When in Spain, the best part of any day is when the sun retreats and people fill the streets casually promenading from one eatery or café to another all the while embracing each other’s companionship. A touch of this lifestyle came to South Norwalk, Connecticut in 1995 in a small thirty seat wine bar when Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer opened the first Barcelona Wine Bar. The demand for this slice of the good life had proven so successful that Barcelona Wine Bar expanded to other locations including Atlanta. Heading up the kitchen at the Inman Park location is Executive Chef Shane Devereaux whose unique hip cooking style brings an exciting flair to these time-honored Spanish and Latin classics. With the coming of Barcelona Wine Bar to Atlanta, a void was filled as the city now has a restaurant where both wine and food take center stage together as equals.
The wine director for Barcelona Wine Bar is the vivacious Gretchen Thomas. For a thirty something, I am impressed on how Gretchen uses her wine knowledge to search out the best value to quality wines of which many are way under the radar for all to enjoy. The wine list is just short of an encyclopedia and is like a who’s who of Iberian wines as well as a multitude of gems from South America and beyond. It is rare to find Jerez sherry on any list but to find the best of the best is stunning. Instead of a dry martini, try the bone dry Lustau’s Palo Cortado “Peninsula” which offers great balance with rich almond aromas with prune eau de vie flavors that seem to linger forever and matches well with a serving of Boquerones, filets of anchovies marinated in garlic, parsley and olive oil. Another treasure is Alvear’s “Carlos VII” Amontillado with its caramel nose and hazelnut, toffee flavors, which beckons a nibble or two from the outstanding Spanish cheese offerings– yum!!!
Besides the extensive sherry offerings, Barcelona Wine Bar has assembled a fantastic wine by the glass program. If bubbles are the desire then treat it with a glass of Sumarroca Gran Reserva – the roasted chickpea puree or the marinated olives are nice matches for this creamy sparkler. To complement the Gambas al Ajillo, plump shrimp sautéed with roasted garlic and a splash of sherry, or the grilled scallops made with preserved lemons – Scallops a la Plancha – a glass of the Godello from the Valdeorras region is in order. This beauty is noted for its complex yet elegant citrus aromas and flavors with a slight balsamic-like tingle in the aftertaste, which adds a nice accent to these seafood offerings. The other unique white wine to consider is the San Clodio from Ribeiro with its nectar-like flavors and a peppery spark in the background making this blend of indigenous varietals one refreshing vino - try it with the Crispy Calamari that’s served with a smoked pepper aioli, or the Salted Cod in a spicy tomato sauce, or the Pulpo Gallego - grilled octopus with pimentón picante and boiled fingerling potatoes – so many choices to be had but no matter what you choose it will be a winner.
One of the rock stars in making Spanish wines is Alvaro Palacios and his organically farmed “La Montesa” Crianza from Rioja hits all the notes with its deep black fruit flavors. This ultra-balanced elegant wine needs foods of substance like the Chorizo with Sweet and Sour Figs in a balsamic-sherry glaze or the savory Albondigas - meatballs in a sassy tomato sauce. My personal find was the 2009 Acústic, from Acústic Celler made in the rugged Montsant region of Spain. Using traditional techniques, winemaker Albert Jane has created a wine that’s loaded with character that’s a thrill to sip and goes nicely with the grilled-to-perfection Lamp Chops, or the succulent Guajillo Chile Pork Ribs, or even some carvings from the renown black Iberian pig, Jamón Ibérico – this is as close to culinary nirvana as one can get – the best part is you don’t have to spend a fortune to get there.
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AMBIENCE *****DRINKS *****
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