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Moscatel & Chestnuts

220px-Castanera

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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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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Strike

It happens every time I travel in Western Europe. Soon after arriving (sometimes even during the flight over) I discover that whatever plans I have made for a certain day will require significant alteration because of one of several varieties of huelga de trabajo (labor strike). Sometimes it’s the bus drivers or garbage collectors and other times it’s the museum ticket takers or other less than crucial service providers, but still it always comes as a surprise to me the visiting foreigner and has a way of messing up my plans. Of course it could also be a Saint’s birthday, bank holiday or other state mandated day off that brings everything to a full stop, leaving us hapless tourists to wander aimlessly in search of amusement, which helps explain why the local residents never seem too put out by the break from routine. They are used to it.

At present, truck drivers in several EU countries are staging protests over the cost of fuel. Unlike the ‘vacation surprises’ that don’t make much news over here, these current strikes are being felt far and wide. The effects are particularly noticeable in the world of imported wine. Suppliers here are running out of certain products and have no estimate on when they will receive new shipments.

So what are wine drinkers to do in this moment of uncertainty? Fear not, I say, for we have plenty of options and choices still available. While the flood of new products is experiencing a temporary lull, we still have hundreds of wines in stock from all across Spain and Portugal (Argentina and Chile too). If your favorite brand is momentarily missing from the shelf, take this opportunity to try a neighboring wine with similar characteristics. It is just like being on a trip to Spain and realizing that you have to change you plans because the trains are not running or your favorite restaurant has abruptly closed for a month long vacation (a month? what must that be like?) leading you to try some alternate place that can often turn into a wonderful new experience.

Speaking of new experiences, this Sunday, June 29th, Berkeley will host the 3rd annual International Food Festival. The Spanish Table will be cooking up a big paella and handing out samples right here in the store starting at 1 pm. This has been one of the big hits of the festival in previous years and will be a tasty introduction to any of you that have yet to experience the fun and excitement of paella first hand.

I will be demonstrating a simple and delicious tapa recipe at 3:30 pm on the Kitchen On Fire cooking stage in the bank parking lot down the street from The Spanish Table. Here is the recipe I will be doing. Come see me on Sunday and get a taste of this quick and easy appetizer, and then take this recipe home and make this for yourself.

I’ll see you at the fiesta!

 

Olivada and Piquillo Montadito (makes about 35-40)

 

1 lb. pitted olives (green or black)

1 sml can of anchovies (55gr./2 oz. net weight)

1 clove garlic

1 sml. Jar piquillo peppers (185 gr./6.5 oz. net weight)

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 ‘baguette’ style French bread

 

Pit olives if necessary. Slice peppers into thin strips. Slice bread into 1/2 inch rounds. Finely mince garlic and combine with olives, anchovies and olive oil in a food processor. Process until mostly smooth. Add a bit more oil if it seems too chunky (it should be spreadable). Spread one teaspoon of olivada on each slice of bread, edge to edge. Garnish with one strip of pepper. Serve.

 

While we await new products, here are some ‘greatest hits’ from recent newsletters:

 

Luis Pato Espumante Bruto This is the first Portuguese sparkling wine to arrive here at The Spanish Table. Luis Pato, the celebrated and somewhat controversial wine maker works in the Beiras region of Portugal. This sparkling wine is made mostly from the Maria Gomes grape and (starting with this bottling) also includes 5% Arinto in the blend. Lean toasty aroma and tart, leesy fruit character combine with frothy effervescence to create a uniquely refreshing wine. $15.99

 

Bereziartua Apple Cider At last, it has arrived! Many of us have been waiting for years to get our hands on some genuine Basque sidra. This hard cider is unfiltered, cloudy, lightly effervescent and only barely sweet. Yeasty aroma and tart fermented apple flavor are what you want from this most ancient of drinks. In the Basque Country they drink it straight from the barrel from harvest time through the winter and then in spring and summer they drink the rest from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99

 

Raventos Perfum de Vi Blanc 2005 This wine comes from Raventos i Blanc, the makers of one of our best Cavas. This blend of 60% Macabeo and 40% Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya has exchanged its youthful boldness for mature spiciness. Aromas of wintergreen, allspice and green herbs add unusual complexity to this unoaked white wine, underscoring what I perceive as a bit of ginger ale-like flavor (store manager Caty says she tastes “afri-cola”) on the palate. Intriguing! $8.99

 

Nuevomundo Cabernet/Carmenere Reserve 2005 This Chilean blend of organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from the Maipo Valley is dark and spicy with underlying complexity from 14 months of oak barrel ageing. The more firmly structured Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 60% of the blend and finds counterpoint in the spicy Carmenere which accounts for the other 40%. $11.99

 

Viña Catajarros Élite Rosado 2007 The Cigales region in northern Spain is, along with Navarra, the traditional home of many excellent rosado wines. This particular wine (the first 2007 rosado to arrive from Spain) is produced mostly from Tempranillo with, interestingly, 10% white Verdejo added to the blend. Vivid rose pink color and strawberry aroma blends well with watermelon fruit character and a racy jolt of acidity (from the Verdejo) that maintains the bright, refreshing quality of this wine. $12.99

 

Tio Pepe The best known Fino on the planet is back with a new distributor after a brief hiatus. Gonzalez-Byass makes Tio Pepe from the Palomino Fino grape in the Jerez region of Southern Spain. This dry, nutty wine is ubiquitous in Andalucia and is a perfect accompaniment to toasted almond, olives, cured meats, cheeses and other salty foods. The price has gone down too (how often do you hear that these days), so try some for yourself and see what the fuss is all about. $16.99

 

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Filed under Argentina, Chile, Fortified Wine, Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, rosado, sidra (cider), 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

Luna Nueva

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

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

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

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

 

Cooking Class Update:

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

 

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

 

Grilled Vegetable Escalivada

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

Serves 4 as an appetizer

 

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

1 large Yellow Onion

1 large red or yellow bell pepper

3 large tomatoes

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Spanish olive oil

2 teaspoons Sherry Vinegar

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

Salt and pepper

 

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

 

Vino Blanco:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Vino Tinto:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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