Tag Archives: Verdejo

The Hits Keep On Coming

The wine section at The Spanish Table is an ever changing place. You just never know what will roll in the door around here from week to week. Right now I am enamored with the refreshing summer white wines (with one pink exception) from Spain and Portugal that sometimes get overshadowed by the abundance of deliciously interesting (or is that interestingly delicious?) red wines from these countries. The white Albariño and Verdejo varietal wines from Spain were the first to receive attention from American wine drinkers. We continue to be attracted to these wines for the citrus and mineral aromas and flavors that create bright,refreshing wines that can stand on their own yet also work well with food. Now we are seeing more wines from Spain that are made from the Godello grape, a variety that often produces soft, gentle wines with flavors of melon and stone fruit. In Portugal, new white wines from all across the country are making inroads here in the USA where once only Vinho Verde was found. Encruzado is a white grape that is now showing up regularly in many of the white wines from Portugal. Even the long neglected Portuguese rosé wines are making a comeback, as illustrated by the current popularity of pink Vinho Verde which, like an AM radio pop song from a summer long past, will live on in memory as a nostalgic time stamp long after the season is over.
Casal Garcia Rosé NV Aveleda just came out with this pink version of their most popular brand, Casal Garcia. The first shipment came and went in a matter of weeks, but happily there is now more. I predicted that this would become one of our most popular wines for summertime sipping and so far my statement holds true.  Low alcohol and light effervescence remind me of the traditional white Vinho Verde. The pale pink hue and lightly fruity berry aroma and flavor are a nice change of pace from the regular version. $8.99
Meia Encosta Branco 2008 The red version of Meia Encosta has been a big success so now we bring you the white wine from this Dão region producer known as Vinhos Borges. Meia Encosta Branco is a gentle, refreshing and lightly floral blend of Encruzado, Malvasia and Bical. This unoaked, medium-weight white wine shows some fruity ripeness as well as a foundational layer of green herbs and minerals. $7.99
Castelo do Papa Godello 2008 The Valdeorras region is the traditional home of Godello varietal wines. Softer and gentler than many Spanish whites, this Godello varietal wine displays notes of white peach and apricot along with underlying minerality to maintain balance. $14.99
Can Feixes Blanc Selecció 2008 The Penedès region of Catalunya is best known for sparkling Cava but the local grapes can make some truly stunning still wines as well. Can Feixes is composed of 40% Parellada, 30% Macabeo(known elsewhere as Viura), 20% Chardonnay and 10% of the rare Malvasía de Sitges. Like a wine version of a Gin & Tonic, this wine has a bit of quinine-like minerality along with a refreshing blast of lime zest. This new 2008 vintage has just been released. $14.99
Shaya Verdejo 2008 The Verdejo grape predominates in the Rueda region of Northern Spain. The sandy soils have protected many old ungrafted vines from the phyloxera mite that devastated the vineyards of Europe 100 years ago. Shaya uses these old vines in a monovarietal wine that is a fine example of just how good Rueda whites can be. Bright grapefruit flavor and lightly floral aroma combine with a distinctly mineral foundation. This wine is well balanced and elegant. $13.99
La Cana Albariño 2008 Galician Albariño wines tend to tilt toward a floral/citrusy style or a flinty/mineral expression. The newly released first vintage of la Cana is decidedly mineral. Added complexity and textural weight comes from extended ageing on the lees (bits of grape skin, pulp and sediment). This new wine from Spanish wine guru Jorge Ordoñez (best known for his hearty red wines) is a fine addition to his portfolio. $17.99

Top 40


Speaking of pop songs, all the recent Moon Landing 40th Anniversary celebrations have me thinking about some of my early favorites from the late 1960s when AM radio was the main source for new music (pre Youtube &  MTV).
Check out these songs that made a big impression on me back in the day, then choose a few of the wines from this week’s selection to help make your own memories of the summmer of 2009.





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

New Cookbook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Giving And Getting

Now is the time for holiday parties. Chances are you are invited to, or are yourself hosting, a gathering of family, friends and/or coworkers in the near future. Even in today’s gloomy economic climate holiday traditions must be observed. Disowning your relatives or ignoring your friends is not a good solution, no matter how tempting the prospect may be. No, what you need is a good old fashioned get together, a meet n’ greet, a turn up the music and dance your troubles away house party to get you in the holiday mood. So maybe you eat a little too much and drink a more than you should. And maybe you talk a bit too loud and say a few things you ought not to say. The point right now is catharsis, a letting go of all that has transpired over the past year and an embracing of a (hopefully) bright future to come.

If the mere suggestion of holiday entertaining makes you start patting your pockets and pleading poverty, rest assured that I am not suggesting a no holds barred festival of extravagance. No, that perspective would be way too 20th century for this time, place and season. Here and now we need to celebrate in a modest fashion with those we hold dear. Sharing a meal, along with some good wine of course, is a perfect expression of holiday conviviality. If the spirit of the moment leads you to dance and sing with wild abandon, so be it. At least you didn’t pay a fortune to have a good time.

Here are some of the latest additions to the wine selection at The Spanish Table. Combine these wines with any of the delicious and traditional holiday foods now filling our shelves (turrónes, mantecados, polvorones, cardos, bacalao and so many other tasty treats) and you have the makings of a great party or a thoughtful gift. Come visit us in Berkeley for even more holiday entertaining ideas.

 Adamado 2007 One of my favorite Portuguese Vinho Verde wines just came in with a big price drop (how often do you here that these days?). Adamado is a vintage Vinho Verde from the Ponte do Lima sub-zone where the wines a re fuller and richer than the typical non-vintage Vinho Verde. Slight effervescence, low alcohol (10.5%) and ripe Viognier-like fruit character paired with flinty minerality makes this an excellent cocktail wine for holiday entertaining. $7.99 (was $10.99)

Cavas Hill Reserva Artesanía The new wine from Cavas Hill is fresh and lively with abundant frothy bubbles and tart green apple fruit character. This well priced blend of traditional cava grapes (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo) will liven up your next tapas party. The attractive packaging makes this a good choice for gift giving as well. $10.99

Condesa Eylo 2007 This racy new white wine from the Rueda region is made of 97% Verdejo & 3% Sauvignon Blanc. Aromas of fresh grass and granny smith apple along with intense flavors of lemon peel and honeydew melon are weighty on the palate while the finish is light, lingering and dry. $14.99

CARM 2006 Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira (CARM) is a small family-run business in the Douro valley of Portugal, dedicated to the production of wine and olive oil. We have carried the excellent olive oil but never the wines, until now. The red CARM 2006 is a bold and assertive blend of several organically farmed traditional Portuguese grape varieties including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. This barrel aged red is dark and earthy with rich fruit character and finely tuned tannins. $15.99

Lustau East India Solera After a long hiatus, this well loved sweet Oloroso Sherry is back in stock just in time for the holiday season when many customers pour it as a traditional after dinner drink. Sweet raisin and fig fruit character encounters abundant toasted almond and burnt toffee aroma. This wine is dark, dense and sweet yet possesses bright acidity that lifts the flavors and enlivens the texture, creating a complex and nuanced drink. $29.99

Primitivo Quiles Fondillón Reserva 1948 This unique wine is back for the holidays. Historically, Fondillón was called Vino Noble de Alicante not only because it was enjoyed by royalty (Louis XIV is said to have enjoyed the wine) but also as an indication of a winemaking style that achieves 16% alcohol by volume without resorting to fortification of the wine with spirits as is done in Jerez. Late harvest Monastrell is picked at ultimate ripeness and the sugars in the grape convert to alcohol at a higher rate than normally. After many years in the solera the wine looses its red color and turns a ruddy shade of amber. Nutty sherry-like aroma and flavor balance gentle but not cloying sweetness. $67.00

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

Summertime Thirst Quenchers

As we head into the month of August I feel the need to offer up some suggestions for warm weather beverages that will satisfy your thirst, awaken your appetite and remind you of good times had (or yet to come) in sunny Spain.

This is the first week in recent months that we don’t have a new rosado wine to offer, but we do have loads of these perfect summer wines on the shelf.

On the other hand, after much whining on my part about the lack of Spanish beer in the American market, I am happy to report that this week we received not one but two excellent cervezas from Spain. 

The new 2007 versions of a few of my all time favorite white wines are now available, as are some unique and interesting red wines from Chile and Portugal.

Check out the latest arrivals below, and while you are at it, take a moment to consider the following recipe that I prepared last weekend for a large birthday party.

Grilled sardines are hugely popular in Portugal and Galicia. These small fish are inexpensive to buy, are sustainably harvested and are really good for you. This version, wrapped in grape leaves, makes an interesting and tasty presentation.

 

Sardinas Asadas En Hojas de Parras (Grilled Sardines in Grape Leaves)

(Serves 8 as an appetizer)

 

Ingredients:

8             whole fresh sardines

8             jarred grape leaves

4             bay leaves (fresh or dried)

¼ cup   sea salt

2             lemons, cut in wedges

 

Directions:

Prepare your grill (gas or charcoal) as you normally would. Clean the sardines (scales off, innards and gills out, head and tail stay on). Sprinkle the salt over the cleaned sardines, making sure to get some salt inside the fish as well as outside.  Place one half of a bay leaf inside the belly cavity of each sardine. Roll up each fish in a grape leaf (use 2 leaves if they are small or if the sardines are big) leaving the head and tail partly exposed. Grill the wrapped fish over a hot fire for approximately 5 minutes on each side. The grape leaves will ‘shrink wrap’ around the fish and prevent them from drying out or burning.  Unwrap the cooked sardines, squeeze a little lemon over the top and eat the fish, discarding the bones and the grape leaf wrapper.

 

Alhambra Lager This beer, from Granada in the south of Spain, takes its name from the famous Moorish palace in that ancient town. This crisp and refreshing lager is well known in Spain and finally available here for the first time. $14.99/6 pack

 

Estrella Damm This popular Beer from Barcelona is now available here for the first time. Enjoy this light, refreshing beer just like they do in Barcelona where countless nights on the Ramblas (the wide pedestrian boulevard that is Barcelona’s epicenter of eating, drinking and people watching) have included at least one (sometimes many) small glasses of this famous lager.  $14.99/6 pack

 

Santiago Ruiz 2007 Bodegas LAN, located in Rioja, is known for their red wines, but this winery also produces a white wine in the Rías Baixas region in Galicia. Santiago Ruiz is a blend of Albariño, Loureiro and Treixadura fermented in tank (no oak). This relatively full bodied (for the region) wine pairs bright acidity with abundant melon and citrus fruit character. The fresh 2007 vintage has just been released and is drinking at its best right now. $19.99

 

Montebaco Blanco 2007 Like the previous bodega, Montebaco makes red wine in one region (Ribera del Duero) and white wine in another (Rueda). The new vintage of Montebaco blanco is made from the Verdejo grape and displays aromas and flavors of tropical fruits such as guava and pineapple along with a mineral back note. $17.99

 

Calcu 2006 In the Chilean Mapuche Indian dialect ‘Calcu’ means magician (or witch doctor, depending on the translation). This years’ blend (it changes with each vintage) is composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Carmenere and 15% Cabernet Franc from the Valle de Colchagua region of central Chile. This wine displays dark garnet color and rich, berry-like aroma. Spicy, peppery Carmenère adds contrast to the deeply structured Cabernet Sauvignon. The rich fruit character, reminiscent of fresh mulberries lingers on the palate. Grilled spicy sausages, fresh corn on the cob and the full compliment of American summer foods will compliment this wine quite well.  $10.99   

 

Azul Profundo Pinot Noir 2006 The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Bio Bio Valley, Chile’s southernmost grape growing region. This temperate region is quickly becoming one of the most highly regarded areas in Chile for wine production. This climate is well suited to growing the fickle Pinot Noir grape. Azul Profundo is a bright and fresh wine that is reminiscent of a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast of California or the Willamette valley in Oregon. Crystalline ruby color and fresh berry aroma create an intriguing first perception. Tart, pie cherry fruit character balances but never overwhelms subtle grapeskin tannins. This unoaked red is made in miniscule quantities (only 600 cases were produced) and each bottle is hand numbered. Regular price $19.99

 

Twisted Tinto 2006 The immense, steeply terraced Douro Valley in Portugal has, for centuries, been the source of Port wines. Forward thinking wineries have, in recent years, been re-purposing the fruit of the Douro to produce red, white and rosé wines of excellent quality. Dirk Niepoort is one of the leading proponents of unfortified Douro wines. ‘Twisted’ is one of several names given to Niepoort’s most affordable red wine, depending on where you buy it. In Portugal the wine is called ‘Diálogo’, in Germany it goes by ‘Fabelhaft’, in Estonia they call it ‘Öö Ja Päevand in Finland it is ‘Sarvet’. The wine itself 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 aromas and flavors of fresh berries and a touch of tannic oak (20% of the wine is aged in barrel for one year). $15.99

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

New wines from Spain

Yes, it’s true. The floodgates are cranked wide open on the flow of Spanish wine into the USA.  

According to the Spanish Exterior Commerce Commission (ICEX), we in the USA now consume over 11 percent of all exported Spanish wine. The value of Spanish wine sold here also continues to grow by hefty margins with each passing year (15% increase in 2006 over 2005, for instance). 

What this means for you and me is that we have more choices than ever before when it come to wine from Spain. From crisp, bubbly Cava to elegant Gran Reserva Rioja (and many others in between) the options and varieties are numerous. 

At The Spanish Table we taste dozens of wines each week, searching for the best in quality and value, winnowing out the indistinct or overpriced choices that invariably crop up in such a broad and expanding market. The small percentage of wines that finally end up on our shelves represent some of the very best that Spain has to offer right now.

Happily, for those of us with a taste for tradition, some of our ‘new arrivals’ are in fact old favorites. The most intriguing element of the Spanish wine world for me is the mix of famous old bodegas (both large and small) and young, new wineries (also ranging from giant factories to tiny artisan projects). This broad range is reflected in our current batch of new arrivals.

This week we are excited to witness the return to the US market of Marqués de Murrieta, a well established and respected name in Rioja that has been off the market here for several vintages. They are back with a new importer and several excellent wines.

Also from Rioja is the new vintage of Conde de Valdemar rosado, a perennial summertime favorite here.

A big hit in its initial release last year was the basque Txakoli called Gurrutxaga. It is back in the new 2007   vintage.

Speaking of white wines, we are very excited about our latest Albariño called Paco & Lola. Don’t be put off by the silly name or the polka dotted label. This is an excellent example of what Albariño can be when made by skilled and attentive winemakers. 

We are also quite pleased with a new white wine from Rueda called Vevi. This flavor filled bottle combines high quality with low price; a combination that always makes me smile.

Finally this week, we have a unique red wine for you. The Arrels Sangre de Garnatxa is made in the Montsant region of Catalunya by local Bay Area winemakers. This small production wine is very difficult to find outside of a few San Francisco restaurants. Those of you who enjoy rich, dark reds will rejoice at the prospect of having this wine in your own personal cellar.

Here then are six choices from among the almost 600 wines we carry

 

Vevi Rueda 2007  This is the inaugural vintage of a custom blended Rueda wine created specially by Antonio Sanz and the importer José Pastor.  The wine is 80% Verdejo and 20% Viura. The bright lemon color mimics aromas and flavors of fresh citrus. Additional notes of melon and guava with a bit of minerality in the background add depth to this bright and refreshing wine.  $10.99

 

Gurrutxaga Txakoli 2007 This basque Txakoli wine comes from the little village of Mendexa along Spain’s northern Cantabrian coast (curiously, the image on the bottle is of the neighboring town, Lekeitio). Crisp, flinty minerality and grapefruity flavor combine in this spritzy, low alcohol white. $15.99

 

Paco & Lola Albariño 2007 This new arrival will delight Albariño lovers. Pale yellow color with green reflections, citrus and mineral aromas and white peach fruit character all combine with bright, assertive acidity in this excellent example from D.O. Rías Baixas. $19.99

 

Conde de Valdemar Rosado 2007 The newest vintage of this Rioja region rosado is composed of mostly Garnacha with a bit of Tempranillo added to the blend. This refreshing, summery wine is dark pink in color with ripe strawberry fruit character balancing bright, citrusy acidity.  Like a fresh breeze on a hot afternoon, this wine can cool you down and perk you up simultaneously. $10.99

 

Marqués de Murrieta reserva 2004 We have waited years for this wine to come back to our shores and the wait was not in vain. This excellent, mature red is everything Rioja aficionados look for in a traditional reserva. Brick red color, rich fruit character and elegantly integrated barrel tannins all contribute to the overall experience of this wine.  Josh Raynolds of Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave the wine 91 points, saying: “Fading medium red. Strawberry and cherry-vanilla aromas are complicated by cured tobacco and coffee. Light in body and supple, offering sweet red fruit flavors, gentle tannins and good back-end grip. Deepened with air, picking up darker berries and a pleasantly bitter cherry skin quality. Finishes with an echo of red fruits and vanilla. Textbook Rioja, and drinking beautifully right now.” $26.99

 

Arrels Sangre de Garnatxa 2004    This dark, opulent wine from the Montsant region of Catalunya has roots right here in the Bay Area. Arrels is a small production (444 cases in total) project between local Chefs Laurent Manrique (Aqua), Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade, Bocadillos), Sylvain Portay and Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji (both formerly at the Ritz Carleton, San Francisco).  The wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from a small, high altitude plot of old vines. Opaque garnet color and rich, concentrated black cherry fruit character along with tart acidity and background minerality. T-bone steaks, cooked rare on the grill would be a good match. Read more about the wine makers here in a recent SF Chronicle article. $36.99 

 

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Filed under Red Wine, rosado, Spain, White Wine

Strike

It happens every time I travel in Western Europe. Soon after arriving (sometimes even during the flight over) I discover that whatever plans I have made for a certain day will require significant alteration because of one of several varieties of huelga de trabajo (labor strike). Sometimes it’s the bus drivers or garbage collectors and other times it’s the museum ticket takers or other less than crucial service providers, but still it always comes as a surprise to me the visiting foreigner and has a way of messing up my plans. Of course it could also be a Saint’s birthday, bank holiday or other state mandated day off that brings everything to a full stop, leaving us hapless tourists to wander aimlessly in search of amusement, which helps explain why the local residents never seem too put out by the break from routine. They are used to it.

At present, truck drivers in several EU countries are staging protests over the cost of fuel. Unlike the ‘vacation surprises’ that don’t make much news over here, these current strikes are being felt far and wide. The effects are particularly noticeable in the world of imported wine. Suppliers here are running out of certain products and have no estimate on when they will receive new shipments.

So what are wine drinkers to do in this moment of uncertainty? Fear not, I say, for we have plenty of options and choices still available. While the flood of new products is experiencing a temporary lull, we still have hundreds of wines in stock from all across Spain and Portugal (Argentina and Chile too). If your favorite brand is momentarily missing from the shelf, take this opportunity to try a neighboring wine with similar characteristics. It is just like being on a trip to Spain and realizing that you have to change you plans because the trains are not running or your favorite restaurant has abruptly closed for a month long vacation (a month? what must that be like?) leading you to try some alternate place that can often turn into a wonderful new experience.

Speaking of new experiences, this Sunday, June 29th, Berkeley will host the 3rd annual International Food Festival. The Spanish Table will be cooking up a big paella and handing out samples right here in the store starting at 1 pm. This has been one of the big hits of the festival in previous years and will be a tasty introduction to any of you that have yet to experience the fun and excitement of paella first hand.

I will be demonstrating a simple and delicious tapa recipe at 3:30 pm on the Kitchen On Fire cooking stage in the bank parking lot down the street from The Spanish Table. Here is the recipe I will be doing. Come see me on Sunday and get a taste of this quick and easy appetizer, and then take this recipe home and make this for yourself.

I’ll see you at the fiesta!

 

Olivada and Piquillo Montadito (makes about 35-40)

 

1 lb. pitted olives (green or black)

1 sml can of anchovies (55gr./2 oz. net weight)

1 clove garlic

1 sml. Jar piquillo peppers (185 gr./6.5 oz. net weight)

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 ‘baguette’ style French bread

 

Pit olives if necessary. Slice peppers into thin strips. Slice bread into 1/2 inch rounds. Finely mince garlic and combine with olives, anchovies and olive oil in a food processor. Process until mostly smooth. Add a bit more oil if it seems too chunky (it should be spreadable). Spread one teaspoon of olivada on each slice of bread, edge to edge. Garnish with one strip of pepper. Serve.

 

While we await new products, here are some ‘greatest hits’ from recent newsletters:

 

Luis Pato Espumante Bruto This is the first Portuguese sparkling wine to arrive here at The Spanish Table. Luis Pato, the celebrated and somewhat controversial wine maker works in the Beiras region of Portugal. This sparkling wine is made mostly from the Maria Gomes grape and (starting with this bottling) also includes 5% Arinto in the blend. Lean toasty aroma and tart, leesy fruit character combine with frothy effervescence to create a uniquely refreshing wine. $15.99

 

Bereziartua Apple Cider At last, it has arrived! Many of us have been waiting for years to get our hands on some genuine Basque sidra. This hard cider is unfiltered, cloudy, lightly effervescent and only barely sweet. Yeasty aroma and tart fermented apple flavor are what you want from this most ancient of drinks. In the Basque Country they drink it straight from the barrel from harvest time through the winter and then in spring and summer they drink the rest from bottles like those we have just received. When this stuff becomes wildly popular, remember, you heard it here first. $8.99

 

Raventos Perfum de Vi Blanc 2005 This wine comes from Raventos i Blanc, the makers of one of our best Cavas. This blend of 60% Macabeo and 40% Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya has exchanged its youthful boldness for mature spiciness. Aromas of wintergreen, allspice and green herbs add unusual complexity to this unoaked white wine, underscoring what I perceive as a bit of ginger ale-like flavor (store manager Caty says she tastes “afri-cola”) on the palate. Intriguing! $8.99

 

Nuevomundo Cabernet/Carmenere Reserve 2005 This Chilean blend of organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from the Maipo Valley is dark and spicy with underlying complexity from 14 months of oak barrel ageing. The more firmly structured Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 60% of the blend and finds counterpoint in the spicy Carmenere which accounts for the other 40%. $11.99

 

Viña Catajarros Élite Rosado 2007 The Cigales region in northern Spain is, along with Navarra, the traditional home of many excellent rosado wines. This particular wine (the first 2007 rosado to arrive from Spain) is produced mostly from Tempranillo with, interestingly, 10% white Verdejo added to the blend. Vivid rose pink color and strawberry aroma blends well with watermelon fruit character and a racy jolt of acidity (from the Verdejo) that maintains the bright, refreshing quality of this wine. $12.99

 

Tio Pepe The best known Fino on the planet is back with a new distributor after a brief hiatus. Gonzalez-Byass makes Tio Pepe from the Palomino Fino grape in the Jerez region of Southern Spain. This dry, nutty wine is ubiquitous in Andalucia and is a perfect accompaniment to toasted almond, olives, cured meats, cheeses and other salty foods. The price has gone down too (how often do you hear that these days), so try some for yourself and see what the fuss is all about. $16.99

 

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Filed under Argentina, Chile, Fortified Wine, Portugal, Recipes, Red Wine, rosado, sidra (cider), Spain, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Pink and Gold

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

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

 

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

 

Portonic- 3 variations on a theme

Serves 8 (ish)

 

Ingredients:

1 bottle                White Port, Rainwater Madeira or Amontillado Sherry

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

2                             lemons cut in wedges

1                             bag of ice

 

Directions:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Bargain Whites

With our recent spell of hot weather, white wines have been much in demand at The Spanish Table. With the continuing devaluation of the dollar relative to the ascendant euro, well priced white wines are increasingly hard to find.

So what’s a wine buyer to do when caught between rising prices from wholesalers and demand for bargains from customers? I, for one, go shopping. Yes, I dig deeper, paw through catalogs, query my sales reps and basically start turning over rocks looking for tasty, refreshing and reasonably priced white wines.

Guess what? I have found some really delicious Spanish whites that will satisfy your thirst and compliment your meals without busting your budget. These wines come from all across Northern Spain, from Catalunya to Galicia and points in between. None of them are from the current vintage. A year or two in the bottle has toned down the electrifying jolt of acidity that one finds in many newly released Spanish white wines while allowing the green melon and white peach fruit character to emerge. With these wines the bold burst of youthful energy is exchanged for a mellower, more evolved maturity (just like me, no?). I would not recommend cellaring any of the wines on this week’s list as these beauties are all intended for near term consumption. Enjoy them over the course of the summer and as you do, be sure to toast yourself for stocking up on such well priced refreshment. 

If you are in need of inspiration for something to serve with a nice bottle of Spanish white wine, may I suggest this recipe that I tried last week at Bar Cesar in Berkeley where Maggie Pond continues to amaze and inspire me with her take on traditional Spanish tapas.

 

Cucumber Gazpacho

(Adapted from César: Recipes from a Tapas Bar by Olivier Said, James Mellgren and Maggie Pond)

Serves eight as a first course

 

Ingredients:

8 cups                   peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber (about 4 cucumbers)

1 ¼ cups             best quality extra virgin Spanish olive oil

1 cup                     ice water

1 clove                 garlic

1/3 cup                                cava vinegar

2 tablespoons   fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons       sea salt

¼ teaspoon       ground black pepper

½ teaspoon       ground cayenne pepper

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except for 1/2 cup of cucumber and ¼ cup of olive oil (reserve these for garnish). Puree in two batches in a blender until smooth. Adjust salt and vinegar to taste. Chill gazpacho in refrigerator (a few hours at least, over night is better). Serve in small bowls or cups garnished with reserved cucumber and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

Paella alert: The ever popular and always delicious Paella class at Kitchen On Fire is back. On Friday June 13th at 6:30 pm I will be leading a bunch of enthusiastic food lovers in this hands-on class that is guaranteed to give all participants the knowledge and confidence to make this classic Spanish one-pot meal at home. Whether you want to make paella for two or for two hundred this high spirited class will reward you with a plateful of Paella wisdom. We’ll be making a few tapas and trying some wines too (hey, it’s me teaching the class, so we’ve got to try some wines, don’t you think?). Go to the Kitchen On Fire website to sign up. This will be the only class like this all summer and the class is limited to 20 participants so act now to secure your spot.

 

Lagar de Bouza 2006 Many of you will remember this Galician Albariño wine from its initial introduction last year.  It is the color of fresh hay and exhibits delicate aromas of citrus and chamomile. Typical Albariño minerality and green grape fruit character are found here in a restrained, gentle style. $8.99

 

Raventos Perfum de Vi Blanc 2005 This wine comes from Raventos i Blanc, the makers of one of our best Cavas. This blend of 60% Macabeo and 40% Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya has exchanged its youthful boldness for mature spiciness. Aromas of wintergreen, allspice and green herbs add unusual complexity to this unoaked white wine, underscoring what I perceive as a bit of ginger ale-like flavor (store manager Caty says she tastes “afri-cola”) on the palate. Intriguing! $8.99

 

Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2006 This rare Bierzo region white made from the local Godello grape is ripe and round. Gentle green plum aroma gains reinforcement from flavors of white peach and honeydew melon. Golden yellow color and weighty Viognier-like texture help to create a full bodied yet gentle wine that will compliment spicy summer fare (think Thai take out)and, come to think of it, would also make a fabulous white sangria. $11.99

 

Blanco Nieva Pie Franco 2005 This top shelf white from Rueda is made from 100% ungrafted old vine Verdejo. The sandy soil of Rueda protected the local vines during the phyloxera blight of the early 20th century. The remaining vines are as big as tree stumps and produce miniscule quantities of tiny but flavor filled grapes which, after being harvested by hand, are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks to retain the maximum of fresh fruit character. A few years of bottle age have softened the tart acidity and turned what was once reminiscent of granny smith apples and grapefruit into something closer to golden delicious apples and meyer lemons.  $14.99

 

Señorío de Sarría Rosado 2007 Navarra is the traditional home of Spanish rosado wines. This new arrival is made from 100% Garnacha which, after harvest, undergoes 24 hour cold maceration on the skins before fermentation in tanks (no oak). The pink wines of this region have been made this way for as long as anyone can remember. The bright aroma and flavor of fresh strawberries is front and center here. Additional watermelon flavor lingers on the finish. Pour this on the back patio after a long work week and experience transcendent relaxation. Just be sure to buy at least two bottles because you can drain that transcendent relaxation pretty fast during the course of a warm summer evening. $10.99

 

Riolanc Vendimia Seleccionada 2006 For you dyed in the wool red wine drinkers, here’s one for you. We just got a new shipment of this young red wine from the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, made from 100% old vine Tempranillo. Whole bunch fermentation is used here to create a wine with great freshness and bright fruit character. This too is an excellent choice for sipping in the back yard by the paella fire. $10.99

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

Rites of Spring

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

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

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

Asparagus and Shrimp Paella

(serves 4-5 as a main course)

Ingredients:

6 cups canned clam juice

1 Tblspn Pebrella (dried wild Spanish thyme)

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

1/3 cup Spanish olive oil

1 lb. fresh Asparagus, cut in 1 inch segments

1 tspn. sweet Spanish paprika

1/2 tspn. Spanish saffron

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

2 cups Bomba rice

Directions:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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