Spring Entertaining with Spanish Tortilla and California Wines
Celebrate with this festive variation on a classic egg dish. Plus, 16 recommended Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs
Spring is in the air, and friends and family are once again on the move, possibly even on their way to your home. Welcome spring visitors with a savory tortilla, or Spanish-style omelet, full of potatoes, ham and spinach. Make it part of a buffet that might also include such simple, seasonal items as roasted asparagus and baby carrots, deviled eggs, goat cheese crostini, poached salmon or a salad of baby peas, tender greens and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Round out the table with loaves of crusty bread, dishes of cured olives and a special cake or tart from your favorite bakery, and your work is done.
California Pinor Noir and Chardonnay (particularly those with little or no oak aging) are two versatile, food-friendly choices for pouring with the range of flavors on your spring table, so we've put together a list of recently rated wines in those categories to help you complete your spring entertaining plans.
Spanish-Style Potato Tortilla with Ham and Spinach
Note: Peeled and sliced potatoes will begin to discolor when exposed to air, so if you slice your potatoes more than a few minutes before frying, hold them in a bowl of cool water, then pat dry before frying to avoid splattering. Famed Spanish chef Ferran Adrià has been known to substitute potato chips for freshly fried potatoes, so if you're short on time, skip step 2 in the recipe below, using the best-quality chips you can find, preferably cooked in olive oil.
• 2 cups best-quality olive oil
• 1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 bunch spinach, rinsed and drained
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)
• 6 large eggs
• 1/4 pound ham (preferably Spanish jamón Serrano), diced
You can put your own spin on this dish, using sliced olives, grated Manchego cheese, cooked and shredded chicken or roasted bell peppers.
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat until just shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until translucent and fragrant but not browned. Add the spinach, stirring well to coat with oil, and cook until wilted and bright green, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and transfer to a colander to drain excess moisture. Transfer to a cutting board or food processor and chop finely. Set aside to cool.
2. In a separate pot or a pan with high sides, heat the remaining oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Test that the oil is hot enough by carefully sliding one potato slice into the pan; it should sizzle immediately. If it begins to brown too quickly, remove the oil from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes, then try again. Add the potato slices and fry until light brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the pan using a slotted spoon or small strainer, and place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Season potatoes with salt and pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup of the oil.
3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together briskly but do not overbeat—the eggs should still be thick and gelatinous. Add the potatoes, spinach and ham and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add the reserved 1/4 cup of cooking oil to a 10-inch sauté pan, preferably non-stick, and warm it over medium heat until it begins to smoke slightly. Add the egg mixture to the pan, smoothing the mixture into the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon to make sure it is evenly distributed. Cook for 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to very low. Once the edges are cooked, place a plate over the top of the pan and carefully invert the pan so that the tortilla winds up on the plate, raw side down. If the pan looks dry, add a few tablespoons of fresh oil. Return the tortilla to the pan by sliding it back in, raw side down. Continue cooking for another 60 seconds, then remove from the pan and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 4 to 6.
MORGAN Chardonnay Monterey Metallico Un-Oaked 2008 Score: 89 | $20
Fresh, snappy and vibrant. Absent any oak this keeps its focus on fruit purity, with rich, vivid pippin apple, citrus and floral scents that are lively and lingering. Drink now through 2015. 5,000 cases made. —J.L.
FREI BROTHERS Chardonnay Russian River Valley Reserve 2007 Score: 88 | $20
Ripe, floral, peachy Chardonnay flavors are clean, delicate and full-bodied, but not heavy, ending with a subtle touch of oak. Drink now through 2014. 84,600 cases made. —J.L.
SOUVERAIN Chardonnay Alexander Valley 2008 Score: 88 | $17
Intense, juicy, vibrant and full-bodied, with a complex mix of creamy oak, pear and nectarine flavors that are pure and focused. Drink now through 2014. 32,000 cases made. —J.L.
BOGLE Chardonnay California 2008 Score: 87 | $10
Fresh and lively, full-bodied and smooth-textured, with vibrant green apple, melon, ripe pear and honeysuckle flavors, ending with a long, full finish. Drink now through 2011. 250,000 cases made. —J.L.
BUEHLER Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2008 Score: 87 | $16
Clean and flinty, with spicy green apple and honeydew melon flavors. Medium-bodied and moderately complex. Drink now through 2013. 16,000 cases made. —J.L.
ESTANCIA Chardonnay Monterey County Pinnacles Ranches 2008 Score: 87 | $12
Intense, with spicy floral and grassy notes that are full-bodied, with Key lime, citrus and green apple flavors that are pure and refreshing. Drink now. 268,000 cases made. —J.L.
FLOCK Chardonnay Mendocino 2008 Score: 87 | $15
Fragrant honeysuckle, ripe pear and citrus blossom scents are full-blown yet delicate and detailed, with a touch of spicy, toasty oak woven into the fabric. Drink now. 6,400 cases made. —J.L.
FOUR VINES Chardonnay Santa Barbara County Naked 2008 Score: 87 | $14
Fresh and vibrant, with full-bodied, snappy citrus, grapefruit and pippin apple flavors that are clean and refreshing. Drink now through 2012. 46,220 cases made. —J.L.
SCREW KAPPA NAPA Chardonnay Napa Valley 2007 Score: 87 | $15
This vibrant white offers firm, complex citrus, green apple and hazelnut notes, with a touch of honey. Holds its focus on the finish. Drink now. 6,000 cases made. —J.L.
RECOMMENDED PINOT NOIRS
DAVIS BYNUM Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 Score: 90 | $35
Rich and full-bodied, with a pleasurable mix of black cherry, wild berry and mocha flavors that are intense, concentrated, focused and persistent, ending with a long, persistent finish. Drink now through 2015. 6,500 cases made. —J.L.
HUSCH Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2007 Score: 87 | $23
Offers a pleasant mix of earthy berry, sage, cedar and spice flavors, with a floral touch. Full-bodied, balanced and pleasing to drink. Drink now through 2012. 3,938 cases made. —J.L.
LOCKWOOD Pinot Noir Monterey Block 7 2007 Score: 87 | $19
Marked by savory herb, dried berry, mineral and sage, this is full-bodied and earthy, ending with grainy tannins and tobacco leaf notes. Drink now through 2014. 6,000 cases made. —J.L.
NAVARRO Pinot Noir Mendocino 2007 Score: 87 | $19
A subtle, juicy wine, with delicate wild berry, cranberry and floral notes that are ripe but still offer a refreshing element. Smooth and detailed, with pretty spice notes that accent the finish. Drink now through 2012. 4,082 cases made. —J.L.
THE CRUSHER Pinot Noir Clarksburg Wilson Vineyard 2008 Score: 86 | $13
Elegant and spicy, with pleasant earthy berry, plum and blueberry notes that are clean, full-bodied and balanced. Drink now through 2013. 13,400 cases made. —J.L.
FLOCK Pinot Noir Monterey 2008 Score: 86 | $15
Dark and full-bodied, with a meaty, smoky, peppery Syrah-like edge to the ripe plum and blackberry flavors, gaining body and depth. Drink now through 2011. 5,400 cases made. —J.L.
STERLING Pinot Noir Central Coast Vintner's Collection 2008 Score: 86 | $15
Fresh and snappy, with fruit-forward plum, black cherry and wild berry flavors that are pure and complex, focused and balanced, ending with firm tannins. Drink now through 2012. 84,000 cases made. —J.L.