Spanish Table Seattle Newsletter November 6, 2009

A Visit to Blandy’s Wine Lodge, Madeira

Madeira lies in the Atlantic Ocean 378 miles west of Morocco. A volcanic island, its sub tropical climate and abundant rainfall seem an unlikely place for wine production. But its shelves of terraced land rise up the flanks of 6105 foot Mt. Pico, which on the sunny side of the island provides a climate ideally suited to viticulture.

The urban port city of Funchal is the heart of wine production and retains its 18th century Portuguese charm despite a modern profusion of traffic encouraged by European Union road projects. But when we drove a few minutes away from Funchal on our visit last month, we found peaceful country lanes bordered by New Guinea Impatiens, Hydrangeas, Trumpet Flower and Eucalyptus forests, much the same as it was 200 years ago. Madeira is a verdant garden, nourished by its volcanic soils and ample precipitation.

Uninhabited until 1427, Madeira was discovered and settled by the Portuguese who soon began making wine. By the mid 16th Century it was a refueling stop for ships crossing the Atlantic and its wines were brought on board to prevent scurvy. The U.S. quickly became one of Madeira wine’s principal markets along with England and Brazil. It was a favorite drink of Thomas Jefferson who toasted the signing of the Declaration of Independence with a glass of Malmsey.

Originally a table wine, it was fortified with brandy to stabilize it for long ocean journeys. On one fateful hot voyage to Brazil, a cask of Madeira (called a “pipe”) was accidentally left on board and eventually traveled back across the tropics to Funchal. When the wine merchants tasted it, all agreed that it was much better than when it left! Since then, Madeiras have been aged with the use of heat, and for a time pipes were actually shipped to the colonies and back to replicate that famous voyage. Eventually winemakers realized that they could recreate the tropical conditions of a ship voyage by storing the pipes in the eaves of Funchal’s wine lodges, where temperatures would climb to 45 degrees Celsius.

Madeira has an elegance and finesse not found in other fortified wines. Warm temperatures and evaporation concentrate flavors, and ongoing oxygen contact produce wines that are long lived and extremely stable. Open a bottle today and ten months from now it will taste as fresh as the day it was opened! Volcanic soils give the grapes high acidity which produce wines with a light mouth feel, intensity and a persistent finish.

The canteiro system: slow aging of varietal Madeiras at Blandy’s wine lodge

A glass of Madeira warms and satisfies on a cold, wet night. It’s also stellar served with creamy foods and holiday desserts such as pumpkin pie. Madeira adds richness to sauces and is excellent used in place of wine for deglazing sauté pans.

Here’s an easy and delicious recipe using Madeira:

Chanterelle Mushrooms in Madeira Sauce (Two servings)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 cup fresh chanterelles, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup creme fraiche or whipping cream

1/4 cup Feist Full Rich Madeira

1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Heat olive oil over low heat and when warm, saute garlic and onion until translucent. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for five minutes, then add Madeira and simmer for another two minutes. Add creme fraiche and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately. This is excellent as a sauce for grilled pork chops or chicken, and would be a great side dish for the Thanksgiving dinner table.


We have the largest selection of Madeiras in the country. Here are some of our favorites:

Feist Full Rich ($17.99) Aged 3 years, it is smooth, viscous and full bodied. Feist Full Rich is a great introduction to a sweet Madeira as a tasty dessert drink or for use in cooking.

“Full Rich” Madeiras are made from the Tinta Negra grape which is the most widely grown grape on the island. “Full Rich” Madeiras are produced by the “estufagem” process which warms the wine by means of a pipe in the tank filled with warm water.

The most complex Madeiras are made from four traditional varietals (Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Malmsey) whose production is declining in favor of the easier to grow Tinta Negra grape. Varietal Madeiras are produced in the “canteiro” method, in which pipes are aged slowly in the warm eaves of Funchal’s wine lodges.

Blandy’s 5 Year Bual ($22.99) Medium sweet, with light caramel flavors and spice. A hint of countryside herbs provides an intriguing background to this smooth Bual. Great acidity and concentration.

Leacock’s 10-year Bual ($41.00) “Very distinctive burnt treacle aroma, followed by concentrated flavors of caramel, walnut, iodine and green tea. There’s grip and length, with power on the back end.” 90 points Wine Spectator

Blandy’s 10 year Sercial ($37.00) Sercial is the driest Madeira and Blandy’s Sercial is a richer style than other brands. With butterscotch aromas, it is a bit sweeter than bone dry. Round and smooth on the palate, it’s flavors of roasted nuts with high acidity give Blandy’s Sercial a light and elegant mouth feel. The finish is lengthy and clean.

FLAMENCO PERFORMANCES Hot on the heels of last night’s passionate flamenco show at Benaroya Hall, Isabel Lopez from Casa Patas Flamenco Company in Madrid is performing at Taberna del Alabardero in Belltown. The Sunday show is sold out, but Taberna has added another show on Monday November 9th at 8:00 p.m. For information, call 206.448.8884.

FLAMENCO DE RAIZ presents RAFAEL DE UTRERA with Eric and Encarnación from Children of the Revolution with special guest percussionist Juanma Lucas

2 shows Saturday, November 7th, 2009 7PM & 9:30PM, Kirkland Performance Center (425) 893-9900

Rafael and Juanma are top level flamencos coming directly from Sevilla, Spain. Rafael is one of the most respected flamenco singers in the world today and will be coming off his current tour with Vicente Amigo. This will be a “flamenco puro” performance with dance numbers and cante jondo(deep or profound song).


Our new shop features French cheeses and wine, and other foods with a French mood. It’s located 1/4 of a block south of Spanish Table at 1418 Western Avenue.

New cheeses just in!

Tomme du Segala is produced in small amounts in the city of Carmaux in southern France, this raw goat’s milk cheese has an elastic texture that crumbles slightly. The flavor has hints of olives and grass.

Tomme Crayeuse is a semi-soft raw cow’s milk cheese from the Savoie that undergoes two stages of cave-aging. The final, intensely rich flavor is earthy, with mushroom and citrus notes. Created by one of France’s top affineurs, Max Schmidhauser.

Crémeux de Bourgogne is a cow’s milk triple-crème cheese from a small family of producers in Burgundy. This pasteurized, bloomy-rind cheese has a dense texture and a rich flavor with hints of fresh butter.

Tomme de Savoie is a pleasant table cheese form the Savoie with a distinct raw milk flavor – beefy, hazel nutty and pleasantly milky. With approximately 30% fat content, this is the most creamy ‘low fat’ cheese available. Enjoy with liver-stoked pâtés and light red wines like Beaujolais.

Pavé de Jadis So named because of its shape: pavé is a small paving stone. This fresh goat’s milk cheese from the Loire Valley is dusted with vegetable ash and has a fudge-like texture. The taste is very clean, mild and lemony.


Evora: This small Portuguese cheese (each wheel is only 6 ounces) is made from raw sheep’s milk which is filtered through a mesh lining after being immersed in a salt brine solution. Aged over 60 days, it is made with raw sheep milk and cardoon thistle near the historic city of Evora. Spicy and slightly acidic, it is fruity with a light-yellow color. Because of its slightly higher level of salt, it is well-suited for salads.

We now have Israeli feta!

Have a great week!


Sharon Baden and Steve Winston, Owners

The Spanish Table, 1426 Western Avenue, Seattle WA 98101 phone# 206.682.2827

Paris Grocery, 1418 Western Avenue, Seattle WA 98101 phone# 206.682.0679


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Filed under Cheese, Events, Food, Meat, Music, Port, Portugal, Recepies, Red Wine, Sherry

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