Spirits of the Season 2013: Spain spotlight: Three wines paired with three cheeses for the holiday

Spirits of the Season 2013 will bring you the hottest new recipes, spirits and wines from the coolest distilleries, vineyards, restaurants and bars all across the globe!

Wine and cheese are always a perfect welcome for friends and family during the festive season for it.  The holidays are here and most of us have a little extra time to plan a lovely spread.

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It doesn't have to be hard to find great wines and the right pairing foods, and with three distinctly different Spanish (and one Californian with Chilean roots) M&C has found three perfect cheeses to pair with them.

There are also free Internet links below to help you learn more about wines and serving them.

All the wines we tested and liked are quite reasonable, the more expensive Guaranche Family Wines Pinot Noir can be found in the $55-$70 range and is really exceptional and well worth the cost. The others are both under $15.

Viña Zaco 2011, Rioja Spain


A wine with just one guideline: to be Rioja. The character of the fruit and the expression of Tempranillo is Intense, authentic, fresh and delicious. Bodegas Bilbainas, the vineyard where this lovely was made, is the largest vineyard owner in the Rioja Alta subregion. Rioja is split into 3 subregions: Rioja Alavesa in the north, Rioja Alta to the west and Rioja Baja to the east.

Vina Zaco is one of winery's oldest varietal and it's so affordable for the quality, we love this table wine. Bodegas Bilbainas exemplifies the versatility and character that the Rioja region has come to embody for wine lovers. With over 600 acres of vines, the winery is the largest vineyard owner in Haro, the capitol of the Rioja Alta region. Their Zaco 2011 showcases the range of Rioja style and the tempranillo grape. Zaco 2011 offers a modern expression with bright, cherry fruit.

The 2010 Vina Zaco Tempranillo has notes of licorice, lilac, black cherry, a little vanilla and even a touch of cinnamon. It's enticing aroma reveals a medium to full-bodied wine tastes really delicious with rich fruit, lots of spice and soft tannins and features more spice and hints of vanilla under the lingering fruit.


Cheese pairing: Rioja and Manchego are the peanut butter and chocolate of the wine world. The tempranillo grape loves to be mingled with a nice Manchego, a rich sheep's milk cheese with a mild nutty character and hint of pepperiness that increases with aging. One of our favorites.

Anna de Codorníu Brut Rosé NV


Bubbles! A pretty pink bottle holds an affordable classic sparkling wine that embodies the strong character and effervescent chic of Spanish women, “Anna” is named for the heiress of the Codorníu winemaking family who married winemaker Miquel Raventós in 1659.

Anna’s descendant Josep Raventós was the first to master the “Méthode Traditionelle” of making sparkling wine in Spain and created the rich history of Cava. Anna was also the first to incorporate Chardonnay (grown in the Penedès region), resulting in a beautiful, crisp character that is a signature of the wine. For under $15 this is a steal.

The Codorníu winery dates back to 1551 and has become recognized for producing some of Spain’s finest wines. Lots of fruit: red and yellow apples, toasted pears, and creamed bananas with baked brioche notes from aging on the lees.


Cheese pairing: The intense Monte Enebro is a cheese that benefits from aging and mold without developing blue veins. A coat of ash and mold forms on the outside of this creamy, spreadable goat's milk cheese, and its tanginess is buttressed by a walnutty base. A Cava like Anna de Codorniu brings forth a wonderful smokiness from the cheese, whose nuttiness coaxes the bread-like notes to accompany the sparkling wine's citrus and apple fragrance. Both wine and cheese gain smoothness from the pairing as well. Divine pairing.

Guarachi Family Wines - Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2011


The Guarachi family are a large Chilean family who emigrated to California and brought their mad winemaking skills with them.

Alex Guarachi came to the USA in the 1970s, and he was one of the first importers to introduce South American wine to the American public. Twenty-five years of serving as the founder and president of TGIC Importers–the leading American importer of South American wine, he decided bring the passion and spirit of his own cultural experience to wines made here. Today, the Guarachi Family introduces you to the finest from their homeland in California.

After a quarter century of tasting, judging and assisting in the production of wines for other wineries, Alex finally realized a lifelong dream of producing his own wines with the inaugural bottling of two Guarachi Family Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.The wines were created with the help of one of Alex’s close friends: internationally-renowned winemaker, Paul Hobbs.

This wine is the most expensive of the three we recommend, but for very good reason.

Fresh berries and floral nuances join firm yet silky tannins with layers of balanced fruit, minerality and a lasting smooth finish in this 100% Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast wine. Smaller production, higher quality grapes and lots of Chilean family love make this a fantastic under $70 bottle to invest in.


Cheese pairing: We chose a Garrotxa. This goat's milk cheese was once produced solely in the Garrotxa area of Catalonia. This is the area of the Pyrenees mountain region of Spain that is farthest to the East, lying right on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Garrotxa has a white interior, with a creamy texture surrounded by a natural mold rind. It has an unusual but mild flavor with a light acidity and a hint of hazelnuts. You'll love it.

Want to know more about wine but hate spending money? Check these resources out:

WSET Online Courses:  The site also has a nice section featuring the WSET’s “3-Minute Wine School” videos (free). internationalwinecenter.com

Candid Wines: (free) About 300 video clips featuring producers in the Candid Wines portfolio, mostly small family winegrowers in France, Italy, Germany, and parts of the New World. youtube.com/user/candidwines

Ask A Winemaker: (free) About 100 short video interviews with winemakers. Topics include whole-cluster pressing, night-time harvests, and German terroir. youtube.com/askawinemaker

Wine Glossaries: (free) Wine Spectator offers an extensive Wine Glossary at winespectator.com/glossary Wikipedia’s is pretty good, too: wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_winemaking_terms.

Palm Bay Pronunciation Guide: (free) Under a “Tips & Info” tab, importer Palm Bay’s site has basic 101-type information, plus recommended reading (books, magazines, blogs); what sets it apart is the pronunciation guide to Italian, French and German terms. palmbay.com

RNDC Academy: (free) Online training classes in wine, spirits, beer, and mixology, with culminating exams. Visit rndc-usa.com/salesacademy/ and register to create a free account.

Cheese finder: Try Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca, HEB (Texas), Pavillions (SoCal), Bristol Farms, Trader Joe's, Safeway (NorCal) and if all else fails shop igourmet: http://www.igourmet.com/shoppe/shoppe.aspx

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