Category Archives: Spanish Wines

What to Drink – Idilico Albariño

What a lovely start to the New Year! A friend dropped in for the annual open house and left without his hat. A few days later, I dropped by his house and reunited the hat and the head.

But the best part was I dropped by at dinnertime. They invited me in for a glass of wine.  And a little week night supper of fried rice to boot.

But back to the wine… It was a Washington winery that I had never heard of and a grape they had never heard of – Idilico and Albariño respectively. Both were quite a surprise to me. I had no idea Washington was growing Albariño.

Winemaker Javier Alfonso, a native of Spain, believes eastern Washington is much like the wine regions of Spain with dry, desert-like climate with hot days and chilly nights. He figures the climate in eastern Washington is very similar to the climate in northwestern Spain’s Rias Baixas wine region where Albariño originates.

Washington’s Idilico Winery is really into Spanish varietals. What other Spanish grapes do they produce you ask? Well, there’s Tempranillo, a juicy and luscious Garnacha (Grenache), Monastrell (Mourvèdre), Graciano and the rare but stunning Albariño

Finicky Albariño is a quality varietal but it’s low yielding. And its skins are thick so the pulp to skin ration is very different from other white grapes.

This Albariño is from a 6 acre planting of in a cooler area of the Yakima Valley north of Prosser. The wine was fermented and aged sur lie in stainless steel for three months.

The wine has the full spectrum of floral, almond and white peach aromas with the stone fruit flavors of apricots, peaches with a bit of citrus to make it really bright. Albariño has bracing acidity from those cool nights and should be consumed in its youth as it rarely ages.

As you might imagine, production of these varietals in Washington is still very small. Their website charmingly explains, “We would like to apologize in advance if finding our wines proves to be difficult. In an attempt to help you locate the wines we will start giving updates via our Facebook Page which you can access below. Happy hunting!

Your fail safe option is to contact your favorite wine shop and ask them to order any available Idilico wines for you. Don’t be intimidated, this is done by good wine retailers all the time. Just let them know which distributor carries the wine in your area.”

Elliott Bay Distributing distributes their wines in our area and the cost about $15. Enjoy!

What we’re drinking: Finca Sandoval Manchuela 2004

Mary writes:

I confess. When it comes to where to plant wine grapes, I’m not the visionary that David Lake, MW was. I scoffed at the idea of planting Syrah back in 1989 when Lake produced Washington’s first Syrah. After all, Washington was the land of Cab and Merlot.

At this year’s Taste Washington I found out while sipping Proper Wines’ 2010 Syrah that Syrah has grown from 800 tons in 1999 — the first year it made the stat sheet — to 11,800 tons harvested last year.

After visiting the famed La Chapelle Vineyard in France’s Rhone Valley, Lake had this vision. By 2009, when Lake went to the great vineyard in the sky, Syrah was the third most widely planted red wine varietal.

Syrah is one of the world’s most diverse grape varieties, displaying a myriad of flavors. It can be floral, peppery, barnyardy, leathery, plummy, smoky and/or herbaceous depending on how old it is and terrior.

It grows best in hot, rocky climates such as the Rhone Valley, Sunny Spain, and the desert regions of California, Australia and Eastern Washington.

And that brings me to the wine of the day from Sunny Spain’s Castilla La Mancha wine region located in the southern half of a hot, dry plateau. Famous for Manchego cheese, Don Quixote and very fine wine.

Finca Sandoval Manchuela 2004, a blend of mostly Syrah and a dab of Monastrell and Bobal. It had been relaxing in my cellar, when a special occasion arose suddenly.

We popped it open and immediately the room was filled with aromas of violets, pepper, licorice, and cassis, which was surprising in itself because of the age. This wine has all the marks of a far more expensive Northern Rhone wine. It had intensity, velvety mouthfeel, wonderful balance and a finish of licorice, cassis and Asian spices.

What we’re drinking: Don Ramon Tinto Barrica

Mary writes:

Looking for a good bargain wine? You’ve come to the right place.

Being a seeker of great wine for under $10, I highly recommend wines from the northeast quarter of Spain known as Campo de Borja. This region is a Denominación de Origen (DO) with a mild climate, located in the shadow of the mountains of the Sistema Ibérico.

One wine from this area I’d recommend trying is Don Ramon Tinto Barrica 2010. Its color is ruby and has aromas of pepper and raspberries with a jammy raspberry flavor. It’s an easy drinking a blend of 75 percent grenache and 25 percent Tempranillo. It retails for $8.

 

Weekly wine defined: Xarel-lo

Mary writes:

Xarel-lo (pronounced: zar rel lo): is a white grape variety that is indigenous to Spain. The vines are found in both Catalonia and central Penedès at moderate elevations. In the Penedès region, it’s one of the base grape varieties of cava, blended with Parella and Macabeo.

Xarel-lo is a hardy plant with medium-sized, thick-skinned grapes. As a result of the thick skin, where all the flavors and aromas come from, the wines produced from Xarel-lo are full-flavored and aromatic.

Sparkling suggestions for New Year’s Eve

By now you’ve probably secured your New Year’s Eve plans, but have you finalized what you’ll be drinking?

If you’re like most Americans, Champagne — sparkling wine if it’s made in America, Prosecco if it’s from Italy, or cava if from Spain — is not something you drink every day.

Instead it’s reserved for special occasions, like New Year’s Eve. (Incidentally, in Italy and Spain people drink their sparklers on a daily basis, much like most Seattleites drink coffee every day).

Seeing as we’re not in Italy or Spain, chances are you don’t drink Champagne (or sparkling wine, Prosecco, cava, et al.) except for once or twice a year. If that’s the case, the thought of selecting a bottle, or two, or three, to ring in the New Year may not top your list of favorite things to do.

That’s where we come in. We called David LeClaire, founder and general manager of Wine World and Spirits, located just off Interstate-5 in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. LeClaire is also a certified sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Needless to say, he knows wine.

So what does LeClaire recommend for this year’s celebration? That depends on what you’re looking for, he said.

If you’re planning a party for a number of guests (read: wide range of palates and likes and dislikes), LeClaire recommends serving Italy’s Prosecco.

“Prosecco, to me, is one of the best toasting Champagnes you can get,” he said.

The price is nice too — typically a Prosecco in the $9 to $10 range is going to be good. And it’s widely available.

This wine is favorable for large groups because it has a touch more sweetness to it, without being too sweet. Usually it’s liked by everyone.

If dry wine is more your style, consider cava over France’s Champagne. It’s cheaper, while still a quality wine.

General rule of thumb: look for wines in the $10 range, LeClaire said. Anything below $10 may cause you to regret your purchase, especially if you overindulge this year. That’s because sparkling wines in the $6 range have likely been injected with carbon dioxide, which produces the bubbles and often the headache.

“The saying is: The bigger the bubbles, the bigger the headache,’” LeClaire said.

The smaller the bubbles, the better the wine. During fermentation wine produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct of yeast eating sugar in the grape juice. For non-sparkling wine gas is allowed to escape; to make it tingle on your tongue, the gas is kept in the bottle, producing the bubbles.

If you’re looking for bubbly from France, but don’t want to pay the markup on a wine from Champagne, consider one from the Alsace region that straddles France and Germany.

These wines are available in the $15 price range and are very elegant, LeClaire said. Unlike Champagne, which is made from chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, Alsatian sparklers are made with Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, producing a softer wine. One brand to look for is Lucien Albrecht, which retails between $15 to $20.

A handful of Washington and Oregon wineries also have jumped into the sparkling pool. That includes Yakima’s Treveri Cellars, which was featured in 2011 at the White House for its State Department holiday receptions and was served earlier this year at the James Beard Foundation dinner. Treveri specializes in sparkling wines, offering Pinot Gris, riesling, Gewürztraminer, chardonnay and even Syrah. You can find most of its wines between $14 and $19.

If all this talk about bubbles has your head spinning — and you haven’t even had a sip yet! — don’t stress. Go to your local wine shop or grocery store and ask the wine steward for help. If you’re in Seattle, stop by Wine World, they’ve got wines you won’t find anywhere else, and staff eager to help.

Tell the steward how much you want to spend, what you typically drink and let them do the work. As LeClaire pointed out, most people who ask for advice will walk away with a better wine than what they would have selected on their own.

Weekly wine defined: Flor

Mary writes:

Flor is the benevolent, film-forming yeast that makes sherry the unique wine that it is.

Flor floats on the top of the wine and prevents oxidation. And as in other parts of the world, the particular yeast cells that make up Flor are particular to the area where sherry is made.

Flor yeast has the capacity to perform a second metabolic action after fermentation. It uses the alcohol and oxygen from the air to produce a coating which floats on the surface of the wine — before bottling so you’ll never have to drink it. But you will be able to smell it in all Fino and Manzanilla sherry.

Fast wine pairings for quick meals

If your home life is anything like ours, you can relate to the recurring scene that plays out each night in our kitchens as we try to come up with dinner ideas that don’t require hours spent slaving over the stove.

The stack of “15 minute meals” cookbooks continues to grow as we try to keep our taste buds happy with meals that can be prepared quickly.

When it comes time to serve the gourmet meals, we don’t want to slow things down by weighing our wine pairing options.

To meet your quick preparation schedule we’re suggesting various wine selections for Ann Vogel’s “one dish wonders”.

Her Red Pepper Spiced Chicken Rigatoni recipe was tricky to find a perfect wine match in part because of the red pepper flakes, which add a kick to the dish, and also because it combines marinara and alfredo sauces.

But after reviewing our trusty “What to Drink With What You Eat” book by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, we think we’ve got a couple options that could work.

If you opt to lay on thick the red pepper flakes, we recommend selecting a dry Riesling or gewürztraminer, both white wines. The slight sweetness of these wines will balance the heat of the red pepper flakes, while complimenting the rich creaminess of the alfredo sauce.

There are a number of affordable options available at the grocery store for each of these varietals, thanks largely to Riesling being a widely planted grape in Washington.

Look to Pacific Rim, a Washington winery focused on making various styles of Riesling, or Chateau Ste. Michelle for affordable gewürztraminer options. And remember to buy dry, not sweet.

If you’re not into heat and you’d rather drink a red wine with the marinara dominated sauce, consider a barbera. This Italian wine has low tannins, making it a great pair for tomato-based sauces, and high acidity, which again will compliment the richness of the alfredo sauce.

For Vogel’s Quick Couscous Paella, because the ingredients are shellfish and chicken based, we recommend a white Rioja.

This Spanish wine is a perfect summer sipper, and seeing it’s from Spain — where Paella is served regularly — it’s only natural that it would be the perfect accompaniment. Look for Marques de Caceres Rioja Blanco at the grocery store. It’s usually priced between $8 and $10, making it a great deal.

Sangria the perfect “punch” for this festive dish

This would have been a great recipe and pairing a couple weeks ago for Cinco de Mayo, but we see no reason why you can’t carry on the celebration a little longer.

As we head into summer there will be plenty of reasons to celebrate — including the warm weather — and Ann Vogel’s fiesta themed potluck dish is the perfect go-to for those warm summer gatherings.

This week’s pairing is slightly different than our usual wine offerings, but we decided to follow the festive theme. That’s why we’re offering a recipe of our own, so grab a clear glass pitcher and get ready to make Sangria.

This delicious, fruit-based wine punch has Spanish roots. Typically Sangria is made with red wine, fresh fruit and a bit of something carbonated. But there are recipes for white wine Sangria that are just as good.

It is easy to make and refreshing for summer barbecues. One beauty of the punch is that you can use a wine that may have not worked with another dish. Sangria is a great way to “spike up” leftover wine with oranges, lemons and perhaps a bit of brandy or Cointreau to brighten it up.

Here’s our suggested recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1/4 cup Brandy or Cointreau
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
  • Fruit, whole, sliced or in wedges (apples, blueberries, cherries, kiwi, lemons, limes, oranges, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
  • 2 cups soda, ginger ale, lemon lime or club (chilled)

Preparation:

Dissolve sugar in the orange juice. Combine remaining ingredients except soda. Chill at least one hour before serving, but best overnight. Add chilled soda just before serving. Pour in tall glasses with a skewer of fruit. Consider freezing pieces of fruit in an ice cube tray or small bowl.

Salud!

What we’re drinking: A Spanish red

Mary writes:

Looking for a good wine that won’t break the bank? We’ve got a recommendation for a Spanish red for dinner tonight.
Blending has always been a tradition for Freixenet, a long time Spanish producer of cava (sparkling wines). They also have several other bodegas in their portfolio, one being Rene Barbier located in Catalunya.
This everyday red is a brilliant red color with aromas and flavors of berries, licorice and a hint of vanilla. Lots of upfront fruit, medium bodied with a smooth finish will sure to please both your palate and your wallet. Under $8.

Weekly wine defined: Mencia

Mary writes:

This week’s definition comes from Spain.

Mencia is a red grape from northwest Spain. Traditionally it was a lighter bodied, fragrant red wine in the Denominaciones de Origen (guarantee of origin) of the Galician territories of Bierzo, Rias Baixas and Valdeorras.

But with the younger winemakers a much more concentrated, full-bodied wine is now the norm from this grape.

Many locals believe this vine is related to babernet franc because the fragrance is so similar; as such they called it cabernet.

But after DNA testing determined there was no relation, they’ve had to break the habit.