White wines

How we traveled through the Spain… (Class I.)

That September Wednesday was pouring rain when I was bringing all my stuff to the Spanish restaurant Costa del Sol. Great start, I thought. I specifically worried about carrying the beautiful map of Spain and not to get it wet. But somehow we managed and the first class could started.

We were still missing one couple – that came slightly later. They were trying to harvest their own grapes before the rain starts and came tired and upset. All that hard work whole year, and now this rain destroyed almost everything! What wasn’t taken care of by the weather, racoons finished. Oh well, they certainly could use to sit down and share some good wine!

Our first of total three Spanish wine classes started by talking a little bit about history of Spain and its wine making. Why the Spanish wine heritage goes back to at least 3,000 years, yet we really started to notice some Spanish production here in United States in the late 70-tees, beginning of 80-tees?

We talked briefly about the Spanish wine laws and requirements for D.O. (Denominacion de Origen), and what must and doesn’t have to be on the Spanish wine label. Much easier than perhaps in Bordeaux!

Did you know that Spain is the number 1 country in the world with the most land planted with vines? Before Italy and France? That there are only 2 D.O.C. so far registered throughout the Spain, but many new, exciting wine regions are being discovered recently?
After the introduction of the whole course, the slideshow was leading us through different native Spanish grape varieties, their specifics, about different types of soil, climates and conditions in which vines grow.
That brought us to the introduction of “liquid geography”. (I talked about it in more details at the first part of this blog).
(Stay tune if you are interested in tasting notes for each wine, I will be adding them as we go).

The very first wine we tasted was Txomin Extaniz Txakoli 2010, owned by the Chueca family. Txakoli. Probably some of the driest white wines I have tasted so far came from the smallest appellation on Spain, located at Getaria in the Bosque region.

Grapes for this wine grew on the high hillsides on top of the Atlantic Ocean. Great, quite unique, crisp white wine made from both  white and red variety of Hondarrabi. Fun coincidence was that Mila, our server, came from that same region herself and Txakoli was her favorite wine!

From there, we took a sharp turn all the way to the west peak of the Spain, Rias Baixas, where the vines also grow on top of the Atlantic Ocean. This region is mostly famous for Albariños, and I have chosen La Caña Albariño (new project of Jorge Ordoñez in cooperation with local growers).

Oro de Castilla, spectacular Verdejo, introduced us to Rueda, a region between Toro and Ribera del Duero. Are white wines produced in Rioja? Absolutely! Although Rioja white wines make just 10% of total production, Muga Blanco  represented a lovely blend of Viura and Malvasia from one of the most known regions of Spain.

Portal Blanco introduced us to the region of Terra Alta – on the eastern part of Spanish map. Terra Alta neighbors with another famous Spanish wine region, Priorat. This wine is made from Garnacha Blanca (I tasted this grape for the first time as well), Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeo and Viognier. Another successful white from our wine class portfolio.

From Terra Alta we “traveled” west to visit Madrid. Not the capitol, but the vineyards surrounding Madrid, that many Spaniards don’t even know about. Yet, it is a significant wine producing region with many valuable old Garnacha vines. We will later visit Madrid again for its red wines, this time we tasted Zestos Blanco, wine made from Spanish native grape variety Malvar.

To the south of Madrid is a region of La Mancha. Mainly internationally known for the story of the famous Spanish novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Although La Mancha is a windswept, battered plateau, with a very unusual sandy soils – it remains a symbol of the Spanish culture with its vineyards, sunflowers, mushrooms, oliveyards, windmills and Manchego cheese.

This large, flat region is comprised of five provinces. Highly agriculturally oriented, wine-production has been an essential part of life here for centuries; so much so that it is considered the largest vineyard on Earth.

I love red wines from La Mancha for their very distinguish characteristics that comes from its unique terroire. And yes, we will taste red wines from there in our other classes. But this time, we tasted Paso a Paso Verdejo, probably one of not many 100% Verdejo wines from this part of Spain. And, what is also interesting to note, probably one of the best priced Verdejo wine from all Spain.

To finish the line of white wines, we crowned it by a true jewel. It came from the Andalusian region of Spain, highly elevated vineyards overseeing hot Málaga. History of this beautiful city goes back 2,800 years, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. Not many people know that Málaga is a birthplace of famous Pablo Picasso, since he lived most of his productive life in France.n.

Photo: Jorge Ordonez & Co.

Botani, outstanding white wine (the only dry wine of the winery) is made from Moscadel De Alejandria, grape that is mainly used for production of raisins in this region.

This wine to me is one of the best miracles of winemaking – just like in Germany, where you can make delicious dry wines from sweet Riesling grapes. This project started in 2004 as a join venture between Jorge Ordoñez,  one of the most prominent importers of Spanish wine into the US, and the late Alois Kracher, whose son Gerhard succeeded him as technical director in 2008.

One of Botani’s dessert wines (made by the traditional drying of the grapes) Jorge Ordoñez, No.3 Viñas Viejas 2006 just recently won the regional price for the Best organic wine in the world by Decanter magazine! 2010 was the first vintage made by New Zealand’s Oenologist Alistair Gardner, who was invited to this project to oversee the dry wine production.

Barco de Piedra, Photo: Friederike Paetzold

The first wine class was finished with the first 2 reds – coming from the region of Ribera del Duero. Both wines were made from Tempranillo (aka Tinto Fino), yet both had completely different character.

The grapes for Vizcarra Roble grew in predominantly sand, clay, limestone and gravel soil, while Barco de Piedra’s vineyard is located in slightly lower altitude, with the soil composed of river stones on top with limestone subsoil. Both wines spent a very limited time in the oak – to showcase their true fruit character.

The Spanish tapas, prepared by Costa del Sol’s chef Javier matched perfect  our selected wines. Not a big fan of whites and still think that you didn’t miss much? Wait till we get to reds next week….

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A true friend

A true friendAll of us might come up with a different definition if we were asked to specify what the term “true friend” means to us.

When you think about it, it meant different things in different stages of our life. When we were young, the true friend would be somebody who held our hand when we were afraid. Or maybe somebody who stood next to us when we were in trouble.

Later on it might have been someone who you tried your first cigarette with, someone who never betrayed you. Perhaps true friend to you was a good listener and someone you spent hours on the phone with, discussing all the important issues of your life. How do you describe the true friend today?

Is it somebody who is always there for you? Is it somebody who brings you food when you are sick, who makes you smile when you are sad and who shares your values and success with you proudly? Does your true friend care when nobody else does? Is he someone who doesn’t judge you when you failed and offers a shoulder to cry on instead? Is he someone who will always have a helping hand for you even at times he needs one himself?

I must say, I feel blessed to have a few true friends in my life. The closest ones are of  Italian heritage, French Canadian, Spanish and Polish. They are a substitute for my own family that lives far away. They have always been there for me. When we were moving few years ago, they came to help us for several days, sacrificing their own time, driving hundreds of miles not to mention working like dogs, so we can get back to normal as soon as possible. When I think about it, there are not many people throughout my life that would have done more for me than my friends already did.

A true friendWe spent this Labor weekend with a couple of my friends. We have shared our passion for food, wine and fun with them on every occasion we had.

This couple came to almost each of my wine events to support me. They would bring their friends along. They even joked that I spoiled their palate – so now they can’t go back, drinking wines they once used to like.

When times were not so good, they were there again, helping, praying, checking on me, and offering a hand. I never took it for granted. I am not sure if I ever told them that but I hope they know. Lately, they were even considering putting their own house at risk to help me to pursue a dream to open my own business. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that thought anyway, but that’s just the kind of friends they are.

 A true friend

We have laughed a lot this last weekend (which I needed really badly), ate a lot – although I decided to prepare all kinds of finger food – tapas to accompany our “special wines” – we ended up eating much more than if we just had a regular dinner. (I was fixing my stomach later at night with Fernet-branca – what a good medicine that is). But most importantly, we have opened some spectacular wines together.We took our time to enjoy it – started slowly with Cava and whites, so by the time we got to “the real stuff”, the reds were just about ready for us. You probably know that opening a special bottle with the wrong company can spoil the enjoyment for you. I think we all have done that mistake before. But when the opposite happens, it is a pure heaven. This weekend will most likely be very hard to beat (although we can always try) and this is how they changed my prospective on a true friend definition:
The true friend is someone, who lets you spoil their palate. Someone, who trusts you enough to let you hook them on wines you adore yourself and now they adore them with you.

Someone who allows you to turn proud Italians into Spanish food and wine enthusiasts. And when the times are not so great, the true friend will go out, buy that special bottle (when you can’t do it yourself) and brings it over to your house to enjoy it together. The bottle they have never tasted before. The bottle they only heard you bragging about.

A true friendSo this weekend, our wine list sustained of Segura Viudas Brut, Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc (Californian exception), couple of bottles of Muga Blanco, a bottle of Alto Moncayo Veraton, and we finished this Spanish dream with a bottle of Clio.

For a desert we have opened a bottle of Jorge Ordoñez Victoria, an outstanding sweet Moscatel from Malaga and yes, we have finished the whole thing. There you have it! We loved every drop of it!

It tasted so much better when shared with people that appreciated it as much as we do. Life is good when you have true friends. I am really grateful for that. Believe me, that’s the kind of true friends you want in your life. I truly appreciate to have them in mine.

All recipes paired with wine, Fish and Seafood

Shrimp in Mustard Sauce

Shrimp in Mustard Sauce
(courtesy of Jackie and Marge)

¼ cup of tarragon vinegar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup dry mustard
2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup minced parsley
6 green onions chopped
2 ½ lb (peeled, tails attached) uncooked shrimp
1 (3 oz.) pk crab boil
Cucumber (Japanese)

In a large bowl whisk together vinegars, pepper, mustard, pepper flakes and salt. While whisking, pour in oil. Stir in parsley and green onions. Cook shrimp in crab boil until pink. Pour shrimp into colander and immediately stir drained shrimp into sauce. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve sliced cucumbers for garnish.

Note: be sure to have shrimp peeled before putting into sauce. I put sauce and shrimp into freezer bag for overnight.

Wine pairing suggestion:
This delicious appetizer is also quite spicy (the way I love it) so I chose clean, crispy Spanish white blend to compliment it. I am happy to admit here that ever since I introduced Marge (creator of this dish) to Muga Blanco and it became her personal favorite as well.