Officially, we are melting into the Catalunyan soil. Temperatures have risen up to 94 degrees F, which may not be that hot many of you suffering in 100+ degree temperatures, but after 2 months of rain and chilly temperatures, this seems like a sauna to us poor folk.
Yet, despite the toasty weather, its exciting to finally ring in the season with our first bottle of Manzanilla. La Bota De Manzanilla #8 Las Cañas, by Equipo Navaras, is from the oldest Manzanilla in the house of M. Sanchez Ayala, situated in the Barrio de la Balsa in Sanlucar de Barrameda. This much I know to be accurate, but if you look at the bottle, listing the number “8” and Las Cañas on the left hand side of the bottle, with “La Bota de Manzanilla” on the right hand side of the bottle, it tends to get a little confusing as to what this all means. Let’s see if I can sort it out a bit to give a little clarity to their story.
First off, Equipo Navaros is comprised of a group of sherry lovers who happened by a dozen old, and especially tasty, butts of amontillado in Sanlucar that had been left to age flawlessly without being sold. Seeing an opportunity in the making, they bottled the equivalent of one “butt” and sold it under Edgar Allen Poe’s famous short story, The Cask of Amontillado (highly suggest reading this wonderfully creepy story!). After experiencing the success garnered from this small 600 bottle production among friends and family, they continued seeking more rare sherry treasures, which resulted in two additional selections in 2006. Clearly, their success extended outside the bounds of their immediate circle, resulting in wines that are bottled in successive numbered editions of dated releases. Currently, 14 to date. The reason behind this theory is so that you can track different editions of the exact same solera over time. Pretty cool. Plus, with the date stamped right on the front of the bottle of when the wine was drawn from the solera, there’s absolutely no mistake of its level of freshness.
The La Bota De Manzanilla #8 “Las Cañas” at 13.99 euros is a re-edition of #4 that allows sherry aficionados a chance to experience how a solera develops over time, which is great if you actually had the opportunity to try the fourth edition. 2,500 bottles were sourced from 12 butts of the total of forty that make up the solera. The grapes were sourced from the Las Cañas vineyard located in the Pago Balbaína.
To summarize, La Bota de…. is the project name, and the number is related to the edition. The most recent edition, #15, is to be launched this month called, La Bota de Fino “Macharnudo Alto”. Check out the Equipo Navaros’ website for more information.
So, now that we have the wine, what do we pair with it? Looking through Simone and Ines Ortega’s Cookbook, 1080 Recipes, I chose the “Gazpacho con Bolas de Queso de Cabra Envueltas en Aceitunas Picadas” or “Gazpacho with Goats’ Cheese Balls Coated in Chopped Olives”. In Spain, gazpacho is an obvious pairing with Sherry, so that was a no brainer, but goat cheese adds a whole new layer that you don’t commonly come across. So I went for it.
Sadly, however, I have to admit that the recipe failed to impress, mostly as a result of my not pureeing the day-old bread enough to obtain a fine breadcrumb texture. Plus, the goat cheese is a powerful flavor, and unfortunately, it was like an elephant in china shop than a seamless pairing with the subtle tomato and basil flavor. Maybe if the quantity of cheese was lessened, or a less potent cheese was chosen, we might have enjoyed it, but in truth, I’m just not sold on the combination. Couple this with a sherry that has considerable potential, but was a touch past its prime, all led to a rather ho-hum culinary experience. That said, the weather was absolutely perfect on our terrace, and combined with the exciting sounds of firecrackers in lieu of the Festival of Sant Joan, we can’t complain. There are plenty more sherries and Spanish recipes to experiment with.
So please enjoy the weekend, see our tasting notes below, and give the recipe a shot, chiming in with a suggestion of a Spanish cheese that might have made this perfect!
Gazpacho with Goats’ Cheese Balls Coated in Chopped Olives
2 1/4 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/5 onion, coarsely chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 small green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
9 oz of breadcrumbs
6 fl oz olive oil
2 tablespoons of white-wine vinegar
12 oz of fresh goats’ cheese
6 black olive stoned and chopped
chopped fresh basil
Puree the tomato, onion, cucumber, pepper, breadcrumbs, oil and vinegar until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add a touch of cold water if the mixture is too stiff, although the tomatoes should offer enough liquid to give it the perfect consistency. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap for 2 hours before serving. Just before serving, shape the cheese into little balls and roll them in the chopped olives. Season the soup with salt to taste, stir well and garnish with the basil. Serve with the cheese balls.
And to give the gazpacho that extra zest, use sherry vinegar instead of white-wine vinegar. And if the soup is not cold enough, just add a few ice cubes.
Gabriella’s Tasting Notes
La Bota de Manzanilla 8 Las Cañas White wine produced by Equipo Navazos in JEREZ-XERES-SHERRY Y MANZANILLA SANLÚCAR DE BARRAMEDA, Spain
Medium golden yellow in color with a vibrant glowing radiance. Dense and expressive notes of acetone, vanilla, chamomile, hints of cask and lemon and veiled in notes of pure flor. Very pleasant, soft and round in the mouth with crisp and fresh acidity that falls on the finish, leaving a slight hollow space, dead center on the palate. Tame but nice flavor of lemon, green apple and mineral on the palate. I’m assuming with the date highlighted July of 07 on the label, that this bottle may have been past its prime. Well, all the more reason to experience a fresher bottle in the future!
Ryan’s Tasting Notes
La Bota de Manzanilla 8 Las CañasWhite wine produced by Equipo Navazos in JEREZ-XERES-SHERRY Y MANZANILLA SANLÚCAR DE BARRAMEDA, Spain
Light yellow color to this wine with a nose that is pure sherry. Flor, light wood, with touches of vanilla, minerals and acetone. In the mouth this wine is light, and soft with a medium acidity and a light creaminess. Somewhat flat on the finish as well, and I feel that this is over the hill. Nice flavors of apple, and minerals, but the bottle has a bottling date of Oct 2007 and we’re in July ’08…Though not all the way gone, it’s freshness has been compromised. I really look forward to a fresher sample where the nice delicate flavors have a bit more to show. Overall though delicate sea flavors and green apple with touches of grass. I suspect this is a gem of a wine in it’s youth.