A nice Cava for the holidays

Carleton sur Mer

Like many of you, I am on holidays with my family. We are working up our way in the Gaspé Peninsula, spending a good 10 days to d a comprehensive tour of the region.

For some time now, me and my wife were planning this trip. Both of us are food and nature enthusiasts and thats why Gaspesie was such a good fit for us.

The Gaspé Peninsula ( 250 km long and 100-140 kilometers wide) reaches into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, making it indepedent from the rest of Quebec. 

Inland, Gaspésie is a mountainous, woody wilderness, but one of the major attractions of the peninsula is its pretty rugged coast and their excellent cuisine. Gaspé is a paradise for fish and seafood lovers. Here you can find first grade local produce such as lobster and crab. Also it is easier to find quality scallops and halibut from neighboring New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

One of our favorite meals during the meal was the simplest but tastiest one. In Carleton sur Mer, we picked up some fresh halibut and scallops and decided to do a BBQ facing the beach.  A very rustic elegant meal. The halibut meat had a fleshy texture and delicate flavours. The piece of resistance was the scallops. They had a soft buttery texture with the most sweetest taste. A very delicate flavor bringing to mind halzenut.

 The Villa Conchi Cava ( SAQ # 12956456, $14.95, LCBO # 386979, $14.95)  was a perfect match for this vacation. Light and refreshing, it had a wonderful palette of flavors bringing to mind pear and lemon curd. Fruit foward, its medium size bubble was the perfect refreshing agent for the smoky impregnated flavors of the meal. For under the $15, it is an outstanding value in the cava category. The best wines are the ones that are enjoyed along with your family members.

Villa Conchi is sourced from selected vineyards in the heart of Catalunya. The vines benefit from the mountain protection range of Montserrat. Harvesting is done by the night and there is a percentage of Chardonnay added to preserve the fruit aspect of the wine.  Not only this cava is perfect with grilled fish but also with salads as well. 


Revisiting an old friend: Alejandro Fernandez wines.

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Alejandro Fernandez created Pesquera in Ribera del Duero and forever changed the face of Ribera del Duero. By the early 80’s, Pesquera persuaded the top wine government organizations and Ribera del Duero was granted status in 1982. And you know the rest of the history…the ascension to stardom of Pesquera and the appellation.

Alejandro Fernandez Condado de Haza may be less famous than its sister winery, Pesquera, but it also produces terrific wines that are classically built Ribera del Dueros. Less powerful than his big brother, but with more restraint and elegeance, this monovarietal Tempranillo wine comes from vines originally planted in 1989 on an ideal, south-facing slope of calcareous clay soil, with some gravelly sections as well as a vineyard slope downward towards the Duero river.

 

 The Condado de Haza 2012 (  SAQ #00978866, $26.85) , exhibits an amplifying nose of crushed blackberry, plum,currant, cedar, and more. It, also, possesses a rich, savory feel in the mouth to counteract  its considerable structure and ripe tannins. It is firm, full-bodied, and full of flavor.Aged 15 months in oak barriques, this sophisticated but intense wine offers plenty to enjoy now, yet it will continue to improve in bottle for a decade or more. Clearly, the 2012 Condado de Haza is one of the finest Tempranillo wines from Ribera del Duero

Alejandro Fernández and his wife Esperanza Rivera, after setting up Tinto Pesquera and Condado de Haza in their native Ribera del Duero, continued expanding their horizons afield in the Spring of 1998, purchasing  Dehesa La Granja bordering the Guareña River in the province of Zamora, in the heart of one of Spain’s earliest-recognized wine regions.

Known in the  20th century as “La Granja Valdeguareña de los Moleros”, the 1800-acre ranch had been developed  by the Moleros brothers to the breeding of fighting bulls, still in operation at the time of purchase. However, from the 17th through 19th centuries the estate had a strong tradition of winemaing During that time the local wine producing area was known throughout Spain and Europe as Tierra del Vino.

Alejandro quickly  set to work reconverting the estate to wine production, with 525 acres of old-clone Tempranillo planted by late 2000. House and ranch compound were renovated and a modern winemaking facility installed, directly over the 17th- century cellars. Meanwhile, Alejandro discovered plots ungrafted old Tempranillo vines in the Guareña River Valley which have formed the basis for concentrated red wines beginning with the 1998 harvest.

Meanwile, Alejandro found ungrafted old Tempranillo vines in the Guareña River Valley which have formed the basis for concentrated red wines beginning with the 1998 harvest.

 The Dehesa La Granja 2012 ( SAQ # 11896691, $22.20)   has smoky dark fruit, toasty oak and dark chocolate aromas on the nose, with an impressive structure and muscular tannins of this terrific Spanish red wine made from Tempranillo grape.  Like a Pesquera but cheaper in your pocket.

El Vinculo was Alejandro Fernandez quest to demonstrate that La Mancha could produce greatest wines. Like its predecessors, the 2012 El Vinculo ( SAQ #11896691, $22.20)  brings out a contagious charm with beautiful aromatics and plush juicy flavors. Blackberry and currant nuances and flavors mix with hints of sandalwood, Asian spices and touches of new oak to delight the nose and the palate. One discovers deep down flavors and power as well as subtle complexity in this El Vinculo.

 

Riojas, Toros and what to drink with strawberries in season.

At a glance, the title of my blog post, may not make sense to you. However, you may be having these items in no particular order. Let me put it in plain words: BBQ meats with Riojas and Toros and desserts based with strawberries.

If you are in Ontario, the latest vintage LCBO Catalog ( available from July 8th), offers some interesting Spanish Goodies. Interesting wines to try include the Rioja Bordon from Bodegas Franco Espanolas and Pruno Finca Villacreces.

Bodegas Franco Espanolas

This bodega goes  back to the immigration to Rioja by a group of French wine producers  looking for new sources for grapes to meet France’s demands. This was the end of the XIX century, after phylloxera devastated the French vineyards.

The result of the quest for sourcing new grapes ended in 1890 when Frederick Anglade Saurat, a Bordeaux negociant, formed a joint venture with winegrowers and investors from Spain to create Bodegas Franco Espanolas. The partnership ended in 1922 when the Spanish owners bought out their French partners.

Today, the bodega is owned by the Eguizabal. They have turned this company into a well-respected winery that caters to all price ranges.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

During la Grande Degustation of Montreal, I had the chance to taste their 2008 Reserva. By law, a reserva must be aged in barrel for two full years and held in bottle for another two before release . This is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo. It spends that two years in medium-toast American white oak, with racking from barrel to barrel every six months. It is quite elegant with brooding black and  light-cured tobacco leaf undertones. On the mouth, is quite round and harmonious with flavors bringing to mind  toffee, marzipan, sage, and anise. Their 2011 is retailing for $19.95. LCBO #194753.

Globetrotter Francois Lurton.

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Francois Lurton was in Montreal, in early June to present his wines.

Working with Michel and Dany Rolland, Lurton founded the original Campo Eliseo estate in Toro 16 years ago.  This was his introduction into the Spanish wine industry.

After mastering the reds, now Lurton wants to make one of the best whites of Spain. It is an ambitious project but Francois is well aligned to make this happen.

Francois commented to me that Rueda has become a big business focusing on volume and bland wines. His vision for Rueda is to create a super growth that will  pull up the appellation all together. Although his production of his verdejo is an eye raising 250,000 bottles, he is able to combine the best of both worlds: quantity and quality.

His Rueda is impressive ( for my tasting note, see my previous post on Vinos and Paella). Lurton picks ripe the Verdejo  and ages in less to give its creamy texture.  The Verdejo ferments at low temperatures and in a mix of vessels such as barriques, stainless steel and concrete egg fermentation tasks.  This system allows the wine to gain an increased depth in complexity in the aromas and texture in the palate.

Tasting the wines of Lurton from Spain

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

El Albar Barricas Tierra de Leon 2012. SAQ # 10358006. $22.05

Predominant nose of toasty aromas. Cacao,  Ethiopian coffee dark beans with strawberry, raspberry jam and balsamic condiment. Structured and  tannic but overall with a sense of balance and harmony.

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Campo Eliseo 2009 ( Presented at La Grande Dégustation de Montréal 2015). ( Private Import QC, Vins Fins)

Modern nose. Lots of new wood with wild blackberries. On the mouth, fleshy with lots of tannins and concentration. Seems unbalanced at the moment but will need a few years in the cellar to come all together.

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Campo Alegre Toro 2012 ( Presented at La Grande Dégustation de Montreal 2015). ( Private Import QC, Vins Fins)

On an international style, yet very appealing. Very dark ripe blue fruits with an incredible depth of spice. Full body, dense with lots of chocolate and coffee nuances. Long finale.

Sweet accords: Strawberries and wine?

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A perfect pairing of strawberries with the appropiate wine can be so amazing that it’s worth putting the effort to get it just right. Stay away from rosados (still or sparkling), as any wine without a decent dollop of residual sugar will taste  sour and horrible next to the sweet fruit. But if you overdoit with very rich dessert wines, and you threaten to overwhelm the relative delicacy of this sublime berry fruit.

I definitely would go with a sweet muscat. Muscat produces good versatile dessert wines. They are juicy and fresh-tasting, even when they come from a warmer region and are bold tasting  and weighty in texture. Think apricots, oranges, a drop of caramel. And think affordable. Moscatels from Valencia in Spain are extraordinarily well priced and fit the bill to go with strawberries.

I recently tasted  the Dona Dolça Moscatel Valençia ( SAQ # 11096618, $14.55) with a strawberries and zabaglione cream and it was a hit!!!. A Moscatel de Alejandría, it display notes of honey, nougat with peach and citric undertones. On the mouth, it was well-balanced. Not too sweet with a refreshing acidity complementing well the nature of the dessert.

 

 

Time for Vinos y Paella

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Finally the temperatures have started to rise and the rain is wearing off in this part of Quebec where I live. As we enter deep in the summer, all i want to do is cook and drink outside. One of the dishes that I love do in the summer is a big Paella.

For me paella is the ultimate Spanish dish for the summer weekends. When I used to live in Spain, I had it good restaurants in Madrid and also being a guest in some of my friends  homes back there in those golden yet far remote times.  It is a very intimate and friendly dish.

As a child growing up in Venezuela, I also had fond memories of eating Paella with my family and friends. Back in those times,  my grandparents were friends with a lovely couple from Spain that also resided in Venezuela. They nicknamed, the coquis, don’t ask why, I had no idea. Their names were Paco and Mara

When i was 8 or 9, in an easter holiday, we spent some time with them in Higuerote, a coastal city, not far away from Caracas.  The coquis were a pair of bon vivants. They knew their food and drink inside out. They had a beach chalet where they used to go on the weekends

On good friday while I took off with my aunts to the beach, Paco and Mara prepared the Paella, outside the backyard of their house. It was a seafood paella, stunning. Up to this day, I remember the fragrant aromas of the spiced rice with sofrito and saffron with the flavors of the seafood. It was a very familiar affair.

 

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Since Paella is a very relaxed meal, you want to drink easy-going wines, to stimulate conversation. A paella party is not the proper time to open a big expensive Ribera del Duero or a luxurious Priorato.  Stick with modest whites, rosados and light reds. The regions that you should be looking for include Rueda, Rioja and Navarra.

The drinks that you will have before the Paella are as important as the wines that you will have during the main meal. While preparing the Paella, you want wines to go with Tapas. Basically, you are looking for an aperitivo that will stimulate your appetite.  Some of the tapas that you will customary will see include Jamon, patatas bravas or cheese.

 

Cava works best. However, it is always handy to have a nice vermouth in case some of your guests don’t appreciate sparkling wine. Paco used to like to drink Johnnie Walker black label, a custom that he adopted from the Venezuelan natives. However, avoid having any spirits before, otherwise you will be drunk by the time you eat the Paella.

Here is my personal suggestions, on the wines you should have with paella:

Wines to have while making the Paella

Parés Baltà Blanca Cusiné Penedès 2010. SAQ Code # 12591021. $35.25

Delicate notes of honey, nougat with toasty notes of hazelnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts. On the mouth, very fine with a silky texture and smooth bubble bringing to mind white fruits and ripe fruits. Long and tasty finale.

Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth Rouge.  SAQ Code # 13137647. $24.35

Lovely aperitivo starting on blood oranges with hints of clove and cinnamon. On the palate, it is sweet but not overdone. Flavors bringing to mind Italian Chinotto. Light, minty and very balanced.

Wines to have while eating the Paella

Whites:

Compania de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez. Basa Rueda 2016. SAQ # 10264018. $16.20

Broding yellow fruits, mountain herbs such as  chamomille, Fresh and zesty. elegant and quite balanced. Drinking very easy and dangerously.

Hermanos Lurton Rueda 2015. SAQ #  00727198. $15.60

Zesty with a nectarine-peach character on the nose. On the mouth, crisp and  subtle with a round almost creamy texture. Flavors bring to mind fennel and white orchard fruit. Very elegant with a long finale bringing to mind tropical fruits. 

Reds:

Rioja Cune Crianza 2012. SAQ # 13087248. $15.25

Delicious tones of black fruits such as cherry, c assis and prunes. Well spiced bouquet bringing to mind paprika, cofee bean. Fresh and ample in the mouth with generous tannins.

El Albar Barricas Toro 2000. ( Private Import, $26.95, vins fins)

 If your Paella has spicy chorizo or rabbit, this aged Toro could be a wonderful partner. On the nose, sultana raisins, cacao, black truffle with lots of floral undertones. Quite elegant, and round with mature tannins.

After the paella, with a bowl of vanilla ice cream and balsamic vinegar condiment:

Pedro Ximenez de añada 2013. SAQ # 12653869. $21.80

Nose on the typical  Pedro Ximenez variety bringing to mind raisins and plums. Lovely orange peel (evolving towards marmelade) and a hint of apple blossom. Some candied tangerine and hints of fresh corinth grapes develop with time in the glass. The mouth is very sweet, bringing to mindcaramel and brown sugar flavours. Also dominant  notes of membrillo, the quince jelly they make in Andalucia. Very long with an aftertaste that brings to mind sweet almond paste.

 

 

 

 

A wine for each can of preserves

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They are always there. In some lonely house drawer, or in our pantry. They are a fast solution when we are very hungry or when do we receive an unexpected visit. I am taking about tin cans. For years they,  have been underestimated perhaps for being too practical and for their mundane presence in all the houses, but for a while their quality has been improving  and they have become in some cases true objects of desire.

Not long ago  I read an article on tin cans in the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo. The title was: Latas de conserva: de comida de subsistencia a producto de culto. In english, it means: Tin Cans: from subsistence fare to cult products. The article explains well the high quality and almost artisanal aspect of the Spanish tin industry. I highly recommend that you read it. Having lived in Spain, I can corroborate this fact. You can find amazing preserves for 3 or 5 euros.

In the last few years, the popularity of high quality tin cans has exploded in Quebec, Canada. From every hipster restaurant from Au pied du Cochon to Le Vin Papillon and Maison Publique, you see on the menu a plate consisting of a conserve or two. However, it was not all the times like this.

In my recollection when I came to Montreal in 1994, there were maybe 2 or 3 fine grocery stores where you could gourmet tin cans. I used and still  go on a regular basis to la Libreria Espanola, where they have an excellent selection of Spanish Tin Cans.  Les Douceurs du Marche in the Atwater market has some good stuff as well.

Wines and Tin Cans.

The combinations are endless , due mainly to the wide range of products and flavors of the preserves, and to the great variety of  Spanish wines of  premium quality that we enjoy today in the Canadian market.

For clams and mussels, I like different whites such as Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo Rueda 2015 ( SAQ # 12861609, $14.00. LCBO VINTAGES #: 461400, $14.95) or Paco & Lola Albarino 2015 ( SAQ # 12475353, $17.20. LCBO VINTAGES #: 350041)

For the fish and seafood preserves that involve some type of sauce, I will choose an intense and aromatic Verdejo such as El gordo del Circo ( SAQ # 12748171, $20.95. LCBO VINTAGES # 441220, $17.95). With sardines and sardinillas, I will choose a wonderful rosado such as Torres Vina Esmeralda 2016 ( SAQ # 13204803, $17.00. LCBO VINTAGES # 490920. $13.95.

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What about anchovies?

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Txakolis, would be muy first choice of wine when to drink with anchovies. Sadly, there is very little in Canada and the tiny amounts are only available in private imports.  With anchoas en conservas, I will go  for La Gitana Manzanilla ( SAQ # 12284039, $22.05. LCBO VINTAGES#: 745448, $16.95 for 500 ml. The pungent and umami like flavours of the anchovies would compliment nicely the briny and chalky notes of  La Gitana.

Asparagus and Artichokes.

 

For me, it is hearsay talk is difficult to match wine with the abvove two vegetables.  For the delicates flavours of the Asparagus, I would choose a Baron de Ley 2016 ( SAQ # 10357572, $14.30). A mostly monovarietal Viura, with its non intrusive floral and citric notes will not disturb the delicate notes of the asparagus.

For the picky artichoke, the perfect partner would be another  manzanilla. This time, I would choose the Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Extra Dry ( SAQ # 00242669, $19.45, LCBO #  231829, $17.95. A lovely wine that displays notes of green almonds, tobacco with green apple peel.

Whate are some of your experiences matching preserves and wine?

 

 

 

 

What wines to have with Gazpacho?

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Slowly but surely, it is getting warmer in Quebec. Just this week on Wednesday, it was 31 Celsius. I was not in the mood to cook so I told my wife to cook supper. She ended up doing some burgers that were quite tasty.

My point being that nobody wants to be near a stove when is hot outside. Also, there is something about the heat that makes you feel deliciously lazy. In a hot summer day, I will salads, fish carpaccios or ceviche and of course a nice bowl of Gazpacho!!.

Basically, a gazpacho is a cold Spanish soup coming from the land of Flamenco and Tapas, Andalusia.  This is such a simple, tasty and inexpensive dish, that’s why it has become so popular.

Gazpacho goes way back to pre-Roman times when shepherds where sustained by the original version that consisted of stale bread, garlic, vinegar, oil and water. With the advent of agriculture, vegetables were incorporated.

Popular across Spain, I have had amazing gazpacho in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. However, it taste better in his home of Andalusia, the land of good flamenco that comprises Sevilla, Granada, Costa del Sol and Jerez country. In this land of scorching heat, the Andalusians have been making cool magic potions for a long time.

According to Alicia Rios and Lourdes March, authors of Spanish cookbooks, Gazpacho became popular thanks to the marketing efforts of Eugenia de Montijo, the wife of the French Emperor Napoleon III in the nineteenth century. Gazpacho was unknown, or little known, in the north of Spain before about 1930.

At its heart, though, gazpacho’s fundamentals are consistent: It’s a cold soup based on tomatoes, with cucumber, onion and green bell pepper as customary supporting players. The addition of bread is much more European, and evokes a culinary link with Tuscan panzanella (“bread salad”), which could be irreverently described as a chunky Italian gazpacho too thick to drink. Other versions involve the use of watermelons and there is even a white Gazpacho. This last one is made with ground almonds, pine nuts, garlic and lima beans.

If you happen to be in Madrid, do not hesitate to visit the resto Clarita. They make an amazing watermelon gazpacho plus they have other goodies such an amazing red tuna and the seafood is amazingly fresh all the times.

Look for crisp whites and fruity roses to accompany your Gazpacho. These wines have the ability to handle the pungent acidity of the vinegar in the soup and will not overwhelm the delicate vegetable flavors.

Must try wines with Gazpacho

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Vina Ijalba Aloque Rosado 2015 ( $17.20. Private Import in Quebec, Charton Hobbs )

A 100% tempranillo rose from the leading organic winery in Rioja. Lovely notes of raspberries, strawberries and floral nuances. On the mouth, medium body, fresh with a delicate balance. Pairing nicely with tomato Gazpacho.

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Laguna de Nava Tempranillo Rosado 2016. SAQ Depot # 12238008. $11.65

Easy going red berry fruit with fragrant peach notes. In the mouth, simple yet with very fragant flavors at a friendly price. Pair it with a watermelon based Gazpacho.

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Bodegas Marañones Picarana 2014. SAQ # 13206841. $24.45

A 100% albillo from the upcoming Vinos de Madrid appellation. On the nose, ripe orchard fruit with dried herbs and spices. On the palate, it is tasty, fruity, with good acidity and well-balanced. Pair it with a garlic white gazpacho.

 

 

Dominio de Fontana-Honest and soulful wines from Cuenca

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Bodegas Fontana, owned by the Cantarero Morales family for more than  30 years, has been a leading pioneer in making Uclés a new winemaking zone with a protected appellation status’. Jesús Cantarero, brought together a multi star team of wine professionals to produce  terroir-driven, single-vineyard wines of great complexity.

The Fontana estates are located in Uclés, in the northern part  of Castile region, an area famous  for both its fresh, aromatic whites as well as outstanding reds from the Tempranillo grape. At a high altitude, the wines of Uclés display the fruitiness of the northern mountains  with the intensity and ripe, velvety tannins of the Mediterranean. Fontana manages its estates sustainably and as integrated ecosystems, taking advantage of the low levels of disease in this dry, continental climate. No pesticides are used, organic manure is the only fertilizer applied and weed control is done by light, superficial tilling.

Tempranillo is the main protagonist of the wines produced with International varieties taking a second role ( Cabernet Sauvignon,  Merlot and Syrah). The blend varies vintage to vintage.

Aging time as well is determined by the quality of each vintage. In general, Fontana makes rich and modern wines with lots of depth of flavour. The  bodega works really well with new wood aging.

I had a chance to taste some of their wines in the heaven and earth wine salon from the group Charton Hobbs in Montreal, Canada. They are the importers in Quebec, Canada.

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Dominio de Fontana. Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

( 70% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Aged in a mix of american and french wood for 12 months)

Intense aromas of blackberries with vanilla bean and smoked spices such as paprika. On the mouth, round, ample and very long with a very persistent finale. Pair it with smoked meat sandwich.

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Dominio de Fontana. Vendimia Seleccionada 2013. Tempranillo/ Graciano

( 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano. Aged in american oak for 18 months)

On the nose, aromas of ripe fieldberries, wild herbs such as tarragon and thyme, earth and spices. On the mouth, round and quite spicy. Ripe tannins with a delicious balsamic aftertaste. This wine would be amazing with charcoal grilled lamb chops.

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Quinta de Quercus 2013 Single Vineyard

100% Old Vines Tempranillo. 30 years+, 12 months aging in American and French oak)

Quercus comes from an estate in central Castilla with that is surrounded with 300 oak trees (hence the name Quinta de Quercus) this is a collaboration between the  local winemaking staff  and New Zealand M.W. Sam Harrop.

On the nose, lush ripe red and black herbs. Roasted herbs and toasted spices such as black cumin,  sumac and cloves. Full bodied, juicy acidity, muscular tannins and a great length. Great wine with a tira de asado a la parrilla.

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