Spanish Wine – Just Do it

16 Apr

MenciaNew simple recipe. Wine recommendation from Spain. Berkliving stories. You be the judge. As Nike successfully campaigned, Just Do It. Skim this post or read it all.

My husband and I just recently moved to Berkeley. A place that stimulates the following associations in our brain… tree huggers, Cal, vegans, hippies, weed, street people, diversity, affordable grub, gorgeous weather, amazing hikes, local vendors. I have had the pleasure of experiencing all of the above in a matter of a few days. Having lived here for a few months now, I consider Berkeley to be a place that truly represents a hot bed of  free thinking. Put a smile on because guess what, it’s another beautiful day. Absorb the local stimuli of intriguing people walking down the street and take in the gorgeous landscape. Let your mind go free. If you want to ride a bike shirtless fist pumping and chanting, go for it. If you want to pose in the park for hours as a form of meditation, no one will stop you or stare. There are no rules for expressing your individualism. 

I experienced a light bulb moment at a bar the other week when talking to a local next to me. He loves gourmet coffees. He has an adventurous spirit when it comes to tasting craft beer. So this man has a palate. He won’t touch wine with a ten foot pole. Why? Because he is intimidated by it. In this industry, we’ve successfully shunned out a large portion of potential consumers by making this fermented grape juice too complicated and imposing rules. Movies are released with these know-it-alls swirling glasses and breaking down each glass of wine into 50 components as to what should be sensed. Yes I’ve been through all of that. I’ve studied for months, pulled most strands of my hair out, hauled my tush up to NYC to take a 4 hour written exam with blind tastings. Yes I’ve written about wine in a way that expresses all of the nuances one might capture as they sip. All of this is OK. It’s my job to know what I am talking about, help select the greatest examples of viticulture from around the world, and eventually put the bottles in consumers hands. But why not actually start grabbing every consumer that has taste buds and make this industry approachable and fun? What I believe has been missing is a sense of connection with the consumer and the promotion of  free will. Naming off flavor characteristics your palate should detect is frankly quite boring. Who actually reads all of those descriptors? I advise friends and family to drink wine by giving associations and therefore creating a connection for them. If you like Cabernet from Napa, you might like Brunello from Italy. Not so much? How about trying Tempranillo from Spain? You don’t have to like anything. Tell me how you feel about it though so I can attempt to lead you down the right path. There is no wrong answer. I encourage everyone I know to be adventurous, have no limits, and try everything. One rule I live by though… seek pure, natural, and environmentally respectful producers.

Over the years, my job led me to a focus on Italy which my heart still holds superior loyalty to. While I don’t have a trace in my blood, this culture is embedded in my soul. Some of the most wonderful expressions of traditional winemaking come from that soil. In a more modern and value oriented approach, I have been a huge advocate of Chilean wines as well. Recently I have expanded my reach to Spanish imports. Truly some of the most unique and affordable values in the world are coming from there at the moment. I haven’t written about wine in a while but I posted a picture of my Sunday night consumption on Instagram and had a few requests for the recipe and intel on the wine. In a great attempt to make this all very approachable, I’d like to recommend Palacio de Canedo Mencia Roble. ‘Palacio de Canedo’ referring to winery, ‘Mencia’ the grape, and ‘Roble’ referring to some time spent aged in oak. The wine comes from Bierzo in Northern Spain. Imagine Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Malbec had a baby… that’s Mencia. Others have given the reference that the grape is similar to Cabernet Franc. Fruity, slightly rich, and great structure. Certified organic with very clean winemaking. Folks the actual winemaking techniques and viticulture practices are something to pay attention to. Ever wonder why you get headaches? Amazing the amount of modifications that are added to wines…  refined sugars and excess sulfur being prime examples. Seek pure wine and then be the judge if you like it or not. Palacio is a natural and delightful wine that pairs wonderfully with food. Highly recommend Mencia and it won’t break the bank costing roughly $15-30 for a good value.

Also, I have certainly succeeded at making food seem quite complicated to create into a meal. Confession. I’m a big fat cheater. I eat out frequently, love what I see other chefs expressing in an innovative fashion, and then I come home and become the ultimate copycat. When I post a recipe, these dishes can be replicated partially or improvised. I don’t actually measure anything. I literally toss ingredients into the pan, close my eyes, and cross my fingers that the whole enchilada will turn out well. Not really… but kind of. I created this recipe below this past Sunday. I knew I wanted to try this Palacio de Canedo wine and truly just wanted a little spice in my life that day. 

Smoked Andouille Sausage with Fried Goat Cheese Arugula Salad and Chipotle Mash – Serves 4

  • 4 Andouille sausages cooked over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Chop into bite size pieces and serve with mustard of choice.
  • Slice Chèvre goat cheese into triangles, dip in egg wash, and coat with Panko bread crumbs. Fry in butter over medium heat for a few minutes on each side. Serve over a plate of arugula that has been tossed in high quality concentrated olive oil, lemon, and local honey.
  • Roast medium sized butternut squash or 2 medium sized sweet potato cubes in butter at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through. Blend in food processor with 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk and 2 tbsp chipotle in adobo. Garnish with chopped green onions.
  • Serve with Palacio de Canedo Mencia Roble.

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