Growing up with Spanish cultural, food and wine influences this month’s wine pairing takes a special meaning for us. Thanks to our friends in the Facebook Wine Pairing Weekend Group efforts, we received two wine bottle samples to share a taste of pintxos and Navarra Wines.
Among the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Spain is their food. Widely known, tapas are a tradition that has transcendent Spanish borders. Though this time we’ll be taking on the art of pintxos, the Basque version of tapas usually served with a toothpick or stick to pinch them in place; hence “pintxos” or “pinchos” (from the Spanish verb “to pinch”). Just an internet search for pintxos and you will get limitless images of sumptuous foods.
Though, not in Navarra, we have access to fabulous Spanish products that helps to replicate the experience. Wines as well are available to us; however, I have to admit finding wines from Navarra in the North Bay area has been a challenge.
We grew up in Puerto Rico, where Spanish traditions and food are part of our culture. Just a visit to a Spanish bakery and you will find yourself with croquetas, mayorcas, flanes, natillas, chorizos, etc. We also have a version of “pinchos;” street food usually meat cooked at the BBQ, and yes on a stick. I would think our version is a descendant of the Spanish pintxos, coincidentally also served with a piece of bread.
Traditionally, tortilla Española is one of the most recognized Spanish tapas, found in every Tasca. There are many variations of Tortilla Española; however, the authentic only has eggs, Spanish onions, and potatoes. Many times, I have prepared the tortilla adding Serrano ham or Spanish Chorizo. There are many ways of preparing an authentic Spanish Tortilla. You can easily find a video demonstrating how to cook the Spanish Tortilla. The tortilla pintxo I prepared to pair with the wines is served on bread and topped with Romesco sauce, a manzanilla olive, and garnished piquillo pepper.
Croquetas de Bacalao (Salted Cod Croquettes)
A staple in Spanish cousin. Croquetas can be made of almost everything you can imagine; however, Croquetas de Bacalao is one of my favorite tapas. I admit, making Croquettes is time-consuming, but they are worth it! If you may want to venture in preparing croquettes, my suggestion is to get a copy of the Cocina Criolla cookbook, by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli. This cookbook has the best croquette recipe I have ever found, and there is an English version. The Pintxo the croqueta is served on bread with Romesco sauce and garnished with piquillo pepper.
Senorio de Otazu is a very good red wine from Navarra Spain. #wine #NavarraWine #sponsored
So we had the 2009 Senorio De Otazu ($18, 14.5% ABV) to open with our Steak with Manchego Mushrooms Sauce. I noted the oakiness on the nose of the wine. Taste of cherry fruit and notes of cedar. Dusky elements to this meaty wine.
This wine is comprised of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 3% Tempranillo. Aged in French oak barrels for 16 months.
We sampled a bit of the Senorio De Otazu with a plate of Serrano ham, olives and Manchego cheese. This Navarra red wine was especially good with the Manchego cheese! I looked for Idiazabal, a smoked cheese from the Navarra region, but didn’t find it. I was pretty happy with the Manchego pairing.
As I mentioned earlier, my pre-dinner nibbling inspired me to create the Manchego Mushroom Sauce for the steak. As I suspected, the Manchego made a pairing that would have been good anyway really sing! I definitely give this Steak with Manchego Mushroom Sauce and Navarra red wine pairing an “A”.
I also made some roasted Spanish potatoes as a side dish to go with the Steak with Manchego Mushroom Sauce. The paprika notes on the potatoes rounded out the Spanish flavors on the plate nicely. Recipe for the potatoes coming soon!
Lesser known than the adjacent Rioja region, Navarra definitely has a wide range of wines worthy trying. As part of our sampling for this Wine Pairing Weekend, I also paired a very good Navarra white wine with our Salmon Pesto Pasta recipe.
If you haven’t discovered the food and wines of Navarra, northeast of Rioja in northern Spain, they are worth exploring and tasting. What foods to pair with wines from Navarra starts with the region’s local culinary specialties and the wine varieties grown there.
Navarra is known as the garden of Spain for its locally-grown high-quality fresh vegetables including; white asparagus, artichokes, shell beans and piquillo peppers just to name a few. In addition foie gras, charcuterie, game birds, brook trout, lamb, and two famous sheep milk cheeses; Ronal and Idiazábal made from the raw milk of the native Latxa sheep, are all specialties of the region. (don’t forget, what grows together often goes together; food + wine)
Bright pale lemon in color. Beautiful floral nose of citrus blossoms. Medium- body, and acidity. On the palate fresh tropical fruits and lime notes.
2015 El Chaparral De Vega Sindoa Old Vines Garnacha
14.5% abv | $15 | 100% Garnacha
Light ruby in color with a slight garnet rim. Medium tannins, medium body, and medium- acidity. Notes of vanilla, leather, licorice, cloves, cherry, roasted plum and prunes.
2009 Senorio de Otazu, D.O.P. Pago de Otazu
14.5% abv | $18 (sample) | 82% Cabernet Sauvignon 15% Merlot 3% Tempranillo
Ruby in color with a magenta rim. Vanilla and ripe fruit aromas. Medium+ tannin and medium body. On the palate red and black berries with earthy notes.
Historically Navarra’s food culture is simple, hearty fare made from the finest and freshest ingredients. I made herb garlicky pork in the slow cooker and then added a fresh side of white & green bean, and red onion salad. I served it over rice however, potatoes are far more traditional.
This recipe is inspired by a dish we had at a Spanish Tapas restaurant a few years ago. We are depending on our memory and our taste so we won’t guarantee authenticity but we will guarantee deliciousness. Sofrito is a tomato based sauce that has different iterations in Portugal, Spain, Cuba etc. Spanish versions usually use sweet peppers and milder spice flavors. We like a little kick so we notched the heat factor up a smidge.
NIGHT IN NAVARRA WINES
Navarra is a diverse region in Northern Spain that has traditionally been known for Grenache (Garnacha)- and especially Rose of Garnacha. In recent years there has been an increase in planting of Tempranillo and international grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. With influence from both the cool Atlantic Ocean winds and the warmer Mediterranean plus vineyards spanning from the valley floor to the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains – the region offers a wide array of climate and soils.
We wish to visit Navarra because wine is not its only delicious agricultural product. The region is known for asparagus and sheep milk cheeses – Roncal and Idiazábal. We picture ourselves dining outside one Spring afternoon enjoying cheese, asparagus, and rose.
It’s been some time since I joined my Wine Pairing Weekend friends so we’re venturing away from Italy and taking a short jaunt over to the Navarra in Spain. If you’re not familiar with the Navarra it is located in northern Spain at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains. It’s near Pamplona and part of the Camino de Santiago (the pilgrimage route of St. James), which was used amongst monks traveling to France and is partially why French grapes are part of vineyard life in the Navarra.
Today I’m sharing the wines of Bodega Inurrieta. They are situated in 1 of the 5 sub zones known as the Ribera Alta district of Navarra. This is considered the heart of the Navarra and home to the Navarra D.O. headquarters. This D.O. is one of the oldest in the country created in 1933 and consists of about 90 wineries and 2,500 growers. The red grapes dominate the landscapes by about 90% over whites. The Ribera Alta is a warmer section of the Navarra with the Rio Elga flowing through the land.
The winery is named after the land where the ancestors grew vines over 100 years ago. The vines of today were planted back in 1999 with the first bottle release in 2003. As the President Juan Maria Antonana states “Inurrieta is a young winery but our family has a long tradition in the world of wine.” The wineries altitude ranges from 300-480 and consists of 3 different soil types so they are able to produce 6 different grape varietals including sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, graciano and garnacha.
2017 Inurrieta Orchidea Sauvignon Blanc
Brilliant, crystal pale yellow in color with a tinge of green. On the nose the aromatics are jumping out of the glass with waves of tropical fruits (pineapples and grapefruits). A light to medium bodied wine rich in tropical fruit with vegetal undertones. Well balanced.
Pairing: I paired this wine with a pintxo appetizer topped with salted ham, roasted peppers and goat cheese drizzled with some delicious extra virgin olive oil I received from Azienda Agricola Pernigo. I was a big fan of this pairing as the acidity and tropical notes of the wine integrated well with the savory ham along with the peppers and goat cheese.
This wine is a blend of 60% merlot and 40% cabernet sauvignon. Crianza in the Navarra has a requirement of 24 months aging with a minimum of 9 months in barrel. Bodega Inurrieta uses both French and American oak. This wine is deep, dark ruby in color. Sweet smelling on the nose and rich in blackberries and raspberries as well as on the palatte. A full bodied, meaty wine with vanilla notes from the barrel aging.
Pairing: I paired with this stuffed peppers filled with turkey, black beans, diced red peppers and corn.
Navarra is one of Spain’s most ancient wine regions. Historical evidence dates grape growing back to 2 BC when ancient Romans built wineries there. The wines gained prominence in the Middle Ages. By the 18th century viticulture was the main agriculture in the region, and when the phylloxera outbreak hit France, Navarra benefited from increased wine sales. A wine region as old and prominent as Navarra, why don’t more wine consumers know and drink Navarra wines?
2015 Bodegas Principe de Viana Edicion Rosa ($21): Crafted of 100% Garnacha; medium salmon with orange and brown hues; pronounced aromas of white stone fruit, orange zest and blossom, jasmine, dried apricots, honey, and fresh strawberries; fresh and crisp on the palate, lively and refreshing with high acidity that coats the palate and creates a long, mouthwatering tart finish.
2015 Bodegas Principe de Viana Roble Navarra Spain ($11): Crafted of 100% Garnacha; medium+ ruby; pronounced aromas of violets, baked cherries, black raspberries, and currants, baking spices, fresh tobacco, dried herbs, and vanilla; silky youthful medium+ tannins balanced with medium+ acidity, full body, rustic yet pleasing; long spicy finish.
2012 Bodegas Ochoa Crianza Navarra Spain ($23): Crafted of 100% Tempranillo; deep ruby; pronounced aromas of dried rose and herbs; stewed plums, blackberries, cherries, and currants, damp underbrush, leather, tobacco, touch of funk; rich and round on the palate, rustic yet delicious; high grippy tannins, high acidity, full body, long rustic earth finish, a great wine to enjoy with a steak.
2008 Bodegas Ochoa Reserva Navarra Spain ($33): Crafted of 55% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot; deep garnet with scarlet hues; pronounced aromas of dried roses and herbs; cooked dark cherries, blackberries, plums, and currants, sweet baking spice, smoke, damp leather, and roasted espresso beans; nice tension between rustic and elegance, fruit and earth; full body, high tannins and acidity, long juicy finish.
2015 Bodegas Vega Del Castillo Garnacha Cepas Viejas Navarra Spain ($8): Crafted of 100% Garnacha; medium+ ruby; medium+ aromas of fresh roses, bright cherries, blackberries, black raspberries, sweet baking spices, ash, leather, and milk chocolate; lively on the palate, fresh and bright, medium youthful tannins and medium acidity, smooth on palate, medium+ body, long finish.
2013 Bodegas Vega Del Castillo Capa Roja Roble Navarra Spain ($10): Crafted of 100% Tempranillo; deep ruby; medium aromas baked cherries, raspberries, blackberries, black currant leaves, forest floor, sweet baking spice, chocolate, leather, and vanilla; full body, youthful grippy high tannins that feel a touch hot on the palate, high acidity, full body, long spice driven finish; another wine ideal with a hearty meal such as pasta or steak.
I’ll get this out first and be done with it — I’m absolutely not into bullfighting or rhino hunting. However, like millions of others, I fell in love with the works of Ernest Hemingway decades ago and haven’t properly separated myself from the fantasy of his creation since. In his iconic work, The Sun Also Rises, friends spend time in Pamplona, a city filled with Northern Spanish culture.
NAVARRA FOOD AND WINE
Navarra is located in Northern Spain, bordering Basque Country and Rioja. In addition to geographical borders, the region shares a 300-year historical connection with France, stitched together by years of faithful Roman Catholic pilgrims as they journey the Camino de Santiago.
This is one of Spain’s oldest Denominacion de Origen (DO), established in 1939 and encompassing five distinct areas. Tierra Estella, Valdiz Arbe, Baja Montana, Ribera Alta and Ribera Baja. Because the region enjoys swaths of Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean climates – there is variety in the wines.
Soils are distinct as well with clay, limestone and pebble vineyards found throughout the DO. Navarra is a huge region, diverse and all aspects — there’s a Navarra wine for every chapter in The Sun Also Rises – I dare you to test it!
Wines from the area come from 90% red-skinned grapes to produce both red and rosé wines, which are made from the saignée method. White wines are also made here, as are a smidge of dessert wines.
Spanish wines are upfront and center on every winelover’s radar (and palate). The wines of Navarra are no exception. Budget friendly, with a range of styles and varieties that complement even the most discerning aficionado, wines from this historic region continually delight.
It’s no wonder then, that the #winePW crew, a (perpetually) thirsty and hungry group of wine and food writers, chose this region on which to focus during our lively Twitter banter held the second Saturday of each month. All of us received, as samples, two or three bottles of wine from Navarra to pair with a recipe (or recipes) of our choice. See below for our collective recipes and wine pairings.
Navarra Wine and Tapas
I was thrilled to receive two budget-friendly wines that are of Navarra’s lesser grown varieties: Inurrieta Orchidea 2017 ($7), of 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and Otazu Premium Cuvee 2013 ($13), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Merlot (35%) and Tempranillo (20%). Ahhh, it was time to consider my recipe for pairing…
Having just returned from Spain, I immersed myself in more than my fair share of savory, mouthwatering tapas. From cod stuffed croquettas to jamon (in every form!) to grilled calamari with herbs to chicken with potatoes, olives, and sherry, and everything in between, these small plates satisfied my hunger pangs and quest for traditional Spanish culture. It’s no wonder that I chose to pair the intriguing wines I received from Navarra with tapas.
With so many choices, I decided to find a recipe that every self-respecting tapas bar has on its varied menu: Spanish Omelette (Tortillas). Because it seemed like a snap to make and offered a variety of modifications (see recipe below for suggestions), I knew that my Navarra wines, both white and red, would be luscious pairings… and I was correct.
Flan is an egg custard that originates from Spain. It has a characteristic deep golden, caramel top and a caramel sauce that cascades down the sides of the pale and creamy custard. Now, there are many different types of egg custard, all around the world. But, it could be said that Spanish flan is where they all started.
THE HISTORY OF FLAN
Flan can be dated all the way back to Ancient Rome. The Romans were known for their creation of egg dishes, possibly because they were the first people to domesticate chickens for their eggs. In Rome, you would be able to find both sweet and savory (cheese, spinach, seafood) flans being enjoyed. As the recipe for flan spread across Europe, it took on new characteristics in each country. England created flan that was baked in a pastry shell or crust. In France, often chocolate was added to flan to become the pots de creme that we know today.
Caramelized sugar became a signature ingredient in Spanish flan. When the Moors occupied Spain, they brought the use of citrus and almonds to flan, and those flavorings are still common for Spanish flan today.
HOW TO MAKE SPANISH FLAN
The hardest part about making Spanish flan is getting the caramel topping just right. The impressive, golden crown that sits atop every well-made Spanish flan starts as caramelized sugar in the bottom of the flan dish. When you invert the dish after baking, the caramelized sugars release from the dish and give you the beautiful, characteristic top. Any time you work with sugar, you have to take some special care and attention. And, this case is no exception. The tricky part here is that as you heat your sugar, it gets very finicky about temperature changes. As you pour the golden caramelized sugar syrup from the hot pan into the cool molds, it hardens rapidly. So, we recommend that you have your molds set and ready. When your sugar starts to turn a golden brown, it will darken quickly, and you need to act fast to get your liquid caramel to coat the bottom of your cups before it turns into hard caramel candy.
Have you traveled to Spain? If so, you’ve likely visited the bustling metropolis of Madrid or the sophisticated streets of Barcelona; perhaps you’ve wandered through the towns of Andalucía, enchanted bythe plaintive notes of Flamenco guitar floating on the breeze. But there’s another place, nestled in the northeast corner, where nature preserves sit next to world-class vineyards. It’s called Navarra, and it has a real story to tell.
The Wine Pairing Weekend group heads to the region this Saturday, April 14th, to discuss the culture, wines, and food traditions of Navarra. Our host is Gwendolyn from Wine Predator, and you can read her invitation post here.
As we do on the second Saturday of each month, we’ll sync up on Twitter at 11 am ET, following the hashtag #winepw. What follows is equal parts travelogue, history lesson, and gastronomic wanderlust. We’d love for you to join us! Feel free to chime in and add your comments or, if you prefer to just watch and learn, that’s cool, too. Just be sure to add #winepw to your tweets so we can welcome you.
A Brief History of Navarra
Navarra was once an independent kingdom that stretched from Bordeaux to Barcelona. In fact, a series of French monarchs ruled the realm in the middle ages, permanently linking the cultures together. Wine has been made in Navarra since Roman times when just enough was made to satisfy the needs of the occupying armies. Consumer demand for wine came later, rising with the flood of pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela via the Route of Saint James.
In the 1800s, when phylloxera decimated the vineyards of nearby southern France, vintners in Navarra stepped in to assist: much of their production was sold to French growers, helping keep their trade afloat. That is, until phylloxera made its way into Spain, and laid waste to the vineyards there.
Spain most notably known for the wines from Rioja and Ribera Del Duero, has a region that is often shadowed by its western neighbors. The wines of Navarra are well made and are Spain’s hidden gems.
Navarra is located in Northern Spain between the Pyrenees Mountain and the Ebro River. It is a region with a rich history of culture, art, wine and cuisine. The capital of the region is Pamplona, most notably known for attracting thrill seekers to run with the bulls. Navarra is also a region beautifully articulated by Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. A region known for growing high quality produce and also a bustling culinary scene with it Michelin Star restaurants.
Most notable and possibly the best kept secret is the wonderful wines that come from this region. Navarra offers whites, rosés and red wines, in a diverse range of styles due to its varied and unique terroirs. There are three distinct climates, Atlantic, Continental and Meditterean in one very exciting wine region. Winemakers have a focus on innovation and experimentation combined with deep respect for the land and it’s traditions. The wines run a gamut of styles from crisp mineral driven whites, to pink fruit forward rosados, to concentrated spicy reds, and luscious sweet dessert wines.
The history of winemaking in Navarra dates back to the 1st century A.D. and then gained popularity and respect in the Middle Ages. It was not until more recently, in 1933 that the region obtained its D.O. status. For many years Garnacha was the most widely planted grape mixed with fruits, vegetables and high quality produce that Navarra is most known for. Garnacha was used to produce rosé wines. The Spanish loved the color and fruit forwardness of rosés. It was not until the 1960’s that pioneering efforts by local winemakers and government funded research, lead to plantings of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Today Tempranillo is the most widely planted grape varietal of the region. Though in recent years, winemakers have come back full circle and regard Garnacha as a national treasure. Many winemakers are returning to tradition and are putting greats efforts to create world-class wines from Garnacha with bright flavors, concentration and complexity.
This month our wine pairing weekend group has been invited to visit Navarra, Spain by Gwendolyn of Wine Predator.
To help us on this journey we were each provided with samples of Navarra wine, graciously donated by Susannah & April of Navarra Wine. While I appreciate receiving samples, you can rest assured that all opinions written in this blog are exclusively my own and I have received no monetary compensation for this post.
I was not familiar with Navarra wines at all. I’m not really familiar with Spanish wines, other than an occasional Rioja. I learned quite a bit from Gwen’s Invitation Post. I also did some exploring on my own after receiving the wines.
This Chardonnay pours a beautiful golden hue and has herbaceous notes mildly tamed by oak. I used it in my dish and enjoyed a glass as I cooked. It was wonderful by itself. When paired with my meal, it took on a sweetness that hadn’t been noticeable on it’s own. I think it was a good pairing but it is not the one I chose to showcase for today’s event.
For today’s event I wanted to pair a Spanish Wine with Spanish Food. I specifically was looking for a dish that would pair well with the bottle of Vendimmio Selecionada (Selected Harvest) from Garcia Burgos. I was unable to determine which grapes were used in this bottling. This bottle was not sent as a sample. I had purchased this bottle prior to finding out that we would be receiving samples for this event.
I went searching for Spanish foods and came across a blog called Spain Recipes. This blog had a section all about the food and wine found in Navarra as well as the rest of the Country.
I drooled over the pages and was excited when I found this recipe for Croquetas de Jamon (Ham Croquettes). I had the last of the Easter ham in the refrigerator and this was the perfect way to use it.
A friend recently asked my advice in planning a Friendsgiving dinner – she lives far from her hometown and has decided to invite other friends to share the day with her. She’s quite accomplished in the kitchen and has decided to prepare all the courses herself, with the exception of dessert. Good for her!
Years ago, I used to host Thanksgiving at my home, inviting a rag-tag group of friends, family members, neighbors, and friends-of-friends unable to go home for the holiday. The mix changed each year, depending on who was where, and it led to some interesting interactions. But that’s a whole other post . . . .
Naturally I was flattered when she sought my help and, to be honest, I looked forward to the thought exercise. My husband and I are celebrating the
holiday quietly this year and I’m sort of missing the pre-Thanksgiving festivities. Best of all, I can indulge in some creative culinary thinking without having to wash a single pot or pan.
I recently received a selection of sample bottles from the Navarra Denominación de Origen (DO) of Spain, and I thought they would lend themselves perfectly to this Friendsgiving dinner. Best known for its fresh and fruity Rosado wines, Navarra is also a center of fine-wine production, making use of both indigenous and international varieties. Tempranillo, Graciano, and Muscat mingle with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in an intriguing array of wines that pair easily with holiday feasts. I took each of the six wines I received and matched it with a particular course or dish.