San Francisco

Exceptional weather followed us on our Tour de Tiendas as we flew into the Bay Area.  Arriving as the sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge, great constellations of sparkling stars emerged in the darkening sky.   Former chefs, our California partners Andy and Tanya have so enthusiastically embraced North African flavors that they invited the entire Berkeley and Mill Valley staff to a potluck and wine tasting.  Great inspiration came from Claudia Roden’s classic cookbook Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon as well as our favorite new cookbook: Oranges and Olives, Recipes and Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Beyond by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox.  Spicy chicken tagine, baked quince filled with ground lamb, marinated swordfish brochettes with preserved lemon and Farro salad with black Kabuli Chickpeas, Arugula, Piquillo Peppers, and Sherry Vinaigrette were just a small sample of the terrific array.  Back in Seattle, we’ve already reprised the roasted cauliflower in tahini sauce, a perfect winter vegetable dish (and great for those on a diet.)
2007 Burgans Albariño (Rias-Baixas) $12.99 New vintage!  “The 2007 Burgans Albarino is light gold-colored with a sprightly nose of mineral, spring flowers, and lemon peel. Ripe, balanced, and concentrated, this is an ideal match for flaky fish courses. Drink it over the next 1-2 years. … in terms of bang for the buck, it has no challenger.”  90 points Wine Advocate
2006 Las Rocas Garnacha (Calatayud) $10.99 New vintage, only 4 cases available!  “The 2006 Las Rocas Garnacha is dark crimson-colored with an alluring nose of spice box, mineral, black cherry, and black raspberry. Smooth-textured, round, and with no hard edges, this tasty effort is designed for immediate gratification. This is one worth buying by the case.  The grapes for Las Rocas are sourced from high altitude 70-100 year old Garnacha vineyards.”  91 points Wine Advocate
2005 Tomas Cusine El Vilosell (Costers del Segre) $15.99 New vintage!  “The 2005 El Vilosell is composed of 50% Tempranillo, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Garnacha, and 5% Syrah aged for 9 months in new French oak. Purple-colored, it reveals a fragrant array of scents including pepper, spice box, smoke, blackberry, black currant, and blueberry pie. Plush in texture, the wine is full-bodied, with layers of spicy fruit, intense flavors, and well-concealed tannins. Drink this superb value now and over the next 6-8 years.”  91 points Wine Advocate
2007 Onix Classic (Priorat) $15.99 A blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Cariñena grapes, the low yielding vines are planted in shards of slate called “llicorella”.  A bouquet of dark plums, sweet black cherries and a hint of rosemary, with intense concentration, soft tannins and a touch of black pepper in the finish.  A great value from Priorat!
2004 Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja ($13.99): An amazing value for an aged wine from a great vintage (look for Rioja wines from vintages 2001, 2004 and 2005). A traditional style Rioja in every sense with plum and cherry notes, sweet tannins and saddle leather flavors.
2000 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza (Rioja) Alta ($35.00):   Part of our blind tasting in California, this is not new but it was the knock out memory-maker.  Its sensuous body is pure silk and the finish lingers like an old friend reluctant to leave.  Renew your love over this on Valentine’s Day either at home or take it to a romantic restaurant.
50 Wines under $10:   We continue to search out great bargain wines and carefully screen them for quaffability.   Tasting dozens of low-priced wines looking for winners is a tough job but fortunately there are many great values to be had.   Stop in and check out our latest finds!
FOODS:  One of the stops in the Bay Area was the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.  We were delighted when on Wednesday the Chronicle newspaper food writers picked some products we stock as their favorites: Xoxoc dehydrated prickly pear with chile that are sweet, sour, salty and hot from Hidalgo, Mexico.  These are slightly chewy prickly pear with a little savory spicy hit.  As well as Matiz light and rustic Andalucian olive oil cakes from Spain which come in four flavors: garlic-parsley, sugared, cinnamon and the original with anise.
Cheeses of the Week:  Both of these cheeses are from the lush slopes of the Catalan Pyrenees:
Ros: A granular aged sheep’s milk cheese with notes of brown sugar.
Montcaber: Bathed in charcoal and vegetable oil with a semi soft texture truffle flavor.
Pricing: It has been a roller coaster year for prices with the Euro soaring to over $1.60 and then settling back down to $1.30.  Freight surcharges also rose mid-year reflecting the cost of crude oil (transportation companies routinely add a fuel surcharge to every bill based on a government index published weekly.  At one point this summer, it was adding 30% to every freight bill).  We are not only passing reduced costs on to you but we are anticipating reduced cost by narrowing our margin on inventory we purchased when prices were higher.  So stick with us, we are doing the best we can as fast as we can.
PLYMOUTH HOUSING BENEFIT GALA DINNER & AUCTION:In May, Gibbs Smith will publish a jazzed-up edition of The Spanish Table cookbook.  To celebrate, we will be hosting a tapa and paella dinner for 40 on Saturday, May 16th.  Twenty tickets, each good for a couple, will be auctioned off Saturday, February 7th by Plymouth Housing at their annual benefit dinner at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel.
Sharon Baden, Owner & Wine Manager


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