Category Archives: Basque
THE TIMELESS PLEASURE OF RIOJA WINES March 19, 2016
Rioja has been on the cutting edge of viticulture and oenology since the late 1800’s when Bordeaux vineyards were destroyed by the phylloxera louse. To keep French wine markets supplied, Bordelaise vintners fled to Rioja, establishing wineries and bringing the latest winemaking technology to Spain. Many historic Spanish wineries date from this period and still exist today, including La Rioja Alta (established 1890), Bodegas Faustino (founded 1861), CVNE (1879), Marques de Murrieta (1852) and a number of others.
Today in Rioja, wines vary from ‘traditional” style, with aging in American oak according to the Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva designations and released when ready to drink. “Modern” style wines age for varying durations in French, Russian, American or Hungarian oak and offer a unique expression of Rioja. Terruñyo-driven wines are produced from singular plots and showcase Rioja’s profusion of micro climates, soil, vineyard orientation and altitude.
Some of our favorite, traditional style Riojas:
2005 Bodegas La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Rioja($35.00) One of the premier producers of old-school Rioja with impeccable quality. Viña Ardanza is labeled Reserva, but has aged long enough to be classified as a Gran Reserva. 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha from ancient vines, aged separately; the Tempranillo is aged 36 months and the Garnacha was aged 30 months, both in neutral oak. The wines were manually racked six times. Offers up a silky depth of nuance and elegance. “Sexy, highly perfumed aromas of red fruit preserves, vanilla, mocha and fresh flowers, with a hint of pipe tobacco coming up with air. Sappy and broad on entry, then more taut in the middle, with sweet cherry-vanilla and spicecake flavors given lift by juicy acidity. Closes smooth, spicy and long, with lingering smokiness and fine-grained tannins adding grip. A touch more lively than the excellent 2004 version of this wine and of equal quality, which makes it an outstanding value in old-school Rioja.” 92 points Stephen Tanzer/Vinous 94 points Wine Advocate
2001 Faustino I Gran Reserva Rioja ($40.00) A classic house, founded 150 years ago and one of the largest landowners in Rioja. Located in Rioja’s Basque Alavesa sub-region which many consider the best area for Tempranillo. 2001 was a spectacular vintage in Rioja and the 2001 Faustino Gran Reserva was named 2013’s Wine of the Year by Decanter Magazine. Aged for 26 months in American and French oak barrels, then 3 years in the bottle before release, this is a full-bodied Rioja with balance and elegance. “Restrained, mineral style with elegant tannins. Youthful and fresh, feminine and complex. Deliciously decadent, with extraordinary vitality in the palate and a long, unique finish. A jewel at this price.” 19.25/20 points Decanter
2010 Señorio de P. Peciña Crianza Rioja ($19.99) Pedro Peciña learned how to do things the painstakingly hard, old-fashioned way in his 18 year tenure as vineyard manager at Rioja’s iconic La Rioja Alta. A quarter century later, his attention to detail and dedication are displayed in his own bodega. His structured, beautifully layered wines speak to the soul of traditional Rioja with a Burgundian-like complexity and elegance. “Deeply pitched red and dark berry aromas are complemented by vanilla, allspice and mocha and lifted by a smoky mineral topnote and building florality. Sweet and expansive on the palate, offering concentrated cherry-vanilla and raspberry flavors and a zesty undercurrent of minerality. Shows excellent power and persistence on the finish, which features supple tannins and resonating mineral and spice notes. This spent two years in American oak barrels before bottling and then rested for two more years prior to being released.” 92 points Stephen Tanzer/Vinous
For an inspiring tutorial on Rioja wines, pick up a copy of “The Wine Region of Rioja” by Ana Fabiano. With 229 pages of Rioja’s history, top bodegas and winemakers, grapes and much more, with gorgeous pictures. You’ll be on a plane to Rioja in no time!
IBERIAN COMFORT FOOD INGREDIENTS
Chicken, simply roasted with just a few sprinkles of salt and herbs, is one of life’s great comfort foods. Make it immeasurably better by serving it with a glass of Rioja, particularly 2007 Viña Cubillo Crianza!
Shiitake mushrooms are superb, and in season now. I’ve been sautéing them in garlic, fresh thyme and fino sherry, and tossing them with everything from lentils to pasta. For a superb comfort food dish, however, combine shiitakes, chorizo and Madeira with chicken.
See The Spanish Table’s recipe below.
New! Basque Meat Marinade. Basque Norte Restaurant in Chico, CA created this popular sauce in 1975 and has been serving it ever since. Now made commercially for them by Mooney Farms in Chico, the restaurant immerses their steaks in the marinade for 10 minutes, then cooks them on a hot grill. For more intense flavor, the meat can be marinated longer, even overnight. Also excellent on chicken, pork or lamb. Try it!
New Supplier, better flavor! Medjool dates from California. Naturally processed with no added sugar, these dates have a caramel flavor with a balanced, not overwhelming, sweetness. Excellent for snacking or serving with cheese; also used in North African tagine recipes.
Dried limes are back in stock: A relatively new ingredient on our shores, dried limes are a staple of Iranian and Persian Gulf cuisines. With a sour and musky-fermented flavor, they are made by boiling fresh limes in a salt and water brine, then drying them in the sun. They can be used whole, in soups or stews (poke the limes with a knife so the liquid can seep through and absorb the maximum flavor).
Or break up the lime and make a seasoning powder, using a spice grinder. It is excellent sprinkled on seafood, meat and especially lentils to punch up the flavor.
2013 Barco del Corneta Verdejo, Castilla y Leon $29.99) ORGANIC 100% Verdejo, made from organically grown grapes. Barrel fermented using local yeasts and aged on its lees for 8 months. With aromas of citrus and toast, this a creamy white wine. Rich, generous and weighty with concentrated and nuanced fruit flavors, this is a perfect winter white. The finish is refreshing and lifted, leaving a clean citrus note on the palate.
2013 La Cartuja Priorat ($15.99) ” (70% garnacha and 30% carinena; aged for six months in French oak): Bright violet color. A highly perfumed bouquet evokes dark berries and fresh flowers, with a spicy nuance gaining strength with air. Juicy and energetic on the palate, showing a silky texture and juicy blackberry and cassis flavors. The smooth, smoky finish shows very good clarity and a whisper of fine-grained tannins.” 90 points Stephen Tanzer
2011 Herdade de Rocim Mariana, Alentejano ($16.99) My trip to Portugal last July revealed the explosion of talented winemakers and profusion of superb wines coming out of this country right now. Herdade de Rocim fits squarely in this realm, producing excellent wines in the value-driven Alentejo region. A blend of 30% Aragonez, 20% Syrah, 15% Alicante Bouschet and 15% Trincadeira, this is a medium-bodied red that delivers an intensity of bright red fruit. With aromas of violets,dusty graphite notes, 2011 Mariana is precise, with a satiny finish. Tasty! 91 points Wine Enthusist.
2011 Viña Almate, Castilla y Leon ($20.99) Natural winemaker Alfredo Maestro seeks out neglected, high altitude vineyards around Castilla y León and works them organically, using indigenous yeasts. In the cellar, Alfredo eschews all winemaking additives, including sulfur, so that his wines simply offer up a purity of fruit and a sense of place. 2011 Viña Almate is 100% tinto fino (Tempranillo), 75% from Ribera del Duero and 25% from just outside Ribera’s boundary. Aged in neutral French oak for 2-4 months, the wine is unfined and unfiltered. Aromas of smoke and dust are balanced by lifted black currant and marionberry fruit. Earthy mushroom nuances have savory notes of wild herbs. Fresh, precise and mineral driven, it has excellent structure with fine grained tannins. This is a wine with character; savor it with jamon serrano.
CHICKEN AND SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS COOKED IN CATAPLANA
In this case, you are using the enclosed environment of the Cataplana to make a stew. (Cataplanas are available at The Spanish Table; their shell-like form clamps shut and holds in the moisture as ingredients cook). That means you will have to be a little patient while is stews, hidden out of sight, under the lid. While it stews away is a good time to sip some of the Madeira and a good excuse to buy something a little better than Rainwater Madeira. A 5 year old Bual or a Malmsey would be a good selection.
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 choriço (or Spanish chorizo), diced
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
1 Potato, diced
1 Bay Leaf
½ pound Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
½ pound Chicken breast, cut into strips
½ teaspoon Sea Salt
½ cup Madeira
½ cup Half-and-half
Heat oil in a large Cataplana. Cook choriço until just starts to brown. Stir in onions and potato and cook until onions are limp. Stir in mushrooms and cook until soften. Stir in chicken and salt. Pour in Madeira, clamp down cover and cook twenty minutes. Open cataplana and stir in half-and-half just before serving.
One of my lazy weekend pleasures is listening to Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, a habit picked up while living in London. I potter about the kitchen making stock or trimming beans with half an ear cast towards the radio. It is an estimable program in which you find a satisfying balance of the serious and silly, the real and raw. From solemn discussions of women in politics to giddy gossips about the latest and greatest shade of lipstick, Woman’s Hour has it all. Among it’s many discussions, one of my favorites is a continuing segment entitled “Cook the Perfect,” in which the presenter interviews a variety of chefs and takes the listener though the preparation of a chosen dish.
Recently, Woman’s Hour presented “Cook the Perfect Paella” with the Tasmanian born, Britain-based, Basque-loving chef Ash Mair. Click the link below for Mair’s tasty take on seafood paella with prawns, fennel, and aioli. Que rico!