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Luis Pato

Luis Pato is one of Portugal’s best known winemakers.

Working from his family’s Quinta do Ribeirinho estate in the Beiras region of central Portugal he has almost single handedly rejuvenated the reputation for the Baga grape, a local variety that had long fallen from favor. His Baga wines are distinctively spicy and a bit wild. He also works with other Portuguese red grapes such as Touriga Nacional but has earned some notoriety over the years for his refusal to cultivate traditional French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. His white wines are also created from traditional Portuguese varieties such as Maria Gomes, Bical and Sercialinho.

His daughter Filipa is a trained winemaker too and participates in the making of Luis Pato wines as well as wines made under her own label.

The name Pato means ‘duck’ in Portuguese so duck imagery appears regularly on the wine labels.

Here are a few Luis Pato wines in a range of styles, red, white, young, mature, still and sparkling. I recommend all of them highly. These wines are all available at spanishtablewines.com


2009 Luis Pato Maria Gomes The entry level white wine from Luis Pato is this varietal Maria Gomes (known elsewhere in Portugal as Fernao Pires) made in a young,fresh, unoaked style. Pale lemon hue with gentle aromas of wild herbs and citrus blossom. White peach and green melon fruit character is held in check by a subtle note of flinty minerality. Fabulous warm weather refreshment. $10.99
2008 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Branco This blend of traditional Portuguese grape varieties from the Beiras region is made up of 50% Bical, 30% Cerceal and 20 % Sercialinho, all sourced from old vine vineyards. The yellow gold tint and dense texture create an expectation of age and weight but the wine is quite fresh and lively. A short few months in cask give a bit of gentle oak aroma to the wine but not so much as to obscure the apricot/white peach fruit character. At present this wine is reticent and somewhat muted but with age (or a few hours in a decanter) it will reveal its proper complexity. A whole baked fish stuffed with fresh green herbs would be a perfect match here. $17.99
2008 Luis Pato Espumante The sparkling wine from Luis Pato is made up from 95% Maria Gomes(known elsewhere in Portugal as Fernao Pires) combined with 5% Arinto to create an assertively bubbly wine with floral aroma, tart citrus peel flavor and flinty minerality. Serve this on a hot day alongside some grilled fish (sardines are traditional). $13.99
2007 Luis Pato Baga Tinto In the Beiras region of central Portugal the Baga grape is a traditional variety that is enjoying a bit of a renaissance thanks in large part to the work of Luis Pato, a relentless champion of this little known variety. In this young, unoaked version the Baga grape expresses a bright, lean character that evokes scents and flavors of cranberry and  tea leaf. Delicate berry-like fruit character is present but not obvious or intrusive. A lightly bitter/twiggy note at the end is reminiscent of Cabernet Franc from Chinon or Mencia from Bierzo. This wine makes a fabulous accompaniment to chicken grilled  in the Portuguese style with piri-piri pepper sauce. $13.99
2005 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto Vinhas Velhas (translates as ‘Old Vines’) is a bold red wine made from 100% Baga sourced from vines that are at least 40 years old. After fermentation the wines spend fifteen months in large used oak barrels. It displays dark garnet color and aromas of ripe berries with a bit of Amarone-ish raisin. The flavor is spicy and earthy at the same time with  dark berry fruit character and background minerality. Roast pork in all its forms will work well here. $29.99
2003 Luis Pato Primeira Escolha Luis Pato blends equal proportions of old vine Baga and Touriga Nacional from his best estate vines (primeira escolha translates as ‘first choice’) then ages them briefly (4-5 months) in oak after fermentation with several additional years of bottle age prior to release. The dark mulberry color and lightly funky/gamey aroma give way to pure elegant dark berry fruit character supported by gentle tannins. This wine presents an intriguing contrast between the precise and the rustic. It will pair well with grilled pork chops and white beans. $32.99
1990 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto This mature version of Vinhas Velhas is 100% Baga like the current release but with decades of age the wine has fully come unto its own. The high acidity of the tart Baga grape has evolved and softened. The initially firm  tannins are now supple. This wine is brick red in color with notes of dried fruit, tea leaves and dusty minerality. Only 10 cases were imported to the USA and we have just a few bottles to offer. $47.99

Clay Cazuela Cooking Class

In this class, we will learn all about cooking in the traditional Spanish cazuelas (terracotta cookware) as together we prepare several classic Spanish recipes. All of the fantastic foods for this class, from quick cooked appetizers to slow braised stews and even dessert, will be prepared using Spanish cazuelas. 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  recipes both ancient and modern.
The class is on Monday August 9th at 6:30 pm. The location is Kitchen On Fire cooking school, located in Berkeley at 1509 Shattuck Ave. the cost is $65 per person which includes hands-on instruction, printed recipes and dinner. Details and registration can be found on the Kitchen On Fire web site at: https://www.kitchenonfire.com/classes/view/id/1174

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Filed under events, Portugal, Red Wine, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Vinho Tinto

Way back last month I was telling you about the white wines of Portugal.
My opinion was (and is) that Portuguese white wines “excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences”. I also noted that Portuguese whites tend to be ridiculously affordable so it really pays to explore these lesser known wines.
This week I am focused on Portuguese red wines. They have been getting some good press lately, and deservedly so. They, like the whites, offer excellent quality, often at very reasonable prices.
I have been finding some really good Portuguese reds lately. If you have not yet tried these wines I have some excellent suggestions that will give you a good perspective on the prevalent style/regions/producers currently coming out of Portugal.
A few weeks ago Eric Asimov wrote in the New York Times about the red wines from the Douro region. Of the ten wines he reviewed in New York (where the selection is often quite different than what we get in California) he chose as his favorite the young Altano Tinto 2006 ($9.99). He described it as “Dry and balanced with complex, lingering aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers” which sounds about right to me. I find the wine to be youthful and on the gentle side for a Douro red. The dark berry fruit character is but a bit subdued in comparison to other wines from this region. This lends the wine a gentle food-friendly quality that never overwhelms lighter fare.
Another well priced Douro red is Twisted Tinto 2007 ($14.99), the entry level wine from Niepoort, maker of top quality Porto as well as several high end red and white wines. This wine is composed of a wide range of typical Douro grapes including Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão among others. Twisted Tinto is dark garnet in color with expressive aromas of fresh berries and minerals, tart cherry fruit character and a touch of tannic oak.
I am also finding plenty of excellent bargains in Portuguese regions outside the Douro Valley.  The young Meia Encosta Tinto 2007 ($8.99) from the Dão region is fresh and bright. Clear ruby color, cherry aroma and Gamay-like fruit character (the blend here is actually Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz) all work in harmony to express the tart,refreshing style that makes this such a perfect mid-week red.
From a small region called Óbidos located just north of Lisbon comes Quinta de São Francisco Tinto 2005 ($11.99) composed of 60% Castelão, 20% Aragonez and 20% Touriga Nacional. Garnet colored with a brickish tinge, this wine displays initial aromas of ripe berry and crushed rocks. I get more mineral notes and light mulberry fruit character on the palate along with a bit of black pepper spice. Eight months of barrel age lends a gentle tannic note to the wine.
The Spanish Table Wine Club is currently featuring the Cunha Martins Reserva from the Dão region. Most of this went into the club but I have a few spare bottles on hand for general consumption. Cunha Martins Reserva 2004 ($14.99) is a field blend of numerous grapes including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro Preto, Bastardo and Jaen. The wine was aged for 18 months in oak before bottling. This is a darkly tinted wine with dense texture, and fruit character reminiscent of mulberries and black plums.  Backnotes of black olive and wood smoke remind us of the wine’s Dão heritage, expressed here in a rich, silky style that will compliment an autumn menu of slow roasted meats and winter squash.
For something at a good price but with a bit of age we go again to the Dão region for Quinta da Cabriz Reserva 2005 ($19.99). This barrel aged blend of 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz and 20% Alfrocheiro possesses a bit of the old fashioned Dão rusticity framed by dark plum fruit character and well integrated oak. This mature expressive wine will be a perfect match with a broad range of traditional autumn fare such as slow cooked white beans with chunks of Linguiça sausage and the Portuguese smoked bacon called Toucinho Defumado (FYI, we sell the beans/sausage/bacon as well as the wine!).

 

 

Los Hermanos Fernández


The Ribera del Duero region in Northern Spain has been transformed over the last few decades. From its origins as an agricultural region mostly known for farming (sugar beets) and livestock (sheep), Ribera del Duero is now one of the most highly regarded wine regions in all of Spain. One of the pioneering winemakers in Ribera del Duero, a former beet farmer named Alejandro Fernández, started his own winery which quickly earned a reputation for excellence. His Tinto Pesquera became a game changing wine in Ribera del Duero. The region was transformed. Wine grapes became the crop of choice for local farmers, many of whom also went on to great success.
A less well known part of this story is that, unbeknownst to many of us here in the USA, Alejandro Fernández has a brother named Federico who also makes wine. His winery is small and his wines adhere to a traditional style that is fast fading from view in Ribera del Duero. Federico Fernández insists on slow barrel ageing to elaborate his wines. In the modern rush to market this practice is used less and less by the larger wineries. Federico still adheres to the old practice of classifying his wines as Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva depending on how much time they spend ageing in oak. Federico Roble 2007 ($17.99) is the young wine from this bodega. Made from the local version of Tempranillo called Tinto Fino, this wine spends just six months ageing in barrel before bottling. The resulting wine expresses the earthy minerality of the region in a bold, fresh style.  Federico Crianza 2005 ($31.99) spends 12 months in barrel and several years in bottle before release. The tannins are substantial and chalky when the wine is first opened. With air the wine reveals a core of trail dust, saddle leather, black cherry fruit and an intriguing gamey note on the finish. As ever, the pairing for all good Ribera del Duero is lamb in all its guises (chops, roasts, stews, you name it).

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Summer Wines & Padrón Peppers

Pimientos de Padrón Alert

We interrupt regularly scheduled wine news to announce the arrival of the new crop of Pimientos de Padrón. These small, seasonal  green peppers are traditional bar snacks in the north of Spain and  are one of the few fresh vegetables that we carry here. Simply fry a batch up in some good olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.  We should have these throughout the summer and into the fall. They are still the same price as last year:
$6.99 1/4 lb.

Summer Wines

As we move into the summer season, my attention is drawn to bright, refreshing white and rosado wines that cool me down from the heat of the day and awaken my appetite. I also like to pour robust reds that pair well with grilled food. Here are a few of this weeks’ new selections.

Ochoa Rosado 2008 Our newest pink wine is a classically styled offering from Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado wines. This one is made from the local Garnacha grape and is a lively, bright wine with an orange/pink hue. The light berry-like fruit character is tart and refreshing. $12.99
Ostatu Blanco 2008 The new vintage of this dry, herbaceous white Rioja has just arrived. Made from the local Viura grape (known elsewhere as Macabeo) this wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, never overwhelming the delicate fruit character with the aromas and flavors from oak barrels. This young wine displays grassy aroma and notes of kiwi fruit and green grapes. $12.99
Mas Torrontes 2008 For those who have loved the Mas Malbec from Argentina, here is a white Torrontes from the same bodega. This new arrival is floral scented (jasmine, honeysuckle)and richly fruity (apricot, crane melon). Racy acidity cuts through the perfume and maintains a fine balance. This is an excellent white to serve cold on a hot afternoon. $10.99
Siesta Brut Ernesto Catena, son of the famous Nicolás Catena (and brother of Laura, another well known winemaker) makes this sparkling wine from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Palest pink color, yeasty bread dough aroma and bright, tart fruit character are held together by fine bead bubbles. This is excellent bubbly and is one of the best examples I have yet tasted from Argentina. $17.99
Tahuan Malbec 2005 Ernesto Catena’s Malbec is a fine example of an Argentine wine that is bold and expressive without loosing the complexity that makes this region so interesting. The addition of 10% Cabernet Sauvignon adds structure to the juicy, ripe Malbec. The wine spends 12 months in oak, lending tannic depth to the final product. $18.99
Meia Encosta 2007 Portugal continues to produce some really good wines at rock bottom prices. This young wine from the Dão region is fresh and bright. Clear ruby color, cherry aroma and Gamay-like fruit character (the blend here is actually Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz) all work in harmony to express the tart,refreshing style that makes this such a perfect mid-week red. $8.99

Upcoming Spanish Wine & Food Events

On June 14th TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society) will hold their 2nd annual tasting of domestic wines made from Spanish & Portuguese grape varieties. Ft. Mason in San Francisco is the venue for this interesting event. Details can be found (and tickets purchased) on the TAPAS website. The Spanish Table will be in attendance showing off our new cookbook as well as sampling some olives and other imported Spanish snacks to go with all the local vino.

On June 22nd, I will be teaching my Paella And Wine class at the Berkeley cooking school Kitchen On Fire. Participants will get hands-on experience making (and eating) a large Paella Mixta (includes meat, seafood & vegetables) as well as a few simple tapas and a light dessert. We will sample a few appropriate Spanish wines as we go. Class starts at 6:30 pm and we should be done by around 9 pm. This popular event is limited to 30 people with a price of $65.00 per person. Sign up is through Kitchen On Fire, either on the web, or by phone 510-548-2665,(510-265-COOK).

The next TapasWalk Spanish wine & food walking tour is coming up on Wednesday June 24th. I will be leading this tour through downtown San Francisco, stopping in at five different restaurants to sample some of Spain’s unique wines accompanied by a few traditional tapas at each location. Details as well as future tour dates can be found on my blog.

On June 28th The Berkeley International Food Festival will enliven our little neighborhood with the aromas and flavors of many lands. Kabobs, tamales, samosas and other street foods will be available. Here at The Spanish Table we will be making our traditional huge paella which we hand out samples of (free of charge) to the hungry masses. In addition to the food  expect music, dancing, art and sunshine. It will be fun.

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Filed under Argentina, events, Portugal, Red Wine, rosado, Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Portugal On The Menu

Are you ready to drink more Portuguese wine?

Márcio Ferreira of Viniportugal certainly hopes so.  Viniportugal, a Portuguese wine export trade organization, was in the Bay Area last week meeting with local wine merchants and sommeliers. Márcio Ferreira hosted a lunch (at the impeccable NOPA) organized by Evan Goldstein of Full Circle Wine Solutions to taste a few wines and share some information about the grapes, growing regions and producers of Portugal.

I am happy to report that the wines were very good as is the news in general coming out of Portugal.  The Portuguese wine industry has paid close attention what has worked well in Spain over the last ten years and is applying the lessons learned from the recent success of their neighbor to the east. With recent infrastructure improvements, private investors from within Portugal as well as from other countries are building new wineries and producing an ever widening array of wines across a broad range of styles and price points. Indigenous grape varieties are being recuperated and ancient growing regions are being renovated. Portugal is embracing tradition while simultaneously recognizing the need for modern wine production technology.

In the year ahead I expect to see more Portuguese wines showing up on local restaurant wine lists. At The Spanish Table I am adding a few wines from the tasting last week (read about them below) that I think are perfect choices to help you become more familiar with a country whose wines deserve more attention. Look forward to more choices in Portuguese reds (and whites too) as the year progresses.

Locally, I just read on the internet that a Catalan tradition known as a ‘Calçotada’ is happening next Monday in Napa at Ubuntu restaurant.

‘Calçots’ are a variety of green onion (somewhere between a scallion and a leek) that are traditionally harvested at this time of years,  grilled over a wood fire and wrapped in newspaper where they steam a bit before being consumed out of hand after a dip in rich, nutty/peppery Romesco sauce and a sprinkle of sea salt. Never having attended the real deal in Catalunya, I am anxious to check this out for myself. I’ll report back if I make it up to Napa on Monday.

Speaking of Romesco sauce, you can buy one of several brands of Romesco sauce here at The Spanish Table and liven up not only grilled onions but also just about anything grilled from fish to beef. If you are feeling like making your own, here is a recipe adapted from the César Cookbook that many customers rave about.

Salsa Romesco (makes about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

1 cup blanched marcona almonds

4 dried ñora peppers

½ cup day old bread pieces

¾ cup piquillo peppers

1 clove garlic

¾ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon picante smoked paprika

¾ cups extra virgin Spanish olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Directions:

Toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes until light brown, then allow to cool. Rehydrate ñora peppers by simmering in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. After the peppers have cooled in the water remove them and soak up the remaining water with the day old bread.  Pulse the room temperature nuts in a food processor until coarsely ground.  Add the rehydrated ñoras, piquillo peppers, soaked bread, garlic, salt, sugar and smoked paprika to the food processor and blend to a thick paste. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil followed by the lemon juice and both vinegars. Blend to a slightly chunky puree. Serve this in a bowl alongside grilled vegetables, fish, meat or just about anything that could use a little zing. The unused portion keeps well in the fridge for a week.

Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley and a few tickets are still available. The date is Monday February 23rd at 6:30 pm. The cost is $65 per person and includes hands-on instruction to create several tapas and a large paella mixta, all of which will be consumed during the class. Several paella-friendly Spanish wines will also be sampled. Kitchen on Fire is handling the signup for this fun and popular class. Go to their website for more details.

Capote Velho This non-vintage red ‘vinho de mesa‘ from Portugal really delivers on freshness and versatility. This is a full liter (1.5 regular sized bottles) of wine with gentle berry-like fruit character, bright acidity and soft grape skin tannins coupled with a moderate level of alcohol (11.5%). Like a no name house wine in a little Portuguese bar or restaurant, this red tastes great by itself and will also accompany, but not overshadow, a broad range of foods. I just retried this wine a few days ago and not only is it in perfect shape but it has gone down a buck in price since the last time I ordered it. This is an amazing bargain. $10.99 (1 liter)

Quinta de San Francisco Tinto 2005 From a little known region called DOC Óbidos located just north of Lisbon comes this red wine composed of 60 % Castelão, 20% Aragonez and 20 % Touriga Nacional. Garnet colored with a brickish tinge, this wine displays initial aromas of fresh berry and fresh portland cement. I get more mineral notes and light mulberry fruit character on the palate along with a bit of black pepper spice. Eight months of barrel age lends a gentle tannic note to the wine. One of my favorite wines from the recent Viniportugal trade tasting. $11.99

Cartuxa Évora 2004 This wine has a long history in the Alentejo region of eastern Portugal. The winery was established in 1896 on the site of an ancient Carthusian monastery. In 1957 Vasco Maria Eugenio de Almeida bought and refurbished the winery which now carries his name as part of his philanthropic efforts to improve the Alentejo region. Cartuxa is composed of a blend of of Periquita, Aragonez, Trincadeira, Moreto and Alfrocheiro grapes. The wine displays dark garnet color that fades to brick red at the rim of the glass. Loamy mushroom aroma intermingles with the scent of fresh earth. The wine mixes flavors that are savory and lean (black olive, oak, white pepper) with bold fruit flavors of black currant and plum. Firm tannins add texture and indicate that this wine will hold its character even after years in the cellar. We featured the 2003 vintage of this wine in our wine club a few years ago, priced at $25.00. Would you believe that the price has gone down a bit since then? $21.99

Altozano Blanco 2007 This fresh, food friendly Spanish white wine was the big hit of our recent Gonzalez-Byass wine dinner at César in Oakland. Made by the same folks who bring you the ever popular Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, this Castilla region blend of Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc is bright and tangy with green herb aroma and grapefruity citrus flavor. $9.99

Beronia Crianza 2005 Another wine featured and enjoyed at the recent Gonzalez-Byass wine dinner was this barrel aged Rioja from Beronia (the Rioja region winery of Gonzalez-Byass). This blend of mostly Tempranillo blended with small amounts of Garnacha and Mazuelo spends 12 months in oak (American and French) before bottling. The barrel character plays a prominent role here but never overwhelms the cranberry and cherry fruit character. The various elements in this wine are well knit, unlike some wines where the oak envelopes the wine like a woolen blanket, obscuring all other scents and flavors. This is a very “Spanish tasting” wine at a very reasonable price. $14.99

Tejada 2005 This Tempranillo/Garnacha blend was the best seller of our recent experiment in wines made from Iberian grapes grown in California. Back in 1999 Spanish natives Celia Tejada and her brother Ivo started this small family winery in Lake County. They planted part of their 80 acre property with 3.5 acres of Tempranillo and Garnacha (the grapes they remembered from home). This small estate vineyard is the source for the fruit that goes into two Tejada wines (this one and a more mature reserva). The blend here is 58% Tempranillo and 42% Garnacha. This is a dark garnet colored wine with fresh red berry fruit character, mid-weight barrel tannins and a lean, savory element that helps retain the Spanish style of the wine. $21.99

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

Drink In The Season

 

So, I’m walking to work this morning and I’m thinking about the priorities of the business day. I have wines to buy, people to call, events to plan (typical daily minutiae) and as I plod along I look up and, in a moment of sudden realization, say to myself “Holy smokes, the trees are turning yellow”.

Yep, summer is drawing to a close and, as usual, the gingko trees on my block are the first sign that the days are getting shorter and the nights are growing cooler as the season changes. Soon (hopefully) rain will return to this part of the world and the Bay Area hills will once again turn from brown to green.

This in-between season calls for foods that take advantage of the bounty of the harvest. We still have tomatoes and corn and eggplant, but now we also find shell beans, acorn squash and (soon) wild mushrooms.

This season calls for (begs for, pleads for, kicks and screams and rolls around on the floor for) tart, yeasty hard apple cider. In the Basque country this is a traditional springtime drink, but the flavors of this unique beverage evoke all the best elements of autumn in America.

Our latest batch of new wines also compliments the flavors of the season. This week we have several unique and delicious wines from some little known producers as well as from some well established bodegas.

Now is the moment to break out your olla, the traditional earthenware bean pot of Spain, and cook up a batch of pardina lentils, garbanzos, or big creamy Judión beans (my favorites). Once cooked, these legumes will serve as the beginning of any number of traditional recipes but they are also delicious all by themselves.

The following recipe takes full advantage of the unique products from The Spanish Table. Judión beans from Astorga (the bean capital of Spain), Serrano ham bones (a Spanish Table exclusive) and the lidded clay bean pots from Spain that cook slowly and evenly, insuring soft, fully cooked, unbroken beans.

Judión beans with Serrano Ham bone

(Serves 6-8 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

1 lb – Spanish dried Judión beans

1 – Serrano ham bone (joint end)

1 – earthenware olla (bean pot)

1 – teaspoon, sweet smoked paprika

2 – tablespoons, sea salt

Directions:

Rinse the dried beans under running water to remove any dust or debris. Soak the beans over night in the olla filled with water. The next day, drain the water and refill with fresh cold water to cover the soaked beans by two inches. Heat the olla over a medium flame on the stove. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer the beans for one hour before adding the ham bone and paprika. Continue simmering the beans for another hour or two until the beans are fully cooked but not falling apart. Add more water as needed to keep the beans submerged at all times. Add the salt only after the beans are fully cooked.

Serve along side grilled meats or fish. Alternately, add a few whole chorizos, morcillas and chunks of slab bacon to the bean pot and cook for another hour to create a version of Fabada Asturiana.

Isastegi Sagardo Kit Basque apple cider (cloudy gold colored with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor) is proving to be quite popular since its recent introduction here. Anyone who has tried this hard cider in Spain will tell you that you need the traditional cider glass to experience the drink at its best. We now have these thin glass tumblers, imprinted with the Isastegi logo (a limited edition) for sale. In our new Basque cider gift set you get a bottle of Isastegi Sagardo Naturala and two glasses for $19.99 ($11.99 for the cider alone). You can buy extra glasses for $4.99 each.

Con Class 2007 The new vintage of Con Class is here. This Rueda region white wine is an unoaked blend of Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc. Floral aroma blends well with citrus and tropical fruit flavors. This tart and refreshing wine is versatile and very food friendly. $12.99

El Chaparral 2007 The new vintage of El Chaparral is, as always, crafted from old vine Garnacha fruit from the Navarra region in Northern Spain. This medium bodied red wine combine fresh berry fruit character with a bit of black pepper spice and minerality that ad a ‘Rhone-like’ character to the wine. $15.99

Viña do Burato 2007 The new vintage of this wine from Ribeira Sacra in Northwestern Spain is bright and youthful, medium bodied and relatively low in alcohol (12.5%). Firm minerality and delicate floral combine with gentle fruit character. This small production wine (400 cases) is a rare treat from a region that deserves much more attention. $19.99

Azamor 2004 The Alentejo region of Portugal continues to be a source of new, interesting, nicely priced wines. This blend of numerous grapes (Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Franca, Trincadeira, Syrah, Merlot) displays dark color and smooth, elegant fruit character. A bit of gamey/earthy background adds complexity and depth this well made but not yet well known wine. $19.99

Beronia Gran Reserva 1996 If you have wanted to experience the distinct pleasure of a mature Gran Reserva Rioja but have been put off by the high prices that these wines command now is your chance to taste this style at a price that won’t make you hesitate. This wine spent two years in oak and has been ageing gracefully in the bottle for the past decade. Brownish brick red in color with gentle aromas of oak and coffee bean, this wine possesses elegant fruit character that evokes brandied cherries and cranberries. A wine for contemplation at a no-brainer price. $24.99

 

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Filed under Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, sidra (cider), Spain, White Wine

Spain in California

Every school kid in California learns about the Spanish heritage of this part of the world, going back to the days of ‘Alta California’ and ‘El Camino Reál’, but the names of Spanish explorers of the American west coast, names like De Anza, Cabrillo and Portola are no longer associated with historic figures. In modern times these Spanish family names are given to streets, shopping centers and housing sub-divisions. California’s Spanish history is, it seems, hiding in plain sight.

I’m currently reacquainting myself with the vestiges of colonial Spain here in the Bay Area and have noticed that (unlike the Spanish explorers from previous centuries) Spanish food and wine heritage is very much in evidence at present. In particular, this week I want to draw your attention to a few upcoming local events that highlight our shared Spanish history.

First up is a taste of ‘Alta California’ thanks to an enterprising group that goes by the name of ‘TAPAS’, which stands for Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society (hey, it’s a stretch, but it works). According to their website this local organization “is dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of wines made from all native Iberian grape varietals.”

If you want to experience what the Spanish explorers left behind (other than place names) you can try various wines made from grapes such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Albariño grown right here in California (and elsewhere in the USA) at an event hosted by TAPAS on Saturday August 9th at Copia (the wine/food museum) in Napa. Billed as “the most extensive tasting of American produced Iberian grape varietals ever offered”, this promises to be a detailed look at how domestic winemakers are responding to the current interest in all things Iberian.

Next in line for a little bit of the  California/Spain mashup treatment is a TV show (the cultural net gets widely cast around here) featuring our favorite dish, Paella, as prepared by local paellero to the stars, Gerard Nebesky. 

On Wednesday July 30th (9 pm PST) The Food Network will air an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay wherein the famous New York chef, restaurateur and TV personality will compete against Gerard Nebesky in a round of dueling Paellas.

The show was shot a few months ago in San Francisco and the final dishes created by Señores Flay y Nebesky were judged by Daniel Olivella, Executive Chef of B44 Restaurant in San Francisco as well as by our very own Andy Booth, co-owner of The Spanish Table (these guys know more than a thing or two about paella). Everyone involved in the show was sworn to secrecy about the final result (backed up by signed non-disclosure agreements) so we don’t yet know who actually prevailed in the competition. All will be revealed next Wednesday evening when the show airs for the first time.

For a first hand experience with Gerard’s Paella you can attend a big screen viewing of ‘Throwdown’ during the Wednesday June 30th broadcast, accompanied by the real thing. Gerard will be making his signature paella at Bistro de Copains in Occidental (Sonoma County) for a select group of Paella aficionados. For $30 you get paella, salad and the show, as well as the chance to rub elbows with a genuine TV star (Gerard, not Bobby). Reservations are required for this event. You can contact them by phone at (707)-874-2436.

Here in Berkeley we are excited to announce the arrival of new vintages from some favorite wineries as well as a few totally new items that we are very happy to share with you. What follows are my recommendations from the latest arrivals at The Spanish table in Berkeley.

 

Muga Blanco 2007 The newest vintage of Bodegas Muga’s popular white wine has arrived.  Made from 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, briefly aged for 4 months in French oak, this wine is poised between the rich, fleshy style of barrel aged white wine and the crisp, herbal style of the same wine aged in tank. The oak never dominates but only adds a touch of complexity to this excellent and well priced wine. $18.99

 

Muga Rosado 2007 Another perennial customer favorite from Muga is this rosado wine made from Tempranillo, Garnacha and, interestingly, a bit of white Viura too. This pale pink wine is crisp and lean, not cloying and fruity. The bright acidity and gentle berry-like fruit character maintain a fine balance of berry/citrus aromas and flavors. $14.99

 

Parés Baltà Ros de Pacs 2007 If you are looking for a tasty organic rosado for serving at your dinner table or sipping on your back porch, then consider this dark and fruity wine from the Penedès region of Catalunya. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is full of strawberry aroma and flavor, with sufficient acidity to keep the wine bright and refreshing. $11.99

 

Sur Bonarda 2006 We just got a great deal on a stack of this Argentine red wine from a high quality producer in the Mendoza region. The indigenous Bonarda grape produces dark, full bodied wines.  This wine is 100% Bonarda. It is garnet colored and expressive, with blackberry fruit character balancing the amargo back note that Bonarda is known for. $10.99

 

Capote Velho What A bargain! This non-vintage red wine from who knows where in Portugal has absolutely no pedigree but really delivers on freshness and versatility. This is a full liter of wine that possesses gentle berry-like fruit character and moderate tannins coupled with a moderate level of alcohol (11.5%). Like a no name house wine in a little Portuguese bar or restaurant, this red tastes great by itself and will also accompany, but not overshadow, a broad range of foods. $11.99 (1 Liter)

 

Grilos 2005 This red wine from the Dão region in Portugal is an excellent example of the improvements taking place in the region. No longer home to just funky/earthy/rustic reds, winemakers in the Dão region now make many bright and intriguing wines such as this blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro grapes that age for a mere 6 months in oak before bottling. Tart red berry fruit character and lightly oaked tannic core combine with aromas of pomegranate and wet stones. Was $15.99, now $12.99

 

Vina Alberdi Reserva 2001 The wines of La Rioja Alta are among the most traditionally styled of Rioja reds. The new Viña Alberdi, from the superlative 2001 vintage, has just arrived. Odd label change (blue skinned matrons in red sun dresses sipping wine) notwithstanding, this old school Rioja is brick red in  color with toasty barrel aromas along with notes of cigar box, cedar and minerals. Pie cherry and dark plum fruit character are in balance with the other elements. This is an excellent choice for long term cellaring but is drinking very well right now if given some air before service. $24.99

 

 

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

Back at Work

Were you were wondering what happened to this newsletter last week? I was on a belated summer vacation in the Sierras, but I’m back now, rested and ready to dive back into the exciting and ever changing world of wines at The Spanish Table.

While I was up in the mountains I couldn’t resist doing a Paella demonstration at a wonderful little restaurant in the Gold Country town of Twain Harte. The Prospector is a tiny place that specializes in wood oven cuisine including homemade breads and authentic Neapolitan style pizzas (the certificate from the Naples Pizza Authority hangs on the wall). The wine list is extensive and features many of the great Spanish wines you have come to know and love from shopping at The Spanish Table.  I had a great time cooking up a big paella out on the restaurant’s terrace under the pine trees and serving it to a sophisticated and knowledgeable group of food and wine appreciators. While you won’t find paella on the menu all the time, this hidden gem is well worth seeking out if you are in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, back in Berkeley we continue to receive new wines that are perfect for the in-between-summer-and-fall season that we currently find ourselves in. As I’m still getting back up to speed here, I’ll forego the recipe this week and cut to the chase. Here are our newest wines for your consideration:

 

Vale Da Torre 2005 $11.99 One of Portugal’s better known winemakers, Paulo Laureano, works with producers from all across Portugal. One of his recent goals is the recognition in the international wine market of indigenous Portuguese grape varieties. He has created a seal for wines featuring only Portuguese grape varieties, emphasizing the pride he feels for working with 100% national raw materials. The seal on Vale da Torre wines has a bunch of grapes with the Portuguese national shield pointing out the return to production methods that use the very best of local grapes. According to Paulo, defending indigenous grape varieties is the best way of promoting Portuguese wines in foreign markets. “To place our bets on our grape varieties” he says “is to bet on difference, and I believe that this is how our wines will succeed on international markets.”

Vale da Torre is composed of equal parts Aragonês (the Portuguese version of Tempranillo) and Trincadeira. Dark ruby color with initial aroma of black currant and oak followed by dark berry fruit character and firm tannins, that soften as the wine breathes. Serve this wine with Caldo Verde (Portuguese chard and potato soup), braised beef or roasted pork. Regular price: 11.99

 

Quinta de Bons-Ventos 2005 $11.99 Casa Santos Lima, located in the Portuguese town of Alenquer, north of Lisbon, is a family owned winery that has been operating since the end of the 19th century.  The 686 acre property is divided into several.  Wine grapes are the primary crop, covering 392 acres, leaving the rest of the land for the cultivation of apples, pears and plums. Currently over 50 grape varieties are grown, many of them experimentally. The winery building dates from the 1940s but has recently been modernized with stainless steel tanks and a new computerized bottling line.

Quinta de Bons-Ventos is a young wine composed of Castelão (also known as Periquita), Camarate, Tinta Miúda and Touriga Nacional. The wine is bottled after a brief 3-4 month period of barrel ageing. The end result is a gentle, young wine that displays youthful aroma of fresh berries, gentle fruit character and a soft velvety finish. This is a low alcohol wine (12.5 %) that works particularly well with pasta and rice dishes, composed salads and poultry. 

 

Obra Roble 2005 $10.99  Bodegas J.C. Conde makes the superlative ‘Neo’ in Aranda del Duero at the northern end of D.O. Ribera del Duero. Recently, this same winery created a line of well priced wines that display the traditional Ribera del Duero style. They call these new wines ‘Obra’.

Composed of 100% Tinto del País (Tempranillo by another name) harvested from 60 year old vines and aged in oak barrels for 4 months after fermentation, Obra Roble is a dark garnet colored wine with aromas of ripe berry and oak. Cherry and plum fruit character along with mellow tannins round out the picture. This young wine would pair well with grilled lamb chops and roasted potatoes wedges with rosemary and olive oil.

 

Mantonegro 2005 $18.99 We get a slim few wines from the island of Mallorca. This one is composed of 70% of the eponymous (and indigenous) Mantonegro along with another local grape called Callet as well as small additions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. This big, dark red is spicy, robust and more than a little bit wild. Josh Raynolds recently reviewed this wine for Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. He rated the wine at 90 Points. He said: “Medium red. Vibrant, mineral-accented strawberry and raspberry aromas display wonderful purity and depth. Refreshing red berry flavors are surprisingly concentrated, but emphasize juiciness. I like the combination of sweetness and clarity a lot. Finishes with excellent thrust and precision, leaving clean red berry and baking spice flavors behind.

 

Niepoort Redoma 2004 $47.99 The new vintage of this celebrated Portuguese red wine is now in stock. Famous winemaker Dirk Niepoort crafts this wine from the same top quality fruit that goes into his spectacular Vintage Port. Still in its infancy, this earthy D.O.C. Douro wine will benefit from a few years in the cellar.  Mark Squires at The Wine Advocate recently reviewed this wine. He scored it at 92 Points and said: “This wine is made from a mixed varietal blend (principally Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca) from a 60-year-old vineyard, although some older vines were used as well. It was raised for eighteen months in French oak. Cool, refreshing, and beautifully balanced, this is friendly and charming. The sweet mid-palate is young and primary. It is mid-weight, with notes of herbs around the edges. With air, the wine, which seemed rather flat, becomes brighter and livelier as the acidity and ripe tannins appear, and the finish finally shows a little grip, along with some bursts of acidity that were not always as friendly as the rest of the wine’s demeanor. Still, this is very young and in need of settling down. Rather debonair, this is also nicely textured. It became more interesting and intense with air, showing more tannins, acid and earth.

 

Niepoort Vertente 2004 $27.99 The younger sibling of Redoma is composed of a typical field blend of traditional Douro grapes. More approachable and youthful than the Redoma, this is a fine example of a modern Douro red. The Wine Spectator rated this vintage at 92 Points, saying:  Dark ruby in color, Vertente is composed of 40% Touriga Nacional–from 12-60 years old vineyards–along with Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and 15 other varieties. The aroma is port-like revealing notes of black cherries and dark plums, underscored by minerality and dark chocolate. On the palate, the ripeness of the fruit really explodes and the wine shows a refreshing acidity.”

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Filed under Portugal, Red Wine, Spain