Wines from Rioja in Spain, food by Mikel Arriet–what a pairing to savor

Fine dining experiences are in store for Club Punta Fuego members and guests

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BLACK shrimp spheres with aioli sauce, grilled scallops in cauliflower cream with hints of truffle

More a food lover than a wine enthusiast, I was delighted to have been invited to “Sip and Savor,” the intimate wine-pairing event hosted by Club Punta Fuego in partnership with Wine Depot.

After discovering that some of the wines to be featured were from Rioja, the most famous wine region in Spain, I got excited. And when I found out that Mikel Arriet would be preparing the dishes to accompany each wine, I was determined to go.

It’s been a while since I have indulged in this chef-turned-GM’s culinary creations since he took over as general manager of Club Punta Fuego in 2011 (after being its executive chef for six years). Besides, it was a perfectly good reason to get out of the city and spend some much-needed leisure time at the beach—on a Monday.

Splendid vista

I couldn’t wait to get to Nasugbu, Batangas. Upon arrival at Club Punta Fuego’s Main Club, we were greeted by perfect blue skies and a splendid vista of the West Philippine Sea.

THE VIÑA Bujanda Viura, which impacts the palate initially with a friendly freshness that lingers in the aftertaste, served with the starters of cream of chickpeas with chorizo ravioli, oxtail envelope and blood sausage from Asturias

I can never get tired of this awesome view! What a relief to see the sun and beautiful fluffy clouds, since it was raining in Tagaytay on the way. We would be blessed with wonderful weather throughout our two-day stay.

A quick walk under the stars from the new suites and we approached the Members’ Lounge. We could see they had just started passing around glasses of the first featured wine of the evening: Cosecheros Y Criadores “Candidato” Blanco, a white wine sourced from the Viura grape from La Mancha.

This wine has a balanced aroma of orange blossoms and jasmine and was a refreshing accompaniment to the aperitifs: perfectly grilled scallops served on a bed of cauliflower cream with hints of truffle and black shrimp spheres (blackened with squid ink), and best eaten after a dip in its magnificent aioli sauce. The scallops were such a show-stopper, I was afraid of going into food coma so early in the night.

 

Starters

We were seated and presented with the starters: cream of chickpeas with chorizo ravioli, oxtail envelope, and blood sausage from Asturias. Served with the second featured wine, Viña Bujanda Viura, a fresh white wine that lingered more in the aftertaste, I found myself wanting to take another sip. This wine would become my personal favorite by night’s end.

Mikel Arriet said: “Rioja has an extended variety of the local grape, including tempranillo, garanacha, graciano, mazuelo, viura and malvasia. The soil has clay and is calcareous, not to mention the Continental weather with short summers, not very cold winters and dry weather—Rioja’s signature elements make it the ideal place to produce wines.”

Pan-fried tuna supreme with ovenroasted onion and bacon sauce with arugula bouquet, paired with Cosecheros Y Criadores “Infinitus” Tempranillo with notes of vanilla oak

Then came the fish course, pan-fried tuna supreme and arugula bouquet. A standout, this dish was absolute perfection. The subtle flavors of the tuna and oven-roasted bacon sauce complemented the strong nutty taste of the arugula, definitely a worthy pairing to the first Tempranillo of the evening, the Cosecheros Y Criadores “Infinitus” Tempranillo with notes of vanilla oak and berries.

“Tempranillo is a variety of black grape, and the word comes from the Spanish word temprano, meaning ‘early,’ because these are the first grapes to be harvested.

The four featured wines come from Viña Bujanda winery, owned by a family of wine makers that go back to 1889, and located in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, sub-regions of DOCa Rioja. Both offer a balanced soil composition of clay, lime and sand; the locations offer the ideal temperature and altitude (providing extra light and wind exposure).

Because of natural farming that infuses organic matter such as stems, skins and pruning remains back into the earth as fertilizer, the vineyard produces varieties of exceptional quality.

Stronger food

The last pairing featured pork tenderloin in old mustard escabeche, apple sweet and sour tartlets, celery root puree, and green asparagus. I was amused by the presentation of the vegetables—the asparagus, carrots and cute little cherry tomato (grown in a farm in Tagaytay) were arranged beautifully on top of the white celery puree in a clear glass jigger so that it

PORK tenderloin in old mustard escabeche, apple sweet and sour tartlets, celery puree and green asparagus, paired with Finca Valpiedra “Cantos de Valpiedra” Tempranillo, a powerful Rioja red with greater character and body, and hints of minerals and wood

looked like a mini flower pot.

It was served with the flagship Finca Valpiedra “Cantos de Valpiedra” Tempranillo—a powerful Rioja red of greater character and body with hints of minerals and wood.

José Maria Castañeda, Viña Bujanda’s export director said: “This Tempranillo is made from grapes 50 years old and above, aged in French and American oak barrels for 12 months. It’s best paired with stronger food like this pork dish.”

Upon giving our glasses a good swirl and sticking in our noses to take in the smell, we could say this red was more complex, with big aromas like tobacco.

Dessert was a wonderful finale of torrija with brandy, pear compote and vanilla ice cream. The flavors were light, not too sweet, and left me craving for another serving even after I savored my last precious bite.

 

Another bite

I began to understand the words of Castañeda, who shared his thoughts early in the evening: “It’s all about how much you enjoy the wine, how your salivary glands are activated, making

ALAN Campbell, MongsieWulff, HansWulff

you feel like taking another sip and having another bite of your food.”

“Sip and Savor” was just an initial taste of the fine-dining experiences in store for Club Punta Fuego members and guests. Wine Depot will provide different wines from around the world every month to Club Punta Fuego as its featured wine of the month. This will continue until December.

Other wine-tasting and food-pairing events will be held in August and November as well.

For inquiries, visit www.clubpuntafuego.com.ph or www.fuegohotels.com, or  call tel. 5538888.

PHOTOS BY JOANNE-MARIE DELA RAMA

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