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!!

 

An encounter with Telmo Rodriguez

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If you would ask me who were the leading ambassadors of the new Spanish wine industry, I could answer these three: Peter Sissek, Alvaro Palacios and Telmo Rodriguez. In each of their respective regions, they were captains of industry. With Pingus, Peter Sisseck demonstrated that you could capture the essence of a terroir with old exceptional vines. Similarly, Alvaro Palacios resurrected the Priorat and Bierzo with Garnacha and Mencia respectively.

Our final character is Telmo Rodriguez. Telmo is one of the best  winemakers of Spain.  In a similar manner  to Alvaro Palacios, he travelled and mastered his skills  for many years before returning home to Rioja, where he took  to the next level  a wine that was already outstanding, Remelluri.  In addition he has  supervised diverse négociant projects throughout Spain. One of his most acclaimed projects is in Valdeorras, Galicia.

Ladeiras do Xil is the name of this exciting venture. Since 2002, he has been working miraculously 23 ha of steep mountain vineyards in the Santa Cruz village in the province of Ourense.

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I was recently invited to a Telmo Rodriguez masterclass by its Canadian Importer, Trialto. The purpose was to discuss the Ladeiras do Xil project. Frankly, it was a fantastic enriching experience for myself since I am more familiar with his Remelluri and Matallana proyect.

It is always a pleasure to taste the wines of Telmo Rodriguez. He is like a horse whisperer for the wine terroir. A modern interpreter of the past with an avant-garde vision of the future. I always get goosebumps when I heard him speak. I was also very pleased to know that he is a big fan of Rhone wines. We have that in common. You can actually feel the Northern Rhone influence in his wines.

Tasting Notes:

Gaba do Xil Godello 2017 $21.60  SAQ # 11896113

From the Valdeorras wine growing area, specifically the sites of  A Pedreira, A Torgueira, O Barreiro, Valerio, Valdemas. Monovarietal Godello at high altitude ( 400-500 m). Red, clay and slate soils.

This exciting Godello exhibits a very aromatic nose redolent of ripe peach fruit with hints of  fresh-cut grass with a  smoky and flint point. On the palate, it is creamy with a firm acidity.

Branco de Santa Cruz 2015 ( Not available in the Quebec market)

A field blend of Godello, Treixadura and Dona Branca from the Ladeiras do Bibei in Valdeorras. Different sites around the Santa Cruz town. Granite soils with very low yields.

A fantastic nose that remind me of the wine Silex by Didier Dagueneau. Beautiful nuances of silex, slate and wet rock character. With aeration, aromas of white tea and nectarine develops as well. Elegant and well-balanced, it could age for a few years.

Reds

As Caborcas 2015 $77.25  ( 4 cases coming soon in the Quebec Market)

2.5 hectares of vineyards in the in the town of Santa Cruz. Granite floors, poor and shallow, located in endless terraces on steep terrain that is on the banks of the Bibei River. A field blend of Mencía, Merenzao, Sousón, Godello,  and Garnacha. Aging in small oak barrels, stainless steel and foudres. 

Smoky with fieldberry and savoury notes of cured meat, star anise and black olive tapenade.  On the mouth, very elegant with a lot of depth and concentration Firm acidity. Polished midpalate with satiny tannins. Blind tasted, I would probably guess that this is a Crozes Hermitage. Very exciting wine.

O Diviso 2015. $77.25 ( 2 cases coming soon in the Quebec Market)

According to Telmo, this wine is probably the most authentic expression of Valdeorras in the Bilbei hills. A field blend of  Mencía, Brancellao, Sousón, Garnacha and other red and white varieties. Fermentation in small wooden barrels and a soft aging in foudres.

Complex nose with a lot of depth. Aromas redolent of seaweed, licorice and cardamom. On the palate, fruit driven yet with deep pepper notes.  Very elegant with soft tannins and a fluid finale. This wine reminds of me an electric St-Joseph

Falcoeira ” A Capilla” 2015 $77.25  ( 4 cases to come in the Quebec Market)

From the Falcoeira site in Santa Cruz, a field blend of Mencía, Brancellao, Sousón, Garnacha and other varieties. Made with indigenous yeast and aged in a mix of foudres and wood barriques.

My favorite red from the trio. Dark and decadent with complex notes of smoke, petrol and other animal notes with a vivid note of black pepper. Meaty tannins and a magnificent  structure. A very long balsamic finale. Definitely, the Hermitage of Galicia!!. 

 

 

Small Rubies of Mas Que Vino

Sylvain Rubin is an obscure personality in our closely knit wine community in Quebec. I dont know the man very well but in my eyes he proyects an image of camaraderie and bon vivant. However, Sylvain is discreet and friendly. The last breed of humble gentlemen in the small universe of Quebec private imports.

As far as I know, Sylvain was an associate at one of the leading wine agencies in Quebec, Planvin. The reasons for his depart are unknown and not important to me. This agency carries some of the most obscure and exciting wine artisans from Europe also known as natural and biological wine producers.

After he left PlanVin, Sylvain founded Mas Que Vino, a small boutique wine agency with the same spirit than PlanVin, inspired terroir driven wine producers. From time to time, I taste his wines when I go to the Raspipav wine fair. I was happy to catch up with him last April at the spring edition of Raspipav where I discovered amazing quality wines from Bodegas del Medievo

Grupo Bodegas del Medievo is the proyect of a group of vinegrowers and negociants in Aldeanueva de Ebro ( La Rioja). Medievo makes top quality Joven, Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva as well as wines with less known indigenous varieties in a contemporary style yet with great elegance. In the past, I tried the Medievo Reserva which is always an excellent Rioja. At the time, it was represented by PlanVin. Today, I have to find out.

This is an excellent producer that has been making waves for some time now in the Spanish wine industry. In this article from La Voz de Galicia, ( Tuercebotas es un vino), you can get additional information.

Tasting notes:

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Cofrade Rioja Blanco 2016

A fine Rioja dry white made from carefully selected Viura grapes. The fruit is racked in stainless steel tanks with 24 hours of pelicular maceration. Afterwards, the must ferments at a controlled temperature during 12 days. After a period of rest of one month it is clarify, decanted and introduced in isothermal deposit to a temperature of -5ºC to be fully stabilized. –From the producer website

Pretty nose of green apple, quince and cantaloupe. Round, harmonious and very long in the palate. I think it would be great with malpeque oyesters or simple but delicious food such as fish brochettes Price: Around $16.00 in case of 12

Cofrade Rioja Tinto Joven 2016

100% Tempranillo.In October, after twelve days of maceration in a stainless steel tank at a controlled temperature, the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in a natural way. The wine passed 4 months in American oak. Price: Between $16 and $20

Lovely aromas of maraschino cherry, licorice with soft balsamic undertones. On the mouth, it has a round texture with polished tannins. I presume it would be a great wine to have with tapas

Tuerce Botas Graciano Crianza 2014

The Tuercebotas Crianza is made up of 100% Graciano. It was aged in new French oak for 12 months before bottling.-From the producer website

Intense and vibrant with aromas of red and black fruit aromas mingled wih spicy cloves, cola and nutmeg. On the mouth beautifully concentrated with a fresh acidity and balanced tannins. Would love to try with a flank steak on the BBQ. Price: Between 16$ and $20

A good value Spanish Chardonnay

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When I saw the white label from far I was expecting to find a red wine but instead I found a red wine.

The majority of Cariñena’s wines come  from Garnacha grapes: the region offers a diverse array of styles, from steely, aromatic wines cultivated in high-altitude vineyards to ripe, robust expressions from the lower elevations. However, less known, the appellation also produces good value whites from varieties such as Chardonnay, Viura and Parellada.

Bodegas Paniza is no stranger to this blog. I have reviewed their red wines countless times in the past. However, until last week, I never tasted a white wine from them.

Their Chardonnay 2017 ( SAQ # 13710829, $16.05) is a mono varietal wine from high altitude vineyards ( 800 m) in the appellation.  After several days of maceration , the wine ferments in  stainless steel tanks and the aging is completed with a slight passage in oak barrels.

This Spanish Chardonnay has textbook varietal aromas of pear and dry apricots. On the mouth, it is full body with a round texture and medium acidity. It has pleasant flavours of vanilla and fig flavours. It will pair nicely with BBQ salmon, chicken or pizzas and vegetarian dishes.

I enjoyed very much tasting the wine. This is a terrific wine for your weekday BBQ and the QPR ( Quality Price Ratio) is just amazing. I would have welcomed a bit more acidity and freshness but after all we are taking about sunny Aragon here!!!

Bodegas Paniza is represented in Quebec by Valmonti. The Chardonnay was tasted in a SAQ outlet in Joliette, Quebec.

 

Partida Creus-love at the first sip

It was love at the first sip…

Last fall I was part of a judging panel to taste a selection of still whites and sparkling wines natural style under $40 for the Raspipav wine fair 2017.  Among the selections, there was a cloudy, yellowish-orange wine that caught my attention. It was very enticing visually, the pleasant sensation  similar to the first time that I contemplated the painting Children of the Sea by Joaquin Sorolla, a Spanish Impressionist painter.

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Children of the sea-Joaquin Sorolla. Source: Fine Art America

That cloudy wine was the Vinel-lo Blanco 2016 from Partida Creus. This is the project of Piedmontese couple Massimo Marchiori and Antonella Gerosa who set up roots  in Penedes in Catalonia and began restoring parcels of old and mostly indigenous vines to make natural, vibrant wines with only native yeasts, no filtration and nothing added, including sulfites. The VN cuvee is a field blend of seven white grapes usually used for cava but vinified dry: That wine was vibrant and full of life and left a very positive traumatic experience. After the tasting, I tried getting some but it was sold out.

However this year, I was able to get my hands on the white and the red. The white  2017 vintage is a blend of Garnacha blanca, Macabeu, Moscatell, Vinyater, Xarel·lo, Parsé, Parelleda. Honestly, I can’t recall tasting a profound Spanish white for a long time. It was just a polyphonic song: filled with  modulations, inflections, facets, volumes and different  heights. An extraordinary ability to vary the characteristics of the type of “sound” produced and overlapping differently with  distinct notes: (this is the secret of polyphony) ancient resins and marine wind, lemon and salt, peach and fresh flowers, grasses and limestone rocks. Vibrant freshness, intense flavor, prolonged pleasure. An absolute success.

The red 2017 is a blend of Trepat, Sumoll, Garrut, Queixal de Llop, Ull de Perdiu, Garnatxa and Samsó.  A wine that emanates perfection, it combine flowers and limestone, grass and clay, roots and pomegranate, in a wonderful, subtle and expressive interpretation of the Catalan territory. To achieve this result there is no need for filtrations, clarifications and additions of any kind or mischief. Just so much love, commitment and sacrifice in the vineyard.

Natural wine Reflection

If you are an art lover, you will understand the following reflection on natural wines.

Natural wines are much alike the impressionist art movement. Impressionism can be described as  the first distinctly modern movement in painting. Developed in Paris in the 1860s, its influence spread throughout Europe and eventually the United States. Its founders  were artists who rejected the official, government-sanctioned exhibitions, or salons, and were consequently rejected by powerful academic art institutions. Leaving away the fine finish and detail to which most artists of their day aspired, the Impressionists aimed to capture the momentary, sensory effect of a scene – the impression objects made on the eye in a fleeting instant. To achieve this effect, many Impressionist artists moved from the studio to the streets and countryside, painting en plein air. ( Source: The Art Story-Modern Art Insight)

The Impressionists aimed to be painters of the real world: They aimed to extend the possible subjects for paintings and they abandoned  depictions of idealized forms and perfect symmetry, but rather focusing on the world as they saw it, imperfect in a myriad of ways.

Much like an Impressionists painting, a natural wine is just the opposite of a conventional wine. Although perfect in all angles, a conventional wine miss out on the real aspect of a wine. In the long term, you start getting tired of too much stylized forms and look for the beauty of the imperfections or something else. I cant explain un words but every time I drink a natural wine, Sophia Loren comes to mind: Here is an interesting quote on an article that I read on her: The making of an icon: Sophia Loren says she was ‘never beautiful‘ by Hannah Furness

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“Beauty is not important,” she said. “You have to be interesting, someone who is different to other people.

“Otherwise you just turn up and look beautiful, and there’s nothing more to you.

“I have never been beautiful. I’ve never been a beautiful doll. In fact when I started, people didn’t want to hire me because I wasn’t photogenic.

“People thought my mouth was too big, they wanted me to make my nose shorter, to have straighter teeth.

 

The wines of Partida Creus are available in Quebec in the Private import market. For more information, you may contact Linda Susnik, the sales rep of Vinealis, their Quebec Importer ( ls@sublimevins.ca)

Hasta Luego!!!