When a wine shipment didn’t arrive in time for a scheduled party, we decided to “go rogue.” The results were delightful – six wines we recommend for your springtime sipping.
Two days before our party, I had a sinking feeling. The special shipment of wine that was going to be the centerpiece of our soiree hadn’t arrived. There were no messages from UPS or Fed-X. When I contacted the shipper, she explained that there was an unfortunate mistake. Yikes!
While our tasting was to focus on a very specific wine region, that was now off the table. We had to “go rogue.” I immediately surveyed the available wine and picked a half-dozen bottles certain to scintillate our guests.
2018 Ochoa Calendas, Navarra and 2016 Inurrieta Mimaò Garnacha, Navarra
Navarra is a northern Spanish wine region known for its beauty and diverse terroir. It is also home of the famous Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) which influenced many winegrowers to use French grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Ochoa Calendas is a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Viura, a well respected white grape. We paired this with pan seared salmon with lemon garlic cream sauce. This is a nice blend, with the Viura adding freshness and nice acidity to balance the classic Chardonnay flavors. It was perfect with our salmon. A bargain at just $12 SRP.
Garnacha from Spain can often take on a rustic flavor, but the Inurrieta Mimaò is a smooth sipper. It is fermented in stainless steel and gets malolactic fermentation to add a plush texture. It is finished with seven months in French oak.
We found this to be a very pleasant surprise with mineral notes and plenty of ripe fruit. This reminded me of the French Grenache style, light, easy and very satisfying. This is also a steal at $15. We’ll be on the lookout for more wines from Navarra.
Spanish wines are a riddle, a puzzle and a huge question mark.
For over a century, the wine industry has known that Spain should be a top producer of wines, but unfortunately, the country has never lived up to its potential. It is only in recent times that Spanish wines have emerged from the shadows and gained the recognition they richly deserve.
Here are a couple Spanish wines of recent times that are worth a try.
Bodegas Castillo De MonJardin 2017 El Cerezo Pinot Noir ($12)
To some, this wine’s very affordable price tag might dissuade them from trying it because they believe it’s a cheap knockoff of the variety. Affordable, yes, but cheap, a great big no. The pinot noir grape is notoriously hard to deal with and also can turn on the winemaker at any time during the process. This wine offers everything that makes for a better pinot noir: an inviting ruby color, a firm body, a captivating aroma, a positive and definable flavor and a long, enduring finish, all wrapped in a smooth, velvet-like robe. The aroma displays fig, cranberry, cinnamon, nutmeg and oak. The flavor is about as classical as it can get, with black cherry, caramel, spice and a subtle hint of truffles. All of these carry over to the finish, where they linger on the palate for a long time. This wine proves pino noirs can be made in Spain and sell at an affordable price, too.
Bodegas Inurrieta Mimao 2016 Garnacha ($12)
The Bodegas Inurrieta winemakers have learned how to temper the garnacha’s tendency to also go off on its own and sometimes detrimental path, which was probably the basic problem with many of the Spanish wines of old. Wine made from the garnacha grape or, as it is called in France and California, grenache, produces wines with high concentrations of fruit, tannin and acids. The Bodegas Inurrieta Mimao 2016 Garnacha has been made from a variety which most often appears as a rose, but in this case, as a well-aged red wine. The aroma features strawberry and raspberry, with hints of citrus rind, and a suggestion of cranberry, cinnamon and white pepper continue on to the flavor and finish.
I love wine. I love its amazing array of flavors, aromas and weight. I love its affinity for food. And I especially love the fact that no matter how much I taste and learn there are always new discoveries.
This column is dedicated to some of my most recent wine finds.
First, the Greek island of Santorini. The average wine drinker may not realize it, but Greek wines are white hot, especially among the country’s top sommeliers.
Santorini has a long and proud history of wine production, something in the nature of 3,700 years! Its terroir, volcanic soils with little water available for the wines, a lack of clay, and a high concentration of minerals, leads to extremely low yields and wines with a distinct minerality. In other words, wines that are right up my alley.
For my last two wine discoveries, let’s hop over to Spain for some wines from Navarra. Dominated by the town of Pamplona and its famous “Running of the Bulls,” Navarra is also both a historic and significant wine producing region. All of the wines I tried were from family-owned wineries in Navarra and featured both indigenous and international grapes.
From Bodegas Ochoa, I especially enjoyed the Tempranillo Crianza, which to my palate had more character and depth than most Crianzas from Rioja. I’d match this beauty with some grilled pork chops.
Lastly from Bodega Inurrieta, there is the Inurrieta Laderas. At $40, this was by far the most expensive of the Navarra wines I sampled and also the most complex, layered and age-worthy.
The Bodegas’ website describes the Laderas as “restless and innovative,” and while I’m not sure what either of those descriptors relate to how the wine tastes and smells, this is clearly a well-made red wine with layers of flavors and aromas, a judicious amount of oak, and years of life ahead of it.
Wow, that’s a lot of new wine discoveries for me. I’m positive there will be more! Cheers!
This week’s report covers wines from all over the globe, including Chile, France, Israel, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
The new vintage of Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor (the 2015), is a real stunner, while the Chilean producer Odfjell offers less expensive but exciting wines.
I cover a few wines from the Abruzzo region of Italy, along with the perennially value-driven wines from M. Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut brand. Yarden offers up a delicious Champagne method bubbly from Israel, while the Spanish region of Navarra (keeping with tradition) comes through with some solid buys.
These wines were all received as samples and tasted sighted.
2016 Castillo de Monjardín Navarra La Cantera– Spain, Navarra SRP: $12
Deep ruby color. Smells of strawberry and black cherry jam, smoky tobacco, herbs, clove and vanilla. Fresh and bright on the palate with light tannins and juicy raspberries, strawberries and red plums. Flavors of tobacco, mint, cola and vanilla add some complexity. Fresh and fun, accessible but balanced, too. Nice for the price. 85% Garnacha and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Stainless steel-fermented, aged six months in old French oak. (87 points IJB)
2016 Bodegas Nekeas Garnacha El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa– Spain, Navarra SRP: $14
Light purple color. Smells of raspberries and jammy plums, saucy and smoky, with tobacco and anise notes. Light tannins, full-bodied, yet medium acidity helps it balance out. Black cherries, plums, this is a juicy, ripe and plush wine with a nice mix of violets, tobacco, espresso. Fun, crowd-pleasing, value-driven stuff. All Garnacha aged five months in French oak barrels. (87 points IJB)
2010 Bodegas Ochoa Navarra Reserva– Spain, Navarra SRP: $33
Light purple color. Nose boasts dark plums, currants, blackberries, mixed in with a hefty amount of charcoal, leather, coffee grounds and grilled herbs. Dusty tannins but nice grip, velvety feel but bright acidity, and the balance is nice. Tart black currants and tangy plums, I get a lot of deep earth, graphite, leather, violets and soy. Complexity is impressive, this is ready to drink now or hold for a few years. Tempranillo with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot, aged 18 months in new American and French oak, aged 36 months in bottle before release. (89 points IJB)
This second edition of the 12 Rosés of Christmas features wines that will be as good this year as the one to come. Enjoy these for the New Year or with rare hamburgers, spicy pork dishes or Asian cuisine for a festive, and sparkling, evening in.
Many of the emerging wine regions of the world to keep an eye on are not the traditional ones in France and many are actually located in the New World. Other regions of France are making top-notch sparkling wines as are other countries in Europe, like Portugal.
The alluring Spanish countryside is as intoxicating as its complex, vibrant, and delicious wines. From fresh, pergola-grown Albarino in granite-filled Galician soils, to robust Tinta de Toro grown in the boulder-filled rocky soils of Toro, to fruit-forward, indigenous Garnacha Tinta of Navarra, and cherry, vanilla, and leather filled Tempranillo from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Spanish wines have much to offer. Consider one of these with your evening meal. (Some selections were sent for editorial consideration.)
Delicate floral notes meld with crisp acidity, crushed stone minerality, and briny salinity in the Albarino wines of Galicia’s Rias Baixas. Like sunshine in the glass, the textured wines tell the story of the ocean-bordering villages the vineyards meander through, gathering character along the way.
Zesty, refreshing Fillaboa Albarino ($17) delivers crisp apple, white flower, and salty minerality. Terras Gauda “Abadia de San Campio” Albarino ($20) melds ripe peach, pineapple, lemon, and orange blossom.
“How to make good wine? Get no sleep is a good start. Allow Mother Nature to take its course as opposed to trying to be manipulative.” Fernando Oliveira – Azorean Lava Vineyards
Join me if you will on a trip back in time to an ancient and independent kingdom, a place called the Kingdom of Navarra (KON) or simply Navarra, in the country of Spain. The Kingdom of Navarra as it was referred to back in the day, was one of the Christian nations to emerge in northern Spain during the 17th century. In fact, Navarra has been at the crossroads of history for more than 1000 years. In the past, the wine world regarded it as the “kingdom of pink” because of the many Rosado or rosé wines produced from the abundant Garnacha grape, but that perception is rapidly changing, as producers are eager to embrace a new and robust identity for the region, rich red wines, with depth and substance.
If you’re not familiar with the region, Navarra is one of the most essential and yet relatively unknown areas of Spain. While it’s known for its beauty and diverse terroir, it offers garden variety vino-sapiens a feast for the eyes, as well as the senses and so much so for the palate as well! The wines are incredible, diverse and are home to two of thirteen Vino de Pago certified vineyards. The various vineyard sites can be found from the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains to the Ebro river in the North, squeezed in between Madrid and San Sebastian, home to Pamplona and at the base of the famous Camino de Santiago, Navarra.
Part one of our holiday gift guide is so full of gift ideas for food and wine lovers it wouldn’t all fit. Here’s part two.
From France we head to Northern Spain to the Navarra region, home to Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and many other varieties. They are wonderful wines you can easily choose as everyday wines at budget-friendly prices. The 2016 Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin La Cantera is 85% Garnacha with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This $12 wine is a great match for hearty stews or paella. The 2016 Nekeas El Chapparal de Vega Sindoa is 100% Garnacha aged five months in French oak. Garnet colored, it’s juicy and spicy on the palate and it sells for $14. Innurieta 2016 Mimao is also 100% Garnacha which spends seven months in French oak. Deep in color with loads of fruit on the palate, it has a very long finish and sells for $18. Finally from Javier Ochoa is the 2014 Crianza. This 100% Tempranillo is ruby red with red berries on the nose and ripe fruit in the mouth. It sells for $23.
From Vitis Sylvestris to Tempranillo & Garnacha in Spain’s Vinos D.O. Navarra
“The first records of winemaking in the region date back to ancient Roman times, but grapes were almost certainly thriving here long before that. Vines of the prehistoric Vitis sylvestris species – predecessor of the cherished Vitis vinifera – have recently been discovered still growing in Navarra. After the Romans, grape-growing continued under the Moors, and was then greatly expanded under Christian rule. Demand for wine was strengthened by Catholics making the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago to the shrine (now a cathedral) in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, where tradition has it that the remains of the Apostle St. James are buried.”, Wine-searcher.com
Bodegas Ochoa Crianza 2014 ($23)
Javier Ochoa has been producing this 100% Tempranillo wine since 1987 from grapes sourced from their Santa Cruz estate. One year aging in American Oak plus some rounding in the bottles provides a medium bodied texture wit fresh sour cherries, dense dirt and chewy tannins.
Senorio de Sarria Crianza 2013 ($17)
This wine has the least amount of the Spanish noble grapes as it is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% each Graciano and Garnacha. The grapes were sourced from vineyards planted in limestone and marl near the town of Puente la Reina — “the crossroads of the ways” — a medieval town where the two main routes on the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela converge. After fermentation the blended wine was aged 12 months in American oak that shows oaked vanilla and spices along with a juicy and earthy character that finishes with smooth tannins.
Bodegas Nekeas El Chaparral Old Vine Garnacha 2016 ($14)
This winery is located in the sub-zone Valdizarbe and this 100% Garnacha comes from vines planted 70+ years ago. The hillside vineyard consists of porous marl and sandstone and benefits from large diurnal temperature swings – slowing growth and enhancing acidity. After fermentation the wine was aged five months in French oak providing some vanilla and spices to this bright, fruit forward wine.
Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin La Cantera 2016 ($12)
This estate was founded in 1988 and the Garnacha is sourced from 70 year old vines on the La Cantera vineyard. “La Canera” translates to “quarry” which describes the vineyard’s rocky and poor soil where vines must root deeply in order to produce even its low yields. Combined with 15% Sauvignon Blanc, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel then aged six months in French oak and 6 months in the bottle before release. This is a jammy wine, fill of bright dark fruit, noticeable tannins, and finishes very clean.
The northern Spanish wine region of Navarra is known for its beauty and diverse terrior, with vineyard filled with Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and beyond. This Garnacha is just another fine example from this region.
This wine is cold soak for eight days at 5°C to heighten its aromas and texture. It is then fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve its bright fruit flavors. Malolactic conversion and refining were performed in slightly used French oak barrels for seven months. This results in cohesiveness of the aromatic intensity, as well as finesse, elegance and freshness of this wine.
This Garnacha exhibits deep, lively, and intense color with floral and fruit aromas. Its highly attractive aromas meet you upon entry while the mouthfeel is lively. Its wonderful red cherry flavors are mature yet fresh. The finish is long-lasting, with minerality and bright fruit. This is very typical of fresh, ripe Garnacha from the Navarra region.
The wine notes state that this is “… a voluptuous wine, fresh, round, fruity and slightly spicy, it is the perfect companion to vegetables, meats, roasts and even lightly aged cow cheese.” It’s as good as it sounds! And, it’s a great value. Enjoy!
2016 El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa Old Vine Garnacha ($14)
This wine is from the Valley of Valdizarbe, D.O. Navarra, in Spain. One of Navarra’s most historical viticultural areas. The grapes are from vines planted over 80 years ago.
After the Garnacha grapes were lightly crushed, they were cold macerated before fermentation. It was then transferred to French oak barrels for malolactic conversion. Finally, it was aged five months in new French barrels.
This is a very delicate Garnacha with flavors of red cherry and raspberry. It’s light on the tannin with moderate acidity. A nice easy wine that you don’t want to overpower with bold foods. Enjoy this one all by itself or with light fare.
Yet another wine that fits the bill to be featured in Behind the Cork™ – Wine of the Week as a great value for such a nice wine. Enjoy!
Not at all what I was expecting – and in a good way. A lean, spice-laced nose gives way to an energetic texture full of bright, vivacious fruit integrated into the light-medium density structure. Surprisingly elegant given its vigor. Brief aging in French oak complements rather than masks the fruit flavors. Very extroverted. Even with glass in hand, I’m salivating thinking about my next sip. Very enjoyable indeed. What a screaming bargain on top of it all!
2017 Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin La Cantera Garnacha ($12)
This Garnacha is from the DO Navarra region of northern Spain that is known for its beauty and diverse terroir.
It is sourced from 70-year-old vines on the estate’s “La Cantera” vineyard, meaning ‘The Quarry.’ It’s appropriately named as the vineyard sits at 1500 feet in a vineyard of poor rocky soil. But, these old vine’s roots run deep and seem to thrive in this terrain.
This Garnacha is hand-picked, fermented in stainless steel and aged for six months in second-year French oak.
This wine even has 15% Cabernet Sauvignon to give this fruity, bright Garnacha some extra depth and structure.
This one’s young and bright. It’s light red in color and full of red and black fruit flavors with amazing acidity.
And, once again, this “Behind the Cork™ – Wine of the Week” is a great value. Enjoy. Cheers!
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With sales of its wine on the rise in China, Spain’s Denominacion de Origen Navarra seeks to continue that momentum while increasing its global wine sales. The region just released final tallies for 2017, which show that it was the best year Navarra had in the last decade. Much of the increase is thanks to the rise of the Chinese market. Within the last five years, China has reached Navarra’s top export position and represents 26% of total international sales. Individual brands and the region as a whole continue looking for and opening new markets around the world.
Lush vineyards in Navarra, Spain produce red, white and rosé wines that satisfy a demand at home and abroad. (Photo by Mike DeSimone)PHOTO BY MIKE DESIMONE
According to David Palacios, a 40-year old viticulturist from the town of Olite, who is the current elected head of the D.O.:
The wine market is almost saturated worldwide, and sometimes you can perform better in small, lesser-known countries than in other markets [such as] the U.K., where trade is really a tough matter. For instance, this year we are exploring new places such as the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Ireland and Russia.
This region in northwest Spain is known primarily for five main grape varieties. The key red grapes here are Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache) and Merlot, while the most populous white varieties are Chardonnay and Viura. Syrah, Graciano and Sauvignon Blanc are grown here as well. Known for its high quality yet relatively low-priced wines, Navarra sits at the top of the value/price ratio in Spain. Almost 60% of the wine produced here is red, and about 13% is white.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arrive annually in Compostela de Santiago, the rewarding end of the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James. For those who walk the Camino Francés or French Way – the pilgrimage’s most popular route – reaching the 11th-century cathedral and shrine of Saint James is the culmination of nearly 500 miles of roads and trails.
Navarra Region | Pamplona
About 40 miles from Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port, travelers find respite in the riches of Pamplona. This is Hemingway country, and the food, wine and cultural scene reflect the sort of abundance his life is known for. Pamplona is located in the Navarra wine region, one of Spain’s oldest Denominaciones de Origen (DO), established in 1939 and encompassing five distinct areas: Tierra Estella, Valdizarbe, Baja Montana, Ribera Alta and Ribera Baja. Because the region enjoys swaths of Atlantic, continental and Mediterranean climates and assorted soil composition, Navarra is fascinatingly varied. Historically populated with garnacha vineyards, wine growers here more recently included French varietals that exhibit pleasing terroir-driven scope.
You may have heard of Navarra for two non-wine reasons. First, the bordering Pyrenees Mountains is where Game of Thrones is filmed! And secondly, they are famous for the Sanfermines! What is that, you ask? Well, it is the official name for “The Running of the Bulls.” If you don’t know what that is, I think you may have been living under a rock somewhere! I am all for doing adventurous things, but the possibility of getting gored by a bull doesn’t rank up there. Coincidentally, this year’s event happened just this past week! (is it wrong that at about 2:45 in I got upset that a bull fell down and was trampled by another?)
Located in the Pyrenees of north-central Spain, just below France, was once part of the medieval pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago. About the size of Connecticut (120 miles north-south and 60 miles east-west), the Navarra region is home to diverse climates, including Mediterranean, Continental, and Atlantic. Topography also varies, including semi-desert lowlands, woodland hills, and extreme mountain peaks.
The Denominación de Origen (D.O.) Navarra comprises approximately half the region. it is estimated to contain about 11,500 hectares under vine and is bordered by the Pyrenees in the north, to the south by the Ebro basin, easterly by Aragon and to the west by the Basque Autonomous Community -Alava and Guipuzcoa.
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.
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.
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.
I’m a big fan of Spanish wines. I think they tend to be great food wines, and I think they’re also extremely underrated. All together that means that Spain is also a great place to look for wine values.
Looking back through the posts I’ve shared here, I’m actually surprised to realize I haven’t posted much from Spain (other than the Ameztoi Txakolina Rosé I described here.) I have a few Spanish wines in the hopper for the coming months and I’ve certainly had quite a few amongst my 8 & 20’s (I will drop some links at the end), but somehow, they’ve been missing from this lineup. We’re going to correct that right now.
Today we’re exploring Navarra in the northern part of the country. The region runs from the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains and over to the Ebro river, just across from Rioja.
Navarra has largely been overshadowed by its neighbor, but it is definitely worth getting to know. The region has been recognized in the past for its rosés–or rosados in Spanish–which are still really tasty! However, the region began to up plantings of Tempranillo and international varieties like Cab and Merlot in the 1980’s. You’ll also find some excellent Grenache. It was the driver behind all that great rosado in the past, but now the some of those vines (or those that remain) are all grown up and producing some excellent old vine Garnacha.
Winemaking here goes way back as well. Catholics would pass through the area while making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, where it’s said that the remains of St. James the Apostle are buried. These travellers wanted wine. Demand was so high that in the 14th century, restrictions had to be placed on the number of vineyards popping up to ensure that there was enough farmland to grow grains for food.