July 15, 2012
My favorite summer wine is rosé. Its lovely pink hue and delicate flavor win me over at almost every meal, as it flirts with me from the bottle; I just can’t’ say no to it. It’s as refreshing as a crisp white on a hot day, but slightly big enough with a few tannins and flavors from the red grape skins to complement grilled meats, heavy meats, grilled vegetables and summer desserts. Rosé will pair up with almost anything, making it the summer wench of wine.
My favorite rosés are those that are light in color and alcohol, but medium to high in acidity. Rosés from Provence are the originals, and could easily be called the best. Triennes rosé is a favorite of mine, made from Cinsault blended with Grenache, Syrah and Merlot. It’s light yet flavorful and is the perfect accompaniment to a summer dinner.
Another rosé I love is from Bodegas Muga in Rioja. This one is a darker pink color; a rosy-cheeked minx, with a heavier flavor that can stand up to meats and cheese, but still having that bright kick of acidity.
And finally, a California rosé I love is from Verdad Wines in the Sana Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara county. Louisa Lindquist makes this European style rose from the Garnacha grape of Spain, with an alcohol level of 11%. It rivals these French rosés in all the things I love about rosé wines, with the bonus that I can buy locally! My local harlot…
Try finding one of these rosés, and pair it with your favorite summer meals. You’ll see that even though she gets around; she really is the best companion on a summer evening.
November 9, 2011
Rioja Spain is a red wine heaven full of Tempranillo. This lovely, russet-colored, medium-bodied varietal excels in all renditions here in its homeland of Spain’s oldest wine region.
The Spanish have a foolproof way of guaranteeing what the drinker will get in the glass…at least as far as time in the barrel and time in the bottle. Something the Spanish seem to have more of than its New World Counterparts: time.
The only wine released early here is vino joven, or young wine, which is the daily drinking wine at the tapas bars and at most dinner tables. This wine has only been through basic fermentation, then barreled or bottled for immediate drinking to local restaurants, bars and their own front-of-the-house shops, so locals can fill their own bottles bound for home.
The next youngest red wine is Crianza, which must be aged for 2 years, with at least 6 months in oak. This is the basic level of wine in Rioja, and has spent more time in the barrel and bottle more than many California wines ever do. If you love Tempranillo, this is a wine to try.
Reservas and Gran Reservas have spent even more time in barrel and bottle, but the Crianza has a special place in my heart (along with all the jamón ibérico). It has smoothness, hints of cherry and herb, with a fresh roundness to the palate and an elegance of acid and earth.
In Spain, it’s accessible everywhere at great prices and goes with everything you’re gonna eat. Rioja Crianza: what more can a girl want?
June 20, 2011
On my recent trip to Spain, I got to eat at the world famous Etxebarri (Anthony Bourdain’s best meal of his life – and mine now too) in the middle of Basque country in Spain. Home of the world’s Grill Master Victor Arguinzoniz, he’s known for cooking with fire over coals and wood, and pairing different foods with the correct type of coal or wood that suits it best. He even makes his own coal.
And the 7-course tasting menu was indeed out of this world!
But one more thing that impressed me was the very accessible wine list. The prices were really reasonable (less than some of the food!), making it easy to order a bottle – not a glass – of local white to go with the many varied seafood dishes and a bottle of Rioja red (made mostly from the Tempranillo grape) to go with the meatier ones. Since lunch would be a 4-hour affair, we had time to take the wine all in.
The white we ordered was a local grape called Txakolina shown above, from Itsas Mendi which means “sea and mountain” in Basque. The Basque make Txakolina in flat and sparkling varieties, and drink it with everyday meals in their homes. This flat Txakolina was lively, a bit lemony and briny. It’s made from a local grape called Hondarrabi Zuri, grown and bottled overlooking the bay near Bilbao. A bit wild and windy, perfect for the Grill Master’s typical meals and seafood dishes.
For the meat dishes, we chose an affordable Rioja 2007 Crianza from Fernández de Piérola. La Rioja is just an hour’s drive or so from here, and remains the locals’ wine of choice for nicer bottles with dinner. What I love about Rioja wine is how the laws about grape quality and specific requirements for time in barrel and in bottle assure the drinker of how the wine will taste. I love the youthfulness of Crianza over Riserva and Gran Riserva for pairing with various meat dishes – it’s a pretty versatile wine. This wine was elegant in the background of the food’s main stage, complementing without being too brash.
Wines were perfect and food was plentiful in our day of eating at Etxebarri. Now all we had left to do was nap.