Category Archives: Wines

Teruel: The High Desert Magic of Spain

Elena F. Guiral 

Teruel has a millenary agri-food culture developed in an arid, cold and hard land with the particular characteristics of the High Desert: heights estimated between 2,000 and 4,000 ft (600 and 1,300 meters) with short and very hot summers and summers cold and sunny but with presence of snowfall. This climate gives its cuisine a very particular personality reflecting those its inhabitants and their extraordinary ability to adapt to the territory.

In recent decades, farmers and producers in the province, mostly small farmes, are struggling day by day to preserve this millenary tradition. This is also the best way to fix population in a desertified territory, with 9 inhabitants per square kilometer, and to protect and care for the environment against the threat of climate change.

On the occasion of the XXV Teruel Cured Ham Fair, the Chamber of Commerce of the city organized a conference and a press visit last week to publicize the most representative food products of this area of ​​Spain in which I was fortunate to participate .

Here a review of its star products to interest your palate.

Cured ham

Eclipsed outside Spain by the famous Iberian ham, Teruel ham also has much to offer the most exquisite palates. Teruel ham is produced from the Duroc pig variety, native to the province, at 800 meters of altitude and after a curing and drying process that always exceeds 14 months. All the pieces keep the hoof of the pig, a numbered label and the Mudejar star engraved on fire as a guarantee of quality and distinction.

The first museum in the world of Ham of Teruel, Aire Sano Experience in Puebla de Valverde, has been recently open to inform the general public about the process of making such a special product. It gives you the opportunity to enjoy an interactive experience around this product thanks to the latest technologies, learn to cut ham virtually and finish your tour in the Museum store and restaurant that stands out for its careful preparation of local products such as cured ham, trout, peach and saffron.

Foto Jamon aire sano

Bajo Aragon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Centennial olive groves spread out through the province of Teruel, especially in the area of Bajo Aragón, Bajo Martín and Matarraña regions accustomed to the hard and generous winters in their production of local Empeltre, Arbequina and Royal olive varieties. More than 8,000 families are dedicated to grow it since it is a Denomination of Origin: its production has to meet a series of criteria established by the European Union. In fact, their producers are small and are grouped in cooperatives.

Juan Baseda, its technical director defines this Extra Virgin Olive oil as “soft, sweet, bit bitter and quite fruity, so it fits with everything.” Curiously, although in Aragon its consumption is very common, the denomination of origin finds it difficult to compete with the rest of olive oils in Spain since its price is higher and the consumer is accustomed to a more intense oil such as the picual, apart from the fact that its production is modest, between 5% and 10% throughout Spain. It is currently exported to the US and Asia, and is especially appreciated in Japan for its more subtle organoleptic qualities that harmonize perfectly with the delicacy of japanese cuisine.

Calanda Peaches

Yellow, large, soft and at the same time full of flavor for growing in dry land of hard and cold winters. This is a late summer crop due to the cold climate of the area.

They are really unique because of their large size, never less than 73 millimetres. Each box is composed of 20 pieces. This is achieved with a technique in which 70% of the tree’s production is eliminated when the fruits are the size of a tennis ball. In addition to this, the fruits that remain in the tree are pocketed in bags one by one to protect them from pests and maintain all the aroma and flavor that makes them an extraordinary product. In fact, only 10% to 15% of the production is certified as Calanda peach.

melocoton calanda

Aragon Ternasco

The ternasco of Aragon, a kind of lamb meat, was the first fresh meat recognized with a specific denomination in 1989 in Spain.

Lamb has a vital historical tradition in Aragon, where its consumption doubles that of the rest of Spain, since it is very important to fix the population in the rural environment as well as sustainable since sheperds labor helps fight wildfires.

The ternasco weighs between 8 and 12.5 kilos and has been exclusively fed with cereals and breast milk, so its meat is soft but tasty and also very healthy since it has a high protein content in vitamins of B3, B6 and B12 and is a source of zinc and phosphorus.

You could also say that it is a product that has become fashionable due to its versatility and the modernity of its new cuts and presentations.

ternasco de Aragon

Bajo Aragon wines

The climate and the cold and hard land also characterize the wines of Bajo Aragon area, many of them made from centuries-old vines and are already part of the history and landscape of the area.

This is a small group of only 20 wineries that have decided to bet on quality  to be able to compete with other production areas in Aragon as powerful as Borja, Cariñena, Calatayud and Somontano, recognized throughout the world.

Teruel black truffle

The black truffle is the best kept secret of Teruel, one of the world’s leading producers and is one of the best survival guarantees for the province, being a highly prized crop that grows precisely in the poorest soils in mountainous areas very limited for extensive crops such as cereals.

Truffles arise from the symbiosis with native trees such as holm oak, oak or hazelnut. Until a few decades ago they grew wild underground and were collected thanks to the help of truffle dogs. Nowadays it is possible to grow them in a controlled way.

In Teruel, the black truffle stands out in winter and the summer truffle, less intense in aroma and flavor but also very appreciated in the kitchen and that is increasingly causing more interest since its collection takes place in summer and is a good reason to attract tourism to the area during vacation time.

The Truffle Growers Association of Teruel (Atruter) was created in 1996 to advise and help the pioneer producers of this crop, although at present it focuses a good part of its activities on the promotion of this crop still relatively unknown to the gastronomy of Spain. In fact, they have prepared the world’s first tasting tab, which serves to distinguish Teruel Trufer melanosporum black truffle from the Trufer indicum that is imported from China and has a much simpler and less intense aroma and composition but is used sometimes instead of the black truffle because of its lower price.

That is why education and training is such an important task. That is why Sarrión, a town in Teruel known as the world capital of black truffles, organizes each year an Annual Fair and numerous activities to discover one of the wonders of the Spanish High Desert.

perro trufero sarrion

Spanish vines, Washington wines. Spanish engineer, Washingtonian wine maker

Elena Fernandez 

Nothing could make me happier than seeing a wine maker… making wine. Even better if he is a fellow Spaniard compatriot. Javier Alfonso, owner of Pomum Cellars, was dealing with a batch of Tempranillo grapes just when I met him is his cellar at the Warehouse district in Woodinville (WA) last week.

This hub of wineries established in small garages is particular. Situated in the outskirts of the city around 50 little size wineries produce wine in a small scale but with great quality.

Many of the wine makers have second jobs and dedicate the evenings and the weekends to their passion. Javier did the same until 2012, when he decided to abandon his promising career as aeronautical engineer to fully focus on Pomum cellars.

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He began to produce wine in 2004 as a weekend hobby in his house garage “We wanted to produce wine for ourselves but our friends loved it and encouraged us to increase our production”. They finally moved to the Warehouse district in 2007 and to their current location in 2010. So, inspiring to know that Pomum occupies today the previous location of Betz wines, one of the most respected brands in Washington.

But Javier brought his love for wine making directly from his roots, a tiny Spanish village that I had the opportunity to visit a long long time ago, Castillejo de Robledo. In that historical gem his family has vineyards that belong to the DO Ribera de Duero, one of the most important wine areas in Spain.

“I soon realized that the continental climate of this region in Spain was really similar to the characteristics of  the Eastern Washington desert. With hot short dry summers and long and cold winters” this area is blessed with the Yakima and Columbia river waters. Javier picks the grapes cultivated exclusively for him for farm contractors in the Yakima valley area. Climate and soil are the key factors in wine making: “soil gives flavor, climate gives viability”

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He wanted to give a chance to our national grape, Tempranillo to grow up here in Washington, and as a pioneer he brought the first vine from Spain in 2005. “It was a long and complicated process managed through a Spanish scientific institution and the UC Davies in California because they had to check, clean and classify the vine to give it the final blessing”. To get an idea about how special Idilico wines are nowadays only around 20 wineries in Washington work with Tempranillo varieties and only 5 with Albariño grapes.

You can find two more Spanish grape varieties, Tinta de Toro and Graciano, in the Idilico wines: “Spanish vines, Washington wines,” as he explains with an open smile. But you only can get them through the wine club or dining in one of the restaurants that carry this wines in their wine menu in the Seattle area.

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Tasting Washington… and beyond

Elena Fernandez 

And here we are! Facing again a big food and wine event! The difference is that Taste Washington is not big is totally massive! So massive that is the biggest of his kind in the US. 225 wineries, 65 restaurants. 700 wines, 5,000 glasses, 200,000 wine pours. And these are only the estimated facts of the Grand Tasting weekend. Much more happened last week because this event who began humble but steady 19 years ago reinvents itself every year.

2016 edition novelties were 2 fun evening parties: Red & White Party and The New Vintage and 3 lunch excursions really rooted in the sustainable farm to table movement that is shaking the State and pretty much the way we are beginning to approach food in the whole country.

Fila ostras

Schedule issues only allowed me to attend Saturday´s Grand Tasting for the first time ever. This means a fresh new approach but some amateur mistakes driven by me and my impossible goal to envision the real size of the event. Because who is able to taste 700 wines without ending emotionally, intellectually and physically intoxicated? It´s simply impossible to do it although a fun winemaker from Walla Walla told me: “Some people try… and fail” giving me a metaphorical wink. “I prefer focusing on trying all the food”.

So you should have checked the impressive list in advance but you didn´t and you don´t have so much time now. And every booth is a magnet calling your attention… And then, between bite and bite You see Pomum Cellars! No problem in admitting that I find pretty awesome the idea of making Washington wines with Spanish varietals. I visited the winery last year and the wines didn’t disappoint me at all so first wine tasting of the day.

Javier Alfonso Pomum CellarsI was lucky enough to meet the owner and winemaker, Javier Alfonso, who came to WA to get his degree in Engineering and never went back. But he hasn´t forgotten his love for Ribera del Duero one of my favorite wine areas in Spain where the climate and terrain is pretty similar to Eastern Washington with cold winters, dry summers and a huge difference in temperature from day to night which gives this bold balance between sugar and acidity to the wine. Really good red wines at this winery particularly the Tempranillo, made with our unofficial official grapes.  And don´t forget Idilico Albariño to pair with oysters and crab.

April Redout from the relatively new Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser was so nice to give another clue about some new interesting things happening. She invited me to visit this center in Prosser (bucket list) and pointed me towards Intrinsic Wine Co. a new adventure from Saint Michelle wine group leaded by Juan Muñoz-Oca his head winemaker.

Not easy to talk with this expert, one of the real celebrities of the day but he was so nice to take a few minutes to explain why this wine is so different: “the grapes remain on the skins for 9 months and 10% of the wine is fermented in a concrete tank”.

It´s to interesting and innovative that in a back to the farmland era as previously cited Muñoz-Oca has taken a complete different direction creating an urban modern wine. Even the amazing bottle design “Fun, it looks like a flamenco dancer” I thought, it was created from graffiti art. Another really interesting wine really rich, I usually find Cabernet a bit plain and soft, for my list perfect to impress guests and hosts.

Intrinsic

 

Really fun the marketing campaign of Red Mountain AVA alliance with pins reading “Ask me why Red Mountain is so special” and other pins with the answers scattered through the association wineries. Sometimes you don´t need a lot of budget to make an impact.

DSC_0085Because when you are competing with other 224 wineries you have to use to imagination to stand out. Charles & Charles winery only needed to be the only ones… as far as I know to serve rosé wine. It´s fun this trendy trend of you not being a wine connoisseur because you drink rosé. I love rosé because it reminds me two things: summer and paella. You can find an occasion for every kind of wine. Other interesting classics with no failure rate… Betz Winery, Gorman Winery and again Alexandria Nicole Jet Black Syrah 2014. (link Seattle wine and food experience).
Kalaloch lodgeLet´s talk about food now. Nope I didn´t hit the 65 restaurants either but I tried to be pretty eclectic as I had to give my cork-vote to my favorite one. It looks like I missed the favorite, the Swiftwater Kobe short rib… Maybe because I am more into the seafood/fish world. Anyway I always will have room for torchon and foie, really good. Good to know there is a reliable French style place so close to home in Kirkland Le Grand Bistro AmericainThe nice people from another Capitol Hill classic, Gnocchi Bar, showed me how to cook them to perfection.

And even better to know that there are some guys curing ham Spaniard style in Leavenworth. Yes, they call themselves Cured. Leavenworth is the perfect place for that, cold and drier in winter. I bet they wouldn´t be so successful in the Puget Sound area. Really good products, a touch salty for my palate, but they point an extra good reason to visit the Bavarian village soon.

ostrasOf course I had to follow the legendary line to get some Aqua oysters. Simply amazing. In fact, I was about to give them my vote, nothing is more perfect than oysters with squeezed lemon to me. But I wanted to reward some creativity too so I finally picked Kalaloch lodge´s chef, Ashley Miller, salmon mousse. OK, salmon mousse is not so innovative but the truth is that I love simple beautiful, classic flavors, not 12 ingredients packed in a bite.

Fun because I had the opportunity to taste his food again 2 days ago during my first epic loop around the Olympic Peninsula. Superb ingredients treated with simplicity and respect, just the way I love it. And with this also epic sunset as background. Lucky me.

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Spain´s Great Match in Miami: the Yummy Chronicles

 Elena Fernandez

D.O. Rueda white Wine booth

D.O. Rueda white Wine booth

Last week, the Yummy Bull had the opportunity to attend to a Spain’s Great Match tour stop in Miami. The event took place at the The Moore Building in the Miami Design District. The Great Match is a celebration of the wines and food from Spain.

American importers and distributors of Spanish wines presented their finest products, to wine industry professionals, media, and consumers. More than 200 Spanish wines were featured in a walk-around tasting informal format.

The tasting was complemented with a seminar presented by Grandes Pagos de España, an association of Spanish wine producers dedicated to promote Spain’s estate wines, was held for select trade and media. Attendees tasted through 24 of the 27 prestigious winery estates that belong to Grandes Pagos de España including the finest examples of winemakers, including Carlos Falco, Víctor de la Serna and Mariano García.

As Spaniard and wine lover you can imagine I felt in heaven for a few hours… It was difficult for me to find a place to start my particular wine tasting tour, so I decided to begin with Las Rocas from Bodegas San Alejandro. This wine comes for a winery placed in Calatayud one hour driving away from my home town, Zaragoza. Garnacha Borja and Calatayud wine are my day to day wine options at home, so I wanted to test what is new.

Matarromera Ribera de DueroMy favorite was Garnacha 2009, 90 points rated by The wine Advocate. I love garnacha grape because has enough body to fulfill my Spanish taste but It´s fruity and affordable enough to pair with my daily meals. But I made room for Ribera del Duero wines, other of my favorites. I had the opportunity to taste Abadía Retuerta last releases, this winery belongs to Grandes Pagos de España association, and another really good Ribera, Matarromera Crianza 2008. A classic wine with a modern touch.

Whites are in my top list of wines too so I was happy to find a representation of Consejo Regulador DO Ruedain the Match. All  Verdejos were great and you could find a list who looks for distributor in the US too. I love the bitter spicy touch in mouth of Rueda wine, great for any kind of fish and seafood.

Another Spanish white best seller was in Miami last week: Albariño. Every of them where great but I found particularly special the wines from Paco & Lola, a boutique winery from Pontevedra with a really cool  and brave branding design too.

After 15 sips of wine aprox. I decided It would be a great idea to refuel so I visited Cheese from Spain booth, full of an amazing array of varieties. Cheese and wine are close brothers, you know. Olives were present too. I loved the small cheesecakes made with black olive tapenade on top. Unexpected combination!

In Spain we finish our celebrations with Cava, our particular sparkling wine sweet as champaigne, so I wanted to do the same. I could see the release of the new Anna de Codorniu bottles, girlie style! And I tasted Jaume Serra cava rosé, MMM so delicious!

Guests also had  the opportunity to visit: Tapas: Spanish Design for Food, an exhibition organized by Accion Cultural Española (AC/E) with the collaboration of SPAIN Arts & Culture, La Fundación España-Florida 500 Años and the Centro Cultural Español de Miami, in recognition of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the first European, Spaniard Ponce de León, to the shores of Florida.

This exhibition, who traces a fascinating path of Spanish design related to food  will visit Washington DC and many others US cities all around 2014.

eExpo tapas

The best black grape variety: “Tempranillo” wines

On the 24th, 25th and 26th of October, the eighth edition of the touring Contest “Tempranillos al Mundo” was held in Toledo (Castilla-La Mancha, Spain), which is famed for the First International Wine Summit. The competition has again returned to Spain after passing through Stockholm and New York. This edition had a record participation of entries, with 500 samples from seven countries. The jury was composed of leading international experts from twelve nations

The wine Cruz de Alba (2011) –geographical location: Ribera de Duero– has been the winner of the contest, while four other wines have won the award Great Gold Tempranillo: Finca Sobreño Selección (2008), from Toro; Sideral (2010), from Rioja; Dinastía Vivanco Reserva (2007), from Rioja; and, in Garnacha variety, Atteca Armas (2011), from Calatayud.

It also granted 88 prizes Gold Tempranillo and 56 Silver Tempranillo.

Bodegas y Viñedos Lleiroso, located in the town of Valbuena de Duero (Valladolid), also included within the Certification of Origin “Ribera del Duero”, won four awards in this year’s competition:

• Gold Tempranillo: Luzmillar Crianza (2011) .
• Gold Tempranillo: Lleiroso (2009) .
• Silver Tempranillo: Luzmillar Roble (2012).
• Silver Tempranillo: Lleiroso (2007) .

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The Tempranillo black grape variety is the most important grapevine in Spain. From it, comes many of the most notable spanish red wines. It has other names, such as Tinta del País, in Ribera del Duero; Tinta de Toro, in Zamora; or Cencibel, in Castilla-La Mancha.  The  Tempranillo grape variety needs lots of sunshine to ensure optimum quality. The wines that are made ​​from this grape are fresh and dry in mouth.