Culture connections

With Sherry fest in full swing in NYC , here is an unexpected connection worth sharing. A few months ago at a Wine and Spirits magazine event, I had the pleasure of pouring the 2007 Samuel Tinon Dry Szamorodni for Sherry aficionado and Spanish chef Alex Raij of Basque restaurants Txikito and La Vara. Like dry Sherry, the distinctive character of the Szamorodni is partly derived from a veil of natural yeast—called flor in Spanish—that develops on the surface of the wine as it ages. As a special example of the maligned style of dry Szamorodni, the Tinon spoke to her. In the spring of 2014, it will be paired with a dish Chef Raij will prepare as part of a James Beard House dinner. She also recently added the Tinon to the wine list at La Vara. I find it inspiring that one of New York City’s most discerning Spanish chefs sees connections and harmony between Spanish cuisine and a little known style of Hungarian white wine. Connecting seemingly disparate cultures in this way is good. It enhances their appreciation and hopefully inspires others to see associations that are less than apparent. Tokaji and Sherry are more alike than … Continue reading Culture connections

A Cold, Wintry Revisit to La Vinyeta

The exterior of the building, rusty iron and all as is the design fixation in Catalonia currently. It was just a bit over a year and a half ago that I first visited the new (at the time) winery of La Vinyeta. What a difference 20 months makes. For starters, they now have their website fully up and running which does a great job of showing the design aesthetic that goes in to the look of all things Vinyeta, which are created by the winemaker’s brother. It was a bit hard to convey that in 2007 as the winery wasn’t finished and they only had a couple of releases. The winery is indeed done now and open for visits most of the week, although they generally follow the sun, meaning that winter hours are shorter and summer hours, longer. Visiting in the winter probably isn’t allowing this region of Catalonia to be all that it can be. Upon getting out of the car, it was like getting clocked by a sack of ice cubes as the Tramuntana wind ripped through every layer I had on, freezing me to the core until I got inside the winery. The Puntiapart & Llavors … Continue reading A Cold, Wintry Revisit to La Vinyeta

Cantallops, Where the Fruit is Wine

Sweet Garnatxa in the sun, waiting for deliciousness to happen to it. Cantallops, Spain. The name for English speakers might sound like, “cantaloupes”, but it couldn’t be further from that in meaning. If you take it at face value, in Catalan it means, “singing at wolves”. But it appears if you dig a bit deeper that the name has an old Latin root to it that Elusive Masia Serra means something more along the line of “wolves’ rock” which makes much more sense given that the town is built on a massive rock outcropping and they had a big problem with wolves up until the 19th century. Probably the best thing about this small hamlet sitting on the edge of Pyrenees is that they have two (count ’em) two wineries. One is Masia Serra, which it seems only has its information on the Empordà wines website. It’s a gorgeous place, but not often open, which makes it hard to judge the wines as getting a tasting is tricky. The other winery is Vinyes dels Aspres. Now, this is a winery that we actually encountered back in 2007 at a Spanish wine show in San Francisco. 2006 bottled and waiting. I … Continue reading Cantallops, Where the Fruit is Wine

Jamón, Prosciutto, and Pršut

A plate of jamón in a restaurant in northern Catalonia, Spain. When it comes to a meat that is enjoyed across the Mediterranean, forms of cured pork have spread far and wide. Jamón, prosciutto, and pršut from Spain, Italy, and Croatia, respectively are all similar to some degree, yet share some differences from one another. As to which is the best, that’s not a question to get in to with anyone from one of these three countries as they will always believe that theirs is the best. The most democratic approach is to say that they are all really good and they are best enjoyed within the countries where they are made. Jamón is stunningly delicious and is pretty much only available in Spain. Export out of Spain is nearly non-existent because the Spanish wisely keep their prized meat safely at home. But when in Spain, it can readily be found and should be had in great quantities once found. When it comes to wines, many people fall prey to the old rule of white with pork and while a white such as Verdejo tastes wonderful with some nice slices of jamón, reds pair with it equally as well due … Continue reading Jamón, Prosciutto, and Pršut

The First Release of Perafita

Over a summer two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. While staying in Catalonia, we set out from Figueres to make a day trip to Cadaqués. Due to misunderstanding of roundabout, we ended up on the isolated northern beaches of Roses, but managed to eventually twist and turn our way back to the right road. This delay ended up being incredibly lucky as it had us driving over the top of a hill where the vineyards of Perafita are located. We entered the winery at the exact right time to visit while they were having their grand release day for their very first wines: Perafita 2005, Cadac 2004, Muscatel 2006, and Garnatxa 2006. The Perafita and Cadac were both reds. Perafita was the lighter of the two, even though it had an alcohol content at 14.5%. You could really taste the Merlot and Garnatxa in the blend as the Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to be propping those two up more than the other way round. It also had strong oak flavors to it that came through very well. The Cadac was much deeper and approached a more standard California alcohol level of 15% in an area where … Continue reading The First Release of Perafita

An Extensive Tasting at Espelt

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Given the setting, Espelt is a young winery that was founded in 2000 on a family property in Vilajuïga in northeastern Catalonia, led by the eldest daughter Anna Espelt who studied enology in the US. In spite of being a traditional, family-run business, it is a cutting edge winery with experimental vine growing techniques and labels designed by Mariscal (famous for having designed the mascot of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics). With this in mind, it’s not surprising that in only five releases it has become the biggest winery in the area (the D.O. Empordà) with the largest vineyards. The vast majority of those vineyards are located inside two natural parks in the area, producing mostly local varietals, such as Carinyena (Carignane) and Garnatxa (Granache). In the natural park of the rugged Cap de Creus, the easternmost cape of Spain, Espelt has reintroduced vines planted in the traditional terraces of dry stones. This area had been a historical wine-producing region until the phylloxera plague destroyed all of it in the late 1800’s and since that point the land was left barren. We had the chance to taste … Continue reading An Extensive Tasting at Espelt

Experiencing the New La Vinyeta

Over a summer two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. Through a personal connection we were very fortunate to get a first glimpse of an exciting new winery in north-eastern Spain near Figueres called, La Vinyeta. The overall region is called d.o. Emporda and this is a new winery that has been built over the last few years. They now lay claim to 40 hectares (100 acres) of thriving vines. Part of this area was and continues to be occupied by 75 year old vines that are growing Garnatxa (Grenache). The rest have been planted with many different varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. We were given a taste of the Merlot from the tanks before it has been aged in the French Oak barrels. It’s quite an exquisite wine that has a nose like that of a Merlot that has already been aged for five years or more. The taste is relatively light and will need some time in the oak to really play out the full potential, which will undoubtedly be fantastic. >In addition to the Merlot, we were given a real treat in trying the Garnatxa from the tanks. In two words: … Continue reading Experiencing the New La Vinyeta

Europe Travels

Over a summer two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. Your hosts: Michael and Elia. Their target: wines of Southern Europe. We are Michael and Elia, two seasoned travelers and wine lovers who will be writing a series of blog posts for Blue Danube Wine as we travel around Mediterranean Europe, sampling the local wines and cuisines. We will be writing both about wineries that are trying new methods of production like “biodynamic” and about those that have done things the same way for literally hundreds of years. While we are not on a quest to find out what it is that ultimately defines these wines, we will definitely be noting similarities and comparing how different growing techniques, climates, and cultures affect the wines of each region we pass through. We are starting our trip in north-eastern Spain, in the region of Catalonia. From there, we will be making our way to southern Dalmatia in Croatia, including a few of the islands. Then, we will look in to the wines of recently independent Montenegro before heading up to neighboring Serbia. After a stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we will be back out on the coast of … Continue reading Europe Travels