Life is about the simple things

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The simple things of life are the best. I heard this all the time but sometimes never pay attention. It only applies to me under special circumstances, when is convenient for me like when I broke for instance.

For many the last week of January is going to be a dreadful time. Some will receive the wrecked credit card bill, a bitter reminder of the faked sweetness of the Christmas season. If you are doing dry January, it will be much worse because how the hell will you forget about the problem!!

When I was a student at University I used to drink inexpensive wine all the time. After a good bottle of wine, I used to finish the evening with a cheap one. This ritual made me appreciate it more the good bottle that was enjoying before. Christine, the lady that ignited on me my wine passion used to tell me that I wont be able to drink nice bottles all the time, so it would be a good idea to learn to appreciate a cheap bottle. She used to call them ” El chipo” bottles. Let’s say after a bottle of Valbuena Numero 5, we used to have something costing like $10 from La Mancha. Of course, consumed alongside a fat joint ( now is legal to say in Canada)

Cheap does not necessarily means bad or faulty. It is all about the complexity of a wine and how you can appreciate its different levels. To explain my point, I will use an analogy. Normally, in the fantasized reality of head, I would have social relations with people with my same interests or highly intellectuals ones. The reality is a very different one. My entourage is composed with simple people, yet beautiful. The same thing with wine. You can have a wine with primary fruit flavours yet very enjoyable and delicious. It wont stimulate you like a grand vin but it is perfect to enjoy the moment and pass a good wine.

Valencia yields robust and hearty wines. The region has a blessing of the sun and the Mediterranean climate. In the 1980’s the region was infamous for producing bulk wine but this is actually a fading memory. Nathalie Bonhomme is a Quebecoise by origin currently making delicious yet affordable wines. This is an equal part blend of Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon. A wine of pleasure not of contemplation. Inexpensive, not cheap. Perfect for your aching pocket in cold January if you live in this part of the world.

Les Vins Bonhomme El Bonhomme Valencia 2017. SAQ # 11157185, $18.75

A robust yet charming wine with heady blackberry fruit nuances and mulled wine spices. Full body yet with caressing tannins. Perfect with braised meat or a hearty lentil chorizo soup.

Under a Mediterranean spell

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Never been a fan of the winter season. I am more of a creature of warmer climates. Crackling skin, ice burn and endless layer of clothing is what makes me loath winter. Last week, I told my wife during a pleasant hike in Mont St-Bruno, that the perfect winter would be Madrid alike. Day dream all the way…

Every time I feel particularly like this, I open a bottle of wine from the Mediterranean Islands and let it drift me away to a place where the temperature is 25 C in the summer or 10 C in the winter. Ideally, I would to live in this temperature interval one day. Happily would trade snow for a sunny beach, olive tree instead of tundra and a winter coat for a pair of shorts!!!

The wine that would take me to that special place

I recently drank a bottle of Acrollam Blanc 2017 from Mesquida Mora. Mallorca is better know for its beaches and happening nightlife rather than its wine scene. Mallorca wines aren’t typically exported, so in order to taste them you will probably have to come to the source.

Mesquida Mora, a biodynamic producer in a paradise. This white, a blend of Prensal and Giro with every sip takes me away to the beach of Caló des Moro. Its bouquet emanates the sweetest mineral and garrique perfume reminiscent of chalk, fennel and dill. Warm and inviting in the mouth, it is the personification of Sol Invictus.

Get it while you can via private import by the agency Origines. $34.06. 6-pack case

Have a glass of Cava for Christmas

Christmas is just a mere 10 days again and a lot of people leave their booze buying until last minute. It is pretty understandable since the attention is turned to gift buying and food preparation.

At Christmas, cava may be looked upon as a cheap alternative for Champagne but its supporters argue that this wine, which is bottled-fermented like champagne, is a serious sparkle in its own right

I recently assisted to a tasting organized by the AQAVBS now called A3 Quebec on festive products for the holidays. The cavas that I tasted will certainly put a smile on your face this Christmas.

Unlike Champagne, Cava is produced with the Macabeu, Xarello and Paralleda grapes. However, Cava has a very similar taste to Champagne, in contrast to its close competitor Prosecco But the best thing about Cava is its price. You can find a nice bottle at the SAQ for under $40.

You may think of Cava is merely an aperitif, to be had before a meal or when making a toast. Perhaps it will surprise you to learn that Cava is in fact a highly versatile wine when it comes to food pairing. Cava can be light and refreshing, all the way up to rich and full-bodied. In any event, its strong acidity and tingling effervescence will compliment a whole range of different dishes.  These may include charcuterie, fish and cheese.

Go ahead and inmerse yourself in the holiday spirit with a glass of Cava!!!

Tasting Notes:

Segura Viudas Heredad Reserva. SAQ # 12883461, $30.25

Lovely nose reminiscent of lemon brioche with dry fruits,honeysuckle and levain bread. On the palate, fine bubble, very elegant with a persistent finale.

La Vida al Camp Cava Brut Rosé 2015. SAQ # 13090666, $24.45

Beautiful nose redolent of cranberry confit with lavender and banana cake. Elegant and floral as well. Glossy and caressing finale.

Raventos i Blanc De Nit Conca del Riu Anoia 2016. SAQ # 12097954, $29.30

Toasty cereal notes with roasted strawberry. Medium body with notes of porcini and mountain leaves. Long finale.

Favorite Spanish bottles at Raspipav Part I

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The biggest and most important week of the year in the Quebec wine trade finished last year and alas, I survived. In the space of five days, I attended 3 wine fairs-Raspipav, the Italian trade tasting and RAW wine Montreal. This was an incredible feat considering that my day job is a baker and I have a family to attend as well. I could not taste as many Spanish wines as I wanted  but here is what caught my attention in Raspipav and you should be buying to prepare for your christmas holiday. Disclaimer: These are very sketchy wine notes!!!

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Mas Doix in Priorat

I adore the wines of Priorat but sometimes they are ultra expensive and very heavy. Mas Doix craft elegant wines and affordable for many wine drinkers The Doix family are leading  characters in the Priorat winemaking scene. They have 20 hectares of their own vineyards and an additional 10 hectares of outsourced vines. Like the other wineries in the region, the concentrate on growing old grapes(up to 70 years) Garnacha Tinta (Grenache Noir) and the popular Cariñena

LES CRESTES, D.O.CA. PRIORAT 2016 ( $36.50.-6 pack case Private Import, Les Vignerons de Chartier)

20-year-old Red Grenache vines (80%), old Carignan (10%) and Syrah (10%). Smells like the pizarra soil  of the priorat. Dry roasted black fruits. Full body and very smooth. Fine and suave elegant tannins.

SALANQUES, D.O.CA. PRIORAT 2015 ( $65.00-6 pack case. Private Import, Les Vignerons de Chartier)

65% Grenache, 25% Carignane, 10 % Syrah from  high altitude vineyards in pronounced slopes, with the typical  slate soil called “licorella”. Wine crafted with Grenache and Carignan of old vines between 70 and 90 years, as well as younger vines for varieties of Syrah.  Deep with resonant balsamic notes and ripe Cassis. Fleshy in the mouth with a firm and ripe tannic structure.

MAS DOIX « COSTERS DE VINYES VELLES », D.O.CA. PRIORAT, 2014 ( $148.50-6 pack case. Private Import, Les Vignerons de Chartier)

55% Carignan and 45% Grenache. The grapes come from very old  vines between 80 and 105 years old, with a tiny  production of 400 gr per vine. Iron, bauxite and dry blood. Potent with mind-blowing flavors of  dark cherry and chocolate as well. Lovely balance with fine and precise tannins. Very concentrated yet with a refreshing acidity. A bright future ahead for this wine.

Bodegas Tobia in Rioja

Bodegas Tobía is a recent new player in the Riojan wine scene. Created  in 1994, its founder and driving force is Oscar Tobía, who comes from a local family of wine growers based in San Asensio. Oscar was the first person in Spain to create a barrel fermented rosé wine.  Tobia crafts contemporary Riojan wines always respectful of the Terroir

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Tobia Reserva Blanco 2014 ( $40-$50, 6 pack case, Agence Benedictus-Benoit Cavalier)

Grape varieties: 55% Viura, 26% Tempranillo blanco, 19% Malvasia. Complex nose with  many flavors: butter, cinnamon, vanilla and smoke. Pleasant aromas of tropical citrus fruit such as pineapple and grapefruit. Creamy and buttery with a lovely honey note in the finale.

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Daimon Tinto 2016 ( $20-$30, 12 pack case, Agence Benedictus-Benoit Cavalier)

85% Garnacha tinta, 15% Tempranillo. 6 months in French and American oak. Beautiful nuances of cherries, strawberries with wild raspberry, and other forest fruits. Delicate notes of vanilla, cocoa and roasted nuts as well. On the palate, flavours of black and red fieldberries with hints of  cocoa. Perfect balance: soft, fresh and round. Relatively long aftertaste.

Hasta luego and keep tuned for the other part this week!!!

 

Happiness in a bowl of lentil soup with a glass of Mencia

As you know I am doing a keto lifestyle, so I have to keep my carb count really in check. I am able to skip the bread and pasta to keep the wine. Once in a while, I may give myself a treat such as eating lentil soup. I love a steaming soup of lentil soup for a fall rainy lunch but got to be careful about the portion size. One portion of 100 ml has about 14 gr of net carbs so is not something that I have in my repertoire every day. However, my family likes the lentil soup so I make them for wife and daughter-they love it so much!!!. It would not be fair to prive them of some dishes just because I am doing keto.

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Me and abuela Flor, during my last trip to Venezuela in 2008

This recipe is really simple. As far I remember, it is one of the first dishes that I learnt cook. From a very early age, I used to watch my grandmother cook. She used to make the best dishes ever: chicken with rosemary, stuffed eggplant with meat, meatballs in tomato sauce and of course lentil soup. During my childhood in Venezuela, I used to have lentils twice or three times a week. Legume based dishes are a staple in Latin American diet.

 

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The recipe of my abuela Flor goes like this: You start off making a tipe of sofrito with a base of leeks, peppers, carrots and of course bacon. If you dont have bacon, you can add a piece of chopped chorizo or some prosciutto or jamon serrano. The addition of meat in the soup will add some complexity of flavours to the soup. The sofrito has to be fried in good quality olive oil in medium temperature. After you see the bacon start getting golden and crispy in colour, you know is ready. Then, I add my dried lentils directly. I fry them for two-minute. Then I finish assembling the soup by adding water or homemade chicken stock. The final touch will be the seasoning. I add up a bit of cilantro, cumin, oregano and parsley. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer until the lentils are al dente: soft but still a bit hard. Thats it…you got a nice bowl of happiness in a lentil soup.

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The wine

I choose to pair my lentil soup with the Raul Perez Ultreia St-Jacques 2016 ( SAQ # 13555945, $22.80). I love the wines that Raul Perez makes in Bierzo. This is such as gorgeous wine. In spanish I would say un grande!!!. I love the stuff that Raul makes in the Bierzo. This is a seductive wine. It has such as pretty nose bursting with aromas of wild blackberries with the perfect spice dose: aromas of dried cloves, black liquorice candy and confit violets. On the palate, the wine reminds me of a good Crozes Hermitage: polished in the midpalate with satiny tannins. A beautiful contrast with the grainy texture of the lentils. This is too much of a wine for the small price it commands.

Raul Perez is no stranger to this blog.  I have covered him before. Many consider Raul Perez to be one of Spain’s – if not the world’s – finest winemakers. Perez crafts wine in several regions in northwestern Spain, but he makes his home and many of his finest wines in Bierzo.

Pérez’s fame has been established in the world for several  years now; he originally gained international recognition working with his mentor, Alvaro Palacios, on diverse projects throughout northwest Spain (and beyond), but his home base is Bierzo, which is situated right where the Galicia region gives way to Castilla y Léon. From 1993-2004 he was the winemaker at Castro Ventosa, his family’s historic Bierzo winery, after which he founded his eponymous operation in the same village—Valtuille de Abajo. His family owns about 15 hectares of vineyards in and around Valtuille, which are broken up into incredibly tiny parcels farmed by many individual growers. Pérez’s “Ultreia” series follows a Burgundy model: There are a few “village-level” wines at the entry level—of which this “St. Jacques” is one—and then several more limited-production, single-vineyard bottlings.

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My abuela will be proud of the results of my soup. It was a success in my house especially with my wife. A glass of wine to you wherever you are!!!. You taught me some much about cooking and how to be a respectable man.

 

 

 

La Mancha done right: Bodegas Latué

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When somebody talks to me about La Mancha, the first thing that comes to mind is windmills and Don Quixote. Although the region is notorious for Miguel de Cervantes’ novel is less known by their few premium wines.

This always sound to me as paradox since La Mancha is the largest wine region in the world. While La Mancha has had a reputation for producing mediocre wines, there is a wind of change in the region. One recurring problem of the region is  that they have had focused on price and volume in the past rather than quality.

Another issue has been the necessary monster of the cooperative. The coop is a big player in La Mancha wine industry. A neccesary evil, they still maintain the idea of bulk wine production and export it to other European countries such as France and Italy. This philosophy has prevented La Mancha to develop a clear wine identity. It is one of those weird anachronisms of the Spanish wine industry

Still you can find Bodegas that do things right like Bodegas Latue in This reference producer in La Mancha started out as the  San Isidro Cooperative in 1954. The philosophy statement of the company it is:

The founding spirit of Bodegas Latúe remains latent. Entrepreneurship, ecology, sustainability, social responsibility, quality and innovation define the personality of Bodegas Latúe, in an environment where equal opportunities and social maintenance of people in the rural area are always present.

These values, transferred to our wines and high quality musts, are recognized by associates, clients, institutions and the society, identifying Bodegas Latúe as a socially responsible, sustainable and ecological company.

You can really feel the words when you taste the wines. I recently had a chance to taste their Verdejo and Tempranillo  available in the Quebec market via their importer: Pot de Vin.  The wines are available only via private import. It is actually worth it to buy a case or two of these wines since only a few references listed in the SAQ  from the region have this incredible quality level.

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Verdejo by Latue 2017. ( $19.78/Case of 6, private import in the Quebec market)

From organic grapes. One of the most amazing Verdejos that I tried with an unbeatable price. Great nose reminiscent of peach and tropical fruits. On the mouth, round and quite fresh with delicate notes of roasted herbs and lime sorbet. Pairs well with vegetable soups or light seafood dishes.

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Tempranillo Pingorote Reserva 2012 ( $21.80/Case of 12, private import in the Quebec market)

A maturing bouquet. Aromas of tamed leather, spices such as cinnamon and cacao. With time in the glass, the nose develop enticing nuances of coffee liqueur, Kirsch cherry and vanilla bean. On the mouth, structured with a firm poise and noble tannins. The best Tempranillo reserva available in the Quebec market under $25. Buy by the case, because it stills has some mileage for the cellar.

For more information on these wines, please visit Pot de Vin Importation and Bodegas Latue. 

 

 

An stellar Spanish wine to sip in the campfire!!!

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Campfires are not really my cup of tea, or should I better say my glass of wine!!. I occasionally enjoy them at this time of the year when the nights turns chilly. It’s the perfect picture for a glass of red in one hand and sausage on the other in a dark night

A good sommelier friend of mine told me that good wine with elaborate gastronomic meals is a no brainer. The challenge is how to drink well when the food in front of us is not a par.

Brainstorm Campfire food: Hot dogs, cheap meat brochettes, marshmallows, thick slices of bread embedded with olive oil getting burned on the flames..

Today when I was picking up some wine in my local SAQ Outlet, I tasted an amazing Spanish red and had a revelation. This could be amazing to drink in the campfire outside the chalet.

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Tajinaste Tinto Tradicional 2017. SAQ # 13619321, $24.25 DOP Valle de la Orotava

Listan Negro is an indigenous variety  from Spain, however very little Listan Negro is found in mainland Spain. It is concentrated on the Spanish Islas Canarias, particularly in northern Tenerife.   The soils are volcanic in origin with the weather is warm and humid due to the influence of the Atlantic ocean. This  high index of relative humidity, the complex characteristics of  its wind currents, and the original composition of the La Orotava Valley soils, give its wines a special taste and aroma, distinguishing them as amazing reds.

Bodegas Tajinaste has some of the oldest Listan Negro vineyards going back to 1914. It is run by the perservant Agustín García Farrais who trained in Bordeaux. The family owns 3 ha and they further lease 9 hectares with 25-year contracts with their neighbors and adquire grapes from another 16 hectares worth of vineyards, so the total under management is 28 hectares.

A lovely red with hints of petrol and smoke with nuances of olive tapenade. After aeration, bright notes of ripe red and black fruit emerges. Fruit driven with lovely caressing tannins and a beautiful long floral aftertaste. Would pair well  with classic campfire fare such as grilled sausages or even a steak grilled on an open flame!!