Tag Archives: Rueda

Pink and Gold

Summertime makes certain demands on wine lovers. Those who favor dark, concentrated reds are often disappointed right now when their favorite wines taste different, overpowering a meal and failing to refresh the palate. If you are just such a wine drinker, let me reassure you that your wine has not spoiled in the summer heat. It will taste just fine once we move back into cooler weather. Meanwhile, now is the time to cultivate a taste for white and rosado wines that will cool you down, awaken your appetite and pair well with the full bounty of summer foods.

This is also the perfect time of year to mix up pitchers full of delicious wine cocktails that, in addition to being mighty tasty, are also very friendly on the pocketbook. In place of the usual food recipe, this week I offer you a drink recipe that is quick and easy to make, is infinitely variable, and will give you and your guests a new way to enjoy some of Iberia’s more obscure wines. As with many of my recipes, this is not a fixed set of ingredients and proportions but rather it is a basic concept that you can play around with to get the final product to taste just as you wish. 

 

The ‘Portonic’ cocktail originated in Portugal, up in the Douro Valley where the Port grapes grow, during the blindingly hot summer days. Similar drinks also come from Spain where ‘Vino de Verano’ is a long standing summer tradition. Try the following recipe in its basic form and then let your imagination take you where it will.

 

Portonic- 3 variations on a theme

Serves 8 (ish)

 

Ingredients:

1 bottle                White Port, Rainwater Madeira or Amontillado Sherry

1 bottle                Tonic water, sparkling mineral water, ‘Casera’ or other lemon/lime soda

2                             lemons cut in wedges

1                             bag of ice

 

Directions:

Fill a glass pitcher or carafe with ice. Add the contents of one bottle of White Port/Rainwater Madeira/Amontillado Sherry. Add an equal amount of sparkling water/tonic water/lemon soda. Stir to mix and pour into wide highball glass along with a few of the ice cubes. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and serve.

 

Cune Rosado 2007 When I walk into a little bar in Rioja I always expect to find wines from the popular bodega called Companía Vinicola del Norte D’España displayed prominently and proudly (everybody shortens the name to ‘CUNE’, changing the V to a U, and pronouncing  it ‘coo-nay’). We just received the new vintage of Cune Rosado and it is just what the season demands. Starting in 2006 Cune switched from using Garnacha, as is the general rule, to Tempranillo, and this is still true for the 2007. The swap in grape varieties has lightened up the wine flavor-wise (the color is still watermelon pink), creating a less fruity, more balanced wine with smooth red berry fruit and bright acidity. $10.99

 

Masia de Bielsa Rosado 2007 This newly arrived Campo de Borja region rosado, composed of 100% Garnacha, displays fresh berry and watermelon fruit character, gentle acidity and a quick, quiet finish that invites continued sipping. This is a classic back porch rosado for hot weather. Pair it with simple meals like grilled chicken, coleslaw, potato salad and the full range of American picnic food. Regular price $11.99

 

Floresta Rosado 2007 This local favorite, from the Empordá-Costa Brava region in Northeastern Spain, just arrived in the new vintage. This blend of Garnacha, Merlot and Tempranillo can be found at numerous Bay Area bars and restaurants. Pale pink color, tangy citrus and strawberry fruit character along with refreshing acidity all combine to make a tasty and well priced wine suitable for a wide range of foods and occasions. $11.99

 

Dom Martinho Rosado 2007 I bought this wine knowing fully well that many of you have a negative perception of Portuguese rosado based on generations of crummy pink wine from a few producers I won’t name here. Please set these preconceptions aside and try this new product from Quinta do Carmo, a winery in Alentejo that is partly owned by the Rothschild-Lafite group in France.  Composed of Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Syrah, this berry scented pink wine has ripe fruit character balancing tart acidity. Fuller than some of the other wines on this week’s list, Dom Martinho will pair well with spicy food (try it with Thai food…a great pairing!) as well as traditional Portuguese favorites such as grilled sardines. $12.99

 

Con Class Rueda 2006 Back in March The New York Times waxed poetic about this young white wine, awarding it 3 stars and describing it as “vivacious with enticing lemon, floral and mineral flavors and a touch of honey”. At just that moment our local distributor changed warehouses and this wine got lost in the shuffle for a while. Happily, the wine has resurfaced and is now in good supply. This is indeed a tasty Rueda region blend of 80% Verdejo, 10% Viura and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. At a recent trade tasting I compared this wine with the higher priced single varietal Con Class Verdejo. The blended wine showed more balance and a fuller range of fresh citrusy flavors and is indeed a great value. $11.99

 

Luis Alegre Tinto Joven 2006 This young Rioja region Tempranillo is made using the maceración carbonica method. Whole bunches of grapes are loaded in tanks and allowed to start fermenting before the grapes are crushed. This ancient method of producing wine has the advantage of retaining color and fruit character while also producing finished wine in a relatively short period of time.  The end result is a dark garnet colored wine with lively fresh berry fruit character, racy acidity and mild grape skin tannins. Typically this is a summertime wine. Serve it lightly chilled as they do in Spain and accompany it with sliced cheese, jamón serrano and dry cured chorizo. $12.99

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

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

More New Stuff

Oh boy, I sure love springtime in the wine business. New wines arrive daily and opening all the boxes full of pretty, colorful bottles is like a birthday party or Christmas morning. This week marks the return of some tried and trusted favorites as well as more new wines to taste for the first time. The cavalcade of crisp whites and berry scented rosado wines continues unabated. A few reds (new and returning) are also arriving this week. Check out the options below and come see us in Berkeley to experience this bounty of vinous delights first hand.

 

Hermanos Lurton Rueda 2005 $6.99 This year America has fully embraced the white wines of Rueda with gusto and prices are climbing (supply and demand in action). Happily, we found a great deal on a small amount of very well priced Rueda from a well known wine family just in time for warmer weather. This blend of Verdejo and Viura is pale yellow colored with green reflections. White peach and melon fruit character adds depth to this citrusy wine.

Melipel Rosado 2007 $10.99 last week we mentioned another different Argentine rosé and it was gone before the weekend was over. This week we feature another wine made from the Malbec grape. Melipel is full of strawberry aroma and flavor. It is fruity yes, but not sweet. The bright acidity keeps the wine fresh and never cloying. If you tried last weeks pink wine, this week is more of the same style.

Viña Catajarros Élite Rosado 2007 $12.99 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.

Monopole 2007 $17.99 The latest vintage of white Rioja from CUNE has just arrived. This fresh, herbaceous, citrusy wine is made from 100% Viura, hand harvested, cold macerated and fermented in stainless steel to preserve the maximum of fresh fruit character. The aromas of green apple and fresh herbs are carried along by flavors of grapefruit and lemon. Reach for this distinctive tall bottle when you want a top notch unoaked white wine to serve with fresh spring vegetables, delicately flavored cheeses or raw seafood.

La Vendimia 2006 $14.99 This youthful, fresh red wine comes from the Palacios Remondo winery in Rioja. An even 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, the wine spends just 4 months in oak before bottling. Garnet colored, this wine is feather light texture-wise with bright fresh cherry fruit supported by a gentle touch of tannic oak. A whole roast chicken rubbed with garlic and smoked paprika would be a perfect match here.

Condado de Sequeiras 2006 $18.99 If you follow my ramblings here with regularity you have probably noticed my sincere affection for red wines made from the Mencía grape. Mostly found in the Bierzo region of northwestern Spain, we are starting to see more Mencía coming from the neighboring region of Ribeira Sacra. Condado de Sequeiras is produced from the fruit of a 20 acre parcel of 80 year old Mencía located on the terraced banks of the Minho River in Ribeira Sacra. Steel tank fermentation allows the varietal character to shine without interference from oaky aromas or flavors. This dark garnet colored wine displays rich black currant fruit character and distinctive wet slate minerality. If you have enjoyed some of our other Mencía wines (we carry many of them) then you owe it to yourself

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Filed under Argentina, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Rites of Spring

I can always tell that spring has arrived in the Bay Area when customers start buying white wine, large paella pans and gas rings for cooking paella in the back yard. With the arrival of warmer sunny weather it seems as though we, in unison, as if responding to some primal instinct, turn our thoughts to outdoors cooking and eating.

Although it may not be sunny and warm on the East Coast, Eric Asimov from The New York Times wrote an informative article about the white wines of Rueda a few weeks ago and many of you have responded enthusiastically by clipping the article and bringing it in to use as a shopping guide. Of course we don’t have all the same wines in California that are available to shoppers in New York, but we do have some of the wines that were mentioned as well as some personal favorites that they missed. These wines are refreshingly different from many domestic whites and pair well with a first-of-the-season back yard paella.

Here is a recipe for a springtime paella that I adapted from a recipe that one of the owners of The Spanish Table, Steve Winston, included in The Spanish Table Cookbook.

Asparagus and Shrimp Paella

(serves 4-5 as a main course)

Ingredients:

6 cups canned clam juice

1 Tblspn Pebrella (dried wild Spanish thyme)

8 cloves garlic (half the cloves lightly crushed and whole, the other half chopped)

1/3 cup Spanish olive oil

1 lb. fresh Asparagus, cut in 1 inch segments

1 tspn. sweet Spanish paprika

1/2 tspn. Spanish saffron

1 ½ lb. large shrimp in the shell, peeled and cut in half crosswise

2 cups Bomba rice

Directions:

Combine the clam juice with the pebrella, shrimp shells and the lightly crushed garlic cloves in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the broth and continue to simmer.

Heat the olive oil in a 6 portion paella pan on the stove top. Sautee the asparagus segments in the oil for one minute. Add the chopped garlic, saffron and paprika and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add all the simmering stock to the paella pan and continue to cook at a medium simmer for ten minutes. Add the shrimp and push down into the partly cooked rice. Continue to cook the rice at a low simmer for an additional ten minutes. When all the broth has been absorbed, turn off the heat and rest the paella for five minutes before serving.

 

Las Brisas Rueda 2006 $10.99 This fresh young blend of Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc is a wonderful ‘back yard white’. It is described well by The new York Times as possessing “Citrus and herbal aromas with stony mineral flavors.”

Montebaco Verdejo 2006 $14.99 (was $18.99) For those seeking 100% Verdejo wine from Rueda, you will not find many as good as this for the price. Straw colored with a green tinge, floral aroma and grapefruit-like flavor all combine with bright acidity to create a refreshing and complex wine for springtime dining. The New York Times gave this wine 2 1/2 stars and described it as “Richly textured yet zesty with honeysuckle, pear and citrus flavors.” The price just got better on this wine, but the 2006 vintage is coming to an end so this bargain will not last long.

Oro de Castilla 2007 $14.99 The first of the 2007 Spanish white wines to arrive in our store is this 100% Verdejo from Hermanos Villar in Rueda. Richly floral in aroma yet crisp and bright on the palate, this new wine will please those who know and love Rueda whites as well as newcomers to the varietal and the region.

Solar de Serrade Alvarinho 2006 $17.99 In Portugal, Vinho Verde is often thought of (with good reason) as a simple, spritzy white wine for picnics and parties. This Vinho Verde on the other hand is a whole different story. Made from the Alvarinho grape (Albariño in Spain), this elegantly dry and flinty white wine is finely balanced and fragrant. If you are curious about just how good Vinho Verde can be, this is a perfect place to begin your investigation.

Verasol Garnacha 2005 $8.99 (was $10.99) Here is another great bargain in Spanish wine (red, this time) for springtime enjoyment. This young Garnacha from the Campo de Borja region is youthful yet not simple. The fresh berry fruit is moderated by a touch of minerality which adds complexity and balance. This wine is a bit more reserved than some others from the same grape and region, making it a more elegant option than is common with young Garnacha. The price just dropped a few dollars which is good news too.

Aresan 2002 $16.99 Do you want to taste the future of Spanish wine? This is a good place to start. Bodegas Aresan, located in the Castilla-La Mancha village of Villarrobledo near Albacete is one of a handful of Spanish wineries currently converting to a new designation called ‘Vino de Pago’. This new label will be used only for wines that are produced from estate grown fruit and are produced in a winery located on the same property as the vineyards. So, no buying grapes from somewhere else and no transporting grapes to a distant winery, but any grape varieties can be used that suit the taste of the winemakers even if they are not typical of the region a whole.

This wine, for instance, is a blend of 65% Tempranillo (a traditional variety in La Mancha) along with 35% Cabernet Sauvignon (not permitted in D.O. La Mancha wines). The estate grown fruit is harvested by hand and carefully sorted before crushing and fermentation. After nine months of barrel age, the wine is bottled and shipped. This decidedly modern wine is dark and powerful. Cigar box aromas encounter blackberry fruit character and smoky tannins. The wine starts out firm and structured but becomes more elegant and complex as it opens. California Cabernet appreciators will find much to love about this handsomely packaged wine that sells elsewhere for over $30.

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

Busy, busy, busy

It seems like everybody is really busy taking care of professional, family and personal obligations. We too are in the middle of bringing in new and delicious wines and specialty groceries while at the same time putting together wine dinners and food classes.

I am already behind schedule for this week’s newsletter so I will be brief.

We have some excellent new wines to share with you this week. Several spectacular and very traditional Rioja wines have just arrived from a small family winery that is just starting to gain attention from Spanish wine lovers. Some new white wines have come in that express a richer more floral element that I find especially desirable as we move away from summer. We are also receiving new vintages of some of our favorite late harvest dessert wines that are so appropriate to this early autumn season.  

Meanwhile, for those of you who have been requesting more wine oriented events, we are excited to announce that we will be hosting a winemaker’s dinner with some special guests from Spain. The date is November 13th at 7 pm. The venue is Zarzuela Restaurant located at 2000 Hyde Street in San Francisco.  Andy and Tanya Booth from our Mill Valley store will be leading up this food and wine extravaganza.  Here is what they wrote about this upcoming event:

This will feature a stellar lineup of wines from famed winemaker Eduardo Garcia, whose father is even the more famous Mariano Garcia.  We’ll try a couple of higher end offerings from Ribera del Duero, Toro and Bierzo, which is home to the grape Mencia.  Importer Aurelio Cabestrero will also be on hand to share several other wines that he has selected from Spain.  The cost for this dinner will be $80 a person.

In addition to a stellar line up of wines, the Zarzuela chefs will prepare a full meal of assorted tapas.  To reserve you places for this rare food and wine experience, contact us here in Berkeley at (510)-548-1383 or you can also reserve places at The Spanish Table in Mill Valley (415)-388-5043.

My upcoming Cooking in Clay Cazuelas class on October 22nd still has a few spots open. If you want to participate in this event, go to 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. 

Now, on to this week’s wines:

 

Vinos Blancos:

Valdelainos Verdejo 2006 $12.99 An excellent Rueda region white fashioned from the local Verdejo grape. Crisp citrus aroma, mineral foundation and just enough fruit character (guava, pineapple) to maintain the balance of flavors. An excellent cocktail wine.

 

Jose Pariente Verdejo 2006 $19.99 From Bodegas Dos Victorias (named after the two owners, both named Victoria) comes this aromatic Verdejo wine that showcases the fuller side of Rueda region whites. Aromas and flavors of quince and guava are full and ripe. Crisp acidity is edgy and refreshing. A perfect seafood wine, especially with scallops and crustaceans.

 

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 $28.99 It’s the time of year when a little late harvest sweet wine is particularly appealing. The new vintage of the celebrated Casta Diva is a lush Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart.

 

Ochoa Moscatel 2006 $23.99 In the Navarra region of Northern Spain (home to a wide range of grape varieties), Moscatel grapes are left on the vine to fully ripen before they are harvested for this gently sweet dessert wine. We just received the new vintage and it is one of my current favorite autumn wines. Serve it with a pear tart on a crisp fall afternoon. Ethereal.

 

Vinos Tintos:

We are very excited about our latest new arrivals from Rioja. Bodegas Hermanos Peciña is a relatively young winery. Founded in 1992, this family owned winery initially made only young wines from their own estate grown fruit but over time expanded to include increasingly mature wines as well. Located in the Rioja Alta village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, they have quickly earned a reputation for high quality wines that preserve the traditional style of barrel aged red wines that the region is known for.

Senorio de P.Peciña Cosecha 2006 $11.99 This joven (young) wine is produced from estate grown Tempranillo grapes with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano as well. This bright, youthful red is refreshingly uncomplicated.  Moderate alcohol content (12.5%) is traditional for this style of wine and makes this a perfect picnic or party wine.

 

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 $18.99  Also 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.

 

Senorio de P.Peciña Reserva 1999 $25.99 The blend of  grapes for the Reserva is the same as for the Crianza, but the Reserva sees 3 years of barrel age before bottling and another several years of bottle age before sale. This long maturation period smoothes out all the edgy tannins and produces a silky, elegant wine that is perfect for special meals and cold autumn nights.

 

Torremoron 2006 $11.99 The new vintage of this customer favorite has just arrived. This well priced Ribera del Duero region wine is a fresh and full bodied wine fashioned from the local Tempranillo grape. Ripe fruit character and dark color combine with background earthiness. Serve with lamb burgers and green salad.

 

Primavera Dão 2003 $14.99 The Dao region was once among the most desirable sources of quality red wines in Portugal.  These wines were dry and earthy with rich but oxidized fruit character. Over time this style fell out of favor with the international market (the Portuguese still love the old style). Flash forward to the current day and we see some fresh, fragrant Dão wines that still retain some elements of the old style. This wine is a perfect example of how this region is blending modern style with traditional heritage.  Fashioned from a blend of Touriga Nacional Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, the garnet color and the dark berry fruit character balance fine tannins and background minerality.

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Embrace Tradition

Part of the fun of shopping at The Spanish Table is discovering new wines from little known regions and remote corners of Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile. As much as we all love trying new things, sometimes a return to the traditional styles/regions/products that first excited our interest in all things Iberian is a good way to recalibrate our palates and remind ourselves of the origins of all this newness.

This week we are featuring some of the most traditional wines of Spain.

Bodegas Lopez de Heredia is widely acknowledged as the most traditional, the ultra-orthodox, the oldest of old-school wineries in all of Rioja. They make wines as they have done for over 100 years. Only traditional Rioja varietals are used and these grapes are blended in proportions that remain unchanged over time. Modern, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks are nowhere to be seen in the Lopez de Heredia winery. Instead, they make all their wines in large oak casks that are built and maintained by a staff of expert coopers (not too many of those around any more). The wines are built for long term storage and, as you will see from the vintage dates, are released only after many years of barrel and bottle ageing. The ‘new’ vintages we received this week are from 1996, 1997 and 1998.

This week we are also featuring an Oloroso Sherry that got written up in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, inspiring a reawakening of interest for this most traditional of Spanish wines. Additionally, we just received some new vintages of wines that build on a foundation of historic traditional while expressing a breadth of aroma and flavor that are rejuvenating wine regions which for years have lain dormant and neglected.

So take a step back from your interest in all things new (don’t worry, there’s plenty of new stuff on the way soon) and reacquaint yourself with the classic flavors of Spanish wine, and while you are at it, try (or retry) this version of one of Spain’s most iconic recipes.

Tortilla Española

(serves 6-8 as a first course)

1 lb. Potatoes ( I like Yukon gold or russet, but use what you have as long as they aren’t red or white skinned ‘jacket’ potatoes)

8 large eggs (if you can get ‘pastured’ eggs, they work best and are distinctly more flavorful. Look for them from Kaki Farms at the Berkeley farmer’s market)

2 tablespoons cold water

2 cups extra virgin Olive Oil (sounds like a lot, but you don’t consume it all)

1 tablespoon sea salt

Peel and slice the potatoes in 1/8 inch rounds. (a mandolin slicer works well for this, just be careful with this very sharp tool). Place potato slices in a bowl of water for 5 minutes to rinse off the starch and then dry them on a kitchen towel.

Heat olive oil in an 8” nonstick sauté pan or clay cazuela. Add potatoes as the oil is heating and simmerover low heat for around 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and starting to fall apart (try not to brown them). Remove cooked potatoes from the oil and drain in a colander.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk with the water and salt until smooth and uniform.

When the potatoes are barely warm to the touch, add them to the eggs and let the mixture rest for ten minutes.

Pour off all but ½ cup of olive oil from the sauté pan (you can save the leftover oil for another tortilla). Heat the pan until the oil shimmers but does not smoke. Add the potato/egg mixture to the hot oil and stir the contents of the pan with a spatula until the eggs are about half way set. Turn the heat down to low and continue cooking without stirring until the eggs are mostly set and firm. The goal here is to cook the eggs without browning them. If the finished product is pale yellow with just a hint of browning and cooked through but still moist, then you are an official tortilla expert.

Find a plate that fits snuggly over your pan or cazuela (a flat pan lid works well too). Invert the plate on top of the pan and with one hand on the pan and the other hand on the plate (here comes the tricky part) flip the pan over in one smooth motion. Hopefully, the entire tortilla is now resting on the plate. Put the pan back on the heat and add a few tablespoons of the leftover oil before sliding the inverted tortilla back into the pan, cooked side up. Turn the heat to low and let the tortilla finish cooking on the second side. Once it is firm to the touch, slide it out onto a serving plate, slice into wedges (or little squares for a traditional look) and serve with some dressed salad greens and a crisp white wine.

Vino Rosado:

Viña Tondonia Rosado 1997 $26.99 The latest vintage of this truly unique rosado is created (as it always has been) from a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and white Viura. Unlike almost all other rosado wines, this one is aged for 4 years in oak before bottling and aged for several more years in the bottle before release. Oxidized sherry-like aromas of toasted almonds and fresh hay. Distinct yet well integrated barrel tannins add complexity to the surprisingly fresh berry-like fruit character.

Vino Blanco:

Viña Gravonia 1996 $26.99 Composed of 100% Viura, aged for 2 years in oak and 8 years in the bottle. I love the sesame seed aroma and flavor that I get from this wine. It mixes well with the assertive acidity and complex yet mellow fruit character. Josh Raynolds reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated this wine at 90 Points, saying: “Yellow-gold. Musky, mineral-accented peach, yellow plum and honey aromas, with a suave vanillin nuance adding complexity. Plush and deep in pit fruit and ripe melon flavors, with a gentle acid lift adding focus. Slow-mounting citrus notes provide refreshment on the finish but this has serious heft and needs to be served with food. There’s a lot going on here.”

Nosis Verdejo 2006 $18.99 It was not so long ago that Verdejo wines from D.O. Rueda were astringent, over oxidized and musty. Changes in production methods have helped create wines of great character that exhibit fresh fruit aromas and flavors along with bright and food-friendly acidity. Nosis is one of the best of these modern Rueda region wines. The new 2006 vintage is exemplary.

Vino Tinto:

Viña Tondonia Reserva 1998 $40.99 This deeply structured red wine is made from a traditional blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo, aged for 5 years in oak before bottling without filtration. With a few more years of bottle age (or after decanting for a few hours) this wine will reveal a core of dark cherry-like fruit that compliments the firmly tannic barrel character. Josh Raynolds also reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. In October of 2006 he rated this wine at 93 Points, saying: “Dark red. Penetrating, complex bouquet of red berries, cherry skin, minerals, dried rose, tobacco , cured meat and baking spices. Youthfully taut, but opens slowly to show de ep cherry and plum flavors with suggestions of succulent herbs and graphite. This medium-bodied wine broadens on the back, the intensely flavored fruit softening and sweetening. A remarkably elegant, balanced and complex wine that’s still very young : I’d give it at least another five years of bottle aging.”

Embruix 2004 $37.99 In the ancient but recently rejuvenated Priorat region, the musician Luis Llach is commonly referred to as the ‘Catalan Bob Dylan’. He is also a well known and respected winemaker. Embruix is his younger wine (the flagship wine is called Vall Llach) made from a blend of old vine Garnacha and Cariñena with additions of younger Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Nearly opaque garnet in color with rich brandied cherry aroma and fruit character. This smooth, elegant wine is an excellent example of the local style at a very reasonable price relative to some of its neighbors.

Vino de Solera:

Dios Baco Oloroso 18.99 Few wines from Spain are more traditional than the Jerez wines from Andalucía. Lately, our best selling Oloroso Sherry (Sherry = Jerez) has been getting some good press. Last week, Jon Bonné from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about this wine for the In Our Glasses section saying: “Whoever said that sherry was wine for grandmothers should be gagged. Oloroso sherries get more air contact and fortification than finos, and this dazzling example from one of Jerez’s smaller producers mixes deep caramel with baked apple and mineral notes. A sweet hint from added Moscatel wine offsets the trademark tang. Its balance and versatility match it to everything from Chinese takeout to fruit tarts.

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Filed under Fortified Wine, Recipes, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Cooking in Clay

I am excited about a new class that I’m doing in October at Kitchen On Fire. The class is called Clay Pot Cookery and, as the name implies, is all about using the wonderful terracotta cookware from The Spanish Table to create hearty and rustic traditional Spanish meals at home.

Here are the details from the Kitchen On Fire website:

In this class, Kevin Hogan from The Spanish Table will share his passion for terracotta cookware as he prepares his version of several classic Spanish recipes for the class to enjoy.

All of the food for this class, from quick cooked appetizers to slow braised stews and even dessert, will be prepared using Spanish clay cookware. Cooking in clay is an ancient way to transform simple ingredients into delicious meals. In Spain, the earthenware cazuela is the required vessel necessary to prepare any number of traditional recipes. Recipes for this class will include:

Gambas al Ajillo (sautéed shrimp in olive oil with garlic and chilies)

Setas Al Fino (sautéed mushrooms with Fino Sherry)

Carcamusa Toledana (Toledo style braised pork and potato stew in tomato sauce)

Arroz con cosas (baked rice with assorted vegetables)

Buttermilk flan (Kevin’s own recipe)

Now that I have decided on the menu, I’m busy deciding which wines to serve with the meal. I plan to serve 5 different selections that are appropriate to the dishes we will be eating.

If you are interested in attending this demonstration dinner (due to the slow cooked nature of some of the dishes this is not going to be a hands-on class), please sign up on the Kitchen on Fire website. Their address is:

https://www.kitchenonfire.com//course_class.php?class=348

The class is limited to 30 guests so sign up soon to reserve your spot.

Meanwhile, back in the wine department, we have some excellent new selections in our ‘house wine’ department. For those of you who are not yet familiar with our ‘house wine’ selections, here’s how it works: We carry a selection of traditionally styled wines (red, white, rosé) that taste like what you would be served in a little Spanish or Portuguese bar. We sell all of these wines at a special price of $6.99 per bottle and we give even deeper discounts ($5.99 per bottle) on mix-and-match 12 bottle purchases. This allows you to buy a case of wines for $71.88 (+ tax) that you can have around the house for whenever the need arises. Our newest arrivals in the ‘house wine’ department are:

Alandra Tinto $6.99 From the makers of Esporão in the Alentejo region of Portugal comes this youthful, rich, fruit-filled red wine made from Moreto and Periquita grapes. This bright and spicy non-vintage red will compliment a wide variety of meals.

Primavera Bairrada Reserva 2003 $6.99 This earthy blend of 60% Baga, 30% Tinta Roriz and 10% Castelão is perfect for hearty meals. This Portuguese wine displays brick red color and smoky aroma with dried cherry fruit character and tannic foundation. Mature reserva wines don’t make it into the ‘house wine’ section very often so take advantage of this excellent value in red wine while it lasts.

Lavradores de Feitoria Douro Tinto $6.99 The Douro region in Portugal is also the area where Port wine is produced. Forward thinking winemakers have re-purposed the grapes of this region for table wine production. This young red is a blend of wine from 13 different producers across the Douro region. Youthful color and aroma blend with dark berry fruit character and background minerality. Excellent quality from an interesting winery.

We also have some exciting new wines from all over:

Vino Blanco:

Follies Branco 2005 $10.99 This medium bodied, Portuguese blend of Chardonnay and Maria Gomes displays lush melon-like fruit character and gentle acidity. Steel tank fermentation (no oak) maintains a fresh, ripe aspect that is particularly delicious when paired with creamy soft ripened cheeses.

Luis Pato Maria Gomes 2006 $11.99 Luis Pato is one of Portugal’s most celebrated winemakers. This wine, made from the local Maria Gomes grape is bright and refreshing. Aromas of white peach and fresh melon accent a grapefruity foundation. Amazing purity in this unique white wine.

Blanco Nieva Verdejo 2006 $14.99 The new vintage of this perennial crowd pleaser has just arrived. Grapefruit and flint come to mind as descriptors here. Additional quince-like fruit character and a bit of residual effervescence are most noticeable while the wine is very young.

Vino Tinto:

Terra Buena Malbec 2003 $10.99

Terra Buena Tempranillo 2004 $10.99

I wrote about the Terra Buena wines in last week’s newsletter, but foolishly omitted the descriptions of the two red wines. Briefly, these wines are made in Argentina by the good folks up at Laurel Glen winery in Sonoma County. After fermentation the wines are put on ships and transported in bulk to California where they are aged and bottled. The reds both display dark color and ripe berry aromas. The Malbec is the bolder of the two and shows impressive concentration and richness. The Tempranillo is spicy and lively with bright cherry-like fruit character. Both of these wines would be perfectly paired with spicy tomato sauced pasta or harissa marinated lamb kabobs.

Chévere 2004 $10.99 Not only has Paul Campbell at Laurel Glen been making wine in Argentina, he has also crafted a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon which, like the Terra Buena wines, undergo primary fermentation in their native countries with barrel ageing and bottling taking place in Graton, California. The novelty factor is high here with the image of Che Guevara on the label but the wine inside is quite tasty. Youthful dark berry aroma encounters nicely structured tannins in this hearty, full-bodied red wine. The back label states that “A portion of the proceeds from this sale will be donated to the Lambi Fund of Haiti, a community-based NGO that promotes democracy and economic justice in Haiti. Drink up, America!

Les Terrasses 2005 $36.99 We blew through the 2004 vintage in record time, so we’re happy to see the new 2005 Les Terrasses. This wine is consistently one of our best D.O.C. Priorat wines in the under $50 category. Alvaro Palacios, Priorat’s most celebrated winemaker is best known for his rare and very expensive L’Ermita, but thankfully he also makes Les Terrasses for those of us on more modest budgets. 30% Garnacha, 60% Cariñena, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark garnet color, opulent cherry brandy aroma, rich silky dark berry fruit character and seamlessly integrated oak tannins. Delicious now. Even better with a few years of cellar time.

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Filed under Argentina, Chile, Portugal, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine