Basqueing in Friendship, Food, & Wine

I’ve mentioned my friend and fellow Wine Ranger Heather in previous posts.  She and I have been friends for … let’s just say a long time, OK?  Over the summer we’ve been busy with summer stuff and just hadn’t managed to get together and kibitz like we should.  Luckily, a couple of weeks ago we had the chance to correct that and catch up at a local restaurant named SER.

SER is owned by Josu Zubikarai who hails from the Basque area of Spain.  As their website explains – “Raised in San Sebastian, the Basque Country’s capital city, Josu began his formal training as a chef at age 17, working his way through the ranks in various restaurants, initially in the Basque region, but also moving around and exploring other areas of Spain. He grew up working in his family’s restaurant outside San Sebastian, developing the passion and commitment he brings to SER today.”

Unlike so many of today’s trendy Spanish restaurants, SER is not a tapas restaurant.  Certainly, they have appetizers and some small portion dishes, but they are a Spanish “tavern” where you go to experience a gastronomical journey in a casual, friendly atmosphere.  We sat out on their patio (seen above) and enjoyed ourselves immensely while we ate our way across the menu.  Interested in a wine journey as well as a foodie experience, we tried the following selections from their wine list.

Viña Galana Garnacha 2012
Tierra de Castilla, Spain

We found this Garnacha a very fine red to accompany meat dishes, although we noted that it was somewhat lower in acidity than others we’ve had before.

Domaine de Menard Cuvée Marine
Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Côtes de Gascogne, France

It had a very big bouquet redolent with sweet tropical fruit while on the palate is was quite a dry selection hewing primarily to citrus flavors.

Gañeta Hondarribi Zuri 2014
Getario Txakolina, Spain

This was a light white selection from the Basque region of Spain.  Reminding us of a Grüner Veltliner, it was poured at the table through an aerator from about a foot above the glass.  The nose held lots of lanolin with citrus notes, but the flavors leaned the other direction – mainly grapefruit with touches of lanolin.

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Arrowine – A Trove of Bottled Treasures

Arrowine has been selling the fruit of the vine in the Lee Heights Shops on Lee Highway in Arlington, VA for many years now.

I can remember discovering the store myself quite some time ago, and it wasn’t new then.  In fact, I believe it was opened in 1985.  Despite having found my way there long ago, I haven’t been there in years … literally years.  Why?  Well, I don’t have any really good excuses.  Laziness, perhaps?  There are many wine merchants closer – in and near my own neighborhood.  So … this weekend I made my way back to Arrowine to refresh my memory.

OMG!  Why did I wait so long to return?  Their website says they are a neighborhood wine shop with a national reputation.  I think that’s a great summation of what they do.  They are a big shop, but not a huge big-box type store.  They stock a very large selection of wines from around the world with quite a few unusual, unexpected, hard-to-find wines.

On Saturday afternoons they have a free wine tasting, and I planned my visit accordingly.  That place was humming with activity when I arrived!  There were folks crowded around the wine tasting table where they were pouring six different wines.  There was also quite a bit of hub-bub around the cheese counter.  On the main floor across a sea of wine racks, I heard people greeting old friends and catching up.  I guess it really IS a neighborhood establishment.

As far as the tasting went, I was impressed.  The gentleman pouring was friendly and very knowledgeable about the wines he had on hand.  In fact, he clearly had been involved in finding those particular selections because he had some fun personal anecdotes about a couple of the boutique wineries represented.  He wasn’t pushy in the least.  But when asked a question, he was very forthcoming with pertinent and interesting info that he was excited to chat about.  His was not a dry regurgitation of memorized wine facts nor a hard-sell pitch.

I had a good time.  Browsing their inventory for a bit, I grabbed a couple of bottles while I was there.  Of course!  I could see how the store might seem a bit daunting if you aren’t comfortable in the world of wine.  Because they have a world of wine on hand, let me tell you.  But the staff is friendly and helpful, so there is no reason not to dive right on in.  I’m glad to have rediscovered Arrowine for myself.  I know I’ll be back soon.