A Spanish Soiree

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Serrano ham and melon
Serrano ham and melon

This guest post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles. She frequently contributes wine and travel pieces to the Good Food Blog.

I’ve always enjoyed Tempranillos, Granachas, Albarinos and Verdejos from Spain. Last week for the first time I tasted Prieto Picudo and Mencia.

Spanish wine aficionados, look out for these two little known varietals that may soon become your favorites too.

The Spanish Soiree was planned by my friend, Joy Brewer, who hosts her annual wine-themed dinners at her beautiful Pacific Palisades home. Although she lays out an impressive lineup of wines and fabulous food, guests are encouraged to add to the evening’s repast.

So needless to say there was a vast array of wines, starting with Cava (sparkling wine) and a fresh Rosé and moving on to bottlings from Rioja, Priorat, Ribera del Duero, Toro, Rias Baixas, Rueda and the two new ones that I discovered.

The 2009 Prieto Picudo from Bodegas Triton Tridente is an elegant wine with flavors of licorice and plums. The 2007 Mencia from Algueira Ribeira Sacra had delicious blackberry notes and balanced acidity. The wine was unfiltered and aged for 12 months in French oak.

Lineup of Spanish wines
Lineup of Spanish wines

The Prieto Picudo varietal, found in remote ancient vineyards, comes from the Leon region in northern Spain. It’s lighter in color than, say, a Tempranillo. With nuances of silky plums and a fresh mouth-feel, it reminds me of a Pinot Noir. It’s crafted as a Rosé or as a crimson-hued red wine and then bottled as a single varietal or blended with Mencia.

The Mencia, which is also used as a blending grape with Tempranillo. is a light, pale and a fragrant varietal meant for early consumption. Grown in the regions of Ribeira Sacra (sacred shore), Valdeorras and Bierzo in Spain’s northwestern area of Galicia, it’s thought to be an ancient clone of Cabernet Franc.

The wine lineup also included a crisp, fresh 2011 La Cana Albarino from Rias Baxias and a citrusy 2010 Nosis Verdejo from Rueda.  We also enjoyed two different vintages from Ribera del Duero’s Pago De Los Capallenas — a 2006 Reserva and a 2009 Crianza.

Then there was a 2010 Black Slate Porrera VI de la Villa from Priorat, a wine that had such strong raising notes that it felt like a cross between an Amarone and Zinfandel.

A selection of Spanish cheeses
A selection of Spanish cheeses

The dining table was laden with tapas that ranged from the traditional tortillla, Spanish olives and white anchovies to fishcakes with diablo sauce and Serrano Ham with melon.

The cheese counter (perfectly selected by cheesemonger Andrew Steiner) cradled Spanish selections such as the sheep’s milk Zamorano, the cow’s milk Mahón, the grassy Garrotxa and the firm and smooth Tetilla (its shape named after a small breast) from Galicia.

Moving on to Spanish Sherry and dessert, we indulged in rich and luscious Mousse de Chocolate con Aciete de Olivia, crunchy cookies Galletas de Nata, refreshing oranges in Spanish wine reduction, a cream-filled chocolate log and the traditional flan.