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Pink Wines for Memorial Day

It has been a cold and damp month of May but warmer weather is just around the corner so we are stocking up on a bunch of Spanish rosado and Portuguese rose. These pale pink wines are the perfect choice for outdoor dining and entertaining, especially during daylight hours.
When a red wine might be too heavy and a white wine might be too lean, a crisp dry rosado, the Goldilocks of wines, is ‘just right’. These wines are as delicious with quick and easy tapas or light appetizers as they are with a big paella cooked on the grill.
The new 2009 pinks are arriving now. Some of these wines are only available in limited quantities so now is the time to stock up on your favorites while the supply lasts. Pick up a mixed case of pink wines and you will have them on hand for whenever the need arises as well as saving 10% on your entire purchase. I suggest keeping a bottle (or two) of rosado in the fridge at all times in case of unexpected guests or unanticipated thirst.

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rose Casal Garcia, the best known Vinho Verde on the planet now comes in a pink version. The refreshingly spritzy effervescence, low alcohol and bright character of Vinho Verde find expression here in a bright pink version that adds a bit of tart strawberry fruit character to the mix. This is a fun, informal, non-vintage Portuguese rose that grows in popularity with each passing week. $8.99

2009 Cune Rosado
This dry rosado, made from 100% Tempranillo, is a gently expressive pink wine from CUNE in Rioja. Fresh strawberry aroma and tangy fruit character make for a fresh, thirst quenching wine that works its magic best at sunset on the patio, shared amongst friends. $10.99

2009 Muga Rosado The limited edition rosado from Bodegas Muga is now in stock and selling quickly. This Rioja region wine is a unique blend of 60% Garnacha, 30% Viura and 10% Tempranillo. The use of white Viura in rosado is an old tradition in Rioja where Clarete wines (blends of white and red grapes) were once common. This pale salmon colored wine sells out long before the summer draws to a close so pick some up soon if you want to experience one of Spain’s best rosados. $12.99

2009 Muralhas de Moncao Vinho Verde Rose Adega de Moncao makes top notch Vino Verde wines that are very popular in Portugal. They make vintage dated wines (unlike the mass market versions that are non-vintage) from high quality fruit. The new Muralhas de Moncao Rose is made from a blend of indigenous varieties including Alvarelhao, Pedral and Vinhao. This refreshing low alcohol (11.5%) rose displays fresh berry aroma and citrusy fruit character carried along by the same slight effervescence of the traditional white Vinho Verde. Serve this with a few grilled sardines for a prefect Portuguese moment. $13.99

2009 Ameztoi Rubentis Txakoli Rosado We have been a champion of this distinctive pink Txakoli since its introduction a few years ago. This Basque wine, made in the town of Getaria along the coast near San Sebastian is lean and mineral with just a whiff of unripe strawberry aroma. This tart, spritzy rosado is much in demand and hard to find in retail shops. Our supply is very limited, making this a short lived opportunity, so act now or be disappointed. $19.99

2009 Gurrutxaga Txakolí Rosado An alternative to traditional white Txakolí, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of fresh berry fruit character. Low (10%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99

Cerveja Portuguesa

sagres can

Beer in cans used to get no respect. The current wisdom now holds that canned beer, especially imported beer, retains its flavor and freshness better than bottled beer. The can protects the beer from sunlight (a major contributor to spoilage) and seals better than bottle caps.
We just started carrying our favorite Portuguese beer, Sagres, in cans. We now have the big 500 ml (16 oz.) single cans for $1.99 each. They are perfect for a hot afternoon, accompanied by our new Barcelo’s Bifanas de Porco, quickly grilled and served on our (also new) Silva Bakery Paposeco roll. That’s some serious Portuguese snacking, right there!

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Filed under beer, Portugal, rosado, Spain

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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Filed under Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Renewal

Following the cycle of seasonal change, the annual wine calendar has returned once again to the moment when new wines enter the market.

In Berkeley we have just started to receive new vintages of red and white wines from Spain and Portugal (Argentina and Chile too).

First up are the red wines appearing now, followed in a few weeks by the new crop of young white wines.

Some of these ‘new’ wines have slowly matured for years, as the winemakers patiently delayed their release. Unlike many domestic wines that come with a caveat from the merchant that goes something like “This is a great wine. Don’t drink it for three years”, Iberian wines are purposely aged in the bottle at the winery before they are considered “ready to drink”.

Consider the practice of bottle ageing as one of the many little side benefits of buying Iberian wine, especially since  few people have genuine wine cellars anymore (in fact most of us consume wines within 24 hours of purchase).

Additionally this week, we have found some more great deals on some current vintage wines that have gone down a bit in price. Every little bit helps these days and these lower prices mean you do not have to sacrifice quality in order to maintain a thrifty lifestyle.

We will start to see 2008 white and rosado wines in about four to six weeks.

Martin Fierro Blanco 2007 In the San Juan region of Argentina, Bodegas Bórbore makes this white wine from a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Torrontes. This unoaked wine blends the crispness of Chardonnay with the more floral Torrontes (the indigenous white grape of Argentina). Previously available for $8.99, we just brought in a stack of this wine at a better price, now $6.99.

Martin Fierro Malbec 2006 Named after the protagonist of an epic poem about the ‘gaucho’ era, this dark, expressive wine evokes the wide open spaces and Andean backdrop of San Juan province in northwestern Argentina.  A bit leaner than the Mendoza region Malbec wines further to the south, this very well priced red has seen a few years of age, moderating the ripe fruit character and adding balance and roundness to the finished product $6.99

Nomad 2005 Jeff Jarvis and Jessica Tomei are husband and wife winemakers working in the Sierra foothills (Jarvis Tomei Syrah) as well as in Chile where, along with fellow American T.J. Evans, they make Nomad from a blend of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Syrah, 7 % Carmenère and 2 % Malbec. This ripe, spicy red is finely tuned and expressive with moderate barrel character and smooth texture. This small production bottling (2,000 cases in total) was $14.99 when first released. The price is now a bit better. $13.99

Ricardo Santos Malbec 2007 This was the first Malbec to catch my attention back when we first started stocking wines from Argentina. The 2007 vintage of this single vineyard wine has arrived and it appeals to me because, as in vintages past, this wine shows some restraint in its expression of fruit character. The dark berry flavor typical of Malbec is present to be sure, but it doesn’t overwhelm the other aspects of the wine, including tart barrel tannins, cigar box aroma and background minerality. The price on the new vintage remains, happily, unchanged. $17.99

Petalos 2007 The newest vintage of this plush red from the Bierzo region has just arrived. Produced from biodynamically farmed small hillside parcels of old vine Mencía grown in rocky slate soil around the village of Corrullón, Petalos creates a rustic first impression with obscure garnet color and loamy aroma. Opulent dark berry fruit character and fine minerality add definition and elegance.  Several months in oak barrels adds tannic depth, crating an expressive character that is unique to this region. The previous vintage came in at $23.99. The new vintage is a bit better priced at $21.99

Muga Reserva 2005 The news is good for the numerous followers of Bodegas Muga. The new 2005 Muga Reserva has just been released. This traditionally styled Rioja displays a flavor profile that is instantly recognizable to those who know and love this winery. Long, slow maturation in barrel gives Muga Reserva a distinct note of tannic oak. Extended bottle age assures that the barrel character is well integrated and balanced by bright Tempranillo fruit. The depth and complexity of Muga Reserva can be enjoyed right away, straight from the bottle (no decanting needed) and will grow more refined and elegant with a few years of age. $28.99

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Filed under Argentina, Chile, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Spain in California

Every school kid in California learns about the Spanish heritage of this part of the world, going back to the days of ‘Alta California’ and ‘El Camino Reál’, but the names of Spanish explorers of the American west coast, names like De Anza, Cabrillo and Portola are no longer associated with historic figures. In modern times these Spanish family names are given to streets, shopping centers and housing sub-divisions. California’s Spanish history is, it seems, hiding in plain sight.

I’m currently reacquainting myself with the vestiges of colonial Spain here in the Bay Area and have noticed that (unlike the Spanish explorers from previous centuries) Spanish food and wine heritage is very much in evidence at present. In particular, this week I want to draw your attention to a few upcoming local events that highlight our shared Spanish history.

First up is a taste of ‘Alta California’ thanks to an enterprising group that goes by the name of ‘TAPAS’, which stands for Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society (hey, it’s a stretch, but it works). According to their website this local organization “is dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of wines made from all native Iberian grape varietals.”

If you want to experience what the Spanish explorers left behind (other than place names) you can try various wines made from grapes such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Albariño grown right here in California (and elsewhere in the USA) at an event hosted by TAPAS on Saturday August 9th at Copia (the wine/food museum) in Napa. Billed as “the most extensive tasting of American produced Iberian grape varietals ever offered”, this promises to be a detailed look at how domestic winemakers are responding to the current interest in all things Iberian.

Next in line for a little bit of the  California/Spain mashup treatment is a TV show (the cultural net gets widely cast around here) featuring our favorite dish, Paella, as prepared by local paellero to the stars, Gerard Nebesky. 

On Wednesday July 30th (9 pm PST) The Food Network will air an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay wherein the famous New York chef, restaurateur and TV personality will compete against Gerard Nebesky in a round of dueling Paellas.

The show was shot a few months ago in San Francisco and the final dishes created by Señores Flay y Nebesky were judged by Daniel Olivella, Executive Chef of B44 Restaurant in San Francisco as well as by our very own Andy Booth, co-owner of The Spanish Table (these guys know more than a thing or two about paella). Everyone involved in the show was sworn to secrecy about the final result (backed up by signed non-disclosure agreements) so we don’t yet know who actually prevailed in the competition. All will be revealed next Wednesday evening when the show airs for the first time.

For a first hand experience with Gerard’s Paella you can attend a big screen viewing of ‘Throwdown’ during the Wednesday June 30th broadcast, accompanied by the real thing. Gerard will be making his signature paella at Bistro de Copains in Occidental (Sonoma County) for a select group of Paella aficionados. For $30 you get paella, salad and the show, as well as the chance to rub elbows with a genuine TV star (Gerard, not Bobby). Reservations are required for this event. You can contact them by phone at (707)-874-2436.

Here in Berkeley we are excited to announce the arrival of new vintages from some favorite wineries as well as a few totally new items that we are very happy to share with you. What follows are my recommendations from the latest arrivals at The Spanish table in Berkeley.

 

Muga Blanco 2007 The newest vintage of Bodegas Muga’s popular white wine has arrived.  Made from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, briefly aged for 4 months in French oak, this wine is poised between the rich, fleshy style of barrel aged white wine and the crisp, herbal style of the same wine aged in tank. The oak never dominates but only adds a touch of complexity to this excellent and well priced wine. $18.99

 

Muga Rosado 2007 Another perennial customer favorite from Muga is this rosado wine made from Tempranillo, Garnacha and, interestingly, a bit of white Viura too. This pale pink wine is crisp and lean, not cloying and fruity. The bright acidity and gentle berry-like fruit character maintain a fine balance of berry/citrus aromas and flavors. $14.99

 

Parés Baltà Ros de Pacs 2007 If you are looking for a tasty organic rosado for serving at your dinner table or sipping on your back porch, then consider this dark and fruity wine from the Penedès region of Catalunya. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is full of strawberry aroma and flavor, with sufficient acidity to keep the wine bright and refreshing. $11.99

 

Sur Bonarda 2006 We just got a great deal on a stack of this Argentine red wine from a high quality producer in the Mendoza region. The indigenous Bonarda grape produces dark, full bodied wines.  This wine is 100% Bonarda. It is garnet colored and expressive, with blackberry fruit character balancing the amargo back note that Bonarda is known for. $10.99

 

Capote Velho What A bargain! This non-vintage red wine from who knows where in Portugal has absolutely no pedigree but really delivers on freshness and versatility. This is a full liter of wine that possesses gentle berry-like fruit character and moderate tannins coupled with a moderate level of alcohol (11.5%). Like a no name house wine in a little Portuguese bar or restaurant, this red tastes great by itself and will also accompany, but not overshadow, a broad range of foods. $11.99 (1 Liter)

 

Grilos 2005 This red wine from the Dão region in Portugal is an excellent example of the improvements taking place in the region. No longer home to just funky/earthy/rustic reds, winemakers in the Dão region now make many bright and intriguing wines such as this blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro grapes that age for a mere 6 months in oak before bottling. Tart red berry fruit character and lightly oaked tannic core combine with aromas of pomegranate and wet stones. Was $15.99, now $12.99

 

Vina Alberdi Reserva 2001 The wines of La Rioja Alta are among the most traditionally styled of Rioja reds. The new Viña Alberdi, from the superlative 2001 vintage, has just arrived. Odd label change (blue skinned matrons in red sun dresses sipping wine) notwithstanding, this old school Rioja is brick red in  color with toasty barrel aromas along with notes of cigar box, cedar and minerals. Pie cherry and dark plum fruit character are in balance with the other elements. This is an excellent choice for long term cellaring but is drinking very well right now if given some air before service. $24.99

 

 

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Filed under Argentina, Portugal, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Holiday Wines, Version 1.5, The Little Gift

By now, unless you are like me, you have probably taken care of your major holiday responsibilities. The office party is over and done with, the big holiday meal is in process and the gift shopping is winding down. Nevertheless, something will come up, as it always does, leading you to need one more small gift (or a few) to satisfy last minute situations. Secret Santa, stocking stuffer, hostess gift, call it what you will, sometimes the small gesture speaks louder than the grandiose one.

To satisfy this need we carry a variety of wines in small bottles. The labels are mostly well known and the wine inside the little bottle is identical to the wine in the full sized version.  These bottles fit into even the smallest of picnic hampers (or lunch boxes) and add just the right touch to a gift basket of assorted holiday goodies. They make perfect accompaniments to intimate dinners as well as lavish multi-course (and multi-wine) meals. These fabulous wines in diminutive sizes come in many styles and varieties. Here ar4e some of our current selections:

 

Quinta dos Grilos 2004 $10.99 (375ml) Grilo is Portuguese for cricket, and while you won’t find any crickets in this wine, the flavor may remind you of a warm summer night in the back yard, grilling something tasty, swatting mosquitoes and listening to the (you guessed it) crickets.  From the Dao region of Portugal, this wine is bright and savory, with cherry-like fruit overlaying a tannic core. Chirp!

 

Muga Reserva 2003 $13.99 (375ml) Muga Reserva, one of the most celebrated wines from Rioja is just as tasty in the small bottle as it is in the big one. Dark color, loamy aroma and rich elegant fruit character are what one looks for in a wine such as this. You will not be disappointed.

 

Arzuaga Crianza 2004 $15.99 (375ml) The Ribera del Duero region is known for bold, earthy red wines. Bodegas Arzuaga makes exactly this style of wine. Dark color, smoky/oaky tannins and rich multi-layered fruit character. In the sprit of all things tiny, serve this wine with a traditional Ribera del Duero meal of tiny, thin cut lamb chops quickly grilled over vine cuttings. Muy tipico.

 

Odysseus garnacha Blanca 2005 $22.99 (500ml)

Odysseus PX 2005 $26.99 (500ml)

Penélope Garnacha Blanca 2005 $31.99 (500 ml.) 

Penélope Garnacha Peluda 2005 $34.99 (500 ml.)

“Small is beautiful”, the motto of Viñedos Ithaca, is reflected in many ways. Viñedos Ithaca sits on a small 50-acre property of steep hillside vineyards near the little village of Gratallops. The wines they make are all produced in limited (almost miniscule) quantities. The flagship wine is the red Odysseus (the Puig family is much enamored with Greek mythology), a wine that has garnered many awards and much accolade in the few years since its creation. Additionally, they make several unique and distinctive white wines as well as a stunning rosado.  As if that were not enough, Viñedos Ithaca also produces not one but two spectacular late harvest dessert wines, one white and one red.

Odysseus Garnacha Blanca is a rare white Priorat wine made from native Garnacha Blanca grape.  Notes of peach, pear, and honeysuckle on the nose with a long, silky finish and great complexity in the mouth. Great personality crafted in an original style. The wine was carefully fermented in the “old-style” without temperature control and a unique maceration within the French oak barrel for 8 hours. Limited production of 400 cases. Odysseus PX is made from  Pedro Ximénez, best known as a sweet sherry grape. After discovering a parcel of old vine PX within their vineyards Josep and Sylvia decided to vinify the PX separately.  The final result is a unique rich, dry white wine and the only still wine made from PX grapes in Spain. Apricots, peaches, nectarines and green apple find room in the nose with additional highlights of roses. Higher toned than the Garnacha Blanca showcasing abundant bright fruit a wonderful mouth feel and a finish of golden raisins. Limited production of 150 cases. Penélope Garnacha Blanca is a totally natural sweet wine using hand selected late harvest Garnacha Blanca fruit from the oldest vineyards near Scala Dei. Aromas of white peach, wet stone, jasmine and honeysuckle with a touch of mint and melon.  On the palate it is slight meaty and creamy with juicy stone fruit flavors.  Pure, clean and round.  250 500-ml. bottles produced (yes, bottles, not cases). Penélope Garnacha Peluda is fashioned from late harvest Garnacha Peluda (the same grape is picked earlier for the Odysseus Tinto) fermented with minimal manipulation. Opaque garnet color.  Spicy clove and dried fig aromas. Gentle and balanced sweetness with flavors of pomegranate and cranberry.  Distinctly different style of sweet wine. Miniscule quantities produced.

 

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

Volunteer Tomatoes

One of the great joys of summer is a perfectly ripe tomato, served fresh from the garden, still warm from the sun.

In Berkeley gardeners are routinely disappointed by our inability to grow really good tomatoes. Our location due east of the mouth of San Francisco Bay allows a slender tongue of summer fog to snake through this gap in the coastal hills, blow across the Bay waters and blanket a swath of the East Bay in cool gray mist while the rest of the Bay to the north and south remains hot and sunny.

Typically gardeners in my neighborhood forego peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and other summer crops and console ourselves with fava beans and salad greens.

This year however, things are different. The unusually warm, dry weather has brought unanticipated change to my little garden. After re-grading a section of my back yard to improve drainage we temporarily piled the extra dirt in the front yard. Almost immediately, tomato sprouts appeared which by itself was not surprising as the spot we had dug up was where we used to keep the compost bin. The surprise came when, as the season progressed, the tomato seedlings actually thrived.

Having struggled and failed to grow tomatoes in the past I was initially skeptical, but once I saw that these volunteers were vigorously extending green leafy vines I was impressed. When they actually started flowering I rushed to the garden store and bought wire tomato cages to support this unanticipated growth.

At present the little pile of dirt is almost obscured by an unruly tangle of vines and furry green leaves. Rows of little green orbs are replacing the yellow flowers, and a few of these unripe fruits are starting to turn various shades of yellow, orange and red.

Amazing!

After years of disappointment it looks like this may be the summer that I actually harvest tomatoes from my garden.

So what do I do with this unexpected bounty? I’ll make a traditional snack from Catalunya called Pa Am Tomàquet, of course.

Coleman Andrews includes a version of this traditional preparation in his book Catalan Cuisine: Vivid Flavors From Spain’s Mediterranean Coast ($17.95).

Pa Am Tomàquet (Catalan Tomato Bread)

1-2 thick slices of country style French or Italian bread or sourdough bread (the better the bread, the better the final result).

1 small-medium sized fresh tomato at peak ripeness.

Mild extra virgin Olive Oil.

Salt.

2-4 anchovy fillets and/or 1-2 slices of Jamón Serrano.

Grill bread lightly. Slice tomato in half and rub cut side on bread to coat with tomato pulp and juice (discard tomato skin). Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Top with anchovy or Jamón and serve.

Pair this classic appetizer with a green salad and a glass of wine for a very satisfying lunch. What wine to serve here, you ask? Read on.

Vinos Rosados:

Muga Rosado 2006 $12.99 We’ve been waiting anxiously for this new vintage to arrive, and while we are happy to finally get a chance to enjoy one of the best rosado wines of the summer we know that it won’t last long due to its stellar reputation and high customer demand.

This pale salmon colored blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Viura makes a wonderful companion to lighter food as well as being supremely refreshing on a hot afternoon.

Vega Sindoa Rosado 2006 $9.99 The new vintage of this rosado from D.O. Navarra (the traditional home of Spanish rosado) is a blend of half Garnacha and half Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe berry aromas and flavors give this wine a bit of extra depth and boldness, making it a perfect wine for paella or other summer meals

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Vinos Blancos:

Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2006 $16.99 D.O. Bierzo is known primarily as a red wine region, but this Bierzo region white wine is made from the local Godello grape that is more common in neighboring D.O. Valdeorras. This yellow gold colored wine is fermented in temperature controlled tanks that preserve all the fresh citrus and melon aromas that are typical of the Godello grape. Bright acidity adds to the refreshing quality that makes this such a perfect accompaniment to composed salads, pasta or poultry as well as a full range of seafood.

Broadbent Vinho Verde $10.99 An excellent example of top quality Vinho Verde. Composed of 50% Loureiro, 40% Trajadura and 10% Padernã it is light in color with lemon and grapefruit aromas. On the palate it offers more citrus as well as a bit of flinty minerality carried along by slight effervescence that makes the wine refreshing and easy to drink.

Soalheiro Vinho Verde 2006 $21.99 Typically, Vinho Verde is light, spritzy and simple non-vintage wine. These days, as people discover the joys of Vinho Verde we are seeing more and more higher priced wines from this region. Soalheiro is a vintage wine produced from the Alvarinho (Albariño in Spain = Alvarinho in Portugal) grape. Well known in Portugal as a top shelf Vinho Verde, this wine is just starting to find a market here in the USA. Flinty mineral background lays a foundation for light floral aroma and bright citrus fruit character. This finely detailed and multi-layered wine cries out for choriço and clams, salt cod and potatoes or other such traditional Portuguese fare.

Vinos Tintos:

Primi 2005 $9.99 One of our favorite wines to serve with paella has just arrived in the new 2005 vintage. This young un-aged Tempranillo from D.O.C. Rioja is juicy and bright. Ruby red color and fresh berry aroma form the basic picture with added complexity coming from the light grape skin tannins.

Cune Crianza 2004 $17.99 If you go to Rioja and walk into any small bar and request a glass of vino tinto, chances are you will be served this wine. This blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo is aged for two years (12 months in American oak barrels and 12 months in the bottle) before sale. The new 2004 vintage shows dark garnet color with black cherry fruit character and balanced oaky tannins that combine to create a picture perfect example of crianza Rioja.

Sergio Traverso Malbec/Syrah 2004 $10.99 A new Argentine wine from Sergio Traverso is now available in the 2004 vintage. Dark color is the first clue that this is a big wine, and the rich aroma and flavor backs up the initial perception, but with a bit of exposure to oxygen the more subtle characteristics of this wine emerge. The final impression is of a robust, well made red for serving with grilled meat and vegetables.

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Filed under Argentina, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Uncategorized, White Wine