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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

Vintage Change Is Good

One of the many fun parts of being the ‘wine guy’ is finding new, exciting wines made by little known producers in far flung regions. Another rewarding part of the job is watching wines change from vintage to vintage. This week we have some excellent wines that showcase both the new and the re-new.

Our little corner of the wine world (Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile) is in a state of dramatic expansion with new wineries opening and feeding fresh products into the market. Once these new ventures are up and running, the true test of their long term prospects is how well they can maintain quality from vintage to vintage.

We are happy to report that several of our favorite wines from last year are back again in fine form, demonstrating that high quality wines are now made all across Spain. Both the Jaun Gil (old vine Monastrell from D.O. Jumilla, in hot, arid Southeastern Spain) and the Pétalos (Mencía grapes from D.O. Bierzo, in cool, green northwestern Spain) are available in their new vintages. Neither of these wines existed 10 years ago. They are very different stylistically, but both have been become very popular with both the staff and the customers of The Spanish Table.

For new-new wines this week we have a couple of whites that satisfy even the most jaded of been-there-tasted-that palates. The Montebaco Verdejo is a new wine from a winery normally associated with hearty red wines and our latest Basque white is from the lesser known D.O. Bizkaiko Txakolina region that surrounds Bilbao. Neither of these wines are well known but if you have a taste for distinctive and the finely crafted whites, both of these wines deserves your attention.

Finally, in the newer-than-new category we bring you a unique and novel concept in wine production. Patrick Campbell from Laurel Glen winery in Sonoma County has for years traveled to Argentina seeking excellent vineyards. Now that he has found the right fruit, he makes several single varietal wines in Argentina which, after primary fermentation, are loaded in bulk onto ships and transported to the Laurel Glen winery in Graton California for barrel ageing and bottling. The end result is the Terra Buena line of wines which include a Malbec, a Tempranillo, a Chardonnay and a Torrontes. These youthful, fresh, abundantly flavored wines are well priced and eco-friendly too (no shipping of heavy glass bottles).

You can check out the details on each wine below, but meanwhile, here’s a quick recipe for a wine friendly snack, adapted from the inspirational Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by celebrated chef José Andrés. He made these for a demonstration in our store back when the cookbook first came out. We’ve been making them ever since.

Green Olives filled with Piquillo Peppers and Anchovy

1 jar Ybarra pitted Gordal Olives

1 jar Matiz organic Piquillo Peppers

1 jar Ortiz skin-on Anchovy fillets in Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Toothpicks

Cut through one side of each pitted olive so that it resembles an open clam shell. Slice the peppers and the anchovy fillets into long thin strips. Wedge one strip each of pepper and anchovy into the cut side of an olive so that the strips poke out each end of the olive and clamp shut with a toothpick. Repeat this process until you have a plate full these little one-bite tapas. Drizzle with Olive oil and serve.

Vino Blanco:

Terra Buena Torrontes 2006 $10.99 Floral aroma and rich texture characterize this Argentine white wine. Abundant pear and melon fruit character with enough acidity to give the whole ensemble an unexpected lightness. A delicious bargain.

Gurrutxaga Txakoli 2006 $15.99 Our latest Basque Txakoli wine comes from the Bizkaiko Txakolina region located a bit inland from the Cantabrian coast. The firm flinty minerality of a coastal Getariako Txakolina wine is moderated here and replaced by a more pronounced yet still gentle fruitiness with notes of melon and grapefruit.

Montebaco Verdejo 2006 $17.99 Montebaco is best known as a producer of top notch Ribera del Duero red wines (see below). This is their first white wine, made in D.O. Rueda from the Verdejo grape. A lively mouthful of finely tuned quince and quinine flavors makes this an instant crowd pleaser. Josh Raynolds reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated it 89 Points and said: “Pale yellow. High-pitched citrus and pear aromas are impressively vivid and expansive. Crisp lemon-lime and orchard fruit flavors display an intriguing blend of depth and energy, picking up a zesty white pepper quality with air. Finishes clean and brisk, with very good length.”

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.

Juan Gil 2005 $17.99 The biggest success story of the last year has certainly been the huge upwelling of interest in the wines of D.O. Jumilla. The dark, ripe Monastrell grape has become extremely popular among appreciators of dark, full-bodied red wines. The 2004 Juan Gil sold out in a matter of months. The new 2005 vintage delivers more of this same abundant, spicy, rich fruit character with foundational minerality.

Montebaco Crianza 2004 $23.99 We have previously carried the Semele crianza from this winery. Montebaco crianza is a fuller, more concentrated wine than the lower priced Semele. Traditional Ribera del Duero style is much in evidence here, with earthy tannins, bold black cherry fruit character along with spicy oak in the mix. Jay Miller reviewed the wine for The Wine Advocate. He rated the wine at 90 Points, saying: “The 2004 Montebaco is 100% Tempranillo aged for 15 months in French and American oak, about one-third new. The color is a glass-coating opaque purple and is followed by intense aromas reminiscent of vintage port. In the mouth the wine is super-ripe with oodles of sweet, tightly wound black fruits, a firm structure and good acidity, all of which are in harmony. Give this full-bodied, tasty wine 3-4 years of additional cellaring and drink it for 10-12 years thereafter.

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine