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Bargain Whites

With our recent spell of hot weather, white wines have been much in demand at The Spanish Table. With the continuing devaluation of the dollar relative to the ascendant euro, well priced white wines are increasingly hard to find.

So what’s a wine buyer to do when caught between rising prices from wholesalers and demand for bargains from customers? I, for one, go shopping. Yes, I dig deeper, paw through catalogs, query my sales reps and basically start turning over rocks looking for tasty, refreshing and reasonably priced white wines.

Guess what? I have found some really delicious Spanish whites that will satisfy your thirst and compliment your meals without busting your budget. These wines come from all across Northern Spain, from Catalunya to Galicia and points in between. None of them are from the current vintage. A year or two in the bottle has toned down the electrifying jolt of acidity that one finds in many newly released Spanish white wines while allowing the green melon and white peach fruit character to emerge. With these wines the bold burst of youthful energy is exchanged for a mellower, more evolved maturity (just like me, no?). I would not recommend cellaring any of the wines on this week’s list as these beauties are all intended for near term consumption. Enjoy them over the course of the summer and as you do, be sure to toast yourself for stocking up on such well priced refreshment. 

If you are in need of inspiration for something to serve with a nice bottle of Spanish white wine, may I suggest this recipe that I tried last week at Bar Cesar in Berkeley where Maggie Pond continues to amaze and inspire me with her take on traditional Spanish tapas.

 

Cucumber Gazpacho

(Adapted from César: Recipes from a Tapas Bar by Olivier Said, James Mellgren and Maggie Pond)

Serves eight as a first course

 

Ingredients:

8 cups                   peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber (about 4 cucumbers)

1 ¼ cups             best quality extra virgin Spanish olive oil

1 cup                     ice water

1 clove                 garlic

1/3 cup                                cava vinegar

2 tablespoons   fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons       sea salt

¼ teaspoon       ground black pepper

½ teaspoon       ground cayenne pepper

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except for 1/2 cup of cucumber and ¼ cup of olive oil (reserve these for garnish). Puree in two batches in a blender until smooth. Adjust salt and vinegar to taste. Chill gazpacho in refrigerator (a few hours at least, over night is better). Serve in small bowls or cups garnished with reserved cucumber and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

Paella alert: 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.

 

Lagar de Bouza 2006 Many of you will remember this Galician Albariño wine from its initial introduction last year.  It is the color of fresh hay and exhibits delicate aromas of citrus and chamomile. Typical Albariño minerality and green grape fruit character are found here in a restrained, gentle style. $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

 

Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2006 This rare Bierzo region white made from the local Godello grape is ripe and round. Gentle green plum aroma gains reinforcement from flavors of white peach and honeydew melon. Golden yellow color and weighty Viognier-like texture help to create a full bodied yet gentle wine that will compliment spicy summer fare (think Thai take out)and, come to think of it, would also make a fabulous white sangria. $11.99

 

Blanco Nieva Pie Franco 2005 This top shelf white from Rueda is made from 100% ungrafted old vine Verdejo. The sandy soil of Rueda protected the local vines during the phyloxera blight of the early 20th century. The remaining vines are as big as tree stumps and produce miniscule quantities of tiny but flavor filled grapes which, after being harvested by hand, are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks to retain the maximum of fresh fruit character. A few years of bottle age have softened the tart acidity and turned what was once reminiscent of granny smith apples and grapefruit into something closer to golden delicious apples and meyer lemons.  $14.99

 

Señorío de Sarría Rosado 2007 Navarra is the traditional home of Spanish rosado wines. This new arrival is made from 100% Garnacha which, after harvest, undergoes 24 hour cold maceration on the skins before fermentation in tanks (no oak). The pink wines of this region have been made this way for as long as anyone can remember. The bright aroma and flavor of fresh strawberries is front and center here. Additional watermelon flavor lingers on the finish. Pour this on the back patio after a long work week and experience transcendent relaxation. Just be sure to buy at least two bottles because you can drain that transcendent relaxation pretty fast during the course of a warm summer evening. $10.99

 

Riolanc Vendimia Seleccionada 2006 For you dyed in the wool red wine drinkers, here’s one for you. We just got a new shipment of this young red wine from the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, made from 100% old vine Tempranillo. Whole bunch fermentation is used here to create a wine with great freshness and bright fruit character. This too is an excellent choice for sipping in the back yard by the paella fire. $10.99

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

Valentine Wines

When I was a little kid at Briar Vista Elementary School in Dekalb County Georgia, Valentine’s Day was celebrated by all the school children decorating paper lunch bags with red and pink paper hearts and taping them up in ‘home room’ on the radiator by the window to collect the mostly pre-fab Valentine’s Day cards that would be purchased by the parents at the local drug store for all us children to distribute amongst our classmates.

These days, I like to concentrate my Valentine sentiments closer to home by cooking a special meal for my wife. Some fresh flowers set the scene. A few thoughtfully chosen courses and an excellent wine express my feeling better than words. A nice dessert rounds out my culinary love letter.

If this is your idea of a good way to spend Valentine’s Day, read on. We have a fabulous selection of special wines to woo your sweetheart with, and a simple recipe for a classic Spanish dessert (with a touch of my southern heritage) that will endear you to whomever you make it for.

 

Kevin’s Buttermilk Flan (serves 4 or 2 with leftovers)

6                              large eggs

1 & 1/2 cups       Buttermilk

½ cup                   heavy cream

1 tblspn.               Mexican Vanilla concentrate

½ cup                   sugar

1/2 tspn.              salt

 

Divide the sugar in half and add ¼ cup to a 9” clay cazuela. Place the cazuela on the stove and heat over a medium flame without stirring until the sugar has melted and turned a dark caramel color (it will start slow at first but do not walk away lest you burn your sugar). Turn off the heat and let the cazuela cool. You will have a hard caramel coating on the inside of the cazuela when you are done.

Beat 4 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks together in a bowl with the sugar and salt until blended. Add the vanilla, buttermilk and cream.  Mix well and strain through a fine sieve. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The flan needs to cook in a hot water bath, so place the caramel coated cazuela in a larger oven proof container (I use a 10 inch cake pan) and set on the middle rack of the oven. Fill the cazuela with the flan mixture first, then fill the outer cake pan with boiling water to surround the cazuela with gentle moist heat (do this in the oven so you do not have to carry the sloshing flan and hot water bath to the oven). Cook for 30 minutes and check for doneness. The flan should still be jiggly but not liquid when fully cooked. If still undercooked, allow ten minutes more in the oven (take the flan out of the oven before it sets completely or it will be dry and grainy).

Remove the flan filled cazuela from the water bath and allow to cool completely (refrigerated over night is best). To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the flan to loosen it and invert the cazuela on a serving plate. Serve the finished flan with sliced seasonal fruit and a nice glass of sweet wine.  

 

Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado Cava $14.99 I talk about this wine a lot, but now is the perfect moment to serve this sparkling rosado. It’s pink and bubbly, which may be all you need for the occasion, but this is also a deliciously berry scented yet still dry and refreshing cava that not only looks great in the glass but also offers up classic cava aroma and flavor at a reasonable price.

 

Can Vendrell Brut Reserva Cava $17.99 One of my favorite Cavas is back in stock! This classic blend of traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo), from organic vineyards, with extended ageing on the lees and low dosage is a dry wine with great depth and nuance. This is rich enough to serve with food, but dry enough to serve as a cocktail.

 

Reymos Espumoso de Moscatel $11.99 Sweet sparkling wine from D.O. Valencia. Rich Muscat grape scent, honeydew melon fruit character and light but persistent bubbles. A mere 7.5% alcohol makes this the perfect end-of-meal wine. Serve alongside buttermilk flan (recipe above) for a nice change of pace.

 

Don PX Gran Reserva 1979 $27.99 (375ml)  One of Spain’s most distinctive wines. An extremely rare aged wine made from Pedro Ximénez grapes that are partially sun dried before fermentation. The wine is dark and thick as molasses, with concentrated sweetness and flavors of figs, raisins and baking spices. Amazing depth and complexity. This is another perfect match for the flan recipe above.

 

Dolç Mataró $33.99 (500ml) The long forgotten Mataró grape, a relative of the better known Monastrell is used to produce tiny quantities of this sweet dessert wine. Super-ripe late harvest Mataró is hand selected, crushed and macerated in its own juice to extract the maximum of color and flavor from the skins. After fermentation the wine ages for a scant few months in barrel before bottling with minimal filtration in stylish 500ml bottles.  The final result is a sweet wine with opaque purple color, the aroma of fresh violets and a sweet fruit character that for all its intensity still possesses a certain delicacy.

 

Azua Reserva 2003 $12.99 In the Manchuela region of Castilla, just southeast of Madrid, the big, dark, juicy Bobal grape is traditionally used in many of the hearty red wines from this underappreciated part of Spain. Azua Reserva uses 100% old vine Bobal, aged in oak for 12 months and in bottle for an additional 24 months before release. This dark abundant wine is, amazingly, only 12.5% alcohol by volume, making it perfect for those of us who love abundant flavor but tire of the boozy high proof wines that often fit this profile.

 

Riolanc Vendimia Seleccionada 2006 $10.99 Our newest Rioja is this young wine from the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, made from 100% old vine Tempranillo. Whole bunch fermentation is used here to create a wine with great freshness and bright fruit character. This is an excellent choice for weeknight suppers now. When the weather warms up a bit I’ll be pouring this one in the back yard by the paella fire.

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