A wine homecoming

home·com·ing
noun
an instance of returning home.

The world of wine learning is full of surprises with its respective ups and downs. It is similar to a life quest with the difference that if we go to far we might get lost and long for the familiar feeling again.

For me this sensation  is what makes you feels safe and conjures a feeling of warmness that has been plastered to your memory. It can be a powerful souvenir such as returning to your childhood vacation home or the smell of your grandma kitchen for instance. The first impression will always be there even if the feeling may come and goes at different times in your life journey. If we are lucky enough and have the means, it is possible to recreate the feelings

Some of my powerful familiar feelings in my life come from food and wine. The earliest that I can recall involved my grandmother preparing breakfast for me when I was a child. As a little boy growing up in Venezuela, I remember with joy the intoxicating toasty corn smell of the arepa as it was being turned in the budare. Looking vividly the Arepas as they cooked, my mouth salivating, as the aroma of the Arepas spread throughout the kitchen. Now when I have a chance to make an arepa, this souvenir come back, as if it happened yesterday.

The grape that is the poster symbol for my love of Spanish wines is not Tempranillo but Garnacha. The bouquet of a well made Garnacha wine-dark fruit, coffee, olive, leather, tar, spice, and black pepper is Spain for me. A copita of Garnacha was my choice of wine when i used to go for midnight tapas  in the retiro area of Madrid. A glass of Carinena was just bliss with a calamar sandwich and portion of patatas bravas after a visit to El Prado on a chilly saturday fall day.

By next Friday, I will get to relive it all. My own personal  homecoming to Spain and its wines. I will be spending a few days in the ancestral home of Garnacha: Aragon and its french outpost the Rousillon.  My mind and body is already prepared to receive the bounty of its communion. This short trip will be a journey into introspection. I cant help to think of the words of the wise Carl Jung:

Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

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To prepare myself for the pilmigrage to come, this week I tasted the Edetaria Via Terra Alta 2016 ( SAQ # 13803021 , $18.55). Made exclusively with Garnacha peluda, a mutation of red Garnacha and typical of the Terra Alta DOP in Catalonia.

Deep and soulful notes of roasted herbs, toasted coffe beans, blue fruit and cocoa. Warm and generous in the palate, it recalls to me the flavours of Tarragona and the goodness of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Ripe tannins with a spicy peppery finale, it is a perfect wine to have with your summer bbq’s.

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Stay tuned via these pages and The Montreal for a diffusion of this wonderful adventure to come!!!

Hasta luego

Dinner with Partida Creus TN 2015

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Happy Birthday to myself!!

On my birthday, I get to do what i do best: sharing my wine passion with the rest of the world.

This past saturday, I had a chance to enjoy another bottling of one of my favorite  natural producers of Catalonia: Partida Creus. This Italian passionate couple ( Massimo Marchiori and Antonella Gerosa) are making truly wonderful and exciting wines. Their juice is not for the faint hearted!!. In every bottle, it is like a trip to the rabbit hole. You never now what to expect but for sure wonderful and exciting things

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source: entitymag.com

The Tinto Natural 2015 is an unusual  blend of Merlot, Cabernet et Garrut the nose is quite something. It start off with nuances of brandied cherries with raspberry and prunes going wild with aromas of dry blood, black earth and fine refined nuances of brett. On the palate, it is gutsy, high strung and yet so delicious to drink. I just love the finale, so redolent of the earth and everything that is alive in the universe.

My pairing choice was: Chicken thighs baked in the oven with peanut butter, fish sauce and soya marinade. A perfect and fluid match

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Salud!!!

 

Cavas to try for the coming December holiday season

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Every holidays need its fair dose of fizz, and if you are a Spanish wine lover, definitely, you are going to have at least a bottle or two of Cava in december.

If you don’t know, Cava is a sparkling  wine from Catalonia ( which is on the news these days a lot) and therefore, it should always be served between 5 – 8 degrees. Generally younger the wine is, the cooler it should be tasted. Moreover, a good glass such as a  flute shape is the best option to drink cava, and that’s because this shape will retain the aromas longer and will enhance the overall experience. When possible, the glass should never be filled more than 2/3 in order to keep it cool.

So, how can you pair Cava in your holidays menu ? I have a few suggestions. For those who are serving appetizers, a Brut Nature would be idea; Is seafood on your mind? That is a fantastic choice for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve and that would be nicely paired with a cava Brut or Brut Reserva. Making  a traditional roast or filled meat instead? You might be considering a Brut Nature Gran Reserva. Do you still have space for a dessert such as nougat? Do not forget to open a bottle of cava Semisec or Sweet to go with it.

And last but not least, to avoid any familiar holiday argument with your wife or husband do remember to drink in moderation!

The following Cavas that I tasted were among a selection of more than 60 sparkling wines from the AQAVBS press tasting in Montreal, Quebec. Last time I checked the SAQ has listed close to 43 choices in the sparkling wine category from Spain and my picks represent some of the best that you can find in the Quebec market. In the Ontario market, please consult your LCBO listing and for the rest of the world, wine searcher

conchi

Villa Conchi Cava Brut Selección. SAQ # 12956456 $14.95

An unbeatable Cava for the price, it has an honest hose displaying lime and white orchard fruit. Medium body, elegant and structured with a good acidity and poise. 85/100

pink

Parés Baltà Pink Cava. SAQ # 12888043. $17.60

The rose Cava from Pares Balta has been a favorite of mine for quite a long time. On the nose, aromas of cherry, raspberry chocolate and pink peppercorns. Fresh and bright with round texture and elegant finish. 87/100

camps

Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia 2013. SAQ # 10654948 $21.85

A fine layer of minerals and beer yeast with a  white flower and meyer lemon dimension, complemented by macadamia nuts. Dry and structured and racy in the palate. A buttery herbal finish complement this quality driven Cava. 88/100

heredad

Segura Viuda Heredad Reserva Cava. SAQ # 12883461. $30.25

An enticing nose bringing to mind coconut flakes and cocktail pear aromas. Sweet tasting and elegant bringing to mind brioche and mushrooms flavors alike with a touch of brine in the finale. 88/100

blanca

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

A complex cava bringing to mind roasted almonds with notes of honey, wood and green tea. On the palate it is fresh and round, showing notes of ripe and candied fruit together with flavours of cashews that last through the full length of the finish. 90/100

 

 

 

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

 

BBQ is Barbacoa, an American- Spanish thing

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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.

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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

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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

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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

 

 

 

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.

 

Wine of The Month: Clos Mont Blanc Tempranillo

Photo: Wikipedia-Poblet Monastery

Clos MontBlanc is located in Barbera de la Conca, near the town of MontBlanc and the monastery of Poblet. Winemaking goes back here in the time when the Cistercian monks arrived.

Conca de Barbera was awarded appellation status in 1985. However, like i said before, the area had a long tradition of wine culture. This D.O specializes in the production of white, pink and sparkling wines. Reds are also produced from grapes such as El Trapat, Ull de Llebre and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ull de Lebre is the name given to the Tempranillo grape in the Catalan language. Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish word Temprano which means early is named as such because it ripens typically two or three earlier than other varieties such as Garnacha or Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Clos Mont Blanc is a family operation dating back to 1988. It is an initiative of the Carbonell Figueras family.  Construction entrepeneur Lluís Carbonell bought the winery in the late eighties. Actually, Clos Mont-Blanc was part of a collection of a local cooperative.  Carbonell directed the winery to produce quality wines with the latest technology. They have 40 ha of their own and they also collaborate with other farmers

I tasted their entry level tempranillo 2012 at the Festival Vins Terrebone. This is mostly tempranillo 85% with the rest composed of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged 2-3 months in new barrels. The small passage of wood give the wine a modern yet no excessive appearance. It has the same profile as other wines that i have tasted from the appellation while living in Spain. This tempranillo It is a good introduction for those wine lovers that want to learn more about the wines of the region. However, the SAQ in Quebec, carry very little wines from this parts. You will have to resort to the private market if somebody wants to acquire any.

Clos Mont Blanc is represented in Quebec by Vins etc. It comes in cases of 12 bottles at a very modest price of $19.85. I highly recommend  it for the fall season with  hearty meat based stews.

Clos Mont Blanc Castel Tempranillo 2012. 

On the nose,Jammy black fruit with dry mushrooms with notes of chinese ink and gunpowder. Full body, silky palate with a medium acidity. Lovely texture with an agreeable viscosity. Flavors are consistent with the nose with a finale that reminds me of middle eastern spices. Long finale. 90\100