It was the last meeting of the season for the gentlemen who lunch, the last excuse for some serious drinking at midday before a lot of the snowbirds (including Don Day) stretched their wings and crossed their webbed feet in hopes of some early Spring warmth and, therefore, a soft landing in the north.
I really wanted something special for our swan song (though I’m never sure if swans fly south) and Rosario Arvizu of The Wine Stop and Enrique Farjeat Guzman of Cumpanio soared. Rosario and Enrique teamed up together to produce something really worth crowing about (yes, I know, enough bird puns) as three of The Wine Stop‘s Spanish wines were paired with three of Cumpanio‘s very best dishes.
I consider Verdejo to be one of the most underappreciated white grapes in the world. It originated in North Africa and, back about a thousand years or so, found its way to the Rueda region of Spain, east of the Northern border of Portugal.
Up until the 1970s, the Verdejo grape was mostly used to make a fortified wine that can best be compared to sherry (and also best be forgotten). Then winemaking giant Marques de Riscal brought in a French winemaker (merci beaucoup, monsieur) who experimented with a few techniques such as harvesting and fermenting at cooler temperatures and reducing the time that the juice was exposed to the skins. The result is a complex mix of fruit flavors including grapefruit, apple, a hint of pineapple, and a touch of hazelnuts on the finish.
Along with Viognier and Muscadet, Verdejo is one of my three favorite whites to go with the rich tastes you find in some seafood and that was what it was appropriately paired with at Cumpanio. Enrique Farjeat does a great job with salmon, slicing it wafer thin and accompanying it with apple and arugula topped with a light ginger and citric vinaigrette.
Rosario had chosen a 100% Verdejo called AU (and told me it’s pronounced ow). In addition to the traditional fruit flavors that were expected, it had a hint of anise and a wonderful freshness. At $2568 for a case of 12, it is one of the better bargains available to San Miguel wine drinkers.
Now I use the word best very sparingly but our next course at Cumpanio deserved the word. It is absolutely, definitely one of the best dishes you’ll find anywhere in San Miguel de Allende. It’s veal shank bones cut on the horizontal and perfectly roasted (timing is everything), with lots of parsley and course grain salt. It’s almost overkill but the grilled slices of baguette that accompany the bone marrow are generously smeared with olive oil containing herbes de Provence.
On one hand you could say that this is a tough dish to pair with anything. On the other hand, you could say it is so good, it will pair with anything. You definitely need a little liquid to cut through the rich fat in the marrow and The Wine Stop chose a Tempranillo, but not from the more popular (and usually more expensive) Rioja region, from Ribera del Duero which is almost directly south. Obra Joven has classic notes of cherries and blackcurrants in a nicely balanced red. At $2268 pesos a case it’s also well priced.
Our third and last wine was a Garnacha from the Calatayud region of Spain, not far from Madrid. Garnacha used to be the most widely grown grape in Spain (it was recently surpassed by Tempranillo) and it’s my favorite of all Spanish reds. Garnacha is particularly good with red meat and was perfect with the ribs served by Cumpanio.
Teorema is 100% Garnacha and is aged for four months in oak barrels. The vines used are very old and the yields are very low. The result is a full bodied red with blueberry and cherry notes and a sprinkle of black pepper. The smashed sweet potatoes that accompanied Cumpanio‘s ribs worked equally well with the Garnacha and I lost count of the guys who said they knew that Cumpanio had great bread but didn’t realize that Cumpanio had such wonderful food.
Teorema is a little above the $200 peso per bottle that I use as my max for everyday drinking but it’s a nice little splurge at $3096 a case.
When you live in San Miguel de Allende, you can easily get used to shopping for wines with only the narrow selection of the two supermarkets or the three or four wine shops. But places like The Wine Stop can easily broaden the choices available while offering personal advice and service. Yes, you may feel like a wino rather than a wine drinker ordering 12 bottles at a time but I’ve never had a wine turn to vinegar.
I’ve lost count of the number of times the gentlemen who lunch have broken bread together since last October but I do know that Richard Smerdon said “I think this is one of the very best” followed by Cliff Avant saying, “I think this one was the very best.” I know it made me very sad that I was flying back to Canada, far away from the ever improving food at Cumpanio and the increasing selection of wines from The Wine Stop.
To order any of the three Spanish wines or a copy of The Wine Stop’s price list, email email@example.com. Cumpanio is located at Correo 29 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They are open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, Sunday through Thursday, 8:00 am to 11:00 pm, Friday and Saturday.