Spanish Table Seattle Newsletter November 7, 2011
It’s easy to jump on a Spanish AVEtrain and in the blink of an eye, be in a different part of Spain. Last May we rode the rail from Madrid to Tarragona and then drove to the Priorat wine region, arriving in three hours, just in time for lunch at Piro Restaurant in Gratallops. Piro serves home style Catalan food, simple and tasty; I’ve recreated their toothsome meatballs with escalivada (roasted vegetables) several times. In the past two decades, the spectacular villages of Gratallops and Porrera have become a magnet for wine enthusiasts. These two villages are only ten kilometers apart, but Porrera’s climate is cooler, due to its proximity to the sea. These conditions best suit the Carigñan grape which is highly prized for its color, tannins and excellent coupage, as well as yielding much more complex wines from older vines. In Gratallops, the fruitier Garnacha grape excels in the warmer temperatures, and although both varietals are planted in each village, there is a fifteen day difference in harvest dates due to weather variations. (Taste wines from these two villages side by side to compare the difference!). The small local restaurants offer a staggering selection of local wines with affordable prices, sometimes with world class winemakers dining at the next table. We ate incredibly well at Cellar L’Aspic in Falset, La Cooperativa in Porrera, Cals Calcet in Porrera and Piro in Gratallops. Irreducibles Restaurant in Gratallops is another highly touted restaurant. Our stay in the Priorat was made personal with the help of Nicole Andrus, Spanish Wine Specialist with Folio Wines. Nicole lives in Barcelona and spends a lot of time in the Priorat and other parts of Spain with winemakers, many of whom have become her personal friends. She owns Niso Wine Tours and will arrange lodging, book winery visits and recommend restaurants; her recommended Hotel La Icona in Porrera was a two bedroom apartment on the river with a large patio and kitchen. We felt like locals for a few days while we were there.
Nicole also scheduled us a visit to Celler Vall Llach in Porrera. A 30 minute drive over rutted dirt and schist roads in a 4 x 4 brought us to one of the most spectacular and oldest vineyards in the Priorat, Mas de la Rosa. Ninety year old Carigñan vines are scattered raggedly across the vertiginous hillside; the schist soil has areas of vines growing right out of the rocks. Back at the bodega in town, we were able to barrel taste wines from different plots with oenologist Salus Alvarez. 2006 Embruix de Vall Llach, Priorat ($23.99) is one of the best values in Priorat. Produced from old vine fruit that doesn’t go into the higher end wines along with grapes from the estate’s younger vines, it is aged in used French oak barrels. All vineyard plots are harvested & vinified separately; over 92 different micro-fermentations were performed in the 2006 vintage. Balanced, structured and elegant, this is a wine that pairs well with hearty meals. “Blackberry and candied cherry on the nose, with complicating notes of licorice and dried violet. Supple, forward and fruity, with gentle acidity adding lift and focus. This rather suave and already approachable wine finishes with lingering dark berry flavors and a kiss of herbs.” 89 points Stephen Tanzer
2002 Vall Llach Idus, Priorat ($38.00) ” Explosively ripe aromas of plum, currant, spicecake, cedar, minerals and violet. Sweet, lush and pliant on entry, then tighter and penetrating in the middle and firmly tannic on the back. There’s creamy black fruit flavor and very good volume here but the wine is distinctly clenched today owing to its strong acidity. I’d lay this down for a couple of years” 91 points Stephen Tanzer
2005 Ferrer Bobet Priorat ($24.99) Sale! Regularly $36.00 Ferrer Bobet is primarily a blend of Carigñan and Garnacha, from hundred year old vines in some of the best vineyards in Priorat. Though the “second wine” of Ferrer Bobet, the initial 2005 release put them on the wine world map. Two of the most important publications in Spain named it their wine of the year, and accolades came pouring in from Russia, the UK and the US. It launched the Ferrer Bobet mission of creating wines of elegance and purity, and the message has resonated. “Spicy red berries and cherry on the nose, with suave nutmeg and cinnamon adding complexity. Light-bodied, fresh red fruit flavors reminded me of pinot noir, as did the silky texture and fine-grained tannins. Clean and understated, with good finishing sweetness and no rough edges. This is drinking nicely right now.” 90 points Stephen Tanzer
We spent Halloween in Boise, Idaho and picked up a fresh load of Gem Basque meat products on our way home. Along with the standard Chorizos, we discovered Gem Basque Solomo, which is smoked boneless pork loin. It’s served in several Basque restaurants in Boise, including Bar Guernika, where it’s made into delicious sandwiches. We have Solomo sliced to order at Paris Grocery, and it’s also available at Spanish Table in approximately one pound pieces.
Gem Basque Chorizo Mini Choris – over a dozen small Chorizos in this one pound package. Boil them in red wine and serve as a tapa with a side of toothpicks.
Gem Basque Chorizos – The classic, full size chorizos that customers can’t get enough of.
Desert Miracle Moroccan Extra Virgin Olive Oil, made from Arbequina olives. Notes of herbs with a bit of pepper; delicate and sweet.
Les Terroirs de Marrakech EVOO, made from picholine olives from a hundred year grove located at the food of the Atlas Mountains. This is a medium to strong oil with complex flavors of tobacco, herbs, dried fruits and grass. Comes in a beautiful gift bottle!