Keep hydrated with Rosado!!!


This week in Montreal, the temperature went up to a warm 40 C. I really enjoy when is hot like this. Its mandatory at this weather to go the pool and to drink lots of cold rose. You want to keep your body cool and fresh and not risk dehydration.

As you know, Spain has an amazing selection of roses. From the floral rosados of Navarra to the gutsy ones of Valencia, there is something for every palate. However, our selection at the SAQ is kind of weak. Here are my reccomendations to keep you hydrated.

Borsao Rosado Seleccion 2015. SAQ Code: 10754201. $13.20

A regular in the SAQ catalog, this rose made from 100% Garnacha, displays aromas of strawberry jam and cherry. Full body and easy going, it is the perfect refresment by the side of the pool. 87/100.

Vincente Gandia Pescaito joven 2015. SAQ Depot: 12841093. $10.00

Gandia is one of the biggest wine conglomerates in Spain. This rosado is made from Bobal and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a nose bringing to mind fieldberries with a touch of violet. On the mouth, full body, medium acidity with simple but delicious vinous flavors. Great for the everyday BBQ. 88/100

Codorniu Castell de Raimat Costers del Segre 2015. SAQ Code: 12842344. $14.30

Elegant notes of strawberry, with  a hint of grapefruit complemented with a touch of aniseed. On the mouth,   flavors are reminiscent of strawberry and raspberry with a sweet finale. In fact, there is some residual sugar in this wine. 86/100

Felix Solis-Los Molinos Tempranillo 2015. SAQ Code: 10791125. $9.40

On the nose, delicate aromas of raspberries, watermelon and other red berry fruit. On the mouth, fresh and delicate. Flavors are consistent with the nose. Perfect for raw tomato pasta based sauces. 85/100

Garnacha Blanca, the white of the summer

Garnacha Blanca is grown primarily in the regions of Catalunya and Aragon. Unlike the French, Spanish winemakers like to produce single bottlings made with this wine, sometimes fermented over its less and in oak, yielding wines with a unique personality. The variety originated in Spain and then spread to the Southern Rhone. 

These are  racy wines which are medium to full body. They have floral aromas as well as citrus and yellow fruits. When made well, they can also smoky and minetal flavors. White garnacha is made as a monovarietal but also can be found in blends with Maccabeo.

Here are my suggestions for some Garnachas Blancas available at the SAQ:

Baronia del Montsant Flor d’Englora Garnatxa 2014. SAQ #12825051. $20.15

Aromas of hay, ripe yellow stone fruits, smoke with a touch of lemon peel. On the mouth, full body with a medium acidity. Refreshing with a touch of minerality in the finish. 92/100

Celler Acustic 2015. SAQ #11902077. $24.85

Distinguished floral nose with cray and mustard seed nuances. On the mouth, full body and dry with flavors of almond cake and earthy ground cherries. Persistent and smoky finale. 93/100


Gaba do Xil Mencia 2013


As time passes, I am learning to appreciate more the flavors and nuances of Mencia. When Mencia is grown in granite and schist terraces from appellations like Valdeorras, it can develop pure black fruit notes verging towards a peppery and violet bouquet. It brings to mind a Syrah from the Northern Rhone such as Cornas or Cote Rotie.

Telmo Rodriguez is a well known Spanish winemaker. He is famous for making wine in some of Spain’s best terroirs.  They include: Pago la Jara in Toro,  Matallana in Ribera del Duero and Altos de Lanzaga in Rioja. These are some of the icons in the Spanish wine scene.

His latest  project is in  Valdeorras, even though it was the first region he visited in the early 1990s. After travelling  several local towns, he formed a strong impression, especially after the encounter with a grower who still pruned his vines using an tool from the Middle Ages. Telmo believes that the meeting with the grower motivated him to work in the region.

The vineyard where he started is called La Falcoeira, in the town of Santa Cruz. It is an ancient vineyard, coplanted with a mixture of varieties, but Telmo Rodriguez has focused its on two native varieties, Godello and Mencia.  Dotted with chestnut trees mixed with rockrose, the old granitic terraces barely have minimum space to squeeze in the odd row of vines, following the waves of the mountain that lead into the River Sil.

Gaba do Xil Mencia 2013. SAQ # 11861771. $19.00

Aromas of dark fruits with olives, herbs and confit violets. Brings to mind a cote rotie rather than a mencia. On the mouth, full body, with a good fruit extraction. Fresh and velvety in the mouth. Love its cured meat and barnyard aromas. Long with a caressing finish. Food Idea: Bison hamburgers with swiss cheese and mushrooms-onions.  93/10


Gaba do Xil Godello 2014. SAQ # 11896113. $19.55

Aromas of Japanese pear with green apple and citric fruits. On the mouth, medium body. Refreshing and round, almost a creamy texture. Flavors bring to mind nuances of white balsamic condiment and ground fennel seeds. Nice mineral moutfeel.  Harmonious finale. Food idea: Linguine with clams. 95\100







BBQ is Barbacoa, an American- Spanish thing


As the weather gets warmer in these parts of the worlds, the cooking moves from the indoor kitchen to the outdoor patio.

No one is really sure where the term barbecue originated. The conventional knowledge is that the Spanish, upon landing in the Caribbean, used the word barbacoa to refer to the natives’ method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform. The practice of barbecuing in America came as a result of the introduction of domesticated livestock by Spanish and Europeans settlers in the 15th and 16th centuries. This technique involves putting meat in an iron cast grill and put directly on a fire.  It is something very common to find in Latin American and Spanish Gastronomy.

The best Parrillas are made in Northern Spain. It is not surprising since most of the livestock that ends up in a grill comes from those parts.

I came to know the gas bbq when I moved to Canada. Up to the age of 15, I only BBQ with the coal system. In Venezuela, this cooking method is called La Parrilla.  This was a very social thing, since it was done with a group of family and friends on a weekend. It involved large quantities of meat and some organs too.  It also involved large quantities of booze involved. During those years, I was not a wine drinker. In a Parrilla, it is custom to have beer or scotch. There is not really a wine culture in Venezuela

When choosing a wine for La Parrilla, you need a full body red wine with bold flavors and maybe a bit of oak. Otherwise, the charred and smoke impregnated flavours will dominate everything. My top choices for Spanish wines, include wines from the two R’s, Ribera del Duero and Rioja. I also very fond of Garnachas from Calatayud specially with blood sausages or morcilla .

The latest SAQ Cellier offers some excellent Spanish  wines, to get you in the mood to start barbequeing.


Bodegas Balbas Ardal Reserva Ribera del Duero 2010. SAQ #  12806984. $31.50

Decadent fruit on the nose, showing lots of depth and concentration. On the mouth, very structured with savoury animal, mineral and smoke flavours. Hefty tannins, this wine with get more civilized with a few years on the cellar. Perfect with a charred T-Bone steak. 93/100


Celler la Muntanya Negre 2010. SAQ # 12818109. $20.45

This wine is  a blend of Monastrell with some 25% Garnacha, 20% Garnacha Tintorera and a hint of the local red Bonicaire, an almost extinct variety they are recovering from 40-year-old, head-pruned vines vines. Big nose, bringing to mind lots of earthy and herbal characters such as mountain scrub, ripe black fruits and aromatic fresh herbs. On the mouth, the wine is full body, with a restrained balance and a interesting elegance. A very nice. 90\100


Burgo Viejo Rioja Crianza 2012. SAQ # 12848308. $17.00

Red ruby  hue with violet tones. On the mouth, it is a  well-balanced with old style black fruit, vanilla and coconut flavors. Powerful, complex and silky smooth. Traditional Rioja with a friendly pocket price. 91/100




Monastrell, wine deity of Yecla


A Monastrell from Yecla, was one of the first wines that I tasted when I arrived in Madrid in the late Summer/early fall of 2002. The place where I bought it was a tiny well stocked wine shop near the Retiro park. I explained to the owner of the shop, a man in his late 50’s that I was learning about Spanish wines. He showed me a reccomendation and I said, that the wines from Yecla are one of the best kept secrets of Spain. The man explained to me that the old Monastrell vines from Yecla yielded magical wines and that Robert Parker was going crazy for them. To this day, i do not remember that producer but I think that it was Bodegas Castano.


After picking up the bottle, I went to the food market section of the Corte Ingles to get myself some mushrooms ” Trompeta de los muertos” and some beef cubes. I did a stew to have with the wine. I will never forget that supper of that evening in my apartment in Madrid. That Monastrell had a heady scent of blue fruits with fascinating scents of earth and flowers. The wine was bringing out the flavors of the mushrooms and they in turn were communicating with the wine. The experience reminded me of the short story of Julio Cortazar, the aquarium. I was converted…


What makes the Monastrell from Yecla so special?. First is the altitude where the vineyards are located. Yecla soils are located between 400 meters and 800 meters. In addition,They are deep with good drainage and with a high content of chalk. Furthermore, the climate is continental with mediterranean influence. Temperature oscillate between -7º in the winter and 42º in the summer, with an average of 3.000 sunshine hours a year. This is a grape that loves important differences in temperatures. More important, it likes hot weather and cold winters. Its the reason why it develops thick skins and produce those fascinating heady flavors.

Yecla is pretty small appellation making big wines. There are 11 wineries in which 9 of them bottle their own wines and the rest sell in bulk. This is small wine region with an international clientele. Most of the production is exported, being USA, Canada and Germany, their biggest markets.

The Castaño family has been participants of the Yecla wine scene for many generations. In the 1950’s Ramon Castaño Santa founded the winery. Deemed an avant-gardiste , he modernized the winery with a passion for Monastrell.

Castano has 500 ha of vineyards scattered in the yecla denomination. Campo Arriba in the northern part of the d.o is richer in limestone while Campo Abajo is richer in Clay. This gives the wine the perfect combination of power, structure and aromatics.


Their Hecula is their classic entry level wine. The wine spent 6 months in inxox cuves and another 6 in wood barrels ( 80% french and 20% american). SAQ#11676671. $13.95 Here are my tasting notes:

A fantastic value from Yecla. Aromas of ripe black fruits with complex barnyard nuances. On the mouth, full body with notes of caramelized expresso beans and blue fruits. Rustic, brambly but well made.


On the other hand, Solanera is a custom made wine for key markets such as the North American one. It is a majority blend of old vine Monastrell (70%) with the remainder Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Garnacha Tintorera ( 15%). Here are my tasting notes for the 2013 vintage. SAQ #11664902. $20.95

Rich and inviting bouquet. Deep notes of ripe blue fruit such as cassis jam and blueberries. In addition delicate notes of dry mint and licorice with a background of different leathers and other animal nuaces. All this in a cloud of violets, roses and other aromatic flowers. In the mouth, full body, powerful and structured. Balanced by a cool acidity. Retronasal flavors of dark chocolate blueberries, wood and dark raisins. Noble tannins with a pencil lead, mineral fennel streamlined finish. Will age for the next 5-7 years


Is Rueda losing interest for Verdejo


One of the reasons that i love Spanish wines because they original. Spain has an amazing collection of wine varietals which are not exploited on their advantage.

The problem that i have in Rueda is Miss Sauvignon Blanc. Dont get me wrong, I like Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, or Bordeaux. But Rueda has a such a magnificent territory in a high altitude climate, so why give such and importance to Sauvignon Blanc?

My sudden uneasiness with Sauvignon Blanc goes with the recent world Sauvignon contest held in Tordesillas. A selection of Spanish Sauvignons Blanc received a warm reception. These included Mantel Blanco and Palacio de Bornos from the 2015 vintage. Other wines selected by Spanish master of wine, Pedro Ballesteros were received well.


Verdejo vineyards

There seems to be a contradiction between what the D.O Rueda wants and the image that this type of events portraits. The slogan of the apellation states that only Verdejo is the character of the appellation, reflecting the special characteristics of their soil. Although the percentage of Sauvignon Blanc is a mere 6% planted in Rueda ( 2013 harvest figures), it has encroaching slowly but surely in the appellation

Sauvignon Blanc was introduced in Rueda by the Marques de Riscal in 1974. Then, it was felt that the appellation needed a dynamic fresh look in the International markets. Emile Peynaud was brought to consult and being the good Bordelais, dismissed the Verdejo variety. Verdejo is prone to oxydation, and he reccomend to replace by Sauvignon Blanc if Rueda wanted to succed it.

Today, Rueda is doing well in the Spanish wine Industry. The Europeans specially the Germans like Rueda. However, the long term sucess of the appellation will rest of the promotion of native varieties.

And now for the tasting note:


Chartier Créateur d’Harmonies Rueda 2014. $19.40. SAQ Code: 12831101

Aromas that bring to mind citric fruits, green apples with nuances of fresh coriander and a hint of almond with anis spice. On the mouth, structured and balanced with a complex and refreshing finale. Excellent with seafood asiatic based soups. 90/100.


This Rueda is the seventh wine of the line of Chartier to appear in the SAQ shelves. This Rueda comes from very old vines of Verdejo ( 75 years old+). The soil in which the wine is born is similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, red pebbles, which tend to absorb the heat and distribute to the vines. Chartier uses indigenous yeast to vinify and the wines mostly spent his time in inox with a short time ( 3 months) in its lees.

The Two C’s that I like: Crab and Cava.

With the arrival of spring, temperatures start to get milder which is one of the reasons that I like the season. If you are a foodie like myself, it also mark the arrival of a friendly crustacean, the blue crab.

The snow crab is the first crustacean to arrive in Quebec fish stores. I love its tender and delicate meat in omelettes, rice or pasta dishes. Although it is easier to cook than lobster, it is more messy to shell than lobster. You can buy this specialty, alive or cooked. It is important to know that only 25% of the weight of the crab is comestible.

The crab should be consumed within 1 or days whetever is alive or cooked. The live crab should react when touched and the cooked one should have a fresh marine smell, not ammonia. The meat of the crab is rich in proteins, low in fat and with plenty of minerals.

There are many types of crab in Spain. From the large, expensive bueyes del mar to the smaller, more affordable nécoras, there is a type of crab for every taste and pocket.

Buey de mar. This is the brown crab, who are  called “ox of the sea” as they can weigh up to 3 kilos. The body is often cracked open and used as a bowl for a soup using the crab meat.

Cangrejo de mar. This is thelittoral crab, much smaller than a buey de mar, these little crabs are usually 3 or 4 centimeters long. Very tasty.

Nécora. This is the velvet crab, one of the cheapest  crabs in Spain. You can find nécoras for as inexpensive as 10 euro per kilo, although the price will increase  during the Christmas season.

Centollo. This is the spiny spider crab, this gnarly looking crab has a lot of flavor but be sure to choose the female! They have more meat and more flavour.

Here is my top Cavas to go with this happy crustacean that wont break the bank:

Codorniu, Selección Raventós Brut. SAQ Code: 12206671. Price: $17.35

Lovely nose recalling green apples, spices and dry fruits. On the mouth, it is medium body. Very fresh with a good bubble. Fruity recalling aromas of pears, cream and quince. Easy going with a cleansing finale. Enjoy with a crab omelette for saturday brunch. 92/100

Parés Baltà Cava Brut. SAQ Code: 10896365. Price: $17.95

One of my favorite producers of Cava. This cuvee, is one of the best values at the SAQ in the sparkling wine category. On the nose, this cava reminds me of  white peaches, apples, pears, melon and lime. On the palate, it is a tad richer than the Codorniu with decadent flavours of apple, honeydew, peach and mineral notes. It is very straigfoward and nicely balanced, with a clean finish of tropical fruits. 94/100. Have it with warm buttered crab.

Freixenet Cordon Negro. SAQ Code: 0008591. Price: $14.85

Freixenet is one of the largest sellers of sparkling wine in the world. This popular cuvee caracterized by its black bottle has a very citrusy nose bringing to mind meyer lemons and oranges. On the mouth, it has a floral and mineral nuances with a slight sweet poise. 90/100. Should be interesting with crab coconut milk soup.