Tag Archives: wine

Time Change

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

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


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


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


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

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Welcome to The Spanish Table wine blog

After receiving much encouragement to take the weekly Spanish Table Berkeley wine newsletter to a wider audience I will now post the same information here as well. Please bear with me as I come up to speed with the technology. No doubt this will get better as time goes by. I will be posting archived material here as well as new stuff. Meanwhile, add this link to your favorites and check back weekly to read about all the new wines and food coming to The Spanish Table.

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WPLJ

One of the big differences between this newsletter and a blog(note: this was written before transferring everything to this format) is that you the readers do not get to comment on what I write and have it posted alongside my weekly ramblings. Occasionally a reader responds to something I’ve written, adding context or perspective that I had not considered, leading me to share their insights with the rest of you. This was the case last week when Jim Kaatz commented on my ‘Portonic’ cocktail recipe. He asked, “Have you ever heard the Mother’s of Invention (Frank Zappa) song WPLJ (white port and lemon juice)? I always thought they were kidding! I guess not!”

Ah yes, Frank Zappa. His name, like a pebble tossed into the cloudy pool of my personal memory, creates concentric waves of nostalgia. Growing up in Atlanta Georgia in the 1970s, high school would have been less educational and much duller without Frank Zappa’s articulate rebelliousness and mind-blowing electric guitar solos (an irresistible combination for just about every teenaged male born in the last fifty years). I had forgotten that MPLJ was the first track off of his 1970 album Burnt Weenie Sandwich. But ‘FZ’ (fanboys called him that even before we ourselves were called ‘fanboys’), genius composer that he was, did not actually write MPLJ.

A quick search of the internets (ain’t modern life grand?) reveals that MPLJ does indeed stand for White Port and Lemon Juice, the favorite drink of the original composer, ‘Lord’ Luther McDaniels who originally recorded the song back in 1956 (here in Berkeley, no less) with his short-lived doo-wop group called The Four Deuces. Before Zappa covered the song in 1970 the original version was used as the jingle for Italian Swiss Colony wines (another cue for nostalgia) to sell their, you guessed it, white port.

After the Zappa version came out in 1970, the New York radio station WABC changed their name to WPLJ and featured the kind of music, ‘album oriented rock’, or AOR in radio lingo, that I loved during that time (Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra and so on), but I didn’t grow up in New York so that is perhaps more of a topic for someone else.

Type WPLJ into youtube (we didn’t have that back in the 70s, let me tell you) and you can listen to both versions of this classic song (the links, for the search-impaired are http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNA-jRm-nvQ for the original, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLFjkEpwGfE&feature=related for the Zappa cover). 

Many thanks to Jim Kaatz for starting me down this path of internet fueled remembrance. Also, though Frank Zappa is no longer with us, ‘Lord Luther’ is supposedly (if the internet, source of all wisdom, can be trusted) still making music and living in Salinas, just as he did fifty years ago as a younger man singing with The Four Deuces.

But I digress. What is new in the wine world at The Spanish Table? Plenty, but this week only some of it is actually wine. I am very excited to (finally) report that we have secured a supply of Basque apple cider at an excellent price. We also have Spanish and Portuguese beer, new Manzanilla Sherry and a sparkling white wine from Portugal that is growing in popularity with each passing week. And, yes, we have plenty of white Port and more new wines for summertime sipping too, so whatever your personal preferences are beverage-wise, come visit and see what’s happening here in the heart of Berkeley, home of great things to eat, drink and sing about.

“Well I feel so good, I feel so fine
I got plenty lovin’, I got plenty wine
White Port & Lemon Juice,
White Port & Lemon Juice,
I said White Port & Lemon Juice,
Ooh what it do to you!”

Bereziartua Apple Cider 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

Estrella Galicia Beer When visiting wineries in Spain I often get the same bizarre sounding question. “Would you like a beer before we taste the wines?” Traveling in Spain can be hot, thirsty work, so this is actually a reasonable way to proceed. While Spain has many excellent beers, this excellent lagar from Galicia is currently the only Spanish beer available here in California. Blonde color, yeasty aroma and crisp flavor are just what you want after a hot day to reawaken the appetite. $10.99 (6 pack)

Sagres Beer In Portugal, this is a major brand. Sagres is served everywhere. This classic lagar style brew is crisp and light with clean hoppy flavor. It makes a perfect accompaniment to a classic Portuguese sardine sandwich. $7.99 (6 pack)

Luis Pato Espumante Bruto I mentioned this wine a few weeks ago. We ran out for a brief period, but it is now in stock once again. 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

San León Manzanilla Clásica Previously unavailable in the USA, San León is a new addition to our selection of Jerez wines. Herederos de Argüeso has been making wine in Jerez since 1822. They produce a full range of Sherry but they specialize in the production of Manzanilla. 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)

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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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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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