Posts tagged ‘Spanish Wine’

July 18, 2010

Lakeside Grenache


This weekend Beautiful Wife and I loaded up the car and headed to a lake house on a quiet cove of Lake LBJ. After the kids went to bed, we grabbed a bottle of wine and headed to the gazebo on water’s edge to enjoy a conversation, the sound of the waves lapping on the shore and the night breeze.

We choose a 2007 Real de Aragon Granacha from the Calatayud region of Spain. This is not a pretentious wine, packaged with a red stopper instead of a cork. It was right at home being barefoot and shirtless on a Texas lake.

Smell: a Spring day in the field with cherries and dusty sun.

Taste: Real de Aragon introduced itself with round cherry and soft strawberry flavors followed by cedar tannins. The finish didn’t stick around long enough for us to fully get to know one another. This wine didn’t have the heft typical of a Spanish Grenache. I guess it is fitting to be a little watery sitting lakeside.

Price: $10 (you get what you pay for with this one)

It’s pleasant enough, but nothing special. It’s a good thing we had lots of other fantastic ingredients to make a memorable night.

July 16, 2010

In flight at House Wine


Do you remember ten years ago when wine bars started popping up here and there? Not tasting rooms, or wine shops that served by the glass, but honest to goodness establishments fully dedicated to the enjoyment of wine by the taste, the glass or by the bottle. Outside of New York and San Francisco wine bars were few and far between. Much has changed. In Austin there are at least a dozen different wine bars.

My beautiful wife and I decided to try House Wine before going to dinner. This place is in a little house just south of Lady Bird Lake a block west of S. Lamar on Josephine St. They are definitely going for the South Austin vibe – casual, cozy and a little sloppy. The space is intimate (small) and eclectic (mismatched shit). We felt pretty comfortable right from the start.

There wasn’t table service, so we bellied up to the bar and looked through the menu. House Wine has about 25 whites and 30 reds by the glass and by the bottle. The prices are pretty damn reasonable ranging from $7 to $11 and bottles in the $20s and $30s. We were there at happy hour – hey hey 2 bucks off each glass.

On this particular night, we were indecisive, so we decided to order two flights. Three half glasses for $15. A bargain. I ordered a Spanish Tempranillo, a Côtes du Rhône and Spanish Verdejo (white). My beautiful wife asked the bar tender to select a flight for her. She had a sparkling rosé, an Argentine Malbec and a California Pinot Noir. We also ordered a selection of cheese and smoked salmon. The cheese and salmon were nice, served in a gorgeous wooden bowl and gave us something to clear our palettes between wines. Worth the order.

Here’s what I had.

I started off with Paso a Paso Verdejo 2008.  Lovely pale yellow in the stemless glass. Nice scents of pear. The Verdejo grape makes a nice medium bodied, citrusy, honied wine that is right at home on the shabby back porch of House Wine and at your summer party.   

Next I had a Volver Tempranillo 2005.  Bright ruby with a fruity nose. This guy started off with round cherry, cassis and vanilla and finished with cocoa and a bite of tannins. The smoked salmon tasted great with this.

My third glass was REDblanc CĂ´tes du RhĂ´ne. This organic Grenache, Syrah blend had a warm plum color and a nose to match. It was a mouthful of raspberries, violets and licorice with a touch of cedar on the finish.

Decent wines for the price.  If you are looking for a very relaxed, inexpensive wine bar with a decent selection, try House Wine. If you want knowledgeable wine guideance and service in an elegant setting, you’ll be disappointed here. Good news is there are several other wine bars in town.

July 14, 2010

Suitable Wines for a Summer Romance


“Summer romances end for all kinds of reasons. But when all is said and done, they have one thing in common: They are shooting stars-a spectacular moment of light in the heavens, a fleeting glimpse of eternity. And in a flash, they’re gone.” – The Notebook

 Lazy summer days are perfect for carefree romance. What better way to while away a languid day with a lover than a picnic with feet dipped in the lake? Like the thrill of romance, a chilled white or rosé wine makes everything in a picnic basket tastes better.   

 This week I set out to find wines that have the ease of summer and brighten the mood at any occasion. I’m looking for bottled sunshine. When it’s hot out, I often find myself reaching for a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. I guess I’m a loyalist. I decided to break out of that mold just a little bit, and selected four different wines from Italy, France and Spain that are perfect for a picnic.

 San Felice Vermentino

The first one I cracked open was from Tuscany, a 2009 San Felice Vermentino Maremma Toscana Perolla. San Felice has been cranking out reds and whites in a modern winery since 1967 amidst a medieval village.

The dominant grape in this wine is Vermentino, which is widely grown in the hills of Maremma. The grapes sun bathe in the hot sun all day, then sleep in the cool Mediterranean breezes at night. This stress free grape lifestyle gives the wine a fresh, bright flavor. Did I mention that I like Sauvignon Blanc? I guess habits are hard to break. This wine has about 15% of it, which gives it more complexity and a little heft. 

This baby has less alcohol than big red wines, clocking in at about 12.5%. Drinking a couple glasses of this on a hot afternoon won’t make you too drowsy. If that’s your goal, have a third glass. 

Look This is sunshine in a glass.  
Smell Like a tropical beach breeze carrying flint-kissed citrus scents.
Taste San Felice tastes like the perfect shade to prevent sunburn. Its gauzy body gently releases tart, crisp green apple and lemon zest flavors easing into hint of meringue and a clean finish. This is not a wine to lay down waiting for a special moment. Drink it now. Every summer day is a special moment.
Price $16

 Château Bonnet Blanc

Second up, is Château Bonnet Blanc from the AOC Entre-Deux-Mers in the Bordeaux region. The storied vineyards of Chateau Bonnet are downright ancient with the first plantings emerging from the dirt in the 16th century, and the current regime took over in 1956.

 OK, so I’m still on the Sauvignon Blanc train. This one is made up of about half Sauvignon, 40% Sémillon and the rest Muscadelle grapes. Semillon is the rich, supple, subtle Angelina to balance the Brad of Sauvignon Blanc, which can be fragrantly belligerent and acidic. Like Jolie and Pitt, these two make a fantastic blend, particularly with a smidge of Muscadelle thrown in for good measure.

You know what can spoil a picnic quicker than ants? Forgetting your corkscrew. Never fear, this baby is packaged with a screw cap. Just twist and pour. If you miss that ceremonial pop of the cork, just stick your finger in your mouth, bend it into a gentle “J” shape, pucker tightly around it, and then pull it out briskly. “Pop!” This is the genius move that was created centuries ago specifically to mimic the sound of a cork being pulled. It’s fantastic.   

Look The delicate color of gold coins shimmering just below the surface of a gentle green stream.
Smell This wine smells just like a vivacious young girl picking up those gold coins, while eating grapes and drinking lemonade with white blossoms in her flowing hair.
Taste Château Bonnet Blanc introduces itself with smooth grace before racing into crisp, fresh citrus fruit flavors with vivid acidity that draws out a long, relaxed finish. It’s hard not to lounge just a little longer enjoying the after-glow once you’ve had it.  
Price $11

Blanc Pescador

Don’t you just love the delicate tickle of an effervescent wine? Like miniature angles frolicking over my tongue. For my third selection, I opened a young Blanc Pescador. This isn’t a rollicking sparkling wine – its less bubbly than Champagne, but has more fizz than a Vinho Verde. The good folks at Castillo Perelada in the Empurda Costa Brava region of Spain work a little magic during fermentation to conjure a fine, light and natural sparkle. In Spanish this is called “vino de aguja”, which means “needle-wine”. I have no idea what that means, but I read it somewhere.

Finally I’ve taken a complete departure from Sauvignon Blanc. Blanc Pescadore is made up of Macabeo, Parellada and Xare-lo grapes.

This is a picnic wine if there ever was one. Its entire attitude and outlook on life is casual fun. You could try to dress it up for a black tie event, but it’s much more comfortable in flip flops and a sundress eating finger foods in the breeze. If your lovely day gets rained out, bring it inside and serve it with ceviche while sitting on the floor in a circle of friends.  Better yet, serve it for brunch with a crab omelet. The tart fruit and acidity are an ideal date with shellfish. With only 11.5% alcohol, it won’t knock you down so soon after you woke up.  

Look Daisy petal soft yellow with hints of spring green.   
Smell Grapefruit mist carried on a sea breeze with a whisper of yeast.  
Taste It tastes like wearing white linen while playing badminton. Clean, fresh and crisp with a sparkling bounce in its step.  
Price $11

Riondo Prosecco Raboso, Pink Spago Argento

I can’t get enough bubbles, so my fourth wine choice is a spirited Prosecco made with Raboso grapes, grown on the Veneto hills of Italy.  Riondo opened in 1999 and is nestled in Monteforte d’Alpone in northern Italy, west of Venice.    

Pink Spago Argento is a frizzante with frothy bubbles that make me smile. The wine makers get the gentle sparkle by controlling the temperature during fermentation. It is impossible to be in a bad mood while sipping a glass of bubble gum pink wine that begs you to take it sailing. Like most of my summer choices, this is somewhat low in alcohol at 10.5% to give us license for day drinking.

Look As bright pink as the crinoline of a fairy princess tutu.
Smell  It smells like the delicate breath of that lovely fairy princess after she’s eaten a bowl of sweet cherries and freshly picked strawberries.
Taste Pink Spago Argento dazzles the mouth with a crisp pop of fresh fruit and brisk acidity. It finishes with a subtle bitterness that reminds you it isn’t simply cute and sweet. Its gentler than the bittersweet end of a summer romance.
Price $9

 Try one of these wines pool-side, at the lake, in the hammock or on a picnic blanket this weekend. Let me know what you think. What is your favorite wine for making summer memories?

July 12, 2010

¡Viva España!


The Dutch looked invincible in the quarter finals and the semi-finals. They looked down right abysmal in the World Cup championship game. Thugs. Classless, plodding thugs. It’s not that Spain dazzled us with scoring fireworks, but at least they were aggressive around the box. Their one goal with minutes left in the second period of over time was all it took for them to be world champions. Congratulations.

In their honor, we uncorked a 2004 Condado de Haza tonight. This tasty tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is from our man Alejandro Fernandez, (the same guy that made the wine that I wrote about in Feelin Tinto Fino). OK, let me be honest, I was looking for an excuse to open the wine. I actually wanted Netherlands to win today.

I decanted this wine, assuming it had cast some sediment. Yep, there was a little at the bottom, but it was pretty hard to tell with this wine that is as opaque as FIFA referees and as purple as the mark on Alonso’s chest after he got kicked by De Jong in the match today. A little swirled kicked out delicious aromas of blackberry, cedar and the satisfying tingle of alcohol vapors. Ahhhhh.  

How does it taste? It tastes like victory. It starts off with round and deep with dark blackberries and cherries. It is quickly joined by tabacco and a hint of astringent tannins and eases out with vanilla aged raisins. Damned good.

It costs about $26 and is worth every penny. I think I would have drank it even if Netherlands won.

July 1, 2010

Feelin Tinto Fino


Properly decanted and ready for action

Subject show prior to consumption

 

Lately I’ve been itchin for a taste for Spain, so I grabbed a few bottles of Dehesa la Granja 2001 to scratch that itch. This fine juice comes from the vineyard Alejandro Fernandez  in the Ribera del Duero region. Our man Alejandro has been in business since 1972, and is well known for some of his other labels – Tinto Pesquera, Condado de Haza  and El Vinculo. He makes his wines exclusively from the Tempranillo grape, which I’m partial to. 

The pop of the cork released a dusty raspberry bramble scent. The rusty brick brown wine had kicked off a bit of sediment, so I decanted it so I didn’t have to chew it. 

Even though its only 9 years old, my buddy Dehesa is already showing signs of maturity. Tasty enough, but missing a little of the roundness and pizzaz I was looking for. Tasted more like the inside of a wallet than I want. I don’t think I’ll leave the other bottles lyin around too much longer. So, I popped a second bottle later on to see if it was holding up better than the first. 

This one, classic Tinto Fino. Medium bodied, with the lively step of a flamenco dancer springing forth to smash berries with wooden shoes on my tongue. Can’t blame ’em, the flavors. After being cooped up in a barrel for two years before being bottled, then all that time sittin in that glass jail for seven more, ya gotten expect the flavors to burst forth. Then the tannins and oak restrained a few of the more susceptible fruit flavors with leather straps, forcing them to linger for a long finish. This I like. I like it a lot.

This is a great wine to pair with a meal. Lamb, venison, duck, pizza would all benefit from a visit by old Dehesa. I didn’t bother though. Food seemed like too much effort. This wine had me fully occupied on a Wednesday night.

You might have a tough time finding the ’01 vintage, but I encourage you to go out and grab a bottle of the year you find. It retails for about $25 and is widely distributed. Go get ya some.