Tag Archives: vi d’agulla

Moscatel

The Muscat grape (known in Spain as Moscatel) is thought to be the oldest cultivated grape variety on the planet. Many different wine grapes are descended from primal Muscat vines cultivated thousands of years ago in the Middle East (or maybe Greece, nobody is really sure). The unique, unchanging aspect that distinguishes Muscat is a rich floral aroma that is present when the fruit is fresh as well as in the wines made from this grape. The distinctive rich honeyed perfume is the scent of freshly crushed grapes at harvest time. Spanish Moscatel  has a long history stretching back thousands of years. The Moscatel variety is grown all across Spain and the wines made from this most ancient of grapes come in a range of styles from sweet to dry or somewhere in between.Traditional Moscatel Dulce is a sweet wine, made in a sherry-like style (fortified) in the south as well as a golden late harvest style in the north and east of Spain. These wines are traditionally served with light desserts at the end of a meal. Less well known are the dry and off-dry table wines made from Moscatel.  These wines retain the rich floral aroma that Moscatel is known for but with less (or none of) the residual sugar that usually pushes Moscatel into the dessert wine category. They can be still, sparkling or lightly spritzy. They retain bright acidity that combines with the floral aromatics to create a wine with weight and substance that is also balanced and food-friendly. The closest comparisons would be the aroma and texture of Viognier offset by the edgy grapefruit and mineral character of Albariño. These wines are pefect accompaniments to a broad range of autumn and winter flavors as well as many traditional holiday foods.


Botani 2008
Botani is a dry Moscatel from the Sierras de Malaga region. Victoria Ordoñez, sister of the famous wine marketer Juan Ordoñez, makes this wine at the small family winery. The floral, concentrated aroma is classic Moscatel, redolent of honeysuckle and orange blossom,  but the palate is crisp and dry with citrus and mineral notes. This pale straw colored wine possesses a finely tuned balance of flavors that express a fresh and unique side of this ancient region. $21.99

 

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2008 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava is composed of Petit Grain Muscat, fermented to dryness and bottled with a bit of residual effervescence. The rich Muscat scent is present here but the sweetness usually associated with this grape is only barely perceived. In its place are flavors of tart grapefruit and background flintiness. This spritzy, low alcohol white wine makes a unique and distinctive apperitivo at the start of a festive gathering. $11.99

 

Viña Esmeralda 2008 This medium sweet blend of Moscatel and Gewürtztraminer is floral and aromatic with notes of rose petal and lavender. Honeyed melon fruit character is held in check by bright acidity. In Spain this is a traditional wine to serve during during the holidays accompanied by some almond cookies or the anise flavored fried pastries known as rosquillas. $14.99

Gramona Gessamí 2008 In the Catalan language gessamí means jasmine. This is a perfect descriptor for the aroma of this Penedès region blend of Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürtztraminer. The rich floral perfume wafts out of the glass at arms length. Put the glass to your lips and take in the crisp citrus and green apple fruit character. The combination of sweet aroma and tart flavor creates a uniquely delicious experience. Pair this wine with raw fish (tuna tartare, sashimi) or any number of marinated vegetable salads (beets & fennel, mushroom & leeks vinaigrette). $17.99


Musva Espumoso
Previously this was called Reymos. It comes from a small co-op winery in the village of Cheste near Valencia. It is a sparkling Moscatel that works its magic best at the end of a meal. It is medium sweet, low in alcohol, aggressively bubbly and aromatic. Notes of baking spices (cloves, nutmeg, allspice) make this an excellent wine to serve with an autumn pear tart (or, even better, good ol’ American pumpkin pie). $11.99

 

Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2006 At this time of year a little glass of late harvest Moscatel is particularly appealing in the late afternoon or after dinner. The celebrated Casta Diva is a lush, sweet Moscatel from the Alicante region on the Mediterranean coast. This bright gold colored wine is redolent of honey, ginger and tangerines. The rich Sauterne-like complexity of Casta Diva works with everything from fois gras to lemon tart. $32.99 (500 ml)


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Rioja Bordon is back! For those of you who missed out on these the first time around (or tried them, loved them and want more) we are happy to report that a new batch of traditionally styled Rioja wines from Bodegas Franco-Española has just arrived and is going fast. The same great pricing continues until the wines are gone. We are thrilled to be able to extend this not-to-be-missed opportunity.

Rioja Bordon Crianza 2005 The 2001 was a staff and customer favorite and hopefully you’ll find the current release just as enticing. A bit richer than the 2001, this is still a classic Rioja Crianza (tart pie cherry fruit with well integrated barrel character) at an outstanding price. $13.99

Rioja Bordon Reserva 2004 The best seller of the Franco-Española wines is this plush reserva from the stellar 2004 vintage. Elegantly expressive and balanced Rioja at a fabulous price. $17.99

Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 1999 Here it is. A 10-year old wine for an amazing price. Soft and round this is a classic aged Gran Reserva, intended as a vino de contemplación to be served alone or with a few choice tapas (jamón iberico!). A true taste of Spain at a 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 $60, but it’s $49.99

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Tapaswalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bar Lata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San León Manzanilla Clásica This wine, with an average age of 8 years, is palest straw colored and full of yeasty, saline aroma (like a fresh sea breeze) and toasted almond and chamomile flavors. If you are a Manzanilla lover this is an excellent new wine to add to your list. If you have not yet had a chance to try this most distinctive Spanish wine, this is the perfect place to start. $12.99 (375ml)

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

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

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava is composed of Petit Grain Muscat, fermented to dryness and bottled with a bit of residual effervescence. The rich Muscat scent is present here but the sweetness usually associated with this grape is only barely perceived. In its place is tart citrusy fruit character and background flintiness. This wine was originally $14.99 but is on sale while it lasts for $11.99

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

Senorio de P.Peciña Crianza 2000 Produced from a blend of mostly Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha and Graciano, this Crianza level wine spends an extended period (2 years) ageing in French and American oak barrels, with an additional year of bottle ageing before release. The bright cherry-like fruit and resiny tannic barrel character that are typical of traditional Crianza Riojas are present here in a finely tuned frame. Serve this wine with sliced Serrano ham or cured Spanish chorizo for a classic flavor pairing. $19.99

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Favorites, Old and New

Wines have seasons and internal rhythms all their own.

The ebb and flow from one vintage to the next creates periods of abundance and moments of absence. With each new vintage a wine changes character, sometimes gently, other times dramatically, and then, of course, each bottle of wine develops in its own way over time.

One of the pleasures of the wine business is getting a first hand look at this evolutionary process. This week I bring you some wines that may be familiar to you from previous years as well as some new wines from well known regions and winemakers.

For one reason or another, the time is right for these wines, each in their own special way. We have some fresh white wines that are perfect for the late summer season and others that have just arrived and are drinking really well right now. We also have some reds that are new arrivals, some new vintages of familiar favorites and others that are freshly marked down in price.

Check out the suggestions below and then come see us in Berkeley for even more seasonal wine inspiration.

Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2007 Most Vinho Verde is non-vintage but this wine is produced each year from a blend of traditional grapes (Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura) from the best parcels of Aveleda’s estate vineyards. This finely tuned Vinho Verde displays fresh citrus and light floral aromas along with bright fruit character and the spritzy effervescence that is typical of wines from this region.

This wine got a nice write up today in the San Francisco Chronicle. Check out what Peter Liem (usually he writes about champagne  for Wine & Spirits, so an interesting perspective for this article) had to say About Vinho Verde, here . $8.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this summertime thirst quencher from the makers of Avinyó Cava is composed of Petit Grain Muscat, fermented to dryness and bottled with a bit of residual effervescence. The rich Muscat scent is present here but the sweetness usually associated with this grape is only barely perceived. In its place is tart citrusy fruit character and background flintiness. $14.99

Talai Berri 2007 The latest Txakoli of the summer is this wine from the town of Zarautz on the Cantabrian coast. Fresh off the boat, this crisp white wine made from the Hondarribi Zuri (as much fun to type as it is to say) grape is full of racy grapefruit-like acidity enveloping a firm mineral core. Grab some of this perfect summer wine while it is in its most vibrant stage. $20.99

Las Gravas 2003 We just got a great deal on Las Gravas. Normally it sells for $29.99 but while the supply lasts we have it for almost half of the original price.

Las Gravas, from Casa Castillo in D.O. Jumilla is a blend of 85% Monastrell and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 14 months in French oak before bottling. This aptly named (Gravas=Gravel) wine displays rocky minerality along with the rich fruit character for which this region is known. Inky dark color (the wine is bottled without filtration) and ripe berry aroma and flavor meld into a harmoniously structured wine with silky texture and more of the aforementioned minerality on the long finish. $17.99

Prima 2006 The new vintage of Prima has arrived. This dark, rich red from the Toro region is made by Mariano Garcia, one of Spain’s most celebrated winemakers. He cashed in his interest in Vega Sicilia to start a family winery called Bodegas Maurodos where the famous Mauro and San Román are made as well as the more affordable Prima. Old vine Tinto de Toro (along with 10% Garnacha) is used for this wine which sees a bit of oak before bottling. Opaque ruby color, concentrated aromas and flavors of ripe berries and a smoky/earthy foundation are combined to great effect in this wine. $19.99

Gorrondona Tinto 2007 The rare and elusive red Txakoli is difficult to find. These firmly tannic wines are lean and full of mineral flavor, with a gentle fruit character that fades quickly with age. Happily, the new Gorrondona Tinto, made from 100% Hondarribi Beltza (grown in miniscule quantities on ancient vines), is super fresh, with dark Mulberry fruit character balancing firm minerality. This is an excellent and unusual light summer red. $27.99

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Vintage Tuna

I just tried a new product here at The Spanish Table that is so good that I am stepping away from my usual wine related patter to alert you to this new taste treat.

My new favorite product is a 2004 vintage canned tuna.

Ageing canned fish is a well respected tradition in many Spanish homes. Some people (those with great forethought and discipline) even wait over a decade before opening the tin.

Ortiz, one of the top brands of canned bonito del norte tuna packed in olive oil, have recently started marketing several reserva varieties of canned tuna that are aged on purpose before sale. These vintage dated products develop a richer, creamier texture and a nutty, delicate flavor over time.

I know, I know, many of you will be skeptical when I sing the praises of ‘old canned goods’ but this is something you need to just try for yourself. Take one small can of regular Ortiz tuna and compare it side by side with the same sized can of Ortiz Reserva de la Familia 2004 vintage tuna. I already think of Ortiz tuna as on of life’s great pleasures, so you can imagine my surprise when I tasted the vintage variety and found it to be a deliciously different version of the original.

To taste this line caught, dolphin safe tuna at its best (and to get back to my primary mission) pair it with some of the fresh white and rosado wines from this week’s selections. These warm weather wines will refresh your thirst and stimulate your appetite without emptying your wallet.

If eating tuna straight from the can with a fork seems wrong to you (it is hard to resist!) then may I suggest the following simple appetizer that I have been served at numerous wineries and informal gatherings in Spain.

Tuna and Piquillo montaditos (serves 4 as a tapa, 2 per person)

Ingredients:

2 4 oz. cans of Ortiz Reserva 2004 Bonito del Norte tuna

8 whole jarred piquillo peppers

8 ½” slices of baguette

¼ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 tblspn. flor de sal (sea salt)

8 toothpicks

Directions:

This simple preparation calls for the best quality ingredients. Open the cans of tuna and drain some, but not all, of the oil. Divide the contents of each can in fourths and fill each pepper with tuna. Top each slice of bread with a filled pepper and secure with a toothpick. Drizzle the peppers with the best olive oil you can find and sprinkle with top quality sea salt. Plate and serve. That’s all there is to it!

Paella alert-two weeks away: 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.

Ameztoi Rubentis 2007 This rosado Txakoli, the first of its kind, was the big hit of last summer in its inaugural vintage. Ignacio Ameztoi Aranguren, a 7th generation basque winemaker produces this wine from the fruit of his 50 acre vineyard in the Getaria region overlooking the Cantabrian Sea. Rubentis is composed of a blend of indigenous Hondarribi Zuri (white) and Hondarribi Beltza (red), creating a light pink colored wine with just a touch of residual effervescence. The refreshing grapefruit and mineral notes found in the white Ameztoi are supplemented here with a slight note of wild strawberry. We have just a few cases of this wine so act now if you wish to try it for yourself. $18.99

Gurrutxaga Rosado 2007 Following on the success of Ameztoi Rubentis, DeMaison Imports has brought yet another rosado Txakoli to our shores. Gurrutxaga Rosado is made in the little coastal village of Mendexa in the heart of the basque lands. This wine is made from 100% Hondarribi Beltza, the traditional red grape of this region. Aromas of wet limestone punctuated by bright flavors of grapefruit and tannic grape skin remind me of traditional white Txakoli, here with the addition of intriguing pale pink color and the aroma of unripe strawberry. $18.99

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2007 Another DeMaison import (their ship recently came in… literally) is this new vintage of refreshing, spritzy white wine from the makers of Avinyó Cava. Made in the Penedès region of Catalunya, this summertime thirst quencher is composed of Petit Grain Muscat, fermented to dryness and bottled with a bit of residual effervescence. The rich Muscat scent is present here but the sweetness usually associated with this grape is only barely perceived. In its place is tart citrusy fruit character and background flintiness. $14.99

Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2007 We just received the new vintage Vinho Verde from Aveleda in Portugal. Most Vinho Verde is non-vintage but this wine is produced each year from a blend of traditional grapes (Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura) from the best parcels of Aveleda’s estate vineyards. This finely tuned Vinho Verde displays fresh citrus and light floral aromas along with bright fruit character and the spritzy effervescence that is typical of wines from this region. $8.99

Quinta da Cabriz Branco 2007 If you have wanted to try white Portuguese wines beyond Vinho Verde, this white Dão region wine will be a real treat. Quinta da Cabriz makes some excellent and well priced red wines, but their white wine is only now making it to our part of the world. Composed of 40% Encruzado, 20% Malvasia, 20% Cerceal and 20% Bical, this unoaked blend of typical Portuguese grapes is fresh and delicate with moderate acidity and white peach fruit character. $10.99

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Personal Favorites

Spanish wine can be a hard thing to define in general terms. Just about every region in Spain makes at least a little bit of wine and the regional variation, numerous grape varieties and the personal styles of individual winemakers can cover an almost infinite range of possibilities.

At The Spanish Table we take pride in offering a wide variety of wines from all across the Iberian Peninsula, and reading this newsletter is one of the best ways to learn about these exciting, enticingly new wines.

My normal habit is to put aside my own personal preferences and to promote new and interesting wines regardless of whether or not I plan to add the wine to my personal collection, but for you, the reader of this newsletter, it might be helpful to calibrate my perspective (for all wine writing is, after all, a matter of personal perspective) by sharing some of my personal favorites with you. 

I tend to take home younger wines, though you will find a few more mature bottles in the list below. I, like you, love a wine that delivers excellent quality at a great price, so you won’t see any expensive icon wine on this week’s list (not that I don’t love these wines as well, but a shopkeeper’s budget has certain limitations). What follows are some new items as well as some well loved favorites, all of which have found a place at my dinner table in recent weeks.   

Also, since I’m going ‘first-person’ on you this week, here is a recipe from my past that has caught up to me in the best of ways.

I grew up in the south where traditional recipes and regional specialties are more respected than in many other parts of the country.  One of the traditional foods I grew up with, and hated, was the dreaded Pimento Cheese Spread. Usually made with ‘American’ cheese, mayonnaise and tasteless pimentos from a jar, this was not a dish that I looked back on with great fondness. Recently, I found myself longing for the flavors of my formative years in Georgia and since nostalgia and food memory are sentiments only barely tethered to logic and reality, I decided to re-try some recipes from my younger days. Not satisfied with simple replication, I wanted to use my more recently acquired Spanish cooking habits to update these traditional southern standbys. I upgraded the ingredients, added a bit of Spanish flair and, well, all I can say is y’all are going to love the results.

 

Kevin’s Pimentón Cheese Spread (serves 6 as an appetizer)

½ lb.                Manchego Tierno Cheese (the youngest Manchego)

½ lb.                 Idiazabal Cheese

5             whole Piquillo peppers

6             pitted green Manzanilla olives

¼ cup   Ybarra mayonesa (made with 100% olive oil)

½ tsp.                 Pimentón de la Vera Dulce (smoked sweet paprika)

1 tsp.     Salt

 

Cut rind off cheeses and grate finely. Dice piquillo peppers and olives. Combine grated cheese, diced peppers and olives in a bowl with mayonesa, pimentón and salt. Mix completely and refrigerate for an hour before serving on bread. Melt the cheese spread on toast under the broiler for a hot version of this updated classic.

 

Aviny0 Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 Without a doubt, the white wine I take home most often is this spritzy, dry Muscat from the Penedès region in Catalunya. This refreshing grapefruity white wine is low in alcohol but big on taste. It makes a welcoming aperitif for guests and a perfect Sunday afternoon cocktail after yard work or washing the dogs.

 

Puerta Novas Crianza 2001 $12.99 My wife and I were recently surprised by this wine. When first released, Puertas Novas was quite firm and oaky, but time has been kind to this Toro region red.  With dinner the other night this proved to be a supple, rich, balanced wine (made from the local version of Tempranillo, appropriately named Tinto de Toro). No longer strictly a ‘steak wine’, Puertas Novas now has an elegance that reflects both the wine’s pedigree (2001 was an excellent vintage) and the skill of the winemakers (for those who still want the bigger, more structured version, Valpiculata Reserva 2001 is also still available for $23.99).

 

Viña Valoria 2005 $14.99 Many of you have come in looking for the perfect red wine to serve with paella and I very often recommend this young Rioja. A few scant months of barrel age lend the slightest touch of barrel character to this blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano. The pure, plum-like fruit character is juicy and refreshing, never overwhelming lighter foods such as rice or pasta dishes (paella specifically!).

 

Servilio Roble 2006$15.99 This new arrival from Ribera del Duero is bold and ripe. Dark color and a hint of meat locker aroma hint at what to serve with this young red wine. Grilled lamb chops, carne asada, crispy fried Morcilla or whatever meaty meal you prefer will taste even better when accompanied by this wine.  At home we love to serve this wine with the Berkshire pork chops we get from Café Rouge here in Berkeley.

 

Azabache Graciano Reserva 2001 $19.99 I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating. This is the only Reserva Rioja wine made from the rare Graciano grape. Usually Graciano, which accounts for a mere 5% of the annual harvest in Rioja, is used to blend in with the lighter Tempranillo. Graciano lends structure to blended Rioja. On its own, Graciano can be quite firm and tannic, but with 24 months in barrel followed by another two years of bottle ageing, the wine has become quite elegant and mature. Braised beef brisket with pearl onions and potatoes was what I served with this wine.

 

Raspay Tinto “Brut” 2001 $19.99 In the Alicante region along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Bodegas Primitivo Quiles are best known for a fortified wine called Fondillón, made from the local Monastrell grape in a style similar to Sherry. The same old vine Monastrell also goes into this traditionally styled red wine.  The ruddy, brick red tint and savory tannic aroma give way to dried cherry fruit character. This is no fruit bomb. The old-school Spanish style is very well represented in this bottling that wins my vote for best label art too.  I served this with a selection of embutidos from The Spanish Table such as Lomo Embuchado, Jamón Serrano and dry cured Chorizo.

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Filed under Recipes, Red Wine, Spain, White Wine

Holiday Wines, Version 1.2, The Thanksgiving edition

We are very excited to announce the arrival, just in time for Thanksgiving, of some spectacular new wines from the tiny Ribeira Sacra region in northwestern Spain.

De Maison Selections, the same intrepid importers who bring in many of our favorite Basque Txakoli wines, have been very successful at finding lesser known Spanish regions that produce unique and delicious wines. Andre Tamers, the President of De Maison Selections has this to say about their newest project.

One of the most stunning landscapes in Spain is located in the heart of Galicia in an area known as the Ribeira Sacra (Sacred Banks). Driving on the N-120 between Vilafranca del Bierzo and Orense you follow the river Sil as it cuts through gorgeous canyons terraced with vineyards.

D. Ventura is a new project by Ramon Losada and his family utilizing old family holdings in this ancient wine growing region. Ever since the Romans inhabited the area, people have been growing grapes on the steep terraces bordering these two rivers.

Working these lands is extremely difficult as the terraces in some areas are so steep that all the grapes have to be brought in on a hoist.

In addition to an organic approach to farming, winemaking has also changed. Only indigenous yeast is used to start fermentation. None of the wines are filtered or cold stabilized. Lastly, the maturation of the grapes is watched carefully to insure that the grapes are fully mature when harvested.

There are currently three vineyard sites. Two border the River Sil and one borders the Miño River. Caneiro in particular is unique. Steep terraces line the river, which adds a sweet freshness to this plot, cooling it during the heat of the day. Pena do Lobo is also on the Sil but the vineyard is less steep and is slightly further away from the river. Viña do Burato is in a totally different area north of the other two on the Miño River. Here the landscape is lush. Streams flow directly through the vineyard on the way down to the river Miño. The soils here are more fertile and alluvial. All three of these plots have unique climates that create distinct wines.

I am particularly happy to receive these wines right now because they are, I feel, particularly appropriate for Thanksgiving. These are medium bodied wines with no oaky overtones to mask the vibrant fruit character and the fine minerality of these low alcohol (12.5%, also a good thing this time of year!) wines. Any of them would be a perfect match with turkey, dressing and the rest of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Additionally, we also have some white, rosado and sparkling wines that have been well received in past years and are back again to add a bit of lively Spanish character to your Thanksgiving table.

 

Avinyo Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but only gently sweet. The light bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.

 

Reymos Espumoso de Moscatel $11.99 Sweet sparkling wine from D.O. Valencia. Rich Muscat grape scent, honeydew melon fruit character and light but persistent bubbles. A mere 7.5% alcohol makes this the perfect end-of-meal wine. Serve alongside a slice of your favorite pumpkin pie.

 

Valduero Rosado 2006 $14.99 If you can’t choose between serving red or white, here is your solution. This unique rosado is made in the Ribera del Duero region from Tempranillo grapes. This dark, spicy rosado will compliment rich, sauced dishes such as salmon in a pastry crust or turkey and gravy.

 

Odysseus Rosado 2006 $23.99 Composed primarily of the same Garnacha grapes that go into the Odysseus Tinto, plus smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cariñena and Touriga Nacional (a traditional Portuguese variety), the 2006 is the darkest and ripest Odysseus Rosado so far. Fresh berry fruit character is rich and mouth-filling, balanced by moderate acidity. Not a light back porch rosado, this wine calls out for candied yams, cranberry sauce and creamed pearl onions.

 

D. Ventura Viña do Burato 2006 $16.99 Composed of 100% old vine Mencía from D. Ventura’s Minho River property, this light red is fresh and youthful with the dried leaf aroma that is typical of Mencía. This is the leanest of the D. Ventura wines.  This unoaked red will compliment fresh vegetables, poultry, rice and pasta.

 

D. Ventura Peña do Lobo 2006 $19.99 This wine, from one of the two the Sil River vineyards is 100% Mencía from vines that are over 80 years old. This dark ruby colored wine is ripe with lush fruit character balancing flinty background minerality. I will be pouring this with my Thanksgiving dinner.

 

D. Ventura Viña Caneiro 2006 $24.99  The boldest of the D. Ventura wines, this exclusive bottling sourced from small plots of old vine Mencía grown on the steep slopes of the Sil River Valley is opulent and silky while still retaining a fresh, lively balance of flavors. Notes of cranberry and pomegranate mingle with flinty minerality. This dark and abundant wine never veers into the overly extracted or the syrupy. It maintains a fine balance of flavors with moderate alcohol content and a solid foundational structure.

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

Back to School?

It’s that time again.

Hey, wait a minute.  Is it really “that time again” already? I keep flipping the pages of my wall calendar back and forth between August and September trying fruitlessly to shake loose a few more weeks of summer and wondering where the days went.

Yes, it really is “that time again”, arriving a bit early this year, but the changes in Berkeley (a college town at heart) are already evident.  University professors and staff are gearing up for the fall semester. Campus residence halls are abuzz with activity as new students arrive laden with personal possessions. In the morning, grade school and high school students trudge past my window on their way from home to class and back again in the afternoon, dragging rolling luggage filled with books and homework behind them. In the early evening my local park swells with crowds of young boys at football practice, sprinting back and forth in unison to the short repeated bursts from the coach’s whistle. No question about it, school is back in session.

Wine, of course, knows no season, and while some wines are better with summer meals and others are more suited to winter fare, new and delicious wines (and beer) continue to arrive at The Spanish Table year round.  

In case you have been elsewhere lately and may have missed out on some of the recent new products at The Spanish Table we are playing catch up this week with some highlights from our recent acquisitions.

Here too is an easy plan, not even a recipe, for a simple meal that needs no cooking and tastes best served on an overturned packing box or on the tailgate of your truck.

Welcome back everybody!

 

Kevin’s Moving Day Spanish Picnic

(Serves 4)

 

1 Palacios Spanish dry cured chorizo

¼ lb. sliced Redondo Iglesias Serrano ham

½ lb. Don Alonso Aged Manchego Cheese

1 jar The Spanish Table Lemon Olives

1 jar Matiz Piparras pickled green peppers

1 jar Ferrer Gazpacho

1 sml.  Arte Oliva Ali Oli

1 large bottle Vichy Catalan sparkling mineral water

1 bottle Muga Rosado wine

 

Slice the chorizo thinly on the bias. Tear the pre-sliced ham into rustic bite sized bits. Slice the cheese into thin triangles. Splash the olives and peppers out into a bowl, mixed together.  The gazpacho is ready to go, just serve it chilled with bread and Ali Oli on the side. Crisp, cold rosado and salty, sparkling mineral water satisfy your thirst. ¡Salud!

 

Cerveza:

Jerome Cerveza Roja $4.99

Jerome Cerveza Negra $4.99

Named after the family German shepherd (who’s profile is featured prominently on the label) Jerome Brewing Company is a pioneer in the production of small batch (and I mean really small, as in 5 barrels a day) Argentine ales. Using pure Andean water and top quality ingredients, this small company shows that Argentina’s wine renaissance is spreading to the beer market too. We currently carry the Roja, a bold, hoppy ale that reminds me of some of our local bay Area brews, as well as the Negra, a dark and creamy version of a British stout.

 

Vino Rosado:

Muga Rosado 2006 $12.99 From one of our favorite D.O.C. Rioja wineries, Bodegas Muga, comes one of the best rosado wines of the summer. This pale, salmon colored blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Viura makes a wonderful companion to lighter food as well as being supremely refreshing on a hot afternoon.

 

Artazuri Rosado 2006 $12.99 This dry rosado is made from 100% Garnacha grapes grown in the high altitude vineyards of D.O. Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This perennial customer favorite displays gentle fresh berry scent along with a bright citrus fruit character. The finely detailed aromas and flavors blend effortlessly in this excellent summertime wine.

 

Vino Blanco:

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but the flavor is dry and grapefruity. The assertive bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.

 

Oreka 2006 $19.99 Our newest Txakoli wine from the Basque lands in Northern Spain is a stunner. Oreka (a Basque word that roughly translates as ‘balance’) is made from the indigenous Hondaribbi Zuri grape.  Richer and more abundantly fruity than the rather lean and mineral wines that are typical of this windswept coastal region, Oreka displays slight spritzy effervescence and a firm mineral foundation overlaid with flavors of grapefruit and quince.

 

Uriondo Txakoli 2006 $14.99 This wine is from D.O. Bizkaiko Txakolina, near Bilbao. Unlike the coastal D.O. Getariako Txakolina wines that are made from the Hondaribbi Zuri grape, Uriondo is composed of a blend of 70% Mune Mahatsa and  30% Txori Mahatsa (say that five times fast). Less spritzy than most Txakoli wines, with riper fruit character and less assertive minerality.

 

Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2006 $16.99 D.O. Bierzo is known primarily as a red wine region, but this Bierzo region white wine is made from the local Godello grape that is more common in neighboring D.O. Valdeorras.  This yellow gold colored wine is fermented in temperature controlled tanks that preserve all the fresh citrus and melon aromas that are typical of the Godello grape. Bright acidity adds to the refreshing quality that makes this such a perfect accompaniment to composed salads, pasta or poultry as well as a full range of seafood.

 

Soalheiro Vinho Verde 2006 $21.99 Typically, Vinho Verde is light, spritzy and simple non-vintage white Portuguese wine. These days, as people discover the joys of Vinho Verde we are seeing more and more higher priced wines from this region. Soalheiro is a vintage wine produced from the Alvarinho (Albariño in Spain = Alvarinho in Portugal) grape. Well known in Portugal as a top shelf Vinho Verde, this wine is just starting to find a market here in the USA. Flinty mineral background lays a foundation for light floral aroma and bright citrus fruit character. This finely detailed and multi-layered wine cries out for choriço and clams, salt cod and potatoes or other such traditional Portuguese fare.

 

Vino Tinto:

Carro Tinto 2006 $10.99 The new vintage of this popular red wine from D.O. Yecla has just arrived. Composed of a blend of a blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot, this easy drinking red will add spice and contrast to your next backyard cookout. Dark, bold and fruity with intriguing flinty background flavor.

 

Arbanta 2005 $10.99 An excellent young Rioja produced from Organic fruit.  Recently rated 89 Points by The Wine Advocate, Jay Miller reviewed the wine, saying “The 2005 Biurko Gorri Arbanta offers superb value, among the best in my Spanish tastings. It is 100% Tempranillo, tank fermented and aged. Medium ruby in color, it exhibits remarkable aromatic complexity for its price point with cherries, red currants, and spice in evidence. The wine is elegant, balanced, and fruity right through the lengthy finish. Drink it over the next 1-3 years.

 

Cune Crianza 2004 $17.99 If you go to Rioja and walk into any small bar and request a glass of vino tinto, chances are you will be served this wine. This blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo is aged for two years (12 months in American oak barrels and 12 months in the bottle) before sale. The 2004 vintage shows dark garnet color with black cherry fruit character and balanced oaky tannins that combine to create a picture perfect example of crianza Rioja.

 

Can Blau 2005 $17.99 This D.O. Montsant wine has been getting lots of positive feedback from customers.  Josh Raynolds reviewed this blend of 50% Cariñena, 35% Syrah and 15% Garnacha wine for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and rated it 90 Points. His description matches mine, but his wording is better. He said: “Bright ruby. Focused, fresh and brisk on the nose, with energetic cherry and candied licorice aromas. Intense mineral notes add complexity and depth to the explosive blackberry and cherry fruit, with notes of candied violet and rose coming up on the back. Finishes with superb intensity and length. An excellent value, and built for cellaring.

 

Luigi Bosca Reserva Malbec 2003 $21.99  From one of the oldest wineries in Argentina we recently received this 100% Malbec wine sourced from estate vineyards located in the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo district of Mendoza.  This finely balanced wine displays the dark color and ripe aroma of a typical Malbec, but the mid-weight tannins and the multi-layered aromas and flavors here are sophisticated and well tuned. This is one of the best Malbec wines I have tasted so far.

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

Outdoor Entertainment

Among the many reasons to love living in the Bay Area are the numerous outdoor concerts, plays and other performances that reappear each year like seasonal fruits and vegetables when the weather gets warm.

Last night I was at the California Shakespeare Festival pouring samples of a few Argentine wines we carry. Several theater patrons commented on how the fragrant Sur de los Andes Torrontès white wine was a perfect match for the cool twilight hour before the performance.

This weekend I’ll be packing a picnic for an outing (on public transit, of course) to Stern Grove in San Francisco to see Os Mutantes (legendary Brazilian psychedelic band from the 60s) and Los Amigos Invisibles (unique and super-danceable Venezuelan jazz/funk). A dry, spritzy, low alcohol Portuguese Vinho Verde will surely be among my pic-i-nic basket goodies (‘Oh Yogi, this wine is dee-licious’).

The San Francisco Mime Troupe is celebrating their 48th season of free political theatre in the parks around the Bay Area (this weekend in Berkeley at Cedar Rose Park). Usually, as we wait for the show to start, I spread a blanket on the grass and open a bottle of Spanish rosado. The wine pairs beautifully with tuna stuffed piquillo peppers and other light fare (it’s a good match with progressive politics too).

Some of these events take a bit of advance planning and preparation. When you see that an event is ‘free admission’, as many are, you will always need to plan on arriving early and claiming a space for your group or be prepared to enjoy the performance from a distance (sometimes a very long distance). Bring food of course (including wine and extra water), but also a newspaper or magazine to read while you wait and an extra sweater or blanket for the always unpredictable Bay Area weather. Also, though these events are often free and open to the public, a cash donation of some sort helps insure that these cultural events continue to reappear in years to come (don’t worry about the where and the how…the volunteers with the collection buckets will find you).

These events only last until the start of the rainy season so it’s important to get out there and enjoy the cultural cornucopia while it lasts. Here are some trusty favorites as well as some new arrivals from The Spanish Table’s wine department to jump start your pre-show picnic plans.

Cerveza:

Jerome Cerveza Roja $6.99 (660ml)

Jerome Cerveza Negra $6.99 (660ml)

Just in time for the heat of summer comes this lineup of microbrewery ale from Argentina.

Named after the family German Sheppard (who’s profile is featured prominently on the label) Jerome Brewing Company is a pioneer in the production of small batch (and I mean really small, as in 5 barrels a day) Argentine ales. We currently carry the Roja, a bold, hoppy ale that reminds me of some of our local bay Area brews, as well as the Negra, a dark and creamy version of a british stout.

Blanco:

Avinyó Vi D’Agulla 2006 $12.99 The Avinyó Cava that we carry (the traditional Brut Reserva As well as the new Brut Rosado) is always top notch. This small winery also produces a traditional summer wine called Vi D’Agulla (translates literally as ‘needle wine’). This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but only gently sweet. The light bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.

Barbadillo Palomino Fino 2006 $6.99 It’s back! The most popular white wine in Spain has returned in the new vintage. Made from the local Palomino Fino grapes, blended with a bit of Viura so I’m told, this young white wine from Cadiz in the south of Spain is refreshingly simple and bright. Add some melon and citrus and you have the makings of an excellent Sangria blanco.

Sur de los Andes Torrontés 2006 $11.99 For an Argentine version of Sangria blanco, try using this ripe, Viognier-like white wine from Mendoza. Rich, floral aromatics and peachy fruit character call out for some stone fruit and sparkling tonic water.

Granbazan Ambar 2005 $21.99 This excellent top shelf Albariño displays a flinty mineral foundation underlying bright citrus fruit and slightly oxidized complexity. Very popular in Spain, but almost unheard of in the USA.

Rosado:

Artazuri Rosado 2006 $12.99 The newly arrived 2006 vintage of this dry rosado is made from 100% Garnacha grapes grown in the high altitude vineyards of D.O. Navarra, the traditional home of Spanish rosado. This perennial customer favorite displays gentle fresh berry scent along with a bright citrus fruit character. The finely detailed aromas and flavors blend effortlessly in this excellent summertime wine.

Tinto:

Arbanta 2005 $10.99 An excellent young Rioja produced from Organic fruit. Recently rated 89 Points by The Wine Advocate, Jay Miller reviewed the wine, saying “The 2005 Biurko Gorri Arbanta offers superb value, among the best in my Spanish tastings. It is 100% Tempranillo, tank fermented and aged. Medium ruby in color, it exhibits remarkable aromatic complexity for its price point with cherries, red currants, and spice in evidence. The wine is elegant, balanced, and fruity right through the lengthy finish. Drink it over the next 1-3 years.

Torremayor Crianza 2004 $12.99 Viña Santa Marina is an innovative winery located in the far flung Extremadura region in western Spain. They make a popular wine called Gargola as well as this barrel aged crianza wine made from 100% Tempranillo. Bright cherry-like fruit with firm but well-integrated tannins. An excellent value.

Peique Mencía 2006 $13.99 One of my favorite young Mencía grape wines from D.O. Bierzo has just arrived in the new 2006 vintage. Vibrant fresh cherry fruit character encounters dry oak leaf aroma and flinty background mineral aroma and flavor. Perfect for summer cookouts in the back yard or wherever you may be.

Collectors wines:

Hacienda Monasterio 2003 $42.99 Peter Sisseck of Pingus fame makes this dark colored and deeply flavorful D.O. Ribera del Duero wine. It is a perennial favorite that we receive limited quantities of once a year. Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave this wine 92 points, saying “Deep ruby. Explosive, sexy aromas of cherry, plum, incense, freshly ground coffee and succulent herbs. Focused and deep, with red and dark berry flavors complicated by candied violet, smoky bacon and cracked pepper. A ripe, weighty wine with a dense, chewy texture and compelling freshness, especially for the year. Finishes with a note of sweet cherry preserves, fine tannins and excellent length.”

Hacienda Monasterio Reserva 2001 $72.00 The Hacienda Monasterio Reserva from the phenomenal 2001 vintage has just arrived. Using the same carefully selected fruit as the younger crianza wine, this Reserva sees longer barrel maturation to smooth out the tannins and bring out the dark berry fruit character. This very special wine is very limited in availability. We have one 12 bottle case to share with you, so act soon if you want some for your cellar.

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