Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Basque Country In Seattle - Harvest Vine

Okay, I confess! My favorite restaurants are in France, San Francisco and New York with one exception - Harvest Vine. In my opinion, Harvest Vine is the best restaurant in Seattle by far. Walk into Harvest Vine and you feel you are in the Basque country. No atmospherics, just the real thing. Specializing in tapas and raciones - Spanish small plates by any other name, the Vine also has an incredibly authentic wine list including many French Basque wines such as the red, Irouleguy (ih-roo-lih-ghee) and the sweet or dry white, Jurancon (your-an-sohn). There is a huge selection of Spanish wine, aperitifs and after dinner drinks. Delicious sherry for starters and Port and other interesting wines for dessert.

The Basque Country is a state of mind. The Kurdistan of Europe, the Basque Country straddles the border between France and Spain integrating the food of both regions into a cuisine that is probably older than either. Being Basque is loving family and food and the Basque language. The Basques probably love food and wine even more than the French do. Now THAT is an accomplishment! Basque social life to a large extent is dominated by food clubs in which Basque men (and now finally some women) meet to cook together and eat together. My kind of people!

While the population is now concentrated in industrial cities such as San Sebastian and Bilbao, the heart of the Basque Country is still in the countryside where the food and wines are raised. Look north from the town of St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the rolling vineyards of Chateau Branas, and you know you are in wonderful wine country. Visit villages such as Ainhoa and Espellette and you feel yourself to be in different world. Visit Harvest Vine and skip Homeland Security and jet lag.

Chef Joseba Jimenez di Jimenez trained in both France and Spain before arriving in Seattle. Anything on the menu at Harvest Vine will be excellent. We like some of the most typical, if somewhat exotic Basque dishes such as Spanish White Anchovies, Baby Eels (Angullas), Blood Sausage (Morcilla), Squid with Squid Ink Pasta (Calamares Con Fideos), and Pan seared Foie Gras with caramelized pumpkin in grape must (Foie de Pato Con Arrope).

For starters, the Aceitunas (Olives) are great with La Gitana dry sherry. The Remolachas (multicolored beet salad) is exquisite. The Plato de Chacineria ( selection of cold cuts) will satisfy any red-blooded All-American Male Carnivore. In the Seafood department, the Ensalada de Langosta is fresh and cool, the Vieras ( pan seared scallops) are perfect, and the Sardinas a la Parilla are classic, if a little strong for the American palate. All of the game is perfectly prepared whether it be Venaison, Quail, Squab, Rabbit, or Guinea Hen. The cheese plate is typical starring Agour, P'tite Basque, and Bleu de Basques. Desserts are just "yum," as my friend Mindy says.

The wine list is sixteen pages long. Among the Sherries, we prefer the dry Finos and Manzanillas and the semi-sweet Pala Cortados. We had the ever so slightly salty Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla with olives for an appetizer. The Lustau Fino Puerto was elegant, light and slightly salty, too. The white 2003 Las Renas Criansa from the Bullas D.O. was dry, fruity, candied and jammy. The 2005 Lagar de Cervera Albarino from the Rias Baixis D.O. was light, sour and slightly spritzig. It tasted like a Sauvignon Blanc and was not the best Albarino I've ever had. Among the reds, the 2004 Gorrondino from Bizkaiko Txakolinado D.O. was big and dry with delicious fruit, but corked. Wine from a second bottle was much better. Finally, we tasted a Grenache-Tempranillo-Cab blend from Spain that was round, soft, medium-bodied with berry, vanilla and almond flavors balanced with noticeable acid and tannin. After dinner we tasted 2003 Don PX La Noria Organic Montilla and the 1975 Don PX Gran Riserva Montilla both of which had that wonderful old style smokiness of traditional Spanish wine.

By the way, if you want to blow a bundle on wine that is quite easy as there are many vintages of Vega Siciliana and Pesquero de Duero priced from $50 to $550 a bottle. If I were ordering by the bottle, I would choose the 2005 Laxas Albarino at $28 per bottle as a white and 2000 Domaine Etxegaraya Irouleguy as a red at $34 and ask them to decant the Irouleguy immediately as it is young and will need to breath.

You will come away content and surfeited, if not overstuffed ,with all these wonderfully tempting morsels. No TSA, no jet lag to the Basque Country!


  • At 1:39 AM, Blogger jack said…

    I'm actually going to be in the area just before Christmas and Harvest and Vine is on my list of places to try... glad to read your comments!

  • At 10:00 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Jack, Thanks for your comment. Harvest Vine is really popular and small, so I advise making a reservation or getting there very early, like 5:30 p.m. Hope you enjoy it! Gene


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