisp citrus and green apple fruit character. The combination of sweet aroma and tart flavor creates a uniquely delicious experience. Pair this wine with raw fish (tuna tartare, sashimi) or any number of marinated vegetable salads (beets & fennel, mushroom & leeks vinaigrette). $17.99


Musva Espumoso
Previously this was called Reymos. It comes from a small co-op winery in the village of Cheste near Valencia. It is a sparkling Moscatel that works its magic best at the end of a meal. It is medium sweet, low in alcohol, aggressively bubbly and aromatic. Notes of baking spices (cloves, nutmeg, allspice) make this an excellent wine to serve with an autumn pear tart (or, even better, good ol’ American pumpkin pie). $11.99

 

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 At this time of year a little glass of late harvest Moscatel is particularly appealing in the late afternoon or after dinner. The celebrated Casta Diva is a lush, sweet Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey, ginger and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart. $32.99 (500 ml)


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Rioja Bordon is back! For those of you who missed out on these the first time around (or tried them, loved them and want more) we are happy to report that a new batch of traditionally styled Rioja wines from Bodegas Franco-Española has just arrived and is going fast. The same great pricing continues until the wines are gone. We are thrilled to be able to extend this not-to-be-missed opportunity.

Rioja Bordon Crianza 2005 The 2001 was a staff and customer favorite and hopefully you’ll find the current release just as enticing. A bit richer than the 2001, this is still a classic Rioja Crianza (tart pie cherry fruit with well integrated barrel character) at an outstanding price. $13.99

Rioja Bordon Reserva 2004 The best seller of the Franco-Española wines is this plush reserva from the stellar 2004 vintage. Elegantly expressive and balanced Rioja at a fabulous price. $17.99

Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 1999 Here it is. A 10-year old wine for an amazing price. Soft and round this is a classic aged Gran Reserva, intended as a vino de contemplación to be served alone or with a few choice tapas (jamón iberico!). A true taste of Spain at a knock out price. $23.99

Baron d’Anglade Reserva 2001 Named after the founder of the Bodega, this is a denser,bolder wine than the regular Reserva. This wine is from the stellar 2001 vintage Notes of dark cherry, allspice and clove, tobacco smoke and vanilla on a round, velvety frame. Regular retail would be $60, but it’s $49.99

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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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Feliz Navidad

Since opening in Berkeley seven years ago The Spanish Table’s reputation has grown steadily, mostly by word of mouth, as one of the few specialty stores featuring the food traditions of Spain, Portugal and Latin America. Now, with Christmas a week away, we are stocking many of the traditional holiday items that are difficult to find elsewhere.  The deliveries of wines, cookies, chocolates and other seasonal treats continue to arrive daily here and the staff is busily stacking everything in tall piles to satisfy demand for these unique items.

In the wine department we make sure to carry a wide variety of sweet Moscatel, Porto, Madeira and Sherry at this time of year in addition to numerous sparkling wines and rich, wintery reds.  This week I call your attention to a few of these traditional Christmas wines.  

Also, we have an upcoming event (don’t worry, it’s after the Holidays) organized by Andy and Tanya Booth, the c0-owners of The Spanish Table. Here is what Andy had to say about the Wine Dinner at César in Oakland:

The giant Tio Pepe weathervane that sits on top of the Gonzalez Byass Bodega is one of the first things that you see as you drive into Jerez from the town just south, Puerto de Santa Maria.  Many of my memories of the five years I lived in Spain while I was seven have the ubiquitous logo of Tio Pepe Fino somewhere in the background.
We are extremely fortunate to have Felipe Gonzalez -Terry Gordon of Gonzalez-Byass visiting San Francisco in January and we’ll be hosting a wine dinner on Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 at 7:00 at Cesar’s in Oakland for a fabulous night featuring Spanish foods and wines.  Maggie Pond, the Chef at Cesar’s, has put together a tasty menu featuring tapas, paella and dessert that is paired specifically with the sherries and wines we’ll be tasting.
Felipe will join us to speak about his family’s long tradition of making superb sherries (including Tio Pepe, Alfonso Oloroso and Noe Pedro Ximenez) and amazing wines such as Beronia Gran Reserva.  The cost is $65 per person and includes dinner, wine pairings, tax and gratuity.  This could even be the perfect gift for your foodie friends and/or family members.  Stop by our Mill Valley or Berkeley stores to sign up or give us a ring at 415-388-5043.
See you there
!”

 

Reymos Espumoso de Moscatel Sweet sparkling wine from D.O. Valencia. Rich Muscat grape scent, pear and honeydew melon fruit character and light but persistent bubbles. A mere 7.5% alcohol makes this the perfect end-of-meal wine. $11.99

 

Don PX Gran Reserva 1979 This rare aged wine made from Pedro Ximénez grapes that are partially sun dried before fermentation is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. It is dark and thick as molasses, with concentrated sweetness and flavors of figs, raisins and baking spices. Amazing depth and complexity.  The SF Chronicle recently wrote this wine up in their annual gift guide. Read the article here. $29.99 (375ml)

 

J.P. Moscatel de Setubal 2001This sweet dessert wine from the Setubal Peninsula in Portugal is a perennial favorite at Christmastime. Amber colored and redolent of brandied raisins and honey, this wine is perfect fireside refreshment. $14.99

 

Infantado Vintage Port 1997 While searching for a really delicious and well priced Vintage Port to offer during the holiday season I was thrilled to find this wine from an outstanding year made by a small family winery in the heart of the Douro Valley. The Infantado style is gentler than most, with a sweet floral quality reminiscent of an older wine. $45.99

 

Infantado Vintage Port 1995 For those seeking the pleasures of Quinta do Infantado Vintage Port in a stocking stuffer size we have just brought in the 1995 vintage in half bottles.  This wine is a bit more evolved than the 1997 (in addition to being an older vintage, the smaller bottles age faster than the big ones) with softer acidity and mellower fruit character.  $26.99 (375ml)

 

Arte Mayor Brut Nature Cava Dominio de la Vega is a boutique Cava producer in Valencia. They make several wines with increasing levels of age and dryness. This wine is the driest and most mature of their wines. Zero dosage creates a crisp, lean wine with fine minerality and toasted bread aroma. We got this at a big discount and are selling it the same way. Normally a $50 bottle, we have a few on hand for $28.99

 

Abel Mendoza Seleccion Personal 2003 Abel Mendoza Monge is a third generation grape grower and winemaker producing a handful of excellently crafted wines from his small estate vineyards in Rioja. Each year his Seleccion Personal is made from whichever of his vineyards performs best (thus the name).  This small production (approx. 7000 bottles) wine is dark and concentrated. Toasty barrel aroma dominates at first but blows off with some exposure to air. The meaty, impenetrable element gives way to a rich elegance. Mineral back notes soften with time but never disappear.  Originally priced at $52.00, we have a small quantity available at $34.99.

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The Big Store and The Big Scores

Oh dear, I am falling behind in my updates to you about all that is going on here at The Spanish Table. I missed last week, for which I sincerely apologize, but the pace of business has quickened considerably on several fronts and I should update you on these developments before any more time passes.

First off, we have all been working long hours to install a temporary outpost of The Spanish Table on the ground floor of Macy’s in Union Square. For the next two weeks you can find the familiar faces you know from our Berkeley and Mill Valley stores (mine included) at Macy’s in San Francisco as we help them celebrate all things Spanish during their annual spring flower show. The theme this year is ‘A Mosaic of Spain’. For our part, we have set up a mini-Spanish Table on the ground floor of the main building, right by the escalators, in between the watches and cosmetics. While we will not be spritzing you with perfume or offering makeovers, we will be sampling chorizo, olives, turron and other favorites from The Spanish Table.

Want more? There will be Flamenco dancers in the menswear department. In housewares, Bay Area chefs such as Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade, Bocadillos), Maggie Pond (Cesar), Daniel Olivella (B-44) and Tyler Florence (he’s Spanish, right?) will be demonstrating a broad range of Spanish recipes with wine pairings hosted by our own Andy Booth. Bedding and furniture on the 7th floor will feature a showing of black and white photographs of Spain. Abundantly colorful floral displays will be found throughout the store. What more can I say other than “would you like to put that on your Macy’s card?”

Meanwhile, The Wine Advocate has just released their latest reviews of several hundred Spanish wines including many of our tried and trusted favorites. This influential publication always brings in new customers interested in trying some of the wines they have just read about. For those of you who have already been trying and buying, I thought it might be fun to compare what I said (and when I said it) about some of the wines that are just now getting their justly deserved bit of attention from The Wine Advocate.

Here we go:

7/12/07- I said:

Peique Mencía 2006 $13.99 One of my favorite young Mencía grape wines from D.O. Bierzo has just arrived in the new 2006 vintage. Vibrant fresh cherry fruit character encounters dry autumn leaf aroma and flinty background minerality. Perfect for summer cookouts in the back yard or wherever you may be.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

“90 Points-The 2006 Joven saw no oak. Dark ruby-colored, it offers an expressive bouquet of mineral, blue fruits, and black cherry. Smooth, seamless, and elegant, this is a superb introduction to the Mencia grape as well as an exceptional value.”

12/6/07- I said:

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’).

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
92 points -The 2006 Can Blau is one of the finest values in the marketplace. Composed of 40% Carinena, 40% Syrah, and 20% Garnacha, this purple-colored wine has great aromatics for the price point. It offers up smoke, pain grille, pencil lead, scorched earth, blueberry, black cherry, and blackberry. Balanced, round, and ripe on the palate, the wine already reveals some complexity and enough structure to blossom for another 2-3 years.”

10/19/07- I said:

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 $18.99 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.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

“90 Points –The 2000 Pecina Crianza is 95% Tempranillo with the balance Graciano and Garnacha from organically farmed estate fruit. It was aged for 24 months in seasoned American oak before being bottled unfiltered (as are all of these wines). Dark ruby-colored with a brick rim, it exhibits a nose of cedar, earth, mushroom, tobacco, and blackberry. This leads to a stylish, elegant wine with good concentration and depth that should drink well for another 6 years. It is an excellent value in traditional Rioja.”

9/6/07- I said:

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.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
91 points -The 2006 Petalos del Bierzo is purple-colored with a fragrant nose of violets, lavender, mulberry, and blueberry. Ripe, supple, and sweetly fruited, it will evolve for 2-3 years and drink well through 2015. This estate was started in 1998 by Alvaro Palacios. It has steep hillside vineyards and 60- to 100-year-old vines planted in 100% Mencia, a varietal indigenous to Bierzo, a cool-climate D.O.”

11/8/07 – I said:

Alto Moncayo 2005 $43.00 Garnacha is the most widely planted red grape in Spain but you won’t find many as good as what Alto Moncayo makes in D.O. Campo de Borja just south of Rioja. Deep ruby color, extracted aromas of ripe berries and a bright, spicy character that is a perfect match for red meat.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

95 points -The 2005 Alto Moncayo is a selection of older Garnacha vineyards. Purple colored, it is more expressive aromatically with enticing aromas of pain grille, spice box, floral notes, black cherry and black raspberry. Richer, more layered, and intense, this superb effort has a 60+ second finish.”

10/19/07- I said:

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 $28.99 It’s the time of year when a little late harvest sweet wine is particularly appealing. The new vintage of the celebrated Casta Diva is a lush Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:
90 points -The 2006 Casta Diva “Cosecha Miel” Moscatel undergoes barrel-fermentation in new oak which is gradually arrested for bottling in the following spring. The nose offers up floral notes and honey along with peach, apricot, ginger, and marmalade. Medium-sweet, intense, and long, this tasty elixir will pair well with fruit desserts.”

2/14/08-I said:

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 shade of 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.

3/4/08 Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate wrote:

93 Points –The 1948 Fondillon Gran Reserva is drawn from a solera begun in 1948 but the wine is not fortified. Dark amber/brown in color, it has aromas reminiscent of an Amontillado sherry including almonds, ginger, dates, and assorted dried dark fruits. It finishes sherry-like but without the alcohol and the bite. There is nothing else quite like this uniquely styled dry wine.”

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Valentine Wines

When I was a little kid at Briar Vista Elementary School in Dekalb County Georgia, Valentine’s Day was celebrated by all the school children decorating paper lunch bags with red and pink paper hearts and taping them up in ‘home room’ on the radiator by the window to collect the mostly pre-fab Valentine’s Day cards that would be purchased by the parents at the local drug store for all us children to distribute amongst our classmates.

These days, I like to concentrate my Valentine sentiments closer to home by cooking a special meal for my wife. Some fresh flowers set the scene. A few thoughtfully chosen courses and an excellent wine express my feeling better than words. A nice dessert rounds out my culinary love letter.

If this is your idea of a good way to spend Valentine’s Day, read on. We have a fabulous selection of special wines to woo your sweetheart with, and a simple recipe for a classic Spanish dessert (with a touch of my southern heritage) that will endear you to whomever you make it for.

 

Kevin’s Buttermilk Flan (serves 4 or 2 with leftovers)

6                              large eggs

1 & 1/2 cups       Buttermilk

½ cup                   heavy cream

1 tblspn.               Mexican Vanilla concentrate

½ cup                   sugar

1/2 tspn.              salt

 

Divide the sugar in half and add ¼ cup to a 9” clay cazuela. Place the cazuela on the stove and heat over a medium flame without stirring until the sugar has melted and turned a dark caramel color (it will start slow at first but do not walk away lest you burn your sugar). Turn off the heat and let the cazuela cool. You will have a hard caramel coating on the inside of the cazuela when you are done.

Beat 4 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks together in a bowl with the sugar and salt until blended. Add the vanilla, buttermilk and cream.  Mix well and strain through a fine sieve. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The flan needs to cook in a hot water bath, so place the caramel coated cazuela in a larger oven proof container (I use a 10 inch cake pan) and set on the middle rack of the oven. Fill the cazuela with the flan mixture first, then fill the outer cake pan with boiling water to surround the cazuela with gentle moist heat (do this in the oven so you do not have to carry the sloshing flan and hot water bath to the oven). Cook for 30 minutes and check for doneness. The flan should still be jiggly but not liquid when fully cooked. If still undercooked, allow ten minutes more in the oven (take the flan out of the oven before it sets completely or it will be dry and grainy).

Remove the flan filled cazuela from the water bath and allow to cool completely (refrigerated over night is best). To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the flan to loosen it and invert the cazuela on a serving plate. Serve the finished flan with sliced seasonal fruit and a nice glass of sweet wine.  

 

Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado Cava $14.99 I talk about this wine a lot, but now is the perfect moment to serve this sparkling rosado. It’s pink and bubbly, which may be all you need for the occasion, but this is also a deliciously berry scented yet still dry and refreshing cava that not only looks great in the glass but also offers up classic cava aroma and flavor at a reasonable price.

 

Can Vendrell Brut Reserva Cava $17.99 One of my favorite Cavas is back in stock! This classic blend of traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo), from organic vineyards, with extended ageing on the lees and low dosage is a dry wine with great depth and nuance. This is rich enough to serve with food, but dry enough to serve as a cocktail.

 

Reymos Espumoso de Moscatel $11.99 Sweet sparkling wine from D.O. Valencia. Rich Muscat grape scent, honeydew melon fruit character and light but persistent bubbles. A mere 7.5% alcohol makes this the perfect end-of-meal wine. Serve alongside buttermilk flan (recipe above) for a nice change of pace.

 

Don PX Gran Reserva 1979 $27.99 (375ml)  One of Spain’s most distinctive wines. An extremely rare aged wine made from Pedro Ximénez grapes that are partially sun dried before fermentation. The wine is dark and thick as molasses, with concentrated sweetness and flavors of figs, raisins and baking spices. Amazing depth and complexity. This is another perfect match for the flan recipe above.

 

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.

 

Azua Reserva 2003 $12.99 In the Manchuela region of Castilla, just southeast of Madrid, the big, dark, juicy Bobal grape is traditionally used in many of the hearty red wines from this underappreciated part of Spain. Azua Reserva uses 100% old vine Bobal, aged in oak for 12 months and in bottle for an additional 24 months before release. This dark abundant wine is, amazingly, only 12.5% alcohol by volume, making it perfect for those of us who love abundant flavor but tire of the boozy high proof wines that often fit this profile.

 

Riolanc Vendimia Seleccionada 2006 $10.99 Our newest Rioja is this young wine from the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, made from 100% old vine Tempranillo. Whole bunch fermentation is used here to create a wine with great freshness and bright fruit character. This is an excellent choice for weeknight suppers now. When the weather warms up a bit I’ll be pouring this one in the back yard by the paella fire.

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

Personal Favorites

Spanish wine can be a hard thing to define in general terms. Just about every region in Spain makes at least a little bit of wine and the regional variation, numerous grape varieties and the personal styles of individual winemakers can cover an almost infinite range of possibilities.

At The Spanish Table we take pride in offering a wide variety of wines from all across the Iberian Peninsula, and reading this newsletter is one of the best ways to learn about these exciting, enticingly new wines.

My normal habit is to put aside my own personal preferences and to promote new and interesting wines regardless of whether or not I plan to add the wine to my personal collection, but for you, the reader of this newsletter, it might be helpful to calibrate my perspective (for all wine writing is, after all, a matter of personal perspective) by sharing some of my personal favorites with you. 

I tend to take home younger wines, though you will find a few more mature bottles in the list below. I, like you, love a wine that delivers excellent quality at a great price, so you won’t see any expensive icon wine on this week’s list (not that I don’t love these wines as well, but a shopkeeper’s budget has certain limitations). What follows are some new items as well as some well loved favorites, all of which have found a place at my dinner table in recent weeks.   

Also, since I’m going ‘first-person’ on you this week, here is a recipe from my past that has caught up to me in the best of ways.

I grew up in the south where traditional recipes and regional specialties are more respected than in many other parts of the country.  One of the traditional foods I grew up with, and hated, was the dreaded Pimento Cheese Spread. Usually made with ‘American’ cheese, mayonnaise and tasteless pimentos from a jar, this was not a dish that I looked back on with great fondness. Recently, I found myself longing for the flavors of my formative years in Georgia and since nostalgia and food memory are sentiments only barely tethered to logic and reality, I decided to re-try some recipes from my younger days. Not satisfied with simple replication, I wanted to use my more recently acquired Spanish cooking habits to update these traditional southern standbys. I upgraded the ingredients, added a bit of Spanish flair and, well, all I can say is y’all are going to love the results.

 

Kevin’s Pimentón Cheese Spread (serves 6 as an appetizer)

½ lb.                Manchego Tierno Cheese (the youngest Manchego)

½ lb.                 Idiazabal Cheese

5             whole Piquillo peppers

6             pitted green Manzanilla olives

¼ cup   Ybarra mayonesa (made with 100% olive oil)

½ tsp.                 Pimentón de la Vera Dulce (smoked sweet paprika)

1 tsp.     Salt

 

Cut rind off cheeses and grate finely. Dice piquillo peppers and olives. Combine grated cheese, diced peppers and olives in a bowl with mayonesa, pimentón and salt. Mix completely and refrigerate for an hour before serving on bread. Melt the cheese spread on toast under the broiler for a hot version of this updated classic.

 

Aviny0 Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 Without a doubt, the white wine I take home most often is this spritzy, dry Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya. This refreshing grapefruity white wine is low in alcohol but big on taste. It makes a welcoming aperitif for guests and a perfect Sunday afternoon cocktail after yard work or washing the dogs.

 

Puerta Novas Crianza 2001 $12.99 My wife and I were recently surprised by this wine. When first released, Puertas Novas was quite firm and oaky, but time has been kind to this Toro region red.  With dinner the other night this proved to be a supple, rich, balanced wine (made from the local version of Tempranillo, appropriately named Tinto de Toro). No longer strictly a ‘steak wine’, Puertas Novas now has an elegance that reflects both the wine’s pedigree (2001 was an excellent vintage) and the skill of the winemakers (for those who still want the bigger, more structured version, Valpiculata Reserva 2001 is also still available for $23.99).

 

Viña Valoria 2005 $14.99 Many of you have come in looking for the perfect red wine to serve with paella and I very often recommend this young Rioja. A few scant months of barrel age lend the slightest touch of barrel character to this blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano. The pure, plum-like fruit character is juicy and refreshing, never overwhelming lighter foods such as rice or pasta dishes (paella specifically!).

 

Servilio Roble 2006$15.99 This new arrival from Ribera del Duero is bold and ripe. Dark color and a hint of meat locker aroma hint at what to serve with this young red wine. Grilled lamb chops, carne asada, crispy fried Morcilla or whatever meaty meal you prefer will taste even better when accompanied by this wine.  At home we love to serve this wine with the Berkshire pork chops we get from Café Rouge here in Berkeley.

 

Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating. 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. Braised beef brisket with pearl onions and potatoes was what I served with this 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.  I served this with a selection of embutidos from The Spanish Table such as Lomo Embuchado, Jamón Serrano and dry cured Chorizo.

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Holiday Wines, Version 1.2.1

This week finds us in a brief lull, an intermission if you will, in the holiday frenzy.

With Thanksgiving all finished except for the leftovers, everyone takes a quick breather before heading into the whirlwind of holiday office parties, extravagant meals, traveling to see family and/or having family travel to see (and stay) with you.  In this brief in-between period (just barely a week) I want to share some newly arrived wines with you that will ease you into the rest of the holiday season in style, as well as leaving you with plenty of funds for gifts, decorations and other seasonal accoutrements.

Here in the Berkeley store we have been having fun trying out the recipes in the classic Spanish cookbook 1080 Recetas de Cocina by Simone and Inès Ortega, newly translated into English and available now in a big hardbound edition for $39.95. Last night while out at Bar César for an after dinner drink, I saw that Chef Maggie Ponds is also celebrating the arrival of this most popular of Spanish cookbooks by including one dish from the book in her ever changing menu. Her version of Dried Plums Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts was a deceptively simple small plate with five bite sized mouthfuls of the most explosive flavor imaginable. I had to look it up in the book so I could try and recreate this knock-you-back-in-your-chair appetizer. It is really quite simple but the combination of ingredients is a complex and vivid mixture of flavors, aromas and textures.

 

Prunes stuffed with Valdeón cheese and pine nuts.

(adapted from 1080 Recipes by Simone and Inès Ortega)

Serves 4

 

¼ lb. Valdeón cheese (or other aged blue cheese)

12 pine nuts

12 raisins

1 tablespoon sweet Moscatel wine

¼ cup cream

12 pitted prunes

In a mixing bowl, mash blue cheese with a fork and mix with cream and sweet sherry. Roughly chop pine nuts and raisins and add to cheese mixture. Stir to combine everything. Fill each prune with a small spoonful of the cheese mixture and seal with a toothpick. Allow 45 minutes for the flavors to blend before serving alongside small glasses of the same wine used in the recipe.

 

Siete 2005 $12.99 A blend of 80% Garnacha and 20% Tempranillo made in the historic wine town of Olite in the Navarra region of Northern Spain. Organic fruit from old vine vineyards (+/- 25 years) is fermented in tank and aged on the lees for two months before bottling. Dark ruby color and youthful berry-like aroma create the first impression. Bright acidity gives lift to fresh cherry fruit character, resolving in a savory finish with light grape skin tannins. Serve this wine with another traditional Navarra specialty, the Piquillo pepper, served in any of a dozen ways (cold, hot, sliced, stewed, stuffed, you name it).

 

Navarro Lopez Old Vines Crianza $13.99 In the Valdepeñas region of southern Spain (a region with many centuries of wine making tradition) Bodegas Navarro Lopez crafts a range of wines from the local Cencibel (Tempranillo by another name) grape. This wine is made from old vine fruit and aged for 6 months in oak (mostly American) before bottling. Bright fruit character and toasty oak mix to create a lively red wine that will compliment meals based on traditional Spanish flavors

 

Navarro Lopez Old Vines Reserva $18.99 The Reserva version of this traditional red wine from the Valdepeñas region in southern Spain is composed of 100% Tempranillo fruit (known in this region as Cencibel) from 30 year old vines. After fermentation the wine is aged in oak barrels for 12 months before bottling. The end result is a wine with dark, mature fruit character, smooth, well integrated barrel tannins and a hint of traditional earthy background flavor and aroma.

 

Familigia Bianchi Malbec 2006 $15.99 Three successive generations of the Bianchi family have been making wine in the San Rafael region of Mendoza in Argentina. This wine uses some of their best quality Malbec fruit sourced from one of the family estate vineyards. After fermentation this wine is aged in oak for 10 months before bottling. This dark, abundant wine is rich with toasty oak aromas and dark berry fruit character.

 

Elsa Malbec 2006 $9.99 Bodegas Valentín Bianchi, one of the oldest wineries in Argentina, was started in the 1930s by Italian immigrants and is now one of the most well known and popular wine brands in Argentina. They craft this wine from a single vineyard of Malbec grapes named after Elsa Bianchi, the family matriarch. This young wine is full of ripe aromas and flavors of cherry and plum.

 

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 $28.99 It’s the time of year when a little late harvest sweet wine is particularly appealing. The new vintage of the celebrated Casta Diva is a lush Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart.

 

Ochoa Moscatel 2006 $23.99 In the Navarra region of Northern Spain (home to a wide range of grape varieties), Moscatel grapes are left on the vine to fully ripen before they are harvested for this sweet (but not too sweet) dessert wine. Serve it with a pear tart on a crisp fall afternoon. Ethereal.

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

Holiday Wines, Version 1.2, The Thanksgiving edition

We are very excited to announce the arrival, just in time for Thanksgiving, of some spectacular new wines from the tiny Ribeira Sacra region in northwestern Spain.

De Maison Selections, the same intrepid importers who bring in many of our favorite Basque Txakoli wines, have been very successful at finding lesser known Spanish regions that produce unique and delicious wines. Andre Tamers, the President of De Maison Selections has this to say about their newest project.

One of the most stunning landscapes in Spain is located in the heart of Galicia in an area known as the Ribeira Sacra (Sacred Banks). Driving on the N-120 between Vilafranca del Bierzo and Orense you follow the river Sil as it cuts through gorgeous canyons terraced with vineyards.

D. Ventura is a new project by Ramon Losada and his family utilizing old family holdings in this ancient wine growing region. Ever since the Romans inhabited the area, people have been growing grapes on the steep terraces bordering these two rivers.

Working these lands is extremely difficult as the terraces in some areas are so steep that all the grapes have to be brought in on a hoist.

In addition to an organic approach to farming, winemaking has also changed. Only indigenous yeast is used to start fermentation. None of the wines are filtered or cold stabilized. Lastly, the maturation of the grapes is watched carefully to insure that the grapes are fully mature when harvested.

There are currently three vineyard sites. Two border the River Sil and one borders the Miño River. Caneiro in particular is unique. Steep terraces line the river, which adds a sweet freshness to this plot, cooling it during the heat of the day. Pena do Lobo is also on the Sil but the vineyard is less steep and is slightly further away from the river. Viña do Burato is in a totally different area north of the other two on the Miño River. Here the landscape is lush. Streams flow directly through the vineyard on the way down to the river Miño. The soils here are more fertile and alluvial. All three of these plots have unique climates that create distinct wines.

I am particularly happy to receive these wines right now because they are, I feel, particularly appropriate for Thanksgiving. These are medium bodied wines with no oaky overtones to mask the vibrant fruit character and the fine minerality of these low alcohol (12.5%, also a good thing this time of year!) wines. Any of them would be a perfect match with turkey, dressing and the rest of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Additionally, we also have some white, rosado and sparkling wines that have been well received in past years and are back again to add a bit of lively Spanish character to your Thanksgiving table.

 

Avinyo Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but only gently sweet. The light bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.

 

Reymos Espumoso de Moscatel $11.99 Sweet sparkling wine from D.O. Valencia. Rich Muscat grape scent, honeydew melon fruit character and light but persistent bubbles. A mere 7.5% alcohol makes this the perfect end-of-meal wine. Serve alongside a slice of your favorite pumpkin pie.

 

Valduero Rosado 2006 $14.99 If you can’t choose between serving red or white, here is your solution. This unique rosado is made in the Ribera del Duero region from Tempranillo grapes. This dark, spicy rosado will compliment rich, sauced dishes such as salmon in a pastry crust or turkey and gravy.

 

Odysseus Rosado 2006 $23.99 Composed primarily of the same Garnacha grapes that go into the Odysseus Tinto, plus smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cariñena and Touriga Nacional (a traditional Portuguese variety), the 2006 is the darkest and ripest Odysseus Rosado so far. Fresh berry fruit character is rich and mouth-filling, balanced by moderate acidity. Not a light back porch rosado, this wine calls out for candied yams, cranberry sauce and creamed pearl onions.

 

D. Ventura Viña do Burato 2006 $16.99 Composed of 100% old vine Mencía from D. Ventura’s Minho River property, this light red is fresh and youthful with the dried leaf aroma that is typical of Mencía. This is the leanest of the D. Ventura wines.  This unoaked red will compliment fresh vegetables, poultry, rice and pasta.

 

D. Ventura Peña do Lobo 2006 $19.99 This wine, from one of the two the Sil River vineyards is 100% Mencía from vines that are over 80 years old. This dark ruby colored wine is ripe with lush fruit character balancing flinty background minerality. I will be pouring this with my Thanksgiving dinner.

 

D. Ventura Viña Caneiro 2006 $24.99  The boldest of the D. Ventura wines, this exclusive bottling sourced from small plots of old vine Mencía grown on the steep slopes of the Sil River Valley is opulent and silky while still retaining a fresh, lively balance of flavors. Notes of cranberry and pomegranate mingle with flinty minerality. This dark and abundant wine never veers into the overly extracted or the syrupy. It maintains a fine balance of flavors with moderate alcohol content and a solid foundational structure.

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Filed under Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine