Tag Archives: tinto fino

Father’s Day

Talk about trend spotting; everybody is coming into The Spanish Table for supplies to make paella for Father’s Day. Nothing could make us happier. Around here we live to inspire you to make paella or any other Spanish or Portuguese dish. Helping you pair your special meal with a delicious bottle of wine is my personal priority.  So on a day reserved for celebrating Dads and all they do for us, here are some gift ideas that will be every bit as welcome as a power tool or a neck tie.


2001 Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva In Rioja, Gran reserva wines are only produced in the best years. 2001 was one of the best vintages in recent memory. Perfect growing conditions (hot days, cold nights, rain in the spring, dry at harvest time) produced the kind of fruit that make wines worth ageing for a decade before sale. Faded brick red color, fully resolved barrel character and delicate fruit flavors. This is a classic Gran Reserva for one knock out price. $23.99

2003 Raspay In a world of wines that are modern and rich, it is a special treat to find a winery still making a wine like they have for centuries. . .and being successful with it. The Primitivo Quiles Raspay is Monastrell from Alicante that is aged and totally different from any other Monastrell that can be found here in the US. Imagine this if you will a red fruit salad tossed with baking spice, roses and lavender. Velvety on the pallet with a lingering note of sweet red berries. Very impressive. $20.99

2005 Capellanes Crianza This bold, earthy red wine is a personal favorite, but I’m not the only one to love this dark,expressive Crianza from Ribera del Duero. The 2005 vintage scored 91 points in The Wine Advocate. They said: “The 2005 Crianza is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 12 months in seasoned French oak. Slightly deeper in color, it has a fragrant nose of smoke, pencil lead, vanilla, espresso, and blackberry jam. Medium bodied, dense, and structured, the wine has layers of spicy black fruit and enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years. Long and pure in the finish, it will drink well through 2015.” $33.99

Niepoort 10 year Tawny Porto 10 year Tawny Porto is a blend of several vintages with an average age of around 10 years. The base wines are kept in small oak casks until blending, then bottled just prior to sale. Proper blending is a difficult skill to master, and the winemakers at Niepoort are acknowledged experts in this area. Once bottled, the tawny Ports do not continue to develop in the bottle as the vintage Ports do. They also last longer than Vintage port once opened, and can be enjoyed for 6-8 weeks before noticeable oxidation occurs. This amber gold colored wine shows complex aromas of nuts and citrus peel. The oak adds a touch of tannic dryness to the wine. Brandy-like warmth and bright acidity balance the honeyed sweetness of the wine. Serve Niepoort 10 year Tawny Porto with dessert (chocolate desserts pair extremely well with this wine) or after a meal accompanied by good company and lively conversation. $39.99

New Orleans Reserve Madeira The RWC historic Series Madeiras are a collaboration between The Rare Wine Company and Vinhos Barbeito. The goal here is to produce wines that evoke the mature vintage Madeiras of days long past. The New Orleans Special Reserve is a blend of Tinta Negra Mole, Verdelho, Bual, Malvasia and Terrantez. Produced from old family stock in small 70 case batches by Ricardo Freitas, grandson of the founder Mario Barbeito, this rose gold colored wine is lightly sweet with spicy aroma, brandied raisin fruit character, abundant nutty complexity and delicate, ethereal texture. $65.00

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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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Valduero (and more) on sale

A long time importer friend of the Spanish Table here in California has called it quits and moved to Australia.  He’s given us first pick of his wines at amazing prices and we stocked up on a few choice items.
These hearty reds are cellar worthy selections that will be available only while the limited supply lasts. Enjoy them tonight after a bit of breathing time (they respond amazingly well to a bit of air) or put them away for down the line. This is definitely a not to be missed opportunity.
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valudero reserva.jpg2000 Valduero Reserva – 94 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, “The 2000 Reserva is a bit more refined than the Crianza but hardly a shrinking violet. The color is less dense and the nose is more expressive. There are notes of cedar, tobacco, scorched earth, truffle, blueberry, and blackberry which jump from the glass. On the palate the wine remains youthful with layers of flavor but also some elegance as well as power. The fruit is ripe and sweet, the tannins soft, and the finish lasts for at least 45 seconds.”

 

Regular retail is $39.99. While supplies last.  $23.99

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valduero crianza.jpg2004 Valduero Crianza – Valduero is one of the older wineries in Ribera del Duero and continues to make a more traditional styled Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

 

We’ve bought the last 30 cases of the 2004 Crianza and for good reason.  Floral blackberry, smoke and star anise and a touch of pepper on the nose. Rich and full flavored with sweet black cherry, chocolate, and cinnamon.  Lasting flavors of baking spice, black fruit and good acidity on the finish.  This is still young and will drink well for the next couple of years easily.

Regular retail is $28.99. While supplies last. $17.99

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Vall Por.JPG2004 Sangenis I Vaque Vall Por Priorat – Sangenis I Vaque was founded back in the late 70’s but the vineyards have been in the Vaque family since the 1700’s.  Their vineyards, which are organically farmed are located around the town of Porrera and are primarily the famed black slate (licorella) that has made Priorat famous.

 

A stellar vintage, this is tightly wound and a decant makes this shine.  Spicy blueberry, chocolate and plumcake on the nose.  Velvety & silky with dense, palate coating flavors of dark chocolate, plum and blueberry, anise and a mineral edge.  Bright acidity and lingering notes of mineral and sweet blueberries on the finish.

Regular retail $31.99. While it lasts. $17.99

Bodegas Ithaca

Joseph Puig is the man behind the Priorat winery called Bodegas Ithaca.  Puig is an avid inventor and is well-known throughout Spain for his numerous patents (the cantilevered cork screw, for instance) as well as his fascination with the tale of Odysseus.  His wines in have always done well at the Spanish Table but  due to a change of Importers (same story as Valduero in the adjacent column) Bodegas Ithaca has been in short supply. A new importer has started bringing in new vintages. Meanwhile, here are some choices from previous vintages that will disappear quickly at these prices.

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2006 Penelope Garnatxa Peludo – I really like the fact that this late harvest wine is only a touch sweet. Notes of black cherry, rose, spiced cranberries and blood orange.  Good natural acidity, this is an excellent option for upcoming holiday dessert wine. 500ml bottle. Regular retail $34.99. Now $19.99 Limited

2006 Penelope Garnatxa Blanca This is the other option, but done with the white grape.  Again just slightly sweet, this leans towards honey and white peach, apricot blossoms, a touch of mint and good minerality.  Round and full on the palate. 500ml bottle. Regular retail $34.99. Now $18.99 Limited.

2007 Odysseus Pedro Ximenez BlancoThis is a unique dry white wine in that Pedro Ximenez is most often found raisined and pressed to make an extremely sweet Sherry.  This is totally dry and has notes of apricot, tangerine, a bit of lemon and white flowers.  Good minerality and good acidity. Only 150 cases made. Regular retail $35.99. Now $19.99 Limited.

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Favorites, Old and New

The culinary traditions of Spain and Portugal are changing how we eat here in the USA. As these flavors work their way into the hearts, minds and palates of those of us not fortunate enough to have been born into these cultures, we learn to appreciate the new ingredients and preparations as well as the variations within specific regional styles.
As soon as we discover the distinct joy of, for example, Paella, we learn that this iconic Spanish dish is made in dramatically different styles from one part of Spain to the next. “Paella must include chorizo” says one expert. “Paella must never be made with chorizo” says another. According to many regional cooks “Paella made with anything other than rabbit and snails should not be called Paella”. And so it goes, with each individual cook claiming the mantle of authenticity.
Wines too can be the subject of passionate debate due to the numerous stylistic choices made by Spanish and Portuguese winemakers. ‘Tradition’ versus ‘Innovation’ is just the entry point into detailed discussions of style and character within a specific wine region.
At The Spanish Table we like to offer a broad choice to fit every palate, so we try not to take sides. To use this week’s wine selections as examples, we have a new Vinho Verde that offers a fresh new effort from a traditional winery. We have a new Txakolí that may change a few perceptions about what Basque white wine can be. Our newest red wine discovery comes from the Vinos de Madrid region, yet tastes unlike anything else we have previously tried from this part of Spain.
So please enjoy our newest selections in wine, knowing that there is more to choose from, with new discoveries arriving every week.

Trajarinho 2008 Summertime is perfect Vinho Verde weather. This traditional style of Portuguese white wine is crisp and dry with residual effervescence. Our newest Vinho Verde, from the same winemakers as the well loved Muralhas de Monção is a blend of Trajadura and Alvarinho. Put the two together and you get…Trajarinho (clever, no?). Bright grapefruit and lime flavors blend well with crisp mineral back notes and light but persistent spritzy effervescence. $10.99

Itsas Mendi 2008 Basque Txakolí has gone from relative obscurity to cult wine status in just a few short years. We just received the newest vintage of Itsas Mendi, an excellent Txakolí made by Ana Martín, a Basque winemaker who is also one of Spain’s best known wine consultants. After establishing her reputation for top quality red wines in Rioja with Señorio de Cuzcurrita and in Ribera del Duero with Traslanzas, she returned home and started Itsas Mendi. This wine is fuller and rounder than other Txakolí wines. The lean, spritzy grapefruit character has been traded in for richer texture and notes of white peach and apricot. This well balanced offering will appeal to Albariño and Godello appreciators. $25.99

Viña Herminia Tempranillo 2007 Bodegas Aldeanueva makes Herminia from 100% Tempranillo. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel (no oak barrels) helps retain the fresh berry fruit character of the wine. Dark garnet colored, Viña Herminia displays ripe berry aroma and abundant, youthful fruit character. The new vintage has come in at a significant discount over previous years. $9.99

Camino de Navaherreros Garnacha 2008 The ‘Vin Natural’ movement in France is thriving while in Spain this style of wine is only starting to appear. Bodegas Bernabeleva, located in the unassuming Vinos de Madrid region farms bio-dynamically and minimizes manipulation in the winery (no temperature control, only indigenous yeasts). Their 80 year old Garnacha vines produce small quantities of darkly expressive fruit that is used exclusively for this cloudy, dark red. Minerals, wild herbs and ripe blackberry flavors combine in this unfiltered and untamed wine. $12.99

Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2006 Steve and Sharon (from the Seattle flagship store) just got back from visiting this winery in Spain. Sharon wrote this about the new wine: “This rare single vineyard Ribera del Duero red is a blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 12 months in oak barrels, it is an intense cherry color with purple tones. The nose is filled with ripe fruit aromas of black berries and spices. Flavors of tar and boysenberry slowly spread over the palate with glycerin contributing a rich fruity mouth feel. Well integrated oak, notes of coffee and cacao with supple tannins. Concentrated and intense, it has herbal notes with a smooth and persistent finish. A powerful and effusive wine, here is a rare opportunity to experience this wine outside of Spain.” $42.99

Pago de Carraovejas Reserva  2005 The Reserva version of Pago de Carraovejas uses the same estate grown,single vineyard fruit as the Crianza in a different blend. This wine is 78% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. 12 months of barrel age is followed by 24 months in the bottle resting in the dark before release.Bold fruit character balances firm(at present) tannins. This structured, rich, assertive wine will age gracefully for years to come. $86.00



Paella Party in Mill Valley & Berkeley

Steve Winston is coming down from our flagship store in Seattle to make paella and sign copies of his new book. This is your chance to meet the man who started The Spanish Table and chat with him about all things related to the culinary traditions of Spain and Portugal.
Steve is a veritable treasure trove of food and wine esoterica. He has accumulated much of this knowledge in his new cook book. Stop in on Sunday August 9th at 1 pm (or Saturday August 8th in Mill Valley) to quiz him on what (and where) to eat in Spain and Portugal. While you are here you can sample his famous Paella (that’s right, FREE paella!) and pick up a signed copy of The Spanish Table Cookbook.
¡Buen provecho!

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Tapaswalk

With tax season officially behind us, I thought everybody could use a bit of well priced entertainment so I’ve come up with a wine and food walking tour of downtown San Francisco that I call ‘Tapaswalk’.

In Spain the Tapeo is a well loved tradition.  Strolling from bar to bar, having a small drink and a snack at each stop along the way while chatting with friends is a relaxing way to start an evening.
I am using the Tapeo concept as inspiration for a wine and food class that includes visits to several of the Spanish styled restaurants that are ever more prevalent here in our corner of the globe.
Tapaswalk winds its way through downtown San Francisco stopping in first at Gitane for a taste of dry Manzanilla Sherry accompanied by a few appropriate tapas. Down the street at B44 we will sample some sparkling Cava along with a few bites of Chef Daniel Olivella’s Catalan cuisine. A few short blocks away, at Bocadillos we will taste the Basque white wine called Txakoli alongside Chef Gerard Hirigoyen’s traditional Basque snacks called pintxos. Next up is a trip through Chinatown to the new Madrid style bar called Lalola. Here we will try a little vino tinto paired with a few traditional tapas before heading over to North Beach to finish off the tour at 15 Romolo (the old Basque Hotel) with a small glass of Patxarán (Basque Sloe Berry liqueur) and a light dessert.
Tapaswalk is a fun, informal way to learn about Spanish wine while sampling the traditional foods of Spain. We will discuss each wine along the way, giving background and context to what we taste.
The class is limited to 10 pre-reserved guests at a time and takes place early in the week (Tuesdays or Wednesdays) at 6 pm and finishes around 8:30 pm. The first available date will be May 27th, 2009 and will reoccur weekly on an as-wanted basis.
The cost is $65.00 per person and includes all the restaurant expenses, printed tasting notes on the wines and information about the restaurants as well as the opportunity to purchase the wines afterward at discounted prices.
The route covers approximately 1.5 miles so participants should come dressed for the weather and should wear comfortable shoes.
At present I have not yet automated the registration process. For now I have set up a special email account to handle reservations for Tapaswalk. If you are interested in participating, please email me at salondelvino@gmail.com. I’ll get back to you with a confirmation and precise schedule information.

Rosado season has officially begun here at The Spanish Table with the release of the first of the new 2008 vintage pink wines. Here are a few of this week’s new arrivals.

Mengoba Preto Rosado 2008 This ‘fresh off the boat’ 2008 rosado from the newly demarcated Tierras de León region is made from the local Prieto Picudo grape. A lean, mineral core, coupled with bright acidity and just a whiff of fresh berry aroma creates a dry wine with a sophisticated balance and precision rarely found in rosado wines.  $17.99

Vega Sindoa Rosado 2008 Navarra is the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This bright, fresh 2008 rosado is a Navarra region Garnacha from Bodegas Nekeas. These guys know a thing or two about Garnacha as they are also responsible for the ever popular El Chaparral, a red wine fashioned from old vine Garnacha.  The new rosado is ripe and aromatic with fresh strawberry scent backed up by tart acidity. This is a true garden party pink for pouring all alone or with lighter picnic-style foods. $9.99

Vi D’Agulla Rosado 2007 Vi D’Agulla, that immensely refreshing, lightly effervescent white wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava also comes in a pink version. The crisp, dry style of the original is maintained, with a fresh berry scent replacing the aromatic florality of the blanco. We first carried this wine last summer when it was first released. We just brought back this dry, spritzy Catalan ‘rosat’ at a better than usual price. $11.99

Nessa 2008 The new vintage of Nessa is here.  In Galicia the cool coastal climate produces bright, refreshing wines with fresh citrus fruit character and firm minerality. This new wine, fashioned from the local Albariño grape really delivers on quality at a price that is harder and harder to find from this increasingly popular region. In the first flush of youth, this wine is vibrant, expressive and perfectly suited to a broad range of seafood pairings. $13.99

Coroa D’Ouro 2005 In Portugal’s Douro Valley, Porto Poças is, as the name states, mainly occupied with the production of fortified Port wines. With the table wine renaissance in full swing all across Portugal more Port producers are getting into Vinho Tinto. This wine is a fine example of the Douro style that takes the same grape varieties that go into Porto and re-purposes them into hearty red wines that combine dark color and bold fruit character with rocky minerality and spicy backnotes. $10.99

Valduero Crianza 2004
This dark, earthy, tannic Ribera del Duero region red made from the Tinto Fino grape is bold and full bodied. Substantial barrel tannins need some air before revealing an inner core of black cherry fruit character. Decant this one in the morning and serve it for dinner. Otherwise, cellar this one for several years and enjoy it over the next decade or more. We just got a new  (limited) supply of this wine at a better price The previous price of $27.99 has been reduced. The current price, until we run out, is $24.99.

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New Cookbook

Steve Winston, the peripatetic owner of The Spanish Table has just published a compilation of his travel tales in cookbook form.  The Spanish Table Cookbook has been available in self published galley form for several years but now the good folks at Gibbs Smith have put together a full color, properly indexed version that showcases Steve’s passion for all things Iberian. The book will arrive here next week, is priced at $30 and will inform and inspire your Spanish culinary adventure. Steve will be coming down for a book signing in the near future. Here is what the publisher says about this new book:

In response to the requests of his patrons, Steve Winston has created a cookbook full of tasty recipes for those specialty cooking utensils unique to Spain and Portugal-paella pans, cazuelas, cataplanas, and ollas. In a cheery and informative way, he provides the history and culture of the pans and how to use them. He also offers an excellent section on Iberian wines and ideas for hosting fun tasting parties.
So, when in the mood for something a bit exotic, this book makes it easy for home cooks to try their hand at a traditional seafood paella, or Clams Madeira, or Black Olive-Fig Tapenade served with a fine Pedro Ximenez sherry. It’s a trip to the Old Country without leaving the kitchen.

Meanwhile, in the wine department we are receiving numerous new vintages of some of our favorite wines. I have just one new white this week but several new reds including some much sought after and fast disappearing wines that deserve your attention. Read on:

Con Class 2008 The latest vintage of this Rueda region white wine has just arrived. Con Class routinely gets high marks from many of our customers as well as from wine marketers/bloggers/critics (it is increasingly hard to tell who does what in the wine world these days). This bright, refreshing blend of 60% Verdejo, 25% Viura and 15% Sauvignon Blanc is packed with the aromas and flavors of tropical fruits (guava, pineapple), balanced by a leaner grapefruit citrus note. $13.99

Termes 2006 The new vintage of Termes is in and available for a brief period. This ripe, opulent Toro region wine has a substantial following and each year the wine sells out rapidly. Composed of 100% old vine Tinto de Toro, this wine spends 16 months in small oak barrels before bottling. Inky dark color, abundant savory barrel tannins and ripe blackberry fruit character are joined together in this expressive wine. $29.99

Numanthia 2006 The new vintage of Numanthia is the elder sibling to Termes. Sourced from carefully  selected bunches of old vine Tinto de Toro, this wine spends 16 months in oak, creating a dense barrel aged character that demands several years of additional bottle age before the tannins soften a bit and allow the dark berry fruit to emerge. A scant few bottle are available while they last. $65.00

Valduero La Uve 2006 Bodega Valduero in Ribera del Duero recently started a new wine project in the Toro region down river from Ribera del Duero near the Portuguese border. 250 acres of red rocky soil on the river plateau have been carefully selected and planted to the Tinta de Toro varietal known elsewhere as Tempranillo. La Uve is produced from 100% Tinta de Toro. The wine is a “joven” or young style wine made without any oak barrel ageing to allow the fruit to fully express itself. This ripe, bold wine will accompany a broad range of meals and is especially well suited to all things pork related, from bacon to grilled pork chops. $11.99

Aresan Librato 2005 Bodegas Aresan is located in the Castilla-La Mancha village of Villarrobledo near Albacete.  This 400 acre estate 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 in a winery located on the same property as the vineyards. A new winery was built on the estate and first began operation in 2004. As this winery moves toward ‘Vino de Pago‘ status, the wines continue to be labeled as ‘Vino de la Tierra de Castilla’ but do not be fooled by this modest appellation. Aresan wines are distinctly higher in quality than many other wines from this large region. Aresan Librato is composed of 60% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Franc. The younger vines (approx. 10 years old) are used here. The wine is aged in oak (half French, half American) for a brief two month period before bottling. Librato displays bright garnet color in the glass. The extracted fruity aroma leads on to rich dark berry fruit character and a background earthiness that gives the wine a firm foundation. Spicy tannins never overwhelm the balance of flavors and aromas. $14.99

Ercavio Roble 2006 The new vintage of Ercavio is now in stock. This young Tempranillo from central Spain spends a brief period fermenting in the traditional clay vessels known as ‘tinajas’ that have been in use in this region for centuries. An additional 5 months in oak barrels adds tannic structure to the wine but does not obscure the fresh berry fruit character or the light to medium weight texture. Ercavio is an excellent wine for serving with chicken (or squab as is typical in La Mancha). $13.99

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Many Are Tasted, But Few Are Chosen

It is that time of year again.

I speak of the spring tasting season when all the wine importers and distributors conduct tastings for the trade. New wines are featured along with new vintages of familiar favorites. At these events buyers like me get a chance to sniff, sip, compare and contrast dozens (no, hundreds) of wines before choosing what to carry in the store. It all sounds like a fun time and sort of a booze cruise but it is, in fact, a bit of work (yes, I know, poor me).

I used to make a habit of trying all the white wines before moving on to reds but I found that the high acidity of white wines tended to burn out my taste buds early, leaving me with a palate too compromised to accurately taste the red wines. My routine these days is to taste first all the things I am most interested in, switching back and forth between reds and whites. Then I go back and try other wines that I might have missed the first time through. Of course I am not consuming all this wine yet even so after a few hours I have to call it quits because palate fatigue sets in and everything starts tasting the same. Afterwards, with purple teeth, smudgy notes and, most likely, a wine stained shirt I head back home to review my notes and choose what to bring in and sell.

This week I offer you a selection of new arrivals that made the cut. Some of these wines are making a first appearance at The Spanish Table while others have just changed to the latest vintage, warranting repeat investigation.

Laxas 2008 The first 2008 Albariño of the season has arrived. Laxas is a ripe pear and citrus scented wine that displays a greenish tint and a light minerality. This bright, floral white wine is a perfect choice for springtime foods such as fresh cheeses, tender salad greens and fresh vegetables. The price has thankfully not gone up in the new vintage. $17.99

Solar de Serrade Alvarinho 2007 The wine world has ‘discovered’ Portugal (a case of hiding in plain sight, if you ask me) leading to the importation of numerous new and interesting wines that previously never made it out of the country. The Vinho Verde wines of northern Portugal have for many years been associated with cheap, spritzy, non-vintage white wines that are fun, refreshing and simple.  Now we are seeing more elaborate, intriguing wines from this region including this single varietal Alvarinho (Albariño in Spain become Alvarinho in Portugal). The light spritzy effervescence of a typical Vinho Verde is found here with a much drier, more mineral foundation underlying tart citrus fruit character. This crisp, refreshing, low alcohol white wine makes an excellent aperitivo wine as well as a nice accompaniment to lighter meals. $17.99

Muralhas De Monçao Vinho Verde 2007 Another example of the many wonderful wines coming out of Portugal right now, this white wine from the Vinho Verde region is a traditional blend of Alvarinho and Trajadura, bottled with a touch of residual effervescence. Aromas and flavors of white peach and meyer lemon give this wine a bit of roundness to balance the crisp acidity and light minerality. This wine is very popular in Portugal and has happily been showing up around the Bay Area on some by-the-glass lists of numerous restaurants. Try it at home with a big salad and some grilled sardines. $15.99

Mas Malbec 2007 The new 2007 vintage of Mas Malbec serves as a reminder that this has been a consistently solid wine and a customer favorite for several vintages running.  This wine from bodegas Sur de los Andes in Argentina is a private label for the importer Luis Moya who works with the producer to create a young 100% Malbec wine in a well balanced style. Ripe fruit never overwhelms the palate, leaving room for light barrel tannins and rocky minerality. This too is the same price as last vintage. $11.99

Novecento Malbec 2007 As the season changes and the weather warms, I start to bring in more wines intended to accompany outdoor cooking.  This young Malbec from Argentina is expressive and ripe with dark berry fruit fruit character. Dust off the grill, open a bottle of Novocento and start enjoying the sunshine. $10.99

La Planta 2007 Many of you have been waiting for the new vintage of La Planta to arrive. Wait no longer. This lightly oaked red from Bodegas Arzuaga in Ribera del Duero is dark and expressive with earthy nuance and ripe fruit character. Fashioned from the local Tinto Fino grape (Tempranillo by another name) and aged for just a few months in small oak barrels, this wine has a bold character that pairs well with full flavored meaty meals. A mixed grill of chuletas de cordero (lamb chops) and morcilla (blood sausage) would be a perfect pairing here. $15.99

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