Priorat Wines and Empanadas

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  (I-rish I Were In Sunny Spain). On the island of Mallorca.

Despite a company shake up last week, owner Rodrigo of Maria Luisa Empanadas  delivered three dozen hand-made Argentinean-style empanadas and a warming oven last Saturday for our advertised demo/tasting. He wasn’t able to do the tasting, but customers took one look at the assorted savory pies and all were sold within two hours!    

This week Rodrigo will bring 8 dozen of these ready-to-eat, flaky bits of deliciousness. Fillings include ham and cheese, tuna, vegetarian, beef, chicken and cheese. They are $3.00 each, or buy 6 and receive a 10% discount.  Buy a dozen and take a 20% discount! Made right here in Seattle, these empanadas are seriously delicious and must be tasted to be believed!


2004 Sierra Cantabria Cuvee Especial Rioja ($29.99) We popped the cork on this wine last Saturday night and served it with tenderloin steak and artichokes. It opened up over the course of the evening to reveal high pitched dark berry fruit, spice and a velvety texture. This full-bodied Rioja has the heft to match with hearty foods. "Youthfully reduced dark berry and cherry skin aromas open to offer smoky minerals, flowers and cola. Taut, finely etched blackcurrant and bitter cherry flavors are impressively fresh, with slow-building tannins adding grip. The finish is tangy and long, echoing the berry skin note. This is maturing at a snail’s pace and deserves plenty of patience.” 91 points Stephen Tanzer


 Wines from Spain’s D.O. Priorat region are powerful expressions of place. Produced on low-yielding, diminutive terraced vineyards, the vertical hillsides can only be tended by hand. It’s no wonder that top wines from this region are available in very limited quantities – sometimes only a few hundred bottles are produced, and command lofty prices.    

High costs forced some wine afficiandos out of Priorat over the last five years. But with changes in the world economy, many prices have come down, and new producers have appeared. Now is an excellent time to revisit this region.

Eric Asimov of The New York Times wrote about the Priorat region this week. We’ve got some of Asimov’s favorites in stock, including the best value Alvaro Palacios 2008 Camins del Priorat ($21.99). We’ve got our own favorites as well:

2009 La Conreria D’Scala Dei Les Brugueres Priorat Blanco ($33.00) “From 100-year-old grenache blanc vines planted on pure slate. Slight copper hue from a bit of skin contact. Spiced apple, pear, peach pit and fennel on the aromatic nose. Rich in the mouth, but with a rare light touch for a Priorat white, with notes of stone, almond paste and white flowers. Nicely concentrated, briskly metallic white wine with a slightly phenolic finish that combines dusty tannins and notes of peach pit and grapefruit. Wears its 15.2% alcohol gracefully. Very fresh for this bottling.  92 points Stephen Tanzer

2008 Marc Ripoll Sans Black Slate Gratallops Priorat ($19.99)  “A blend of garnacha, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. Bright ruby-red. More aromatic than the [Cellar Cal Pla] Porrera, with scents of redcurrant, raspberry and spicecake and a suave rose note. A spicy, penetrating midweight that offers sweet red and dark berry flavors and strong mineral spine. Fine-grained tannins add grip and shape to a long, juicy finish. I prefer this wine’s extroverted, perfumed personality … delicious now.”  91 points Stephen Tanzer

2006 Parmi L’Infant de Porrera Priorat ($36.00) Imported by West Seattle’s Small Vineyards, only 400 cases were produced. 2006 was the first vintage of L’Enfant. It was fermented in, but not aged in oak, resulting in a touch of roundness without overt flavors from the barrel. Full-bodied and intense, Parmi displays extracted black and red fruit with a mineral backbone. This is a highly structured wine that needs decanting to fully open up. “Burly and forceful with spicy flavors of red fruit and minerals.”  Eric Asimov, NY Times

2007 Roquers de Porrera Priorat ($40.00) This is one of my personal favorites from the Priorat region. Exquisitely balanced and layered, seemingly endless new dimensions unfold as it takes on air. “The 2007 Roquers de Porrera (the name of an important Priorat village) is composed of 80% Garnacha and Carinena with the balance Merlot and Syrah, aged for 16 months in 50% new French oak. Aromas of wet stone, licorice, underbrush, black cherry and plum lead to a silky-textured, elegant yet powerful expression of Priorat. Incipiently complex, it will benefit from another 2-3 years of bottle age and offer prime drinking from 2013 to 2022.” 93 points Wine Advocate

2006 Celler Cal Pla Mas D’En Compte Priorat ($40.00)  “50% garnacha, 40% carinena and 10% cabernet sauvignon) Bright ruby. Vibrant raspberry and cherry aromas are energized by blood orange and baking spices. Fresh red fruit flavors are complicated by an exotic lavender pastille quality and given lift by juicy acidity. An elegant, precise wine that finishes with excellent tangy cut and persistence. Nothing overdone here.” 91 points Stephen Tanzer

2005 Cims de Porrera Solanes Priorat ($32.00) “40% carignan, 30% grenache, 15% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 5% syrah. Full ruby. Blackberry and cassis aromas are lifted by notes of white pepper and fresh flowers. Fleshy dark fruit flavors turn firmer in the middle palate, picking up a note of bitter cherry with air. Dusty tannins add grip to the long finish, which features hints of musky herbs and anise.” 90 points Stephen Tanzer

2008 Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat ($21.99)  “60% carinena, 30% garnacha, with the rest syrah and cabernet sauvignon. Bright ruby. Very sexy, perfumed aromas of redcurrant, raspberry, minerals and flowers; there’s a wild, aromatic character here. Quite fresh and juicy in the mouth, with good energy to the red berry, cherry and candied floral flavors. Perfumed and energetic, with silky tannins adding shape to a long, sappy finish.” 90 points Stephen Tanzer “Big and tannic with flavors of plums, mineral and licorice.” Eric Asimov, NY Times  Best Value

2008 Clos I Terrasses Laurel Priorat ($55.00) “70% garnacha, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 10% syrah, raised in one-year-old barrels) Deep ruby. Seductively perfumed, with soil-inflected aromas of cherry, dark berries, smoke, spices and dried violet, along with a strong graphite quality. Velvety and tangy on entry, then ripe and sweet in the mid-palate, lending impressive energy to the almost medicinal cherry and singed plum flavors. Lively on the bright, very long back end, which features lingering floral and mineral attributes. Very pretty now but built for short- to mid-term aging, say another four to six years.” 92 points Stephen Tanzer


Carmona Flamenco performs with guest Ana Montes on Saturday March 19th at Cafe Solstice. Details

Ana Montes and Flamenco Danzarte, Big Student Show including Sharon. Saturday, March 26th,  2011 and  Sunday, March 27th, 2011, Ethnic Cultural Theater, Univ. District. More info.


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