Wine Maven – January/February 2013

Spanish wine importer Nathalie Bonhomme.
Spanish wine importer Nathalie Bonhomme.

Spanish wine importer Nathalie Bonhomme was in Edmonton recently for a sold-out dinner at Continental Treat. “It felt like a wedding party,” she said. “Festive and filled with fun people. Even the parents of my daughter’s flat-mate at McGill came.”

The Quebec native has lived in Spain for several years, but her wine adventure is relatively recent. She started working with a Quebec-based agency in the last decade and now has about 40 SKU at SAQ (the Quebec liquor board) as well as a similar presence in western Canada with International Cellars.

Nathalie’s wines are from up and coming regions of Spain such as Valenica, Jumilla, Utiel-Requena and Toro. In 2008, Nathalie partnered with respected winemaker Rafael Cambra on a project called El Bonhomme in Valencia. “I found my partner in wine crime,” she says. He’s not the only one. Nathalie imports Pingus, the legendary Ribera del Duero made by Peter Sisseck. The newish bottling from Pingus, PSI, is at a much more accessible price. Consider it a Ribera del Duero for the people.

Eberhard Tamm, Dennis Miller and Satya Das have come together in a new project called Enotri. The idea is to focus on wines in the $20 range from family-owned estates in France, Italy and Spain. The early line-up includes wines from the youthful and modern Pfalz producer Nett, Mosel producer Bender, a stellar Gigondas, Moulin de la Gardette, the surprising Molise producer Borgo di Colloredo and Camilla Rossi Chauvenet’s impeccable Massimago Valpolicella and Amarone (sadly, not $20).

PSI09MAVEN“Pedro ximenez (px) is delicate, ideal for making montilla wines,” says Fernando Giménez, of Bodegas Alvear, the premier Montilla house.

The Spanish DO Montilla-Moriles is known for wines made in the solera system, similar to its neigbour Jerez, from the grape variety Pedro Ximenez, which ripens extremely well in the long, hot, Andulucian summer. Most of the bodega’s soil is the white albariza type: chalky, low in nutrient, porous, perfect for making elegant wines. Two styles are made in the region: fino, which develops under a protective blanket of flor yeast and eventually ages into rich and nutty amontillado; and oloroso, which ages without the flor protection, taking on the characteristic brown colours and flavours associated with oxidation. We are fortunate to have several of Alvear’s classic wines available, such as the delightfully dry amontillado — drink before dinner with a handful of almonds and you’ll be transported to sunny Spain — and the rich sweet dessert styles such as PX 1927 Solera.

The secret to these wines is long aging in the solera system, and the grape variety lends layers of complexity and depth.

The Carlos V11 Amontillado is a luminous light gold colour, bone dry, with aromas and flavours of dried figs and salty almonds. Drink with slivers of Serrano ham or smoked fish. The PX 1927 Solera possesses harmony and richness, tasting of the sweetest dried grapes, chocolate and toffee. The wine is superbly balanced — have with stinky cheeses or pour over the best ice cream you can muster.

Black Forest Flip.
Black Forest Flip.

Cocktail Impresario Andrew Borley is our go-to guy for anything mixology-related. Such as an answer to this question: what do eggs do in a drink?

“Sometimes I’ll use a touch to increase the texture of a drink; not for foam, but for richness. I find that egg whites are really nice in classic sour recipes, like a whiskey sour. I like to crack an egg when I make the drink but if it’s a big party I’ll consider a container of egg whites.

“Full eggs are for wintertime drinks; classic flips take a little bit of stout or dark bourbon and a full egg. I like to use Buffalo Trace bourbon. With more rye in the mash, it has a lot of spice.”

Black forest flip

Andrew Borley, The Volstead Act

  • 1½ oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
  • ½ oz kirsch
  • ½ oz rich demerara syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
  • 2 oz Young’s Double Chocolate stout
  • 1 full egg

Combine all ingredients in shaker and swirl to decarbonate the stout. Dry shake (without ice) to incorporate egg, then add ice and shake. Strain and enjoy by the fire.