Tag Archives: san León

Time For Jerez

In my time at The Spanish table I have seen a reoccurring post-holiday phenomenon that I hope to turn into a local tradition. After all the rich, indulgent holiday meals, many of our customers turn to Jerez (Sherry) as their drink of choice in the new year. A small glass of Manzanilla, Amontillado or Oloroso seems to be just what we all want right about now.
These traditional wines, unique to Spain, range from lean and dry to dense and sweet. They pair well with a wide variety of foods and can be enjoyed before, during or after a meal. Locally we have more choices than ever for places to try a glass of Jerez wine. Here in the East Bay we have Barlata and Cesar pouring several by-the-glass selections. In San Francisco, Gitane, Contigo and NOPA are excellent destinations for Jerez sampling. At The Spanish Table we carry a broad selection of Jerez wines to suit all tastes. Here are just a few suggestions to get your new year off to a good start:

La Cigarrera Manzanilla This pale, straw colored wine with aromas of fresh hay and sea breeze is completely dry with yeasty scent and flavor. A few salted almonds, olives or some sliced Jamón Serrano alongside a small chilled glass of Manzanilla is a classic Spanish experience. $11.99 (375ml)

San Leon Reserva de Familia Bodegas Argueso makes several grades of Manzanilla. This version is selected from the best barrels and was originally intended for the personal use of the winemakers’ families. Bracingly dry and nutty, this wine displays freshness, balance and a crisp, precise character found only in the best wines from this region. $32.99

Viña AB Amontillado This amber colored wine from Gonzales Byass is quite dry (some Amontillado can be lightly sweet) with lightly oxidized aromas of walnut/hazelnut and toasted oak. Brandy-like warmth adds to the final experience. $16.99

Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso
Dark amber/gold in color, this dry Oloroso from the small Gutierrez Colosia winery displays aromas of beach air, wood smoke and toasted walnuts as well as a hint of burnt sugar and whisky barrel on the finish.  $15.99 (375 ml)

Upcoming Events
Special Guest Chef

Barlata in Oakland is hosting a week long appearance by guest chef Albert Assin from Barcelona. Normally Chef Assin can be found behind the counter at Pinotxo, his tapas bar in Barcelona’s Boqueria market.
Visitors to this famed public market will remember Pinotxo as the small bar in the center of the market where hordes of hungry customers spill out into the aisles as they await a chance to sample chef Assin’s food.
Daniel Olivella, the owner of Barlata (and B-44 in San Francisco) invited Assin to do a guest chef stint here after the two teamed up for a few demonstrations of Catalan cuisine at the Worlds Of Flavor conference in Napa this past November.
Chef Assin will be at Barlata this weekend, as well as next week (with some evenings at B-44 in San Francisco too). Check with the good folks at Barlata (510-450-0678) for exact times and details.

Cooking Class

The recent release of the long awaited cookbook Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking by Paula Wolfert has spurred renewed interest in the terracotta cazuelas, ollas and cocotes that we sell here. We did a clay pot class a few years ago at Kitchen On Fire cooking school in Berkeley and now that class is happening again.
Cooking in clay is an ancient way to transform simple ingredients into delicious meals. All of the fantastic foods for this class, from quick cooked appetizers to slow braised stews and even dessert, will be prepared using Spanish clay cookware.
The date for this class is Monday February 8th at 6:30 pm. Registration is exclusively through Kitchen On Fire, on their web site or by phone at (510)-548-COOK (2665). The class is limited to 30 participants so early registration is advised.

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Filed under events, Fortified Wine, Spain

Bar Lata

What is it about a small Spanish tapas bar that inspires thirst, hunger and conviviality all at the same time? The atmosphere is informal and friendly, the food is simple and ready to serve, the wines are well chosen and everything is modestly priced. It’s fast food for people who care about what they consume.

So why has ‘tapas’ become a pejorative word that evokes a fad several years past its prime?

My often voiced opinion is that the tapas concept has been turned on its head. The word ‘tapas’ has become restaurant code for ‘tiny appetizer’. A round of tapas with friends is a self contained snack while an appetizer is the first course of a full meal. This distinction has been hard to make due to a lack of proper tapas bars here in our part of the world. That is about to change.

Yesterday Daniel Olivella from B44 in San Francisco opened his new Bar Lata on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

In keeping with tradition the space is diminutive and simply decorated.  A long and varied list of cold and hot tapas is well paired with a wine selection that covers all of Spain. A unique collection of “canned” (lata = can) items are made in house and, in homage to the many superlative canned foods of Spain, are served in little oval shaped metal tins (the Lata de Pulpo was a traditional mix of octopus and potatoes dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a hearty dusting of smoked paprika).

Last night, seated in the corner with a view of the entire space I contentedly sipped a glass of cold, crisp Manzanilla while all around me the many wines of Spain, objects of my personal and professional passion, were flowing busily from bottle to glass. On one table a red Garnacha blend from Montsant was passed around amongst a cheery group of six. On another table bottle after bottle of Galician Albariño was happily consumed by an increasingly boisterous couple. Up front at the bar glasses of frothy Cava were handed out to a group of newly arrived patrons.

“This” I said to my wife “is my kind of place”.

In honor of my newfound home away from home, this week we feature a few the wines seen at (or inspired by) Bar Lata that are also found here at The Spanish Table. They have a pretty extensive list so if you go and try something you like, let me know and if I don’t have it already, I’ll get it.

Meanwhile across the Bay: I will be leading a wine class next week in San Francisco on Thursday March 19th at 7 pm at 18 Reasons (593 Guerrero St @ 18th St), a gallery in the Mission whose motto is “bringing the community together through food and art”.  The theme the evening is “Spanish Bubbles” and will include a tasting of sparkling Cava, lightly effervescent Txakoli from Basque Country and Vi D’Agulla from Catalunya as well as a sweet sparkling Muscat from Valencia. Background notes on the wines will be available during the event along with discounted purchasing opportunities. Appropriate snacks (dare I call them ‘tapas’?) will be prepared by the 18 Reasons crew. All of this can be had for the extremely tasty price of $10 ($5 dollars for 18 Reasons members). Go to their web site, http://18reasons.org/ for details and directions or call them at (415)-252-9816.

San León Manzanilla Clásica 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)

Gran Barquero Fino In the hills of Andalucia, just south of Cordoba in D.O. Montilla-Moriles they make fortified wines using the Pedro Ximénez grape.  These wines share the same production techniques as Sherry from D.O. Jerez further south. Gran Barquero Fino is pale straw colored, bracingly dry, lean and full of toasted almond aroma. $17.99

Sete Cepas Albariño 2007 This well priced Albariño is pale yellow tinged with green. Grapefruit aroma, lean minerality and light, refreshing texture are all to be found in this young white wine from Galicia. $12.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava 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. This wine was originally $14.99 but is on sale while it lasts for $11.99

Can Blau 2007 This dark, opulent Montsant region blend of Cariñena, Syrah and Garnacha is ripe and bold yet balanced too. Judging from the number of bottles of Can Blau that I saw being poured at Bar Lata in Oakland the other night, this is a real crowd pleaser. Personal experience affirms this perspective. $16.99

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 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. $19.99

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

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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Filed under beer, Portugal, Spain, White Wine

New Wines From All Over

It is, by now, a well established fact that the Spanish Table sells new, interesting, delicious wines from some of the world’s most dynamic wine producing regions. Our reputation has grown over time as customers taste the many unique wines arriving weekly from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile. Nothing makes us happier than when a customer discovers a new wine in our shop and shares it with friends. We offer a unique and ever changing collection that can intrigue even the most jaded of palates.

This week’s selections are a perfect example of the new and distinctly delicious wines that arrive here on a regular basis. Today we offer you wines from Portugal made from grapes such as Arinto, Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês and Maria Gomes, with the latter coming in a still as well as a sparkling version. From a winery approaching its 200th anniversary we have just received a new Manzanilla Sherry which will provide supreme refreshment during the hot summer weather. Our first red table wine from the Canary Islands will surely please those in search of a change of pace and our newest Portuguese red showcases one of the new styles currently emerging from this rapidly improving region.

To go with your favorite new wine, here is a recipe for a wine friendly snack that is found in various versions all across Spain. Meat on a stick is popular world wide, but Pinchos Morunos are specific to Spain. The Moorish origins of this dish are retained in the spice mix, but in Spain the meat is most commonly pork though lamb is still sometimes used. You can make these for a party and serve one per person or put three or four on a plate and serve them as a main course.

Kevin’s quick and easy Grilled Pinchos Morunos

(Makes about 20 skewers)

Ingredients:

3 lbs boneless berkshire pork shoulder (Café Rouge Meat Market is my source)

3 tblspns sweet smoked paprika

2 tblspns freshly ground cumin

(or substitute 5 tablespoons Chiquilin brand Pincho Seasoning for the paprika and cumin)

1 tspn salt

2 tblspns sherry vinegar

2 medium sized yellow onions

2 lemons

20 6” bamboo skewers

Directions:

Cut the pork into 1 inch cubes and combine with paprika, cumin, salt and vinegar. Place seasoned pork in refrigerator and marinate for a few hours. Place skewers in water and soak for one hour before using. Cut onion in eighths and pull apart layers. Cut lemons into wedges.

Prepare the skewers ahead of time using 4 cubes of seasoned pork and two pieces of onion. Thread them on the skewer in the following order: pork, onion, pork, pork, onion, pork.

Grill the skewers over a hot charcoal fire or indoors (if you must) on a grill pan for approximately ten minutes, turning frequently. Serve immediately with lemon wedges as a garnish.

Luis Pato Maria Gomes 2007 Some of you may remember this wine from its inaugural vintage last year. Maria Gomes is the Beiras region version of Fernao Pires. This bright, fresh, peachy wine is supported by underlying minerality. If you have been curious to explore Portuguese whites beyond Vinho Verde, this is the wine for you. $12.99

Luis Pato Espumante Bruto Luis Pato is a controversial figure in the Portuguese wine trade. His uncompromising commitment to quality has sometimes created friction between him and the regulatory authorities in Portugal. In 1998 he left the Bairrada D.O.C. to pursue his own path, with great success. This sparkling wine is made mostly from the same Maria Gomes grape as the previous wine and 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

Campolargo Arinto 2005 This traditional Bairrada region white wine, made from the Arinto grape spends 6 months ageing in neutral oak barrels, adding a very gentle oak note to the ripe melon and peach fruit character. This small production wine (less than 600 cases in total) will appeal to those seeking a more subtle and restrained version of California white wine. $21.99

San León Manzanilla Clásica 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 an excellent place to start. $12.99 (375ml)

Tajinaste 4 Meses 2006 Many of you responded so enthusiastically to our first Canary Island white wine (Tajinaste Blanco) that we are now also bringing in the red wine from the same producer. Tajinaste 4 Meses, from the Valle de Orotava region on the island of Tenerife, is made from the local Listan Negro grape and, as the name implies, is aged for 4 months in oak before bottling. Firm tannins, mineral aroma and tart cranberry fruit character create the first impression, with more spicy black pepper aroma and wet rock minerality coming out as the wine breathes. $12.99

Heredade dos Grous 2006 This rich red wine from the Alentejo region in Portugal is made fom a combination of 35% Aragonês (Portuguese Tempranillo), 30% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Touriga Nacional and 15% Syrah. Napa Cabernet lovers will appreciate this wine (we recently poured this at Copia in Napa with great success). It displays dark garnet color and plush dark berry fruit character. 9 months of barrel age lend medium strength oak tannins and flavor to the wine. To truly enjoy what this wine has to offer, pair it with grilled meat (see above recipe). $21.99

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