May 9th was AlbariñoDay, and as I had 6 bottles of Albariño begging to be opened, I figured it was the perfect opportunity for me to host my inaugural wine tasting at the new job. The problem was that I wasn’t familiar with the wines, so setting up a more formal tasting like the World Tour of Wine I did a few years ago for my old office wasn’t possible. Yet, I wanted the event to have more structure to it than my just opening up 6 bottles of wine everyone digging in. So, I reached out to Beuchert’s Saloon near Eastern Market in DC to see if food and wine pairings could be arranged, and WOW did they help me arrange an amazing Albariño Day tasting!
A couple of my coworkers and I arrived at Beuchert’s a little early to make sure there was enough time to chill the wine before we started the tasting. Of course we all ordered a drink while we waiting, since the cocktail menu was very inviting and we had time to kill. I had a Beuchert’s 75—gin, lemon, seasonal herbal syrup, and Prosecco—because I wanted to start with something light to help keep my palate fresh. This has easily become my new favorite cocktail and is something I highly recommended. My two male coworkers started with The Beltway Boy—rye, amaro, aperol, peychauds bitters, and absinth—and it was a huge hit.
I worked with Nathan, one of the three proprietors of Beuchert’s Saloon, to set up the event. He, in turn, put together an amazing selection from the menu to pair with the 6 wines we were drinking. Plus, as Beuchert’s had just switched from their winter wine list to the summer one, we were able to add an unexpected 7th Albariño to the tasting. On a side not, for wine lovers in DC, while Beuchert’s may not be a typical “wine restaurant,” but Nathan knows his wine, they have a great by the glass and bottle list that is reasonably priced, and the wine list changes seasonably to match the seasonal food changes on the menu. It is a great food and wine experience and should definitely be added to your restaurants-to-eat-at list if you’re local.
Once the last of my coworkers arrived, all 10 of us were seated in the dining room. The space itself isn’t that big, so we probably took up about 1/3 of the seating area, but that meant the atmosphere for our tasting stayed intimate even as the rest of restaurant and bar filled up. After that, the tasting was underway.
As for the wines themselves, everyone agreed they were all very drinkable wines, and there was a lot of surprise about the price points because they were all very affordable. And, while they were all worth drinking again in the future, when it came to the 2011 Don Olegario , the 2011 Bodegas La Cana, and the 2011 Serra da Estrela Albariño, everyone agreed that those three wines were somewhere in the top 3 for the night. Admittedly, there was some disagreement on which was the actual favorite, it was a fun disagreement to have. That isn’t to say the other wines were bad, because they certainly weren’t, it was just that those three were particularly good.
2011 Don Olegario Albariño (winery)
Apples, pears, with hints of honey, parsley, and flowers
Surprisingly long finish
Does a nice job finding the balance between what I expect from an Albariño and offering something different
2011 Bodegas La Cana Albariño (winery)
At Beuchert’s $10 (glass)/$30 (bottle)
Pale straw yellow
Honey, yellow pineapple, apricots, wet stone with hints of lemon custard
Nice long finish, bright acidity, very food friendly
2011 Serra da Estrela Albariño (winery)
Very pale straw yellow
Apples, apricots, limes and white pineapple with hints of honeysuckle and
Much of what I expect and love in an Albariño
2011 Terra de Asorei (winery)
Pale lemon yellow
Yellow grapefruit, apricots, nectarines, and hints of bay leaf and lemon
Very nice balance and acidity, but surprisingly short finish that left me wanting more
2011 Laxas Albariño (winery)
Pale straw yellow
Apples, apricots, and hints of lemon and wet stone
2011 Pazo San Mauro Albariño
Limes, white peaches, and honeysuckle with hints of ginger
2011 Zios de Lusco Albariño
Limes, fresh cut grass, honeysuckle, bananas, and wet stone
Something bitter, almost like parsley dipped in salt water on the finish
The wonderful thing about an event like this, though, is that it wasn’t just about the wines. It was also about the company and the food. In this case, not only was I introducing my coworkers to new wines, we were all trying out a new restaurant… and Beuchert’s didn’t let us down! Nathan tasted each wine before serving it to make sure it wasn’t spoiled. Then, as he and one of the servers poured the wine, he introduced each course and wine pairing with information about what to look for in each wine and why the various dishes would go well with it. He never rushed us. In fact, he was very good about letting us linger a little longer of the wines we particularly enjoyed. At the same time, he kept us moving through the tasting so that we could go back and have a full glass of the wines we liked best at the end of the evening.
We started off with the Serra da Estrela Albariño and Beuchart’s “Boards,” which was a selection of charcuterie and pickled vegetables, grilled country pate with baby greens and sun gold jam, and cheeses. The pickled vegetables are grown on their family farm and pickled in house. Everything on the board was delicious, and several people at the table who said they were not pate fans were particularly surprised by how much they enjoyed the one we tasted and how well it went with the wine.
After the Board, we opened the Pazo San Mauro Albariño, and that was paired with a number of vegetable dishes. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down the details on each dish, but as I mentioned, the vegetables are sourced from the farm. As you can see from the picture, it was a nice assortment. Some of the dishes were warm, while others were not, so it was also a good variety, and the vegetables were all good matches for the lighter minerality of the Albariño.
After we finished with the vegetables, Nathan brought out several of Beuchert’s salads to split. Just as the vegetables made for good pairings, so did the salads, and I find salads particularly difficult to pair with wine. The wines were flavorful enough to compliment the dishes, but light enough that they didn’t overpower the flavors.
We had the Mixed Baby Greens with blue cheese, crisp potato, and a soy sherry vinaigrette; the Butter Head Lettuce with goat cream, pickled radish relish, Benton’s ham, and a sherry vinaigrette; the Asparagus Salad with green goddess dressing, pickled eggs, brown butter sourdough croutons, and Ewe’s dream cheese; and Steamed Littleneck Clams with cape beans, saison salami, and spring garlic. All of it was delicious, but the Butter Head Lettuce salad and the Clams were my particular favorites. Because of the meat added to both dishes, there was a slight saltiness that just made the Albariño sing when the two were paired together,
For the main course, the table split three of Beuchert’s dishes. Nathan suggested pairing the Albariños not only with their fish dishes, both of which were very nice, but also with the strip teak. It was an unusual pairing, but the pairing actually worked out very nicely. It was a good way to keep the meal lighter, which will be particularly nice to remember as the DC weather gets hotter.
All in all, Albariño Day 2013 was a huge success. My coworkers were introduced to a new varietal, as almost none of them had tasted an Albariño before, and we all tried a new restaurant that has quickly become a favorite of my office. A special thanks to Nathan from Beuchert’s Saloon for really pulling together my vision for me and making it such a wonderful evening!
Question of the Day: Have you ever had an Albariño? Do you a favorite?