Whispering Angel 2015 – Cotes de Provence, France

Fresh grassy nose with hints of strawberries and lemons.  A fresh hit of acidity greets the fore-palate.  Cantaloupe and grass blend with soft strawberry notes so faint, you could call them a whisper.  The finish closes with soft tannins and faint citrus notes.  The whole affair is over quickly, like a summer fling, leaving only a hint of ever being there.  This is a great, easy-drinking little rosé for spring and summer.

  • Rating: Everyday White
  • Name: Whispering Angel 2015
  • Winery: Caves d’Esclans
  • Region: Cotes de Provence
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: Grenache, Rolle, and Cinsault
  • Price: $18
  • Where to Buy: Calvert Woodley Wines & Spirits
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Jaspi Negre 2011 – Montsant, Spain

Cherries and blackberries on the nose with a hit of mustiness and fresh flowers.  This is a powerful beauty, true to its name of Black Jasper.  She starts with luscious red fruits, moving to dried prunes, raisins, and leather.  It develops a further mustiness as it sits on the mid-palate, chewy and reminiscent of autumn leaves decaying.  As the tannins show up late to end the party, you’re left with a faint history of tart strawberries.  Just a gorgeous wine.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Jaspi Negre 2011
  • Winery: Coca i Fitó
  • Region: Montsant
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Garnatxa, Samsó, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah
  • Price: $22
  • Where to Buy: Astor Wines & Spirits

Tamaral Roble 2013 – Ribera del Duero, Spain

Fresh blackberry and currant on the nose, with faint nutmeg spice.  Violets and dark berries, laced with a faint strain of vanilla come together to finish with a solid, abrupt tannin finish.  A chewiness, with peppercorns and aromatic herbs, lingers after the finish.  A nifty little wine, well balanced and nimble, how a Mazda Miata might compare to a Ferrari.

  • Rating: Everyday Red
  • Name: Tamaral Roble 2013
  • Winery: Bodegas y Viñedos Tamaral
  • Region: Ribera del Duero
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Tempranillo
  • Price: $17
  • Where to Buy: Calvert Woodley Wines & Spirits

Bar Nestor, San Sebastián-Donostia, Spain

I heard about this place from a friend who had recently passed through San Sebastián.  It had been a good twelve years since I’d been through the gorgeous Basque fishing town and its horseshoe bay.  But the food I remembered well.  Years ago I had my local spot where I would get a late breakfast of mussels and cava, before going to sleep for a bit out on the beach.  Sublime.

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Chuleta de buey

At Bar Nestor questions are kept to a blessed minimum, and the answer is always “sí!”  Do you want chuleta?  Of course.  Do you want tomatoes?  That’s not a real question.  Will you have peppers?  You’re no fool.  The only real question to ponder is what wine you will choose, and they do have a selection.  One thing to keep in mind for those inclined to order a bottle:  in English we might use the words “powerful” or “strong” to refer to a big-flavored or robust wine.  In the Spanish wine lingo of Spain, the word “fuerte” (i.e. strong or powerful) actually refers to the tannins.  A fuerte wine will have a lot of tannin.  I learned this the hard way by expecting a powerful and robust red to accompany my chuleta, but ending up with a wine so tannic that it felt like sucking on tree bark.  Please be advised.

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Perfection.

The first thing you will see is the most gorgeous hunk of meat you have ever laid eyes on.  Amazing, sea salt-coated slabs of chuleta de buey (a bone-in local grass-fed ribsteak), steaming and spitting on their flatiron grills.  They don’t ask you what temperature to cook it.  They already know what’s best:  sizzling medium rare, with an emphasis on the rare.  Whatever alchemy Nestor has wrought; the incantations you will never learn.  Just be happy he lets you enjoy the fruits of his magical labors.  The tomatoes come crudely sliced into uneven hunks, coated with olive oil, and generously heaped with more sea salt.  The peppers are fried and deliver only light heat every seventh pepper, or so the local grandmothers will tell you.

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Tomates!

Nestor won’t discuss opening another restaurant or expanding the one he has.  Believe me, I tried.  He laughed heartily at the suggestion that he open a spot in Washington or New York, waiving his finger and shaking his head all the while.  Whatever else you do while visiting San Sebastián, do yourself a huge favor and just go here.  The staff is magnificently friendly (particularly for Spanish speakers) and you will not be met with a bewildering array of choices:  just an amazing steak, cooked perfectly.  Get the tomatoes and, if you’re hungry enough, get the peppers.  You can thank me later.

Address: Bar Nestor, Pescadería no. 11, San Sebastián-Donostia, Spain

Roccamora 2013 – Nardo Rosso, Italy

The nose here is like black rubber, cherry, and roses, with a faint hint of leather.  What a start.  The front end is juicy, with red berries.  Then something happens in the mid palate – it turns velvety and smooth, making the whole mouth feel coated with velvety iodine.  Yeah, it’s different.  The leather and red fruits melt into darker, chewy dried fruits (think prunes, dates, and currant), joined by a salty minerality.  The finish carries a slight hint of sweeter amaros such as Nardini or Nonino, and a soft hit of white pepper.  Such a fascinating wine.  I picked this one up at Appellation Wine & Spirits in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan on the owner Scott’s recommendation.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Winery: Schola Sarmenti
  • Wine: Roccamora 2013
  • Varietal: Negro Amaro
  • Region: DOC Nardo Rosso
  • Country: Italy