Tag Archives: txakolina

Time Change

This weekend marks the return of Daylight Savings Time. Now is the moment to celebrate the return of evening sunshine and the impending arrival of Spring. Reset your internal wine clock with a glass of fresh, bright Spanish white wine and toast the upcoming vernal equinox.
While best known for red wines,  it is no longer a secret that Spain makes fabulous white wines too. We continue to find new and interesting choices among the ever growing selection of  vino blanco coming out of numerous regions spread across the Iberian peninsula. We just posted a handful of spectacular Spanish white wines on our website. These wines represent a broad swath of Northern Spain, from the Atlantic coast, up through Basque country, across the Spanish Meseta and finishing up in Catalonia near Barcelona. These crisp, refreshing wines are eminently food friendly and also delicious by the glass with no further accompaniments other than a bit of sunshine and some good conversation.

albet_i_noya_xarel_lo__102982009 Albet i Noya Xarel-lo Classic
is a bright, refreshing Spanish white wine from the Penedes region in Catalonia. This wine features the Xarel-lo grape most often used in sparkling Cava. Albet i Noya makes this still version of a varietal Xarel-lo from from old vine parcels of Xarel-lo, grown organically. Floral aromas blend well with lemon and white peach fruit character. Background minerality and light texture add further context to this young white wine that pairs well with young cheeses, marinated vegetables and cold seafood salads.


pazo_senorans__26850The 2009 Pazo Senorans Albarino
is a standard setting example of top quality Albarino. The interplay of floral aromas and flinty minerality creates an intriguing and refreshing expression of Galician soil and climate. Hints of tropical fruit, green herbs, and granite dust add to the rich complexity of this wine. An ideal pairing is seafood (of course!).  Try it with a salad topped with broad flakes of ventresca tuna or, the Spanish favorite, some pulpo (octopus) with pimenton.


urki__693382009 Urki Txakolina
is a deliciously refreshing white wine from the Basque country. Crisp, bright, white Txakolina wine with a bit of residual spritzy effervescence, abundant grapefruit/lemon notes and a firm mineral foundation is what everybody drinks while wandering through the old part of San Sebastian snacking on Pintxos of many varieties. Urki is an excellent example of this traditional wine. It refreshes the palate and awakens the appetite.


img_0229__633432007 Pecina Blanco
is a wonderfully traditional white Rioja. Hermanos Pecina are one of only a handful of producers left in Rioja who produce their wines in this very traditional style.  Made from 100% Viura, the juice is fermented in stainless steel but then allowed to age for a few years in bottle before release.  The extra time gives it a bit more richness along with notes of dried tropical fruit and herbs.  Totally unique and totally delicious.  Fans of the Lopez de Heredia whites take notice!

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What The Heart Wants

“It is the nature of desire not to be satisfied”.
That famous line from Aristotle is never more true than in the wine world where opinions and perceptions are in constant flux. The popularity of certain wines and various styles of winemaking change with the times, always in response to the desires of the wine drinking public.
Not so long ago rosado wines were considered by many to be sweet, simple, silly wines for summertime picnics. In just the last few years this perception has shifted dramatically. At The Spanish Table we now stock rosado all year long, in a variety of styles from numerous regions in Spain and Portugal. They range in hue from pale coral to ripe watermelon and express a spectrum of aromas and flavors. They can be dry or fruity, floral or mineral, ripe or lean.
Here are a few suggestions to dovetail with the arrival of Valentine’s Day. These are all fabulous representations of the broad range of exceptional pink wines available today at The Spanish Table. Try one of these with a special someone for a memorable Valentine’s Day experience.

img_4081__882672009 Gran Feudo Rosado

Bodegas Julian Chivite’s Gran Feudo Rosado is a classic Navarra region rosado.. It is a popular favorite in Spain as well as here in the USA. Made from all Garnacha grapes, this traditionally styled wine displays strawberry and watermelon aromas with bright acidity and a touch of minerality to tie everything together. This lightly fruity rosado wine makes for some classic Spanish refreshment.

 

 

2008_rosado_gurrutxaga__238642009 Gurrutxaga Rosado
An alternative to traditional white Txakoli, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of strawberry fruit character. Chill this and serve as you would a traditional Txakoli. You will be surprised how quickly this low alcohol wine disappears.


img_3694__64451Raventos de Nit Rosado Cava

Raventos i Blanc is a true pioneer of Cava production (this family winery was making sparkling wine before the name Cava existed). Their new vintage rosado cava is phenomenal. Adding 15% Monastrell to the traditional cava blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo tints the wine with the palest pink hue. Fine bubbles lift the yeasty brioche aroma from the glass. The barest hint of strawberry flavor adds context to the dry, crisp, pinpoint precise style that Raventos i Blanc is known for.


rosebrut_montferrant__65586Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado Cava

This rosado cava is a deliciously berry scented yet still dry and refreshing cava that not only looks great in the glass but also offers up classic cava aroma and flavor at a reasonable price. Mont Ferrant Brut Rosado is blend of Garnacha & Monastrell. Darker than many this has a huge following in both stores. Bright strawberry and blackberry flavors, with notes of toast, tangerine and a creamy mousse on the palate.

Portuguese Pink

Our selection of pink wines include several crowd pleasing options from Portugal. These uniquely delicious wines will add a distinctive note to festive meals and get togethers.

img_3683__65991Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rosé
Aveleda recently released this pink version of their most popular brand, Casal Garcia. Low alcohol and light effervescence are reminiscent of traditional white Vinho Verde. The pale pink hue and light berry aroma are a nice change of pace from the regular version. This spritzy, lightly fruity wine makes a wonderful start to a festive brunch or dinner party.

Luis Pato Espumante Rosé
Luis Pato, famous in Portugal for his bold red wines made from the indigenous Baga grape, has turned his attention to this unusual sparkling img_0205__51706Baga rosé. To produce this wine the grapes are harvested about six weeks early, which means that they have high acidity and low sugars, perfect for a refreshing sparkling wine. It shows pale watermelon color and flavors of tart cherries, pink grapefruit and the trademark earthiness and spice of Portuguese red wines.  All of these flavors are balanced out by bright acidity and foundational minerality.

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Filed under Portugal, rosado, Spain, Sparkling Wine

Pink Wines for Memorial Day

It has been a cold and damp month of May but warmer weather is just around the corner so we are stocking up on a bunch of Spanish rosado and Portuguese rose. These pale pink wines are the perfect choice for outdoor dining and entertaining, especially during daylight hours.
When a red wine might be too heavy and a white wine might be too lean, a crisp dry rosado, the Goldilocks of wines, is ‘just right’. These wines are as delicious with quick and easy tapas or light appetizers as they are with a big paella cooked on the grill.
The new 2009 pinks are arriving now. Some of these wines are only available in limited quantities so now is the time to stock up on your favorites while the supply lasts. Pick up a mixed case of pink wines and you will have them on hand for whenever the need arises as well as saving 10% on your entire purchase. I suggest keeping a bottle (or two) of rosado in the fridge at all times in case of unexpected guests or unanticipated thirst.

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rose Casal Garcia, the best known Vinho Verde on the planet now comes in a pink version. The refreshingly spritzy effervescence, low alcohol and bright character of Vinho Verde find expression here in a bright pink version that adds a bit of tart strawberry fruit character to the mix. This is a fun, informal, non-vintage Portuguese rose that grows in popularity with each passing week. $8.99

2009 Cune Rosado
This dry rosado, made from 100% Tempranillo, is a gently expressive pink wine from CUNE in Rioja. Fresh strawberry aroma and tangy fruit character make for a fresh, thirst quenching wine that works its magic best at sunset on the patio, shared amongst friends. $10.99

2009 Muga Rosado The limited edition rosado from Bodegas Muga is now in stock and selling quickly. This Rioja region wine is a unique blend of 60% Garnacha, 30% Viura and 10% Tempranillo. The use of white Viura in rosado is an old tradition in Rioja where Clarete wines (blends of white and red grapes) were once common. This pale salmon colored wine sells out long before the summer draws to a close so pick some up soon if you want to experience one of Spain’s best rosados. $12.99

2009 Muralhas de Moncao Vinho Verde Rose Adega de Moncao makes top notch Vino Verde wines that are very popular in Portugal. They make vintage dated wines (unlike the mass market versions that are non-vintage) from high quality fruit. The new Muralhas de Moncao Rose is made from a blend of indigenous varieties including Alvarelhao, Pedral and Vinhao. This refreshing low alcohol (11.5%) rose displays fresh berry aroma and citrusy fruit character carried along by the same slight effervescence of the traditional white Vinho Verde. Serve this with a few grilled sardines for a prefect Portuguese moment. $13.99

2009 Ameztoi Rubentis Txakoli Rosado We have been a champion of this distinctive pink Txakoli since its introduction a few years ago. This Basque wine, made in the town of Getaria along the coast near San Sebastian is lean and mineral with just a whiff of unripe strawberry aroma. This tart, spritzy rosado is much in demand and hard to find in retail shops. Our supply is very limited, making this a short lived opportunity, so act now or be disappointed. $19.99

2009 Gurrutxaga Txakolí Rosado An alternative to traditional white Txakolí, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of fresh berry fruit character. Low (10%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99

Cerveja Portuguesa

sagres can

Beer in cans used to get no respect. The current wisdom now holds that canned beer, especially imported beer, retains its flavor and freshness better than bottled beer. The can protects the beer from sunlight (a major contributor to spoilage) and seals better than bottle caps.
We just started carrying our favorite Portuguese beer, Sagres, in cans. We now have the big 500 ml (16 oz.) single cans for $1.99 each. They are perfect for a hot afternoon, accompanied by our new Barcelo’s Bifanas de Porco, quickly grilled and served on our (also new) Silva Bakery Paposeco roll. That’s some serious Portuguese snacking, right there!

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2009 Txakolí is here

The new vintage of Basque Txakolí (cha-koh-LEE) has just arrived in all its multifaceted glory. You will now find all three Txakolí regions (Getariako,Bizkaiko, Arabako) represented here. We have the traditional white versions as well as the rare and briefly available rosados. These wines all share a few common elements. Bright acidity and spritzy effervescence pair up with lean minerality and tart fruit character. They are all perfect warm weather refreshment by the glass and will particularly compliment anything to eat from the sea.

2009 Ameztoi Txakolí This wine is a perfect expression of the Basque white wine style common in San Sebastian and all across the Basque Country. Hondarribi Zuri grapes barely have a chance to ripen before harvest time along the cool, green Cantabrian coast. The resulting wine is light, flinty, slightly effervescent and grapefruit tart. $19.99

2009 Gurrutxaga Txakolí This wine from the Txakolina Bizkaiko region near Bilbao comes from a small family winery in Mendexa producing minuscule quantities of crisp, lean white wine composed of a tongue twisting blend of 60% Hondarribi Zuri, 20% Mune Mahatsa and 20% Txori Mahatsa. Bright acidity and slatey minerality characterize this refreshing wine. $19.99

2009 Gurrutxaga Txakolí Rosado An alternative to traditional white Txakolí, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of strawberry fruit character. Low (10%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99

2009 Xarmant Txakolí This wine comes from vineyards in the inland hills of Alava province where the grapes get a better chance of fully ripening than those along the coast, thus creating a fuller, rounder wine with less of the austere minerality of the coastal Txakolí. An excellent introduction to Txakolií for those who have yet to experience this wonderfully refreshing wine. $14.99

Rioja Bordon is back: In 1890, a Frenchman from Bordeaux and several Spanish winemakers founded a Rioja region winery which they named Bodegas Franco-Españolas in honor of their international partnership. Over the years this bodega has built a reputation for traditional wines made from the Tempranillo grape, slowly aged in oak barrels for many years before release. In modern times they are stalwart traditionalists, upholding a style that is less and less prevalent in the Rioja region.
These wines were hard to find in California until we contacted the importer on the east coast and arranged to have the wine shipped exclusively to us here at The Spanish Table. We moved through the first batch quickly last autumn and have just brought in another stack of the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva at the same great prices as last time. The only change is in the Gran Reserva which has moved into the (superlative) 2001 vintage.

Diamante 2008 This white Rioja is one of Spain’s best selling white wines. Made from Viura & Malvasia, there is a bit of residual sugar which gives this wine it’s touch of sweetness. Pour Diamante as a before dinner cocktail paired with a few cold tapas $12.99

Rioja Bordon Crianza 2005 This is a classic Rioja Crianza at an oustanding price. Tart cherry fruit character balances mature oak barrel aroma  and firm tannins. This is a perfect wine for serving with cured meats and hot tapas. $13.99

Rioja Bordon Reserva 2004 This Reserva Rioja from an outstanding vintage is rich and elegant. Dark color, silky texture, dark berry fruit and supple tannins combine to create this mature expression of classic Rioja style. $17.99

Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 2001 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. Soft and round this is a classic Gran Reserva for one knock out price.  $23.99

Baron d’Anglade Reserva 2001 Named after the founder of the Bodega, this is a denser, bolder wine than the regular Reserva. This wine is from the stellar 2001 vintage  Notes of dark cherry, allspice and clove, tobacco smoke and vanilla on a round, velvety frame.  Regular retail would be over $60, but we have it for sale at $49.99

Follow the various links above to find these wines at: spanishtablewines.com

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Filed under Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Learning About Spain

The Wine Academy of Spain, an educational organization run by Pancho Campo (Spain’s first Master of Wine) stopped in San Francisco last week as part of a US tour currently wrapping up in Washington DC.
I joined a group of Spanish wine enthusiasts for the three day seminar that covered all of Spain’s regions, grapes and winemaking styles. I got to brush up on my Spanish wine knowledge and tried many new wines as well as some familiar favorites.
Esteban Cabezas and his crew did a fabulous job of squeezing a ton of information into a short space of time. I gleaned all sorts of tidbits of information that I will be sharing with you in the days and weeks to come.
My thanks and appreciation go out to The Wine Academy of Spain and to Catavino for sponsoring my attendance to the seminar (I won the scholarship for my why-I-love-Spanish-wine blog entry). Hopefully I passed the exam and in a few weeks will have a handsome Spanish Wine Educator certificate to hang on the wall.
I retried a few wines at the Wine Academy of Spain course that are making a repeat appearance here as a result of a good showing at the seminar. Check out this week’s wine notes for the Aria Brut Cava, Gramona Imperial Cava and the red Fra Guerau Monsant. They are now back in stock and drinking beautifully.

Espelt Vailet 2007 After my recent trip to the Empordá region of Spain (up along the French border on the Mediterranean side) I have been eagerly buying all the wine from this little known, rocky, sparsely populated corner of the globe. A few weeks back we featured the red from Espelt as well as the rosado. The white wine from Espelt has just come back in stock and I recommend it this week as a new option for those seeking bright, fresh white wines with distinctive character. The blend is 60% Garnacha Blanca and 40% Macabeo (Viura for you white Rioja fans). Crisp minerality is supplemented here with a bit of green herb and citrus character. $12.99
Aria Brut This Cava has been a well loved favorite and is finally back in stock here in Berkeley. This frothy blend of the three traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada)presents a fresh, balanced side of Cava with a bit of green apple fruit adding counterpoint to the mineral foundation. $10.99
Gramona Imperial 2004 For those who appreciate the complexity of long aged Cava, this vintage sparkler is always a welcome sight. 3-4 year of cellar age gives this wine a very Champagne-like character. Adding 10% Chardonnay to the blend of 50% Xarel-lo and 40% Macabeo adds to the similarity with French bubbly. Yeasty brioche aroma, an elegant mineral backnote and a bit of brandied fruit on the finish. $31.99
Fra Guerau 2003 This was one of the first wines that caught my attention back when I started with The Spanish Table. I recently retasted Fra Guerau and was reminded of the pure pleasure that comes from this blend of numerous grapes (Syrah, Garnacha, Cariñena, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Monastrell) from the Montsant region. Dark garnet color, sweet berry fruit character and well integrated barrel character (thanks to several years of bottle age) make this an easy wine to pair with all kinds of food. $13.99
Zaumau Priorat 2008 Carlos Escolar make miniscule quantities of wine in DOC Priorat. Old vine Garnacha and Samsó (the local name for Cariñena) are blended here in an unoaked red that expresses the rocky terruño of the region in a pure, darkly colored, ripely fruited style. Foregoing the barrel ageing regimen brings the price down significantly for this wine from a region not known for bargains. $17.99
Viña Lanciano Reserva 2001 Nothing says ‘Spain’ quite like a slowly matured Tempranillo from Rioja. This wine,from the superlative 2001 vintage, is composed of the best estate grown fruit from Bodegas LAN. Two years in the barrel followed by 5 years resting in the bottle in the cellar have created an elegant, traditional wine that blends tannic oak with tart cherry fruit character. Aromas of fresh earth, cured meat and wood smoke add depth and nuance to this excellent example of old school Rioja. $28.99

TapasWalk In The News

Last Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle ran a feature on the Spanish wine & food walking tour that I do called TapasWalk. Using my tour as an example, Janet Fletcher wrote a detailed piece on the burgeoning tapas scene now happening in downtown San Francisco. “In this new little world straddling North Beach, the Financial District and Russian Hill,” Fletcher wrote, “a Bay Area tapas enthusiast with good walking shoes can do the sort of bar hopping that many Spaniards enjoy nightly.” She included a lexicon of useful terminology for those less familar with Spanish cuisine as well as a few recipes for traditional tapas that you can make at home (with a few ingredients from The Spanish Table, of course). If you missed it in the paper last week you can still read the article online here.


Txakolí Wisdom


In tandem with last week’s San Francisco Chronicle article by Janet Fletcher about the downtown tapas scene, Jon Bonné put together a detailed and up-to-date summary of the current state of Basque Txakolí wine. If you have yet to experience the distinct joy of Txakolí, this article tells you all you need to know to get started. We carry all the Txakolí wines and (just between you and me) we even have some of the elusive Txakolí rosado still in stock.

Txakolí Etiquette

If you have visited San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country you probably noticed how the local bartenders pour the Txakolí wine with an outstretched arm from high overhead. Now our good friends from Vinos Unico have made an instructional video that shows just how to pour Txakolí like a pro. Check them out here:


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

Memorial Day

Got big plans for the holiday weekend? Of course you do. Chances are you’ll be firing up the grill and (hopefully) pouring a little vino. To facilitate the choosing of appropriate beverages for Memorial Day, here are a few new options for your consideration.
Don Simon Sangria You want the real Spain? Put aside visions of bullfights and flamenco dancers and visit a Spanish supermarket or gas station where regular folks take care of everyday business. And what will you find there? You will find wines from Don Simon, usually packaged in juice box style cartons. So imagine my excitement to find Don Simon Sangria on offer from a local distributor. This big 1.5 Liter jug of pre-made Sangria needs only a garnish of seasonal fruit and some ice to turn your back yard into a little slice of Spain. $10.99
Estrella Damm For those who have visited Barcelona, this beer will be very familiar to you and will rekindle fond memories of that Catalan metropolis. This crisp, lager style beer is now in good supply here in the USA and makes a perfect addition to a Spanish themed party or meal. $10.99 per 6 pack.
Van Zellers Douro Branco 2007 The table wine renaissance in Portugal’s Douro Valley has produced numreous red wines of distinction and quality. Now more white wines are starting to make an appearance. Cristiano van Zeller at Quinta do Vale D. Maria makes this crisp white wine that exhibits fresh herbaceous aroma, bright acidity and gentle melon-like fruit character. $17.99
Gurrutxaga 2008 The Basque white wine called Txakoli has become a favorite of many wine drinkers who have grown tired of heavily oaked, densely fruity white wines. Bodegas Gurrutxaga is a small family winery in Mendexa producing minuscule quantities of this crisp, lean white wine composed of a tongue twisting blend of 60% Hondarribi Zuri, 20% Mune Mahatsa and 20% Txori Mahatsa. Bright acidity and slatey minerality characterize this refreshing summertime wine. $19.99
Gurrutxaga Rosado 2008 An alternative to traditional white Txakoli, Gurrutxaga also comes in this rosado version that uses the red Hondarribi Beltza grape to produce a very dry pink wine that expresses the barest hint of strawberry fruit character. Low (10.5%) alcohol makes this a perfect starter wine for summertime entertaining. $19.99
Rento 2001 Bodegas Renacimiento de Olivares makes traditionally styled red wines from old vine Tinta del País (Tempranillo)in the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain. Originally in the $40+ range, we just secured a small quantity of the 2001crianza at a very nice price. Darkly tinted, this rich, earthy red expresses classic regional style. $19.99
Preludio Tempranillo 2007 Yes, Argentina offers much more than just Malbec for red wine enthusiasts. The newly arrived 2007 vintage of this Tempranillo from Tempus Alba displays bright berry-like fruit along with a modest note of barrel character. $13.99

Vega Sicilia Pre-Arrival Offer

In DO Ribera del Duero Vega Sicilia produces Spain’s most famous wines. The rare and expensive Unico is produced only in excellent vintages and is intended for long term storage. The second label, Valbuena is sourced from younger vines and is ready to drink at a younger age. A second brand called Alion, created in 1992 and produced at a separate facility comes in at a more affordable price (relatively speaking). More recently a new bodega in DO Toro produces a wine called Pintia that has garnered much praise and attention from the press and public.
We are offering these wines on a pre-arrival basis for those of you who wish to partake in the enjoyment of an icon. This will be your one chance to pick these wines up at slightly better than usual prices and the only opportunity to pick up Unico and Valbuena which won’t be available in the store. Give a call if these are of interest to you.
1999 Vega Sicilia Unico $380.00
2004 Vega Sicilia Valbuena $150.00
2005 Alion $76.00
2006 Pintia $62.00
(Magnums are available too. Contact us for pricing)

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

New Discoveries

At The Spanish Table we are always on the hunt for new wines to bring in and share with you. Sometimes we try something in a restaurant or bar that makes us start writing tasting notes on the back of napkins. Other times an eager salesperson will arrive at our door with something exciting and new. Only rarely will a trip to a large wine tasting event turn up anything of particular interest. With hundreds of wines to taste, those particularly unique or special bottles often get lost in the crowd.
Over the last few weeks I have found several wines that are the happy exceptions to this general rule.
At Viniportugal, a tasting of new Portuguese wines, I tried many distinctive (and well priced) wines that are already starting to appear here on our shelves. The Vinho Verde rosé (yep, pink Green Wine) that arrives this week is a perfect example.
A dry Moscatel from Malaga was the revelation of the recent portfolio tasting of the wines from importer Jorge Ordoñez.
Finding uniquely tasty wines is one of the things that makes my job fun, just as finding these same wines on the shelf at The Spanish Table is one of the reasons that shopping here is so much fun. I like finding unique wines. You like buying unique wines. What can I say? It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Casal Garcia Rosé NV
You love crisp, spritzy Portuguese Vinho Verde, right? Have you ever tried a Vinho Verde rosé? I bet not. Aveleda just came out with this pink version of their most popular brand, Casal Garcia. This will, I predict, become one of our most popular wines for summertime sipping. Low alcohol and light effervescence remind me of the traditional white Vinho Verde Branco. The pale pink hue and lightly fruity berry aroma and flavor are a nice change of pace from the regular version. $8.99

Botani 2008
Among the many interesting wines at the recent Jorge Ordoñez trade tasting, this one stood out as particularly intriguing. Botani is a dry Moscatel from the same Malaga region winery that produces several exemplary sweet wines from the same grape variety. The floral, concentrated aroma is classic Moscatel but the palate is crisp and only lightly fruity. This pale greenish colored wine possesses a finely tuned balance of flavors that express a fresh and unique side of this ancient region.  $21.99

Ameztoi Txakoli 2008
With the arrival of the 2008 vintage of Ameztoi, the Txakoli season has officially begun. We will see several more of these Basque wines from the new vintage over the next few weeks but this wine does just about everything I need a Txakoli to do which is to refresh but never overwhelm. Crisp, lean Hondarribi Zuri grapes barely have a chance to ripen before harvest time along the cool, green Cantabrian coast. The resulting wine is light, flinty, slightly effervescent and grapefruit tart. Add some oiled cured cantabrian anchovies, a few pickled Guindilla peppers and a wedge of Basque sheep’s milk cheese and I am pretty much set. $19.99

Altozano Tinto 2006
The good folks at Bodegas Gonzalez Byass who bring you Tio Pepe Fino Sherry are in charge of the Castilla region winery that produce this wine as well as the Altozano Blanco that many of you have been enjoying lately. This wine is a blend of 65% Tempranillo and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, part of which ages in oak for a short 4 months before bottling. Bright Tempranillo fruit gets a bit of structure and weight from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Light barrel tannins add a bit of toasty nuance without obscuring the rest of the picture. $10.99

Monjardín Crianza 2002
Castillo de Monjardín lies in the northwest corner of Navarra, in the foothills of the Pyrenées, not far from the French border. Historic ties and geographic proximity make traditional French grapes more prevalent here. Monjardín Crianza is composed of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Tempranillo. Dark color and cherry/berry fruit character receive added tannic structure form 15 months of barrel age at the winery before bottling. After 4+ years in the bottle the oak is well integrated and the wine is fully mature and ready to drink. This excellent value will only be around for a short time before the last of it is gone. $9.99

Pardevalles Gamonal 2006
The new vintage of Gamonal is in, which is good news, especially if you have been enjoying the recent arrival of several other wines made from the same Prieto Picudo grape. Once thought of as only fit for simple summertime rosado wines, Prieto Picudo is now getting more serious attention. The newly demarcated Tierra de León region is home to numerous parcels of Prieto Picudo, including some older vines. The small, pointy, olive shaped fruit produce tart wines with distinctive minerality. Gamonal 2006 uses 100% Prieto Picudo, aged for 9 monthes in oak to add depth and structure. The final result is dark, expressive and just a bit wild. $21.99

Dia de Las Madres

On Sunday, surprise Mom by  not making her breakfast.
Let her sleep in for goodness sake! But, once she is up and has had her coffee (or whatever morning ritual she normally enjoys) make her lunch. Not just any lunch, mind you. Make her this:

Kevin’s “Te Quiero, Mamá” Best Ham and Cheese Sandwich Ever

1- Acme Twinkle
(for those not residing near Berkeley’s Acme Bakery, substitute a 6″ section of the best baguette you can find)

2-ounces (about 3 slices) of Jamón de Bellota
(the ham alone will run you about $25, but feel free to substitute Jamón Serrano if you love your mother a little less)

2-ounces (about 3-4 thin slices) Idiazabal Sheep’s milk cheese from Basque Country

1-tablespoon Cadi Mantequilla (Catalan butter from the Pyrenées)

Split the bread lengthwise
Spread the butter on both cut halves and fill with the ham and cheese.
Close the sandwich and grill lightly, just enough to warm the bread, on your electric panino toaster (don’t have a panino toaster? Use your “George Foreman” grill instead, turned to low).
Serve with a small green salad and a glass of rosado.

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

Reboot

For many of the less technically inclined among us the on/off button is our solution to all electronic device issues. Everything has them these days (computers, phones, televisions, even cars). When in doubt, start over from scratch by turning everything off and back on again. The circle with a vertical line sticking out from the top is the modern ideogram for renewal (not, as I first imagined, the international symbol for coconut with a straw in it).

After a busy holiday season and a brief break from the newsletter action (by the end of December I was all talked out so I took a few weeks off for some personal defragmentation) it’s time to hit the restart button and share anew with you the ongoing excitement of the Iberian wine world.

New wines from Spain, Portugal and Latin America are arriving weekly here and the year ahead looks very promising. Improved currency exchange rates and lower fuel costs are leading to some price reductions in imported wines while the current renaissance in Iberian winemaking is both fostering innovative new wines as well as creating markets for traditional styles that were previously unknown outside their regions of origin.

At The Spanish Table we continue to bring you a selection of high quality wines at all price levels. In the year ahead we will also post more recipes, offer additional classes and organize new events to share the distinctive flavors of Spain and Portugal with you, our loyal customers.

This week brings a new version of a traditional recipe, the announcement of an upcoming class that we offer only 3 times a year and the release of some of the most anticipated wines of the season. Onward!

Lentejas Con Chorizo (Lentils with Chorizo sausage) is a popular home-style dish in Spain. This dense, meaty stew is perfect cold weather fare. I have lightened up the texture to create a soup that delivers the same flavors in a brothy version more appropriate to our moderate climate. This soup can be made in a vegetarian version by omitting the chorizo and adding a bit more smoked paprika.

 

Lentil Soup with (or without) Chorizo

(makes 6-8 portions)

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                          1 lb. dried Spanish Pardina lentils (approximately 2 cups)

2 qt. water

1 bay leaf

1 large yellow onion

2 ribs of celery (1 rib yields approximately 1/2 cup)

3 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 large leek (yields approximately 1½ cups)

2 large carrots (yields approximately 3/4 cup)

4 oz. Spanish style chorizo sausage (optional) (yields approximately 1 cup)

1 teaspoon Spanish Sweet smoked paprika (1 ½ teaspoons for the vegetarian version)

1 teaspoon whole cumin

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley or cilantro

2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar

Directions:

Rinse the dried lentils under fresh water to remove any dust or dirt. Cut the onion in quarters leaving the skin on. Roughly chop one of the ribs of celery. Combine the rinsed lentils, bay leaf, onion and celery with 2 quarts of cold water in a soup pot (preferably a Spanish earthenware olla). Bring the pot to a boil on the stove and then simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are just cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion and celery.

Finely dice the leek, carrot, remaining celery and chorizo (if using). In a separate pan heat the olive oil and sauté the diced vegetables and chorizo for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and paprika to the pan and sauté the spices briefly to release their flavors. Add the contents of the sauté pan to the soup pot and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. Mince the parsley or cilantro and add to the pot along with the Sherry vinegar. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with grilled whole grain bread and a nice bottle of red wine.

 

 

Paella Class: The first paella and wine class of the year is coming up at Kitchen on Fire cooking school here in Berkeley. 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.

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

Nomad 2005 Jeff Jarvis and Jessica Tomei are husband and wife winemakers working in the Sierra foothills (Jarvis Tomei Syrah) as well as in Chile where, along with fellow American T.J. Evans, they make Nomad from a blend of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Syrah, 7 % Carmenère and 2 % Malbec. This ripe, spicy red is finely tuned and expressive with moderate barrel character and smooth texture. This small production bottling (2,000 cases in total) will reawaken your interest in Chilean wine. $14.99

 

Esboço Douro 2005 This young red wine from the Portuguese Douro Valley is made up of mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca along with a whole laundry list of other Douro grapes as is the tradition in this ancient region where field blending is the norm. Dark color and earthy aroma create a first impression much in keeping with traditional Portuguese style augmented here with ripe, youthful fruit character that is not so common in wines from this region. $14.99

 

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2004 The new vintage of this single vineyard Rioja has just arrived. Composed of the fruit of one large contiguous vineyard in the heart of DOC Rioja (extremely rare in a region full of tiny vineyard parcels) this reserve level wine is 90% Tempranillo with the remaining 10% made up of Graciano, Mazuelo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby/garnet color, moderate oak barrel aroma and dark berry fruit character. 18 months of barrel age gives the wine a tannic core that has softened over the years. This smooth, opulent, plush Rioja is tilted toward a more modern style (more fruit, less wood) without loosing sight of the traditional aged reserva character that the wine is rightfully famous for. At first release this wine was pushing $40 but things are looking better now. $28.99

 

Clio 2006 The “it wine” of the moment, this  blend of old vineMonastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon from DO Jumilla has received some out of the ballpark reviews since its first vintage in 2002. Customers call from across the country looking for this full-bodied, plush wine that combines layer upon layer of spice, vivid fruit and oak. We just got a small allocation from the distributor, most likely the only one for the year and are offering it on a first-come-first-served basis.  $47.99

 

El Nido 2006 The elder sibling of Clio. Using more Cabernet Sauvignon and less Monastrell in the blend (from the estate’s best fruit) adds a firmer tannic element to the complex and ripe fruit character. This wine is built for long term storage and will really start to show its best side in 6-8 years. Extremely limited, we have a mere 8 bottles to offer. Again, no limits on purchase quantities while supply lasts. $148.00

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

Sidra

It will come as no surprise to you, brave readers of this newsletter, that the food and wine traditions from Spain are currently quite popular on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to retailers like The Spanish Table, many unique and delicious Spanish products are finding their way into American kitchens and dining rooms, often for the first time.

In spite of all the recent attention, some of Spain’s regional specialties are still hard to find in the USA. The famous Pata Negra ham, for instance, has only just become available here. Wines from lesser known regions are found only in specialty shops like The Spanish Table.

One product that has been noticeably absent from the US market is the traditional hard apple cider from Spain’s northern coastal regions, specifically the sagardo (sidra in Spanish) from the Basque region along the border with France.

Happily, this tart, yeasty farm house cider has begun to take hold here in America. A few weeks ago I announced the arrival of the Basque cider made by Bereziartua, fulfilling a multi-year quest to find, buy and offer this product for sale to our customers. Today we have just received yet another sagardo, this one by Isastegi. Add to this the traditional sparkling cider from Asturias in three styles (one hard cider and two non-alcoholic versions) that we have carried for years and together they constitute the largest collection of sidra/sagardo on the west coast.

“So what’s the big deal with cider” you may ask?

Like Manzanilla in Jerez or Txakoli in Basque Country, the sagardo tradition is best experienced first hand. The place to learn about this traditional beverage is at a Sagardotegi, the typical cider mill that can be found all across the Basque region.

These businesses are usually part family residence, part cider mill and part seasonal restaurant. In the springtime, barrels of freshly fermented cider are tapped for thirsty crowds that gather for a taste of the new vintage as well as for the traditional Sagardotegi meal of omelets, salt cod with fried green peppers, thick bone-in rib eye steaks grilled over charcoal and walnuts in the shell with honey and cheese for dessert. This meal is usually eaten standing up so as to accommodate frequent trips to the barrel room for refills.

To get an idea of how this works, check out this video made at Bereziartua Sagardotegi. To acquaint yourself with (or revisit) the true flavor of basque sagardo, come pick up one of our two new brands of hard cider and pour them with the following recipe.

Chistorra con Sidra (basque chorizo braised in apple cider)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon, Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup, thinly sliced white onion

1 lb. basque style chistorra sausage

1 cup, basque apple cider

1 bay leaf

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a 10” clay cazuela (or sauté pan). Add the sliced onions to the oil and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes until the onions get soft and start to brown. Slice the long, skinny chistorra (sometimes spelled Txistorra) into bit sized pieces and brown lightly in the hot oil for about 6-8 minutes. If you are using a clay cazuela, bring the cider and bay leaf to a simmer in a separate pan and then add the hot liquid to the cazuela (adding cold liquid to a hot cazuela can crack it). If you are using a sauté pan you can add the cider straight to the pan without preheating it. Simmer the sausages in the cider for 20-30 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. Serve hot with some bread on the side to sop up the juices, and more cider to wash it all down.

Isastegi Sagardo This traditional Basque apple cider is cloudy gold colored with yeasty fermented aroma and tart apple flavor. This unfiltered artisan cider displays just a hint of sweet apple character along with apple skin tartness filling in the rest of the flavor profile. At six percent alcohol this makes a nice alternative to beer on a hot afternoon. $11.99

Bereziartua Sagardo 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 in early spring and the rest of the year they drink from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99

El Gaitero Sidra Asturiana This is the most widely recognized brand of sparkling hard cider from the Asturias region on the north coast of Spain. Clear gold color, abundant effervescence and sweet red apple fruit character make this a favorite at parties and family gatherings in Asturias and elsewhere in Spain. $8.99

La Gaita Sidra $2.99

El Gaitero Verde $3.99

El Gaitero in Asturias makes several non-alcoholic apple ciders that are very similar to the regular El Gaitero in flavor, but without the booze. Pretty champagne style bottles with old style labels on the outside, lots of bubbles and sweet apple flavor on the inside.

New arrivals in the wine department:

Salneval Albariño 2007 This younger sibling to the ever popular Condes de Albarei is a fine example of well priced Albariño. Melon and citrus fruit character balances gentle minerality in this wine. Recently The New York Times praised this wine among several other Albariño wines from the Rías Baixas region, saying “Pleasing, with flavors of white peaches, cantaloupe and lemon.” You can read more of this informative article here. $10.99

Ameztoi Txakoli – Upelean Hartzitua 2007 This is the limited edition Ameztoi Txakoli that spends some time ageing in large neutral oak foudres. Made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape just like the regular Ameztoi, this wine displays the typical flinty minerality and green apple fruit character of Txakoli along with a subtle bit of rich texture and leesy aroma imparted by the big barrels. $18.99

Altos de La Hoya 2006 This wine from Jumilla has always been a benchmark Monastrell from Spain. Ungrafted old vines with fat and lush flavors of deep, sweet dark berries, some black pepper and just a touch of baked earth. Great concentration and richness. This tastes like a much more expensive wine than it is. $12.99

Juan Gil 2006 We just got in the new vintage of this popular Monastrell from Jumilla, made by Miguel Gil, one of the pioneers of this grape and this region. Dark color and concentrated blackberry aroma create the first impression, leading on to sweet dark berry fruit character and a touch of grape skin tannin. A fine example of a pure Monastrell wine. $16.99

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

Spain is the winner

Did you notice that Spain won the European football championship last week? Of course you did, but you also get this newsletter so you are probably among those who follow this sort of thing.

A front to back search of local sports pages last week turned up scant coverage of this important news. I think this says more about America’s ambivalence toward ‘soccer’ than it does about American interest in Spain, but whether or not you are interested in the sport you have to feel good for the Spanish. They have not won this championship in a long, long time. It reminded me of when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series after falling short for so many seasons, only for Spain this was a national moment of pride, not a regional success story.

Here at The Spanish Table we celebrate the glory of Spain each and every day with great things to eat and drink. Recently the weather in the Bay Area has taken on a decidedly Castilian tone, with hot dry air and abundant sunshine replacing our normal cool, foggy summer climate, so now is a perfect time to create a bit of Iberian ambience in your own back yard.

Break out the red and gold decorations. Fire up the grill and cook up a mess of chorizo, morcilla and chuletas.  Stock the ice chest with refreshing Spanish rosado, cava and cerveza. Crank up the stereo and blast some old school flamenco (or some Rodolfo Chikilicuatre for the younger crowd).  For the full effect, try all of the above at about 10 pm (I suggest you invite the neighbors).

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that The Spanish Table is your one-stop-shop for just about everything necessary (food, wine, décor, music) to create your very own Spanish fiesta, Portuguese festa, or a good old back yard cookout with a few creative flourishes.

Here is a recipe from my childhood in Georgia that I have adapted with a bit of Iberian flair. As a kid, ‘Pigs in Blankets’ was what we called hot dogs wrapped in biscuit dough and baked. I never really liked them much. I thought the best part was whacking the cardboard tube of pre-made biscuit dough on the edge of the kitchen counter and watching the dough expand and ooze out of the split tube.

In a recent fit of nostalgia I retooled this recipe using my own biscuit dough and little chorizos from The Spanish Table. The results have completely changed my mind about this fun and easy party snack. Try it for your self and let me know what you think.

 

Cerditos en Mantas

(Serves 4-6)

 

2.5 cups all purpose flour (and a bit more for rolling out the dough)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon salt

¼ cup cold lard

¾ cup buttermilk

12 small Spanish style chorizos (I use Doña Juana Cantimpalitos)

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cold lard and combine with the flour by squeezing the mixture through your fingers until barely mixed and somewhat lumpy. Add the buttermilk and mix briefly. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and pat or roll out to about ½ inch in thickness. Cut dough into 12 triangles, approximately 3” on each side.  Place one chorizo in the center of each dough triangle. Fold two corners of the triangle over the center of the chorizo and press with your thumb to seal the points together. Leave the ends of the chorizo exposed. Place the wrapped chorizos on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a 45o degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the dough is fully cooked and starting to brown. Plate and serve immediately.

 

Blanco Nieva Sauvignon Blanc 2007 The Rueda region of Northern Spain is best know for producing white wines from the Verdejo grape, but they also grow a fair amount of Sauvignon Blanc. This new arrival is fresh as fresh can be, with abundant citrus blossom aroma and racy acidity. In the early stage of its development this wine displays a touch of residual effervescence which will fade with time. The ripe melon fruit character is still a bit subdued, but will become more predominant in a few more months. I suggest you try this unique wine right away to experience it at its freshest, then try it again later on in the year to experience the more mellow aspect of the wine. $17.99

 

Oreka 2007 We love the Txakoli, yes we do, and this is one of our perennial favorites, now available in the latest vintage. Oreka is the top of the line bottling from the Talai Berri winery just outside of Zarautz on the Cantabrian coast. This 100% Hondaribbi Zuri wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at temperatures just barely above freezing in order to preserve the delicate fruit character of this grape. Pale yellow color with greenish reflections. Edgy minerality and grapefruit-like flavor. This is an excellent, pin point precise example of what one should expect from quality Txakoli wine.  $19.99

 

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla Rosado 2007 The pink version of Vi D’Agulla is here and man, this stuff is tasty! You may well remember my enthusiastic endorsement of Avinyó’s traditional, spritzy, white Vi D’Agulla made from Petit Grain Muscat. Now those same winemakers have decided to produce a rosado version of Vi D’Agulla using Merlot grapes.  The spritz and the minerality of the original are still present in the new wine, along with a beautiful crystalline ruby hue and a modest amount of ripe berry fruit character. $14.99

 

Ricardo Santos Malbec 2006 This was the first Malbec to catch my attention back when we first started stocking wines from Argentina. The new vintage of this single vineyard wine has arrived and it too appeals to me because, unlike some Malbecs, this wine shows some restraint in its expression of fruit character. The dark berry flavor typical of Malbec is present to be sure, but it doesn’t overwhelm the other aspects of the wine, including tart barrel tannins, cigar box aroma and background minerality. $17.99

 

Tercos Sangiovese 2005 Wine in Argentina is more than just Malbec. This wine, made by Pedro and Patricio Santos (the sons of Ricardo Santos) is made from 100% Sangiovese, a grape that predominates in Italy. This darkly colored yet brightly flavorful red wine exhibits fresh berry fruit character with underlying tannins and tart acidity. This is the first vintage of this young wine. Tercos means ‘stubborn’ or ‘obstinate’ in Spanish, perhaps indicating a commitment to quality and tradition, or maybe it means the sons held their breath and stomped their feet until Dad let them have a winery of their own. Either way, this is a tasty bottle from a skilled winemaking family. $11.99

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2007 The Achaval Ferrer winery, just barely ten years old, is quickly becoming one of the most highly sought after sources of top shelf Argentine wines. This wine is made from 100% Malbec from their various estate vineyards. Almost opaque in color, this unfiltered wine displays the dark berry fruit character that Malbec is known for as well as a touch of barrel tannin from 10 months in French oak. Smoky aroma and tart acidity add depth to this young wine. This is an excellent value from a winery known for making some very exclusive high end bottlings. $22.99

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