Tag Archives: Portugal

Old Riojas

We just received a small batch of some of Rioja’s most delicious Gran Reservas.  Four outstanding vintages of Montecillo’s Gran Reserva are now available as a set for $130. The owners of the Spanish Table have called this collection “One of the best values we’ve come across since we opened The Spanish Table”. The full set makes a remarkable gift (say, for a 50th birthday…).  We are also offering them individually.
These traditional, clasically styled wines may be enjoyed right away or cellared for years to come but they will sell out before we can get them on the web site so to order, call us at 510-548-1383.

1981 – Reg $95, Now $50:  Impressive liveliness in this 30 year old wine.  Notes of balsamic, dried cherry and cigar box – elegant with silky tannins.
1982 – Reg $100, Now $60:  Exhibits nuance and impressive complexity.  Vibrant and savory, with notes of smoke, mushroom, leather.
1985 – Reg $80, Now $45:  Seemed to be the lightest wine of the four, but it gradually opened up with decanting and was even better the following day.  Make sure to decant this an hour before enjoying.
1991 – Reg $75, Now $40 – Still very young with expressive bright fruit and beautiful taut balance.  Plenty of life ahead for this wine.

Portuguese lunch & wine tasting

Sunday March 20th, 2011 2 pm

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Come spend a Sunday afternoon in the country at La Salette Portuguese restaurant in Sonoma where chef Manuel Azevedo will prepare a traditional meal of Sopas (braised beef in a minted broth with cabbage, bread and sweet potato), a traditional food of local Portuguese festas. An appetizer precedes the Sopas followed by  a traditional Portuguese dessert.
The meal is accompanied by a tasting of four Portuguese wines. Notes on all the wines and the food will be available during the lunch as well as the opportunity to buy the wines through The Spanish Table after the event at discounted prices.
Registration and details can be found here:
http://sopas-sunday-in-sonoma.eventbrite.com/

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Springtime New Arrivals

Springtime in the wine business is like a month-long birthday party/baby shower/Christmas morning all rolled into one big fiesta of opening boxes packed with many shiny, colorful objects of desire. This week we are receiving new white and red wines from some of our favorite bodegas.
In a few weeks the new rosados will arrive, as pink and precious as newborn babies.  Aged red wines that have been maturing slowly in dark,cool Spanish cellars are finally ready for release. Take advantage of this season and stock up on the new vintage of well loved favorites as well as several exciting never-before-seen wines.

2009 Ostatu Blanco
The first of the 2009 vintage Spanish white wines to reach our shores is this popular white Rioja. Fashioned from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia sourced from vines over 60 years old this tank fermented wine is fresh and herbaceous. Crisp minerality balances aromatic floral richness. White Rioja is growing in popularity thanks in part to well made wines such as this. That the wine is such a bargain adds one more reason to put this on your list of new wines to try. $12.99

2009 Laxas Albariño
The newly arrived 2009 Laxas (pronounced like ‘luscious’, with good reason) is a ripe, floral expression of the Albarino grape. A base of lemon and green melon flavors blends well with additional notes of fresh herbs, fennel and background minerality. $17.99

2009 Soalheiro Alvarinho
Vinho Verde
It used to be that Portuguese Vinho Verde was simple, spritzy, fun in a bottle. While those wines still exist (and we stock them enthusiastically), a new breed of Vinho verde can be found that features estate grown grapes with distinct pedigree, vintage specific bottlings and finely tuned wine making skills. Soalheiro Alvarinho is a standard setter for top shelf Vinho Verde. This 100% Alvarinho wine is taut and edgy. A current of electric-like acidity gives a jolt, the blow softened a bit by some well rounded pear/melon fruit character. Light effervescence moderates firm, flinty minerality. This ain’t no back porch Vinho Verde. This is some serious juice! $21.99

2008 Capellanes Joven
Pago de los Capellanes is a well known and respected bodega in the Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain. In addition to the bold, tannic,barrel matured wines that are the tradition in this region they also make this younger “Joven” style red that sees only 5 months in oak. The firm, chalky tannins are moderated here by juicy dark berry fruit character. Rocky minerality adds counterpoint. The new 2008 vintage is drinking very well right now. $17.99

2005 Ijalba Graciano
In Rioja the Graciano grape represents just 5% of a typical harvest. This dark skinned, tannic grape is often used in small quantities to beef up the lighter textured Tempranillo. Only rarely is Graciano bottled as a varietal wine and then it is usually very expensive. We are happy to see Ijalba Graciano back in the market in the new 2005 vintage. Darker and more tannic than a typical Rioja, this wine possesses a certain delicate element that comes and goes elusively as the wine is consumed. It is firm yet floral, ripe yet tart, bold yet fragile all at once. If you wear your Rioja with a difference, this is the wine for you. $21.99

Rioja Event Reloaded:



Two weeks ago in this space we announced an upcoming tasting of some rare older wines from the iconic Rioja bodega Lopez de Heredia. Well, things have evolved and the tasting has gotten bigger and less expensive simultaneously (how often do you hear that these days?).
The good news is that the importer has agreed to supply more samples for the tasting, so we are able to offer a better price for the event ($15 per person, down from $45). The other good news is that there is space for just 40 guests so reservations are a must.
Where else will you have a chance to try a 1981 white Rioja or a 1987 Tondonia Reserva? We’ll also be tasting the current releases from the 90’s as well as the famous 1970 Bosconia Gran Reserva (about which  The Wine Advocate said:”The 1970 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva is a captivating effort, with endless, well-defined nuances of pine, minerals and sweet red fruits that emerge from the glass in a breathtaking display of purity and class. It shows the extraordinary length, great expression and the pure breed of a truly great wine. 93 Points”).
Join us at The Spanish Table in Mill Valley on Thursday, April 15th  at 6:30 pm as Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia takes us through her family’s rich history and traditional wine-making process. For reservations please call (415)-388-5043.

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WPLJ

One of the big differences between this newsletter and a blog(note: this was written before transferring everything to this format) is that you the readers do not get to comment on what I write and have it posted alongside my weekly ramblings. Occasionally a reader responds to something I’ve written, adding context or perspective that I had not considered, leading me to share their insights with the rest of you. This was the case last week when Jim Kaatz commented on my ‘Portonic’ cocktail recipe. He asked, “Have you ever heard the Mother’s of Invention (Frank Zappa) song WPLJ (white port and lemon juice)? I always thought they were kidding! I guess not!”

Ah yes, Frank Zappa. His name, like a pebble tossed into the cloudy pool of my personal memory, creates concentric waves of nostalgia. Growing up in Atlanta Georgia in the 1970s, high school would have been less educational and much duller without Frank Zappa’s articulate rebelliousness and mind-blowing electric guitar solos (an irresistible combination for just about every teenaged male born in the last fifty years). I had forgotten that MPLJ was the first track off of his 1970 album Burnt Weenie Sandwich. But ‘FZ’ (fanboys called him that even before we ourselves were called ‘fanboys’), genius composer that he was, did not actually write MPLJ.

A quick search of the internets (ain’t modern life grand?) reveals that MPLJ does indeed stand for White Port and Lemon Juice, the favorite drink of the original composer, ‘Lord’ Luther McDaniels who originally recorded the song back in 1956 (here in Berkeley, no less) with his short-lived doo-wop group called The Four Deuces. Before Zappa covered the song in 1970 the original version was used as the jingle for Italian Swiss Colony wines (another cue for nostalgia) to sell their, you guessed it, white port.

After the Zappa version came out in 1970, the New York radio station WABC changed their name to WPLJ and featured the kind of music, ‘album oriented rock’, or AOR in radio lingo, that I loved during that time (Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra and so on), but I didn’t grow up in New York so that is perhaps more of a topic for someone else.

Type WPLJ into youtube (we didn’t have that back in the 70s, let me tell you) and you can listen to both versions of this classic song (the links, for the search-impaired are http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNA-jRm-nvQ for the original, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLFjkEpwGfE&feature=related for the Zappa cover). 

Many thanks to Jim Kaatz for starting me down this path of internet fueled remembrance. Also, though Frank Zappa is no longer with us, ‘Lord Luther’ is supposedly (if the internet, source of all wisdom, can be trusted) still making music and living in Salinas, just as he did fifty years ago as a younger man singing with The Four Deuces.

But I digress. What is new in the wine world at The Spanish Table? Plenty, but this week only some of it is actually wine. I am very excited to (finally) report that we have secured a supply of Basque apple cider at an excellent price. We also have Spanish and Portuguese beer, new Manzanilla Sherry and a sparkling white wine from Portugal that is growing in popularity with each passing week. And, yes, we have plenty of white Port and more new wines for summertime sipping too, so whatever your personal preferences are beverage-wise, come visit and see what’s happening here in the heart of Berkeley, home of great things to eat, drink and sing about.

“Well I feel so good, I feel so fine
I got plenty lovin’, I got plenty wine
White Port & Lemon Juice,
White Port & Lemon Juice,
I said White Port & Lemon Juice,
Ooh what it do to you!”

Bereziartua Apple Cider 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

Estrella Galicia Beer When visiting wineries in Spain I often get the same bizarre sounding question. “Would you like a beer before we taste the wines?” Traveling in Spain can be hot, thirsty work, so this is actually a reasonable way to proceed. While Spain has many excellent beers, this excellent lagar from Galicia is currently the only Spanish beer available here in California. Blonde color, yeasty aroma and crisp flavor are just what you want after a hot day to reawaken the appetite. $10.99 (6 pack)

Sagres Beer In Portugal, this is a major brand. Sagres is served everywhere. This classic lagar style brew is crisp and light with clean hoppy flavor. It makes a perfect accompaniment to a classic Portuguese sardine sandwich. $7.99 (6 pack)

Luis Pato Espumante Bruto I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago. We ran out for a brief period, but it is now in stock once again. 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

San León Manzanilla Clásica Previously unavailable in the USA, San León is a new addition to our selection of Jerez wines. Herederos de Argüeso has been making wine in Jerez since 1822. They produce a full range of Sherry but they specialize in the production of Manzanilla. 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)

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Vintage Tuna

I just tried a new product here at The Spanish Table that is so good that I am stepping away from my usual wine related patter to alert you to this new taste treat.

My new favorite product is a 2004 vintage canned tuna.

Ageing canned fish is a well respected tradition in many Spanish homes. Some people (those with great forethought and discipline) even wait over a decade before opening the tin.

Ortiz, one of the top brands of canned bonito del norte tuna packed in olive oil, have recently started marketing several reserva varieties of canned tuna that are aged on purpose before sale. These vintage dated products develop a richer, creamier texture and a nutty, delicate flavor over time.

I know, I know, many of you will be skeptical when I sing the praises of ‘old canned goods’ but this is something you need to just try for yourself. Take one small can of regular Ortiz tuna and compare it side by side with the same sized can of Ortiz Reserva de la Familia 2004 vintage tuna. I already think of Ortiz tuna as on of life’s great pleasures, so you can imagine my surprise when I tasted the vintage variety and found it to be a deliciously different version of the original.

To taste this line caught, dolphin safe tuna at its best (and to get back to my primary mission) pair it with some of the fresh white and rosado wines from this week’s selections. These warm weather wines will refresh your thirst and stimulate your appetite without emptying your wallet.

If eating tuna straight from the can with a fork seems wrong to you (it is hard to resist!) then may I suggest the following simple appetizer that I have been served at numerous wineries and informal gatherings in Spain.

Tuna and Piquillo montaditos (serves 4 as a tapa, 2 per person)

Ingredients:

2 4 oz. cans of Ortiz Reserva 2004 Bonito del Norte tuna

8 whole jarred piquillo peppers

8 ½” slices of baguette

¼ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 tblspn. flor de sal (sea salt)

8 toothpicks

Directions:

This simple preparation calls for the best quality ingredients. Open the cans of tuna and drain some, but not all, of the oil. Divide the contents of each can in fourths and fill each pepper with tuna. Top each slice of bread with a filled pepper and secure with a toothpick. Drizzle the peppers with the best olive oil you can find and sprinkle with top quality sea salt. Plate and serve. That’s all there is to it!

Paella alert-two weeks away: The ever popular and always delicious Paella class at Kitchen On Fire is back. On Friday June 13th at 6:30 pm I will be leading a bunch of enthusiastic food lovers in this hands-on class that is guaranteed to give all participants the knowledge and confidence to make this classic Spanish one-pot meal at home. Whether you want to make paella for two or for two hundred this high spirited class will reward you with a plateful of Paella wisdom. We’ll be making a few tapas and trying some wines too (hey, it’s me teaching the class, so we’ve got to try some wines, don’t you think?). Go to the Kitchen On Fire website to sign up. This will be the only class like this all summer and the class is limited to 20 participants so act now to secure your spot.

Ameztoi Rubentis 2007 This rosado Txakoli, the first of its kind, was the big hit of last summer in its inaugural vintage. Ignacio Ameztoi Aranguren, a 7th generation basque winemaker produces this wine from the fruit of his 50 acre vineyard in the Getaria region overlooking the Cantabrian Sea. Rubentis is composed of a blend of indigenous Hondarribi Zuri (white) and Hondarribi Beltza (red), creating a light pink colored wine with just a touch of residual effervescence. The refreshing grapefruit and mineral notes found in the white Ameztoi are supplemented here with a slight note of wild strawberry. We have just a few cases of this wine so act now if you wish to try it for yourself. $18.99

Gurrutxaga Rosado 2007 Following on the success of Ameztoi Rubentis, DeMaison Imports has brought yet another rosado Txakoli to our shores. Gurrutxaga Rosado is made in the little coastal village of Mendexa in the heart of the basque lands. This wine is made from 100% Hondarribi Beltza, the traditional red grape of this region. Aromas of wet limestone punctuated by bright flavors of grapefruit and tannic grape skin remind me of traditional white Txakoli, here with the addition of intriguing pale pink color and the aroma of unripe strawberry. $18.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Another DeMaison import (their ship recently came in… literally) is this new vintage of refreshing, spritzy white wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava. Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this summertime thirst quencher 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. $14.99

Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2007 We just received the new vintage Vinho Verde from Aveleda in Portugal. Most Vinho Verde is non-vintage but this wine is produced each year from a blend of traditional grapes (Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura) from the best parcels of Aveleda’s estate vineyards. This finely tuned Vinho Verde displays fresh citrus and light floral aromas along with bright fruit character and the spritzy effervescence that is typical of wines from this region. $8.99

Quinta da Cabriz Branco 2007 If you have wanted to try white Portuguese wines beyond Vinho Verde, this white Dão region wine will be a real treat. Quinta da Cabriz makes some excellent and well priced red wines, but their white wine is only now making it to our part of the world. Composed of 40% Encruzado, 20% Malvasia, 20% Cerceal and 20% Bical, this unoaked blend of typical Portuguese grapes is fresh and delicate with moderate acidity and white peach fruit character. $10.99

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