Tasting wines in El Brozal vineyard, Rioja
Spanish Table Seattle Newsletter May 20, 2011
We’re still savoring memories of our early May trip across northern Spain, where we visited 19 wineries in 15 days. At every stop, young winemakers shared their passion for the land. Many are from families who have been viticulturists or wine makers for generations and working the land is unquestionably their identity. Over and over, winemakers described their quest to produce wines that reflect the terrunyo, singular wines that reflect the unique conditions of each plot using minimal intervention, and without abandoning the region’s heritage. We special ordered a bunch of these wines on the spot and they’ll be rolling in over the next few months. As they arrive, we’ll spotlight them in our newsletter. We can’t get over the sheer quantity of old vines in Spain. Old vines are less productive and thus their fruit has more concentrated flavors. We had many a vineyard lunch among these ancient vineyards.
2005 Barón de Magaña, Navarra ($19.99) This was the only Navarran winery on our trip, but it was worth the drive just to meet this family. Owner-oenologist Juan Magaña decided 30 years ago that he wanted to produce a Bordeaux-style wine in Navarra. He located a nursery in Bordeaux (coincidentally owned by a Spaniard) that supplied Merlot vines to Chateau Petrus and other wineries. Unfortunately the government of Spain at that time did not permit the planting of Bordeaux varietials in Spain, so Juan had no choice but to smuggle the vines into Navarra. Thus was established the first vineyard of Merlot in Spain. Eventually he had to confess to the D.O. that he was growing Merlot, and not Tempranillo. By then he was known as one of the best winemakers in Spain and had numerous awards, so the D.O. relented and authorized Merlot to be planted. Juan’s son Diego is now winemaker and continues to push the boundaries with these varietals.
2005 Barón de Magaña is very expressive, aromatically complex with hints of ripe dark fruit, spice, and fine leather. Well-balanced, bright spicy fruit with very well integrated lively tannins. Aged in French oak for 14 months. “Good lift to the Bordeaux-like aromas of redcurrant, dried cherry, tobacco and rose. Juicy and focused, offering sweet red fruit and floral flavors and a lashing of cracked pepper. Finishes lithe and sweet, with a note of candied cherry. This is delicious now.”
90 points Stephen Tanzer
2010 ROSADOS ARE HERE AND THE SUN IS OUT!
2010 Pares Balta Ros de Pacs, Penedes ($12.99) A blend of Merlot, Syrah, and a touch of Cabernet. This year’s vintage is the best ever, with a perfect balance of cherry fruit and crispness. We pre-ordered it, so many shops won’t have it for another month.
2010 Artazuri Rosado, Navarra ($9.99) From one of the best Garnacha producers in Navarra, their rosado is elegant and dry.
2010 Conde de Valdemar Rosado, Rioja ($9.99) Garnacha and Tempranillo. Fruity and fresh, this is excellent with paella.
2010 Melipal Rose, Mendoza ($12.99) Pick up some empanadas here and a bottle of Malbec rose for an easy dinner tonight!
2010 Olivares Rosado, Jumilla ($8.99) 70% Monastrell and 30% Syrah. This is our best value and the distributor is almost out of it! Get it while you can.
We still have a small amount of 2010 Txakoli Gurrutxaga ($19.99) and 2010 Amestoi Rubentis rosado Txakolis. Low alcohol, light, with clean effervescence, the Txakoli rosados are produced in minute quantities for the U.S. market and have developed a cult following. You’ll see why when you taste one!
Spanish Table Cheese Festival Winners
Torta Del Casar is a definite customer favorite and a rare cheese to find in the states. Rich, buttery, nutty, herbaceously sweet with a long piquant finish, this raw sheep’s milk, washed rind cheese hails from Extremadura. Torta del Casar takes 20 sheep milked twice daily to create a single wheel of cheese. Serve by cutting off the top of the torta and spooning out the delightfully oozy center. This cheese is perfectly balanced and complex; the more you enjoy, the more nuances you discover!
Queso Curado al Azafran is a delicate nutty sheep’s milk cheese blended with saffron. The mild flavor tones accentuate the floral notes of saffron. This cheese is best enjoyed on its own or with a refreshing glass of Rueda.
Montcabrer is constructed like no other cheese and is made by queso design freaks. The young fresh goat milk is aged in a thick rind of charcoal and vegetable oil. The cheese remains semi soft and creamy encased in its rind and develops beautiful musty mushroom tones. If I didn’t know any better I would guess Montcabrer is a buttery truffle cow’s milk cheese.
Rhapsody in Blues
Monje: Creamier than Cabrales, wrapped in chestnut leaves, and so blue it would put Billie Holiday to shame. Monje has a velvety smooth texture with a wonderful pepperiness and lingering hazelnut finish. This Asturian farmhouse blue has been made with raw cow’s milk for over 100 years. Robust and creamy, its complex flavors will unfold on your palate.
Autor is a raw goat’s milk blue from Quatratondo, in southeastern Spain. This artisan farmstead goat cheese is curdled with thistle rennet and aged for 60 days in an underground cavern. Full-flavored with a hearty goat tang and mild natural blue flavor, Autor has persistent hints of grass herbs and citrus.
São Miguel -We were finally able to get our hands on this mammoth 20 lb. wheel o’ cheese from the Azores. Wonderfully buttery, with a texture like a creamy Colby cheddar. Sao Miguel has pleasing sweet grass flavors that reflect the Azores Islands’ terrain. The perfect table cheese to enjoy with cured meats, olives and, sun-drenched red wines.
São João -Kissing cousin to its substantially larger compadre, São Jorge, this petit creamy pancake-looking cheese is also from the Azores. Sao João is a much younger, creamier version of São Jorge. Very approachable with a slightly elastic texture, mild sourness, and pleasant grassiness.
We are fully stocked with over 50 different Artisan Spanish cheeses and 15 Portuguese cheeses.