Were you were wondering what happened to this newsletter last week? I was on a belated summer vacation in the Sierras, but I’m back now, rested and ready to dive back into the exciting and ever changing world of wines at The Spanish Table.
While I was up in the mountains I couldn’t resist doing a Paella demonstration at a wonderful little restaurant in the Gold Country town of Twain Harte. The Prospector is a tiny place that specializes in wood oven cuisine including homemade breads and authentic Neapolitan style pizzas (the certificate from the Naples Pizza Authority hangs on the wall). The wine list is extensive and features many of the great Spanish wines you have come to know and love from shopping at The Spanish Table. I had a great time cooking up a big paella out on the restaurant’s terrace under the pine trees and serving it to a sophisticated and knowledgeable group of food and wine appreciators. While you won’t find paella on the menu all the time, this hidden gem is well worth seeking out if you are in the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, back in Berkeley we continue to receive new wines that are perfect for the in-between-summer-and-fall season that we currently find ourselves in. As I’m still getting back up to speed here, I’ll forego the recipe this week and cut to the chase. Here are our newest wines for your consideration:
Vale Da Torre 2005 $11.99 One of Portugal’s better known winemakers, Paulo Laureano, works with producers from all across Portugal. One of his recent goals is the recognition in the international wine market of indigenous Portuguese grape varieties. He has created a seal for wines featuring only Portuguese grape varieties, emphasizing the pride he feels for working with 100% national raw materials. The seal on Vale da Torre wines has a bunch of grapes with the Portuguese national shield pointing out the return to production methods that use the very best of local grapes. According to Paulo, defending indigenous grape varieties is the best way of promoting Portuguese wines in foreign markets. “To place our bets on our grape varieties” he says “is to bet on difference, and I believe that this is how our wines will succeed on international markets.”
Vale da Torre is composed of equal parts Aragonês (the Portuguese version of Tempranillo) and Trincadeira. Dark ruby color with initial aroma of black currant and oak followed by dark berry fruit character and firm tannins, that soften as the wine breathes. Serve this wine with Caldo Verde (Portuguese chard and potato soup), braised beef or roasted pork. Regular price: 11.99
Quinta de Bons-Ventos 2005 $11.99 Casa Santos Lima, located in the Portuguese town of Alenquer, north of Lisbon, is a family owned winery that has been operating since the end of the 19th century. The 686 acre property is divided into several. Wine grapes are the primary crop, covering 392 acres, leaving the rest of the land for the cultivation of apples, pears and plums. Currently over 50 grape varieties are grown, many of them experimentally. The winery building dates from the 1940s but has recently been modernized with stainless steel tanks and a new computerized bottling line.
Quinta de Bons-Ventos is a young wine composed of Castelão (also known as Periquita), Camarate, Tinta Miúda and Touriga Nacional. The wine is bottled after a brief 3-4 month period of barrel ageing. The end result is a gentle, young wine that displays youthful aroma of fresh berries, gentle fruit character and a soft velvety finish. This is a low alcohol wine (12.5 %) that works particularly well with pasta and rice dishes, composed salads and poultry.
Obra Roble 2005 $10.99 Bodegas J.C. Conde makes the superlative ‘Neo’ in Aranda del Duero at the northern end of D.O. Ribera del Duero. Recently, this same winery created a line of well priced wines that display the traditional Ribera del Duero style. They call these new wines ‘Obra’.
Composed of 100% Tinto del País (Tempranillo by another name) harvested from 60 year old vines and aged in oak barrels for 4 months after fermentation, Obra Roble is a dark garnet colored wine with aromas of ripe berry and oak. Cherry and plum fruit character along with mellow tannins round out the picture. This young wine would pair well with grilled lamb chops and roasted potatoes wedges with rosemary and olive oil.
Mantonegro 2005 $18.99 We get a slim few wines from the island of Mallorca. This one is composed of 70% of the eponymous (and indigenous) Mantonegro along with another local grape called Callet as well as small additions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. This big, dark red is spicy, robust and more than a little bit wild. Josh Raynolds recently reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated the wine at 90 Points. He said: “Medium red. Vibrant, mineral-accented strawberry and raspberry aromas display wonderful purity and depth. Refreshing red berry flavors are surprisingly concentrated, but emphasize juiciness. I like the combination of sweetness and clarity a lot. Finishes with excellent thrust and precision, leaving clean red berry and baking spice flavors behind.”
Niepoort Redoma 2004 $47.99 The new vintage of this celebrated Portuguese red wine is now in stock. Famous winemaker Dirk Niepoort crafts this wine from the same top quality fruit that goes into his spectacular Vintage Port. Still in its infancy, this earthy D.O.C. Douro wine will benefit from a few years in the cellar. Mark Squires at The Wine Advocate recently reviewed this wine. He scored it at 92 Points and said: “This wine is made from a mixed varietal blend (principally Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca) from a 60-year-old vineyard, although some older vines were used as well. It was raised for eighteen months in French oak. Cool, refreshing, and beautifully balanced, this is friendly and charming. The sweet mid-palate is young and primary. It is mid-weight, with notes of herbs around the edges. With air, the wine, which seemed rather flat, becomes brighter and livelier as the acidity and ripe tannins appear, and the finish finally shows a little grip, along with some bursts of acidity that were not always as friendly as the rest of the wine’s demeanor. Still, this is very young and in need of settling down. Rather debonair, this is also nicely textured. It became more interesting and intense with air, showing more tannins, acid and earth.”
Niepoort Vertente 2004 $27.99 The younger sibling of Redoma is composed of a typical field blend of traditional Douro grapes. More approachable and youthful than the Redoma, this is a fine example of a modern Douro red. The Wine Spectator rated this vintage at 92 Points, saying: “Dark ruby in color, Vertente is composed of 40% Touriga Nacional–from 12-60 years old vineyards–along with Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and 15 other varieties. The aroma is port-like revealing notes of black cherries and dark plums, underscored by minerality and dark chocolate. On the palate, the ripeness of the fruit really explodes and the wine shows a refreshing acidity.”