Category Archives: Spanish Wines

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:


  • 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)


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.


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.

Weekly wine defined: Jerez

Mary writes:

This week’s wine term is: Jerez (pronounced Hair-eth). 

It is a prosperous little city in southern Spain and is also the birthplace of sherry.

It’s here behind the high, white, windowless walls of the bodegas in which sherry is made and aged.

Almost all sherries are made from the Palomino Fino grape, a fairly neutral, large-crop white grape that thrives in these vineyards.

The vineyards lie mostly to the west and southwest of the city nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Guadalete and Guadalquivir rivers. Pedro Ximénez and the Moscatel grapes are used in the sweet sherries.

Spanish wine a good match for Valentine’s Day pot roast

Since Ann Vogel has decided to keep it simple for her suggested Valentine’s Day recipe, we’ll do the same for our wine pairing.

A hearty meal like Vogel’s suggested Valentine’s Day Pot Roast deserves a wine that can stand up to the weight of the meat and its sides, while also delivering full-bodied flavor.

For this reason we’re recommending Celler de Capçanes Montsant’s Mas Donis Barrica, a blend of 85 percent Grenache and 25 percent Syrah from Spain.

The winery is located 100 miles southwest of Barcelona and 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea. It’s wine history dates back to the middle ages, and while its vines haven’t been around since the middle ages, they are much older than any found in the United States.

The Grenache in this blend comes from 60-year-old vines, while the Syrah from significantly younger vines — the winery gives their age as 5 to 15 years. The wine is aged in new to 5-year-old French and American oak for nine months before it is blended in a tank, where it sits for three months before bottling.

The result of these techniques produces an energetic wine with raspberry on the nose, slight oak spices in the middle and a strong finish. Brynn recently paired this wine with a similar pot roast recipe, which called for two cups dry red wine. She chose the Mas Donis Barrica to flavor the roast. It was a perfect pair.

The wine did well with the tender meat — it’s slightly tangy finish easily met the hearty weight of the meat and potatoes.

Another great thing about this wine? It’s only $13 — a steal for something that received high marks from highly regarded wine connoisseurs Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer.

What we’re drinking: A 10 year old Rioja

Brynn writes:

This week’s wine is from 2001, it’s from Spain and it’s still got some life to it.

At the end of September, while I was in New Orleans learning about the future of journalism, my husband opened a bottle that had been gathering dust on our wine rack. It was a 2001 Montecillo Rioja Reserva.

We’ve probably had the bottle for at least a year, and honestly it’s one I was saving for a nice dinner between the two of us. But since those evenings are few and far between thanks to our work schedules, the bottle remained untouched. That is until a month ago.

I’ll admit I didn’t get a chance to taste the wine, but I let my husband’s palate tell me all I needed to know. He described it as slightly flat, with little finish. I attribute these descriptors to his lack of experience tasting older wines.

Typically we drink wines that are meant to be had within the year we purchased them. While we have grown our wine library in the last year, we haven’t yet popped the corks on any of the wines we’re aging because they aren’t ready yet. So with that in mind, when Jeff tried this 10 year old wine, he went into it expecting upfront tannins and a heavy weight that left an impression on his mouth (similar to what a 2008 Rioja might do).

I went online to see what other wine drinkers were saying about this wine and here’s what I found. Most people called the wine a “tremendous value” because of its price point — hovering around $25 the price is quite reasonable for a wine of this age.

One reviewer said this of the wine:

“…low alcohol, dusty tannins, long finish, and a successful, marvelous, and continuous juggling act between acid, oak and fruit. Do not expect New World style fruit or oak; the oak is a whisper, and the cherry fruit is almost mute.” — Wine Crumudgeon

And here’s the winemaker’s notes:
  • Color: An intense and very deep cherry-pomegranate color with ruby tones, clean and brilliant.
  • Bouquet: Deep and fruity with a perfect touch of oak integrated into the ripened fruit.
  • Taste: Powerful and full-bodied although soft, round and velvety, it fills the mouth with ripe blackberries and firm tannins. Very well-structured, with a long, elegant finish.
  • Food pairings: An ideal accompaniment to red meat, especially when grilled, and all kinds of roasted meats, including those that are well-spiced. As a powerful wine, it also reinforces the flavors of strong and well-cured cheeses, such as Blue Cheese and Roquefort.

I can’t remember where we bought this wine, but if you see a Rioja from Montecillo on the shelves, or a Reserva, I highly recommend grabbing a bottle.

Why not try Sherry with your pumpkin soup?

Soup and Sherry is a long-standing tradition in England, so we thought this fall as we prepare to celebrate the upcoming harvest that we’d go back to our Anglo-Saxon roots and honor this tradition.

Because Ann Vogel’s Pumpkin Soup recipe calls for cinnamon, brown sugar and a little spice with the cayenne pepper, we recommend Amontillado Sherry to sip along side this fall soup.

Sherries, which we’ve written about before, originated in Spain. They come in all different flavors and styles.

But the Sherry we’re recommending has caramel flavors that are capped off with a hint of nuttiness that we know will go well with this sweet and spicy soup.

Initially we contemplated recommending a Riesling for this recipe, but once we reviewed the ingredient list we decided because of the soup’s weight a Riesling might get lost in the shuffle.

In the end we decided the Amontillado Sherry would hold up better because the weight of the Sherry matches the weight of the soup.

However, if you prefer Riesling go ahead and give it a try. How much cayenne pepper you opt to shake into your soup will determine how sweet you should go with your Riesling selection.

If you like a lot of kick, then we recommend a sweeter Riesling because the sweetness will put out the flames. If you only plan to use a hint of cayenne, then stick with a drier Riesling. (Remember when looking at the wine label the higher the alcohol percentage, the drier the wine).

Look to your local grocer to find either of these affordable styles of wine.