Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spanish wines: a bargain with taste to spare

Spanish wines: a real bargain with history and taste to rival world’s best

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

1. Bodegas Farina Founder Manuel Farina Sr. (r) with Dwight The Wine Doctor (c) and his son, Manuel Farina Jr. (l)
2. Bodegas Farina Wines on display at GastroArte, NYC
3. The first wine is poured at GastroArte
4. Chef Jesus Nunez's creative cuisine
5. Consul General of Spain Juan Martinez Salazar (r) and guests
6. Publicist Melanie Young (l) and guest
7. & 8. Chef Nunez's creations matched perfectly with Bodegas Farina wines
9. Inigo Ramirez de Haro Valdes, Cultural Attache, Manuel Farina Jr., Bodegas Farina owner, Chef Jesus Nunez, Manuel Farina Sr.,  Bodegas Farina Founder, Juan Martinez Salazar, Consul General of Spain
10. Bodegas Farina Vintage Estate Wines
11. The scene at GastroArte, NYC

New York--Spanish wines are an absolute bargain and many of them are top-rated in terms of flavor profile and that all-important price to quality ratio. One of the most popular and readily available is Bodegas Farina, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

To celebrate, the winery’s owners embarked upon a U.S. tour, beginning in New York City with a fabulous luncheon at
GastroArte, NYC, a restaurant that specializes in the pairing of wine and food. Executive Chef Jesus Nunez prepared a special menu, using mostly vegetarian ingredients, to pair with the wines created by winemaker Manuel Farina Perez, along with Farina president Robert J. Castellani, who were both in attendance. Distinguished guests included Juan Ramon Martinez Salazar, Consul General of Spain and  Inigo Ramirez de Haro Valdes, Cultural AttachĂ© to the Consul General of Spain.

Farina wines are from the Toro region of Spain. The winery was founded in 1942. What sets the wines apart is their elegance. The wines have restrained tannins and maintain a flavor profile true to the land in which the grapes are grown and true to the flavor of the varietals. All of the wines tasted at the luncheon are in the $10 to $20 price range, a real bargain by anyone’s standards considering the abundance of flavor and the ability of the wines to pair amicably with food. With summer entertaining on the horizon, these are definitely wines that you might want to consider for garden barbecues and brunches.

The dishes that Chef Nunez prepared are very easy to replicate and if you have a home garden, you may have the ingredients already at hand. The first course was a masterpiece, a Study of the Tomato in all its myriad textures and flavors. The dish included all of the seasonal varieties from the plum and vine-ripened varieties to artsy Heirlooms. “You’d be amazed how different the tomato tastes if you just separate the skin and freeze it and cook it in a vinegar reduction or grill it. You can get so many different flavors and textures out of a single tomato,” Chef Nunez confided to me over a glass of Bodegas Farina Malvasia 2011 ($11), a clean, crisp, fresh fruit 100% Malvasia wine that went perfectly with the tomato dish. Bodegas Farina Primero, 2011 ($12), with its rich cherry fruit flavors brought on by a hearty mix of Tinta de Toro and Garnacha, gave the dish a yummy almost jammy flavor.

The next course, Eggplant with goat cheese, honey and mustard paired with three wines: Dama de Toro Tempranillo, an indigenous Spanish red grape similar to Cabernet, 2011 ($11), which lent very strong blackberry notes, Dama de Toro Tempranillo Roble Barrel Aged 2010 ($1`3), which had more oak character and Dama de Toro Crianza 2006 ($17), which added some pepper notes to the existing berry and bramble flavors of the other wines. The dish showed two things, the versatility to eggplant, which easily has the hefty and flavor abundance to be a main course and the ease at which it pairs with a delicious hearty red wine. If you’re looking for a light, inexpensive alternative to heavy barbecued meats for summer entertaining, eggplant is the bomb!

The Spanish aren’t big on desserts. In fact, when I was last there, a local Dunkin’ Donuts was the favored destination after the dinner hour, which is normally about 9 or 10 o’clock in Spain. A platter of Spanish cheeses rounded out the afternoon, paired with a Bodegas Farina 1973, (a real treat since its not available outside of the winery) and a sweet wine, Farina Val de Reyes “Tinto Dulce, ” also rarely available on the open market. There may be a few bottles on some restaurant wine lists or in specialty shops. If you see it, buy it, no matter what the price. It’s a real golden treasure!

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