Thursday, March 15, 2012


by contributor Donna Shor
Photos courtesy of Taberna del Alabardero

An extravaganza of fine Castilian wine and elegant, carefully paired dishes was served up last night at the Taberna del Alabardero, Washington’s award-winning Spanish restaurant.

The wines perfectly reflected the excellence the “new wave” vintners are achieving in this Valladolid area of Spain.  The Matarromera family, who have been known in the region for twelve hundred years, are now producing such wines in their seven area vineyards.

To bring the parade of three tapas followed by a six-course dinner and wines to Washington took the collaboration of the restaurant’s chef, Xavier Romero, the sommelier, Gustavo Iniesta, and the Grupo Matarromera, whose wines were served.

Christian Bungard, the export director of the  Matarromera Wineries was here from Spain to present the seven selected wines, ranging from white, to rosé to a deep, purple-hued red. Helping Bungard comment each wine as it was served was marketing director Caitlin Manning, down from New York.   

The first wine, a white Val Verdejo, famed for going well with varied dishes, is a popular tapas wine, served with those snack plates of different foods Spaniards love. It went perfectly with our three tapas, smoked salmon, then the small shellfish known as cockles—served tapas bar-style with each guest wielding a tiny fork in the communal plates, and then short-stemmed individual copas (glasses) of sweetbreads in cream sauce.  

The Starter Course was a tropical salad of cuttlefish, fennel and walnuts paired with a fine Emina Sauvignon Blanc from the Rueda white wine district. Next, the menu’s Appetizer course, a Val Rosé wine with a creamy seafood soup that was the essence of the sea.

The Second Appetizer, grilled salmon and a small roasted tomatillo tied with a crisp edible bow, matched a red Matarromera Crianza from the Ribera del Douro, with a complex bouquet hinting of berries. The following so-called First Course brought a baby chicken stuffed with forest mushrooms and a second Ribera del Douro red, a Matarromera Reserva 2005, a darker and even more complex wine.

Finally, the Main Course fork-tender loin of venison with a Rento 2005, dark red with purplish tones in the glass, which gradually revealed a myriad notes from spice to tobacco.

After the dessert, a parfait glass of mango sorbet matched with an Emina Oxto Port NV, the pastry chef, young Melia Castagnaro came in to take her bows with the others, bringing an answer to a mystery: How could anyone have created the perfect wire-thin flexible golden coil that garnished the sorbet?  Patience, it appears, and the ability to tame molten melted sugar to one’s wishes.

This you would surely never guess: none of the delighted diners went home hungry or thirsty.