Hello to all my wonderful friends &
How was Portland? This haiku-esque tweet I wrote on Sunday morning sums it up pretty nicely, "love is waking up slow after a moonlit stroll under the pdx cherry blossoms. rhubarb blush @ whiskeybar, pok pok, pix patis sweetness"
I would love to have some buying clubs down south so I can have an excuse to go more often!
Thirteen exciting wines this week & a recipe to help edge us into spring eating. Many thanks to my friends in Portland for showing me much kindness. My palate is blossoming, and I am infatuated with wine again. I hope you're as thirsty as me, and see you at the farmer's market...
Presidenta, Queso y Vino, 206-518-1166, firstname.lastname@example.org
Art of the Table ... March 10th Waiting list!
Stay tuned for Harvest Vine / Txori next ???
SPINACH SALAD WITH PEARS, SPICED WALNUTS, & RICOTTA SALATA from The Flavors of Southern Italy by Erica DeMane
I am so excited about the new cookbooks I got in Portland. As someone who worked in the publishing industry & gourmet retail, I love supporting independent stores such as Powell's & In Good Taste. It was extremely hard to choose a recipe out of this new book, so expect to see more! I see wild spot prawns are available from Fishing Vessel Hat Trick at the U Market for one more week... This would make a great side with those beauties, & is apparently based on a salad served at Grano Trattoria in NYC.
A few drops of
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup very fresh walnut halves
Pinch of salt
4 scrapings freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 unpeeled ripe pears, cored & thinly sliced (red Anjou are especially pretty for this)
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 shallot, very thinly sliced
1 small chunk ricotta salata
Heat a medium saute pan over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Add all the spiced-walnut ingredients & saute until the walnuts are fragrant & lightly toasted, 3 or 4 minutes.
TO MAKE THE DRESSING: In a small bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, salt, & pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.
Decorate the rims of 4 salad plates with the pear slices.
Put the spinach & shallot in a medium salad bowl. Remove the garlic from the dressing. Add the dressing to the salad & toss. Divide the salad among the 4 plates. Shave or crumble some ricotta salata over each salad & garnish with the walnuts. Serve right away.
THIS WEEK'S QUESO Y VINO WINE RECOMMENDATIONS
I offer a 10% discount on whole or mixed cases, free delivery for orders over $150, smaller orders will be conveniently & gladly delivered to you for the nominal fee of $10. Start a buying club & I'll waive the delivery fee! Ask me if you'd like to arrange a free pick up at the Saturday University Farmer's Market or Sunday at the Ballard Farmer's Market or the West Seattle Farmer's Market. We're usually there from a window of 10:30 until noon depending on our order requests, and can be around to meet you before or after your market shopping.
La Fiera Pinot Grigio 2009, Venteo special intro price $7.99 (reg. $8.99)
"We're captive on the carousel of time" --Joni Mitchell. Here's to one captivating Pinot Grigio! This is not rocket science, but after tasting this fair Pinot (pardon the pun) and think of how many disappointing PG's I've had in Italian restaurants I wonder, why??? You don't have to pay a lot to get a great Pinot Grigio, you just need a good source. The Botter family knows their stuff. They are 3rd generation wine makers, with a rebirth in 2000 under son Luca who has gone with environmentally friendly practices. What really makes the difference here is that the grapes are immediately pressed and cooled after picking.Very fragrant nose of ice box peaches, soft, smooth, satiny crenshaw melons. Along with one of the $10 Chardonnays I've mentioned of late, this is a sure bet wedding wine of the summer, and generally great quaffer to have around the house. Funny, Zazou just came on the iPod, the gypsy swing band we had at our pastoral wedding in Poulsbo!
This is a lovely little bargain that made me happy to taste this morning, even though I spit. Estacao is a blend of 5 traditional port varietals from an award-winning family winery that has kept with the times and created a wonderfully drinkable red that's as soft as a ripe raspberry dangling on a summer vine. Winemaker Alves de Sousa is known for his style of "honest" wines, & is a founding member of the Independent Wine Growers Association, plus the only vintner to be awarded the "Producer of the Year" twice (1999, 2006) by Revista de Vinhos, Portugal’s prestigious wine magazine. Creamy vanilla bean sweetness, super-ripe roasted strawberries, & a plump/clean attitude make this a stand-out for the money. My mouth was left with the flavor of freshly spread jam on toast. Can you tell I tasted this at breakfast time? Fantastic deal.
Li Veli Passamente Rosso 2007, Salente $11.99
What a difference a year can make! Here's the story of how I initially came upon this wine from my January 2009 newsletter... I've revamped the actual tasting notes to reflect the new vintage, though.
A few blizzardy weeks ago, my husband & I were anxious to celebrate the arrival of the new (& only) pizza place in our neighborhood, Pizzeria Pulcinella, so much so that we chained up & headed out into the snow trying like heck to avoid all the crazy hills. After taking the long route to get there, we stomped off our boots at the doorway, but much to our chagrin found out that they were hosting a private party & weren't open for business yet. Rats! So we mukluked-it back to the truck & headed for another south-end Italian restaurant whose name I won't mention because it was honestly the worst Italian meal either of us had ever eaten. The only redeeming factor was discovering this wine!!! It actually restored our smiles & weary spirits, & we corked half of it up just so we could enjoy it at home in front of the fireplace.
Li Veli is situated in Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot, which is also the largest wine-producing region in the country. But in recent years, the focus has begun to shift from quantity to quality, & northern producers have begun to buy up this southern real estate. And that's just what happened at Li Veli. Tuscan giant Aviognesi (who make de-licious Montepulciano's) bought the Masseria in 1999, & brought new life to the dream of its original founder, a famous Italian architect who wanted Li Veli to be a model winery for all of Italy. Their Passamente is 100% Negroamaro (meaning "dark, dark") aged 6 months in barrel & it is a silky smooth concoction. Black cherries fill the glass, a touch of amber oil, raspberries. This vintage is juicy and kicky with a vibrantly pleasing palate. We do a lot of Italian cooking at home, so I sure am glad to have a stash of this now to remind us of our adventures in the snow!
Caparzo Rosso 2007, Toscana $11.99; $9.99 a bottle for case purchases ($120 a case)
Caparzo Sangiovese 2008, Toscana $11.99; $9.99 a bottle for case purchases ($120 a case)
I am definitely going global this week... These two Italian reds were an exciting find, which we popped open with a hearty baked pasta dish last evening. Shockingly good values. Both these bottlings were made in the picturesque town of Montalcino, by the famed Tuscan Brunello producers Altesino and a woman who was determined to "gently improve" a classic. "Caparzo is the only estate-bottled producer of Brunello di Montacino to have estate vineyards on all five sides of the hill of Montalcino, ensuring that no matter what climatic challenges effect one side, the other vineyards will more than compensate." The Rosso is a clean and juicy blend of Sangiovese, Cab, Syrah, Merlot, & Colorino which spends 4 months in oak, the Sangiovese is 100% varietally pure. Owner Elizabetta Gnudi Angelini and winemaker Massimo Bracalente have sought "terroir with increased softness & drinkability" which both of these wines have in spades. The Rosso has ripe cordial cherries, is balanced & savory with an earthy finish, plump & supple frame, good acidity--a home run. The Sangiovese is seductive with strawberry, raspberry fruit, pleasantly plump with springy juice, with licorice reins driving this thoroughbred.
Artazuri Garnacha 2008, Navarra $11.99 (reg. $14.99)
Artazuri is like the little black dress of wine--it's a staple & something that fits in just about every occasion, never goes out of style. The Artazu project was created by Juan Carlos Lopez de la Calle of Rioja’s famous Artadi estate. The goal was to take the same quest for varietal purity that the estate seeks in Tempranillo to the Garnacha varietal. Of the various locales that were investigated, the small village of Artazu in the most northern zone of Navarra was chosen for its extraordinary vines of Garnacha.
100% Garnacha from 60-80 year old vines, Artadi's Navarran foothold is all about wines with dark fruit and resounding balance with soft tannins, ideal for near-term consumption.
“Vivid red. Energetic, sharply focused strawberry and raspberry aromas are complicated by notes of rose, cinnamon and white pepper; smells like a sexy pinot noir. The very fresh palate offers silky, sweet red berry flavors and suave notes of candied flowers and Asian spices. Gains sweetness on the finish, lingering with good flavor authority and liveliness. This is an outstanding value.” -90pts, Stephen Tanzer’s IWC
Cuatro Rayas 2008, Rueda $13.99
In a time when Verdejo is being increasingly blended to taste, this is a wine that brought me straight back to Rueda, where I was first introduced to Tortilla Espanola the way it's meant to be. "What makes this so good?" I asked the winemakers between forkfuls. "Well, the potatoes are from down the road, the eggs were laid this morning, the local bar made this." My husband has become a master tortilla maker (ask him for his secrets when you get your next wine order!) and this white paired up beautifully with a midweek pobre dinner. Heck, I felt rich! Pomelo, lemon oil, & tangerine make this stunningly vibrant, and we threw in a Caesar salad on the side with some chickpea/meatball soup... Seventh heaven.
El Perro Verde Verdejo 2007, Rueda $14.99
"Light yellow. Subtle orchard fruits on the nose, with a suave tangerine note emerging with aeration. Nervier lime and orange zest on the palate, which offers good fleshy texture and gentle mineral lift. Gains heft on the finish, which features musky yellow plum and succulent herbal qualities. An impressive blend of power and verve."
-90 points, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
Po de Poeira 2006, Douro $17.99 (reg. $20.99)
I was having a bite in Ballard at Portalis after Sunday market deliveries & savored a glass pour of this sumptuous red with a bowl of mussels & a plate of charcuterie. Winemaker Jorge Moeira was the enologist at Real Companhia Velha for seven vintages, and in 2001 he bought his own quinta. He joined the team at Quinta de la Rosa as chief enologist, but this is distinctly his own project. Despite this bottle's modern appearance, this is a minimalist winery with four traditional stone vats & an old vertical press. Po uses younger vines & is a move away from tannins toward acidity, with a goal to "(seek) its true character in elegance." Luscious blue/black fruit comes from a rich vein of Touriga Nacional & Souzao, a grape that was news to me. Souzao is a renaissance grape, re-emerging in the Douro thanks to its high acidity content & massive color, soft tannins. This wine has a royal purple hue dark as velvet. I sipped & cooed, but didn't take tasting notes, so borrowed notes for you this time around...
"red berry, black cherry, floral and chocolate edged fruit carries through on the palate, very 2006, this is fresh, defined and elegant. Fine grained tannins, mid weight wine." -Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective
Black Slate 2006, Priorat $22.99
Artadi is about purity with almost Burgundian textures; in fact,
Artadi Vinas de Gain 2007, Rioja $24.99 (reg. $35) 12 bottles available
critics have often compared these wines to the top wines of Chambolle-Musigny &
other top appellations of Burgundy. The key to this level of elegance comes from
the cold winds of the Pyrenees which blow from the north & mod-
erate temperatures--an absolutely majestic region.
“Artadi’s 2007 Vinas de Gain is 100% Tempranillo sourced from 40- to 60-year-old
vines and aged in 40% new French oak for 12-14 months. A saturated purple color,
it delivers an expressive bouquet of wood smoke, pencil lead, mineral, blueberry, and
blackberry. Layered and full-flavored on the palate, it is nicely balanced with the
structure to evolve for 4-6 years. Drink it from 2014 to 2027. It is one of the better
values in quality Rioja.” -92pts, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Specially Selected Six-Packs!
This has been such a successful way to serve you that I say we shall continue this tradition, holidays or not. You pick the theme and price level you want to pay & I'll mix and match from my favorites in the cellar. Limited quantities, thoughtfully selected.
Choose your juice theme & your 6-pack price level:
The Pride of Portugal $60; $75; $100
Savor South America $60; $75
Celebrate Spain $60; $75; $100
Great Grenache $60; $75; $100
Throwing a Party $50; $60; $75; $100
I have created a tip jar and I hope if you get something from my writing but don't want to order anything--maybe a recipe idea for an upcoming dinner, or wine advice that you put to use elsewhere--I hope you'll slip a couple of bucks in the jar from time to time. It's like sending your pledge money to public radio, only I don't interrupt the airwaves for a fund drive.Thank you & enjoy!!!!!!
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Queso y Vino