Recap: The History Makers Spanish Wine Tasting

Last Thursday, Barcelona’s Gretchen Thomas was joined by West Side Wines to present two of Spain’s most ground-breaking wine producers: La Rioja Alta (Rioja, Spain) and Raventos I Blanc (Penedes, Spain). Both wineries played pinnacle roles in the development of their respective wine regions and the standards of their D.O.’s. They are two of the most highly regarded names amongst Spanish wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts, and proudly sold in Barcelona Wine Bars and West Side Wine’s retail store. This walk-around tasting featured all of the available vintages of La Rioja Alta, including the 1998 Gran Reserva ‘890,’ and the outstanding cavas of Raventos.

Andrew Mulligan of Michael Skurnik Wines pouring La Rioja Alta wines

Andrew Mulligan of Michael Skurnik Wines pouring La Rioja Alta wines

Olive Oil Poached Tuna Montadito w/ Caviar

Olive Oil Poached Tuna Montadito w/ Caviar

Peter Slywka of Michael Skurnik Wines pouring Raventos I Blanc cavas

Peter Slywka of Michael Skurnik Wines pouring Raventos I Blanc cavas

The La Rioja Alta wines lineup: Vina Alberdi Reserva, 2007 / Vina Arana Reserva,  2006 / Vina Ardanza Reserva,  2005 / ‘904’ Gran Reserva, 2001 /  ‘904’ Gran Reserva, 2004 / ‘890’ Gran Reserva, 1998

Mariscos Paella

Mariscos Paella

The Raventos I Blanc cavas lineup: La Vida del Camp / Conca de Riu Anoia Brut L’Hereu / Conca de Riu Ania Brut Rose de Nit

The Raventos I Blanc cavas lineup: La Vida del Camp / Conca de Riu Anoia Brut L’Hereu / Conca de Riu Ania Brut Rose de Nit

A magnum of la Rioja Alta Gran Reserva ‘904’ 1998 from the personal collection of Greg Nemergut (Owner of West Side Wines in West Hartford, CT)

A magnum of la Rioja Alta Gran Reserva ‘904’ 1998 from the personal collection of Greg Nemergut (Owner of West Side Wines in West Hartford, CT)

Ertan Sener (Store Manager/Buyer for West Side Wines) pondering a glass of rose cava

Ertan Sener (Store Manager/Buyer for West Side Wines) pondering a glass of rose cava


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Recap: The BIG Steak and Wine Dinner

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant in Fairfield just hosted our last patio wine dinner of the season! For the fourth year in a row, Mark Berlin, owner of Fairfield Foods, dry aged prime grade porterhouse steaks which we grilled on our outdoor BBQ. This event showcased some of the world’s more brooding wines, which naturally pairs with grilled meats. This year, we showcased the best of the T. Edwards Imports’ Spanish and South American wines. Jorge Perez, a Chilean native and world-known expert of Latin wines, joined us from T. Edwards Imports. Executive Chef Ian Kokkeler prepared the full menu, and each course, in conjunction with our friend William Miller of Harry’s Wine & Liquor Market, was paired with Jorge’s picks.


Gretchen preps the staff before dinner


Company Sommelier Francisco Sanchez chats with Mark and Rhonda Berlin of Fairfield Foods, our meat vendors


The wines stand ready…


This chilled grape and almond soup was paired with Jelu Malbec Rosé from Argentina


Francisco pours the Josep Foraster Blanc del Coster Macabeo 2013 from Spain


Executive Chef Ian Kokkeler grills up spice-rubbed steaks with aged sherry vinegar sauce


William Miller of Harry’s Wine & Liquor Market in Fairfield, CT talks wine with guests


The second course was cured salmon crudo with black olives and blood orange aioli


Matt Davies shows off his knife skills


Antiyal Kuyen Syrah Blend 2011 from Chile


Jorge Perez of T. Edward wines in New York City and Chef Ian


Cheers to a great wine dinner!

 Photos by Mike Lauterborn

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September in New England

By Eric Harris, Wine Steward Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant

As September draws to a close, and the cold air creeps into New England, my wine cravings are changing. It’s time to say “goodbye for now” to the crisp, effervescent Txakoli wines of the Basque country, the light peachy roses of Provence, and the fresh mineral Albarinos of Rias Baixas. As Barcelona’s menu starts to get a little heartier, it is time to change our wine selections to complement these dishes. With Chefs Steve Brand and Emilio Garcia of Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant in Brookline, MA changing gears for the fall — with Steve’s fried halibut cheeks over corn chowder and Emilio’s duck confit with local black beans, duck jus, and salsa verde, to name two — I find myself craving some of my favorite fall wines.


Tasting my new favorite wines

My first fall love is the white wines of Priorat. When I’m not quite ready to give up my white wines, these really fit the bill. Wines like Cabaler from Cesca Vicent really bridge the gap between red and white. This wine shows lovely notes of stone fruit, sweet spice, smoke, and butterscotch, while remaining fresh and approachable. The fact that Cesca Vicent practices biodynamic farming is just an added plus.

Spain’s trademark wines from Rioja are the next thing that comes creeping into my mind. These wines, with their complexity and elegance, are an easy choice for the crisp fall weather. One of my “go to” wines of late has been the 2005 Vina Arana Reserva. This wine has beautiful bright red fruits up front, with tart cherry shining through. It finishes with lingering notes of leather, tobacco, smoke, and sweet spices. Each sip will surely having you longing for the next.

The last of my fall favorites comes from a little further north, in the Loire Valley in France. The Cabernet Francs of Chinon have always captured my attention for their prominent slate and graphite flavors. The Les Grezeaux from Bernard Beaudry is a beautiful example. It shows black currant and raspberry up front, finishing with really soft tannins and the trademark graphite and slate I look forward to in these wines.

Even though fall is starting to creep in, thoughts of summer and summer wines haven’t completely faded. If you happen to find yourself with a beautiful piece of weather and some spare time, I recommend you take advantage of some of summer’s finest offerings. I know I will jump at any opportunity I can to enjoy my two favorite summer selections before they are gone. They are both limited production wines and both hard to find outside of Barcelona.


Showing off my favorite fall wines

The first, is the Ameztoi Rubentis, a rose Txakoli wine with wonderful minerality, bright notes of tart strawberry and cranberry, and a very clean finish. The second, is the Robert Sinsky Vin Gris, a biodynamic rose made from Pinot Noir, which has a gorgeous peach tint and delicate flavors of ripe peach and fresh melon.

No matter what climate you’re surrounded by or what meal you’re eating, there is a wine for every moment. Don’t be afraid of breaking convention and just drinking what you’re in the mood for. If you’re ever in doubt, you can always ask your friendly neighborhood sommelier.


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Meet the Chef: Ian Kokkeler

Chef Ian Kokkeler, the Executive Chef at Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant in Fairfield, CT, explains his cooking style and his future plans for the on-site garden.

ian k-pref

How does your eclectic cooking style influence the dishes at Barcelona?
Barcelona is all about using fresh ingredients and preparing delicious food in a simple way. I want to make the smallest item on the plate shine. I love to use ingredients in a way that one would not normally think about using them. For example, I can create a dish using steak as the protein but the focus is making parsley the ‘superstar’ of the dish. People often use parsley as a garnish. I will take parsley and make a puree and have the protein work around it. I marry Barcelona’s cooking philosophy with my creative touch.


Chef Ian’s Sweet Pickle Melon dish. Recipe follows.

One cool highlight about Barcelona in Fairfield is that you have an on-site chef’s garden. What is currently growing in the garden?
Right now we’re growing padron peppers, tomatoes, squash, broccoli, and cucumbers.

I notice quite a few herbs in the garden too. What herbs are in your garden and which herb you cannot live without?
We’re growing mint, nasturtium, cilantro, parsley, and fennel.  I love using nasturtium. While I use it for garnishing, it is edible. The flower petals have a unique flavor that opens your taste buds. I use nasturtium on my cucumber carpaccio and watermelon salads. It not only adds color but it adds a tasty touch too.  Mint is my second favorite herb because of its cooling effect.


Chef Ian at the Westport Farmer’s Market in August

How often do you harvest the garden and how do use what it being harvested?
In addition to Farah (Barcelona’s purchaser)  harvesting the garden, I forage the garden once a week. Lately, I’ve been using the padron peppers in empanadas. We have beef and chicken empanadas but I’ve added lamb empanadas to the menu. I use the padron peppers in the empanada as well as in an aioli to accompany the dish. As for the squash, I prepare squash a la plancha with salsa verde. As for the other herbs, the bartenders incorporate cilantro and parsley in their cocktail creations.

What are your plans for the 2015 growing season?
I would love to create a bed dedicated to herbs and grow items such as marjoram, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives and lavender.


Chef Ian’s Cucumber Carpaccio. Recipe follows.

You truly have a very beautiful way of plating some of your dishes. For example, your cucumber carpaccio looks like a work of art. Tell me your definition of the “art of plating.”
I do think that plating should look like a piece of art. I want someone to think, “Should I eat that? It looks too pretty to eat but it looks so damn good that I’m going in!”  I want my dishes to look vibrant. When I plate a dish, I don’t think in terms of straight lines. I like to set things high if possible. When I pour sauce on a dish, I let my hand go and wherever it lands, it lands. I guess you could say that it’s my zen way of plating.

Join Chef Ian for his Autumn Harvest Cooking Class on Monday, September 29 at 7pm at Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant in Fairfield. Please call for reservations 203.255.0800.

Chef Ian’s Farmer’s Market recipes:


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An Evening at Eddy Farm

By Eric Harris, Wine Steward Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant

Eric’s musings on a memorable farm dinner before he moves from BWB West Hartford to BWB Boston

eddy farm barcelona

I couldn’t think of a more perfect end to my Barcelona West Hartford experience than our first- ever farm dinner. Upon arriving at Eddy Farm, the universe seemed to nod in approval as the very hot afternoon transitioned into a perfect breezy evening. Our fantastic hosts Andy and Haley greeted us with open arms and welcomed us to their gem of a farm tucked away in Newington, CT. As our guests arrived they were greeted with warm smiles, sangria, and an assortment of pintxos prepared by Chef Eric Stagl of BWB West Hartford.

eddy farm barcelona

Jamón and melon

While everything from the farm-fresh potato chips with chive sour cream to the chorizo stuffed olives drizzled with pedro ximenez vinegar was outstanding, the clear favorite of the reception was Chef Eric’s deviled eggs soaked in pickled beet juice. As I was playfully being chastised by our guests for ruining their appetites by offering them so many delicious snacks, Chef Eric came out to welcome everyone to the special farm dinner.

eddy farm barcelona

After this heartfelt welcome from Chef Eric and Andy, we were ready to start the dinner. Our first course was delicious heirloom tomato gazpacho made with Eddy Farm’s organic heirloom tomatoes. The wonderful flavor of the gazpacho was matched by its beautiful yellow orange color from the heirloom tomatoes. It was finished with butter poached shrimp, fresh cucumbers, and, of course, a touch of olive oil. The gazpacho was paired with Paul Zinck Pinot Gris. The touch of sweetness and fresh fruits in the wine were supported by its nice acidity, making it a delicious pairing for the slightly acidic, slightly sweet, summer soup.


Here I am, serving delectable pintxos

As the sun began to dip behind the tree line, it was time for our second course. Chef Eric prepared a delicious fluke crudo with watermelon, sun gold tomatoes, breakfast radish, and lemon basil. Each aspect of the dish worked in harmony. A touch of sweetness, a little crunch from the radish, and the delicious citrusy, herbal, flavor and aroma from the lemon basil, all accompanying the light, clean, fluke. The crudo was paired with Ulacia Txakoli.

eddy farm barcelona

For anybody unfamiliar with Txakoli, it is unique wine from the Basque region of Spain. It is characterized by its strong acidity, fresh fruits and minerality, and by its effervescence. This lovely clean wine held its own with the complex flavors of the crudo without overpowering the very light fluke. Everybody also seemed to be enthralled with the traditional, flashy long pour synonymous with Txakoli.

eddy farm barcelona

Chef Eric Stagl

Between courses, conversation grew to a steady hum. It was nice to stand back and watch everybody having such a lovely evening. The string lights and lanterns provided the perfect glow in an otherwise pitch black field. The night really had a somewhat majestic feel to it. For the third course, Chef prepared braised pork belly, fresh from Speckled Rooster Farm in Westport over Eddy Farm’s sweet corn. Yum! This was paired with El Coto, a Crianza from Rioja. The wine’s bright fruits matched the sweet flavor from the corn, while its youthful acidity cut through the delicious, rich fat of the pork belly.

eddy farm barcelonaeddy farm barcelona Braised Speckled Rooster Farm pork belly over Eddy Farm’s sweet corn

The last course in our dinner was grilled salmon over a sweet corn succotash. This dish was late summer on a plate. The nice char on the perfectly cooked salmon accompanied the medley of fresh veggies wonderfully. As the first bites of the dish were taken, murmurs of pleasure were heard from the crowd. The salmon was paired with the Domain Carneros Pinot Noir. The wine’s smoky character played well with the char on the salmon. We gladly obliged requests for more of the delicious wine.

eddy farm barcelona

The final course: salmon over sweet corn succotash

eddy farm barcelonaeddy farm barcelonaThe BWB West Hartford team: Kelly, Emery, Hilary, Eric, and Anna. Cheers to a wonderful evening!


Conversations continued long after the dinner was complete. There was a sense that nobody wanted to leave. Who could blame them? The setting was gorgeous, the weather was perfect, the wine was delicious, and the company was great. As I made my way around to each table to say goodbye to the many familiar faces, I was met with a chorus of well wishes and gratitude for the wonderful evening. I couldn’t help but be filled with pride. It was yet another fantastic Barcelona event. While we packed everything up to head back to the restaurant I enjoyed a glass of wine with our gracious host Andy to celebrate a successful evening. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect last night. Boston here I come.


Photos by Anna Beyer

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