Summer is not quite over yet I have to say that it has been my summer of Albariño. The warm weather in my neck of the woods and my affinity for fish set the stage for pairing this varietal with halibut or shellfish, and fresh summer vegetables such as asparagus or green beans.
A food-friendly wine, Albariño has aromatic and intense fruit character, bright acidity, moderate alcohol and mineral overtones that not only go well with seafood, but also with Asian fare or something as simple as salsa and chips.
To celebrate the post-dog days of summer, I dined Sunday night at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. La Mar is a Peruvian restaurant that celebrates all that life, the sea and Peruvian culture have to offer through its cuisine.
The vibe at La Mar is lively, and its waterside location has an expansive interior. The warm, gorgeous weather that graced the city earlier that day melted into a temperate evening for dining outdoors. My dinner companion and I sat at a cozy table beneath a heat lamp overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The western span of the Bay Bridge shone bright in the background, in all of its LED glory.
Our waiter Harold, a gracious gentleman from Costa Rica (not quite the Latin American name I was expecting), gave us a brief overview of the wine selections and then left us to relax, giving us ample time to peruse the options.
La Mar has an extensive white and red wine list comprised of Argentinian, Chilean, Spanish and California wines. When in “Rome,” as they say, do what the Romans do. In this case, I ordered a bottle of Spanish wine—the 2011 Do Ferreiro Albariño Rias Baixas.
Deep yellow in color, the 2011 vintage is 100 percent stainless steel fermented. With complex aromas of exotic fruits, herbal notes and obvious minerality, held together with excellent acidity, the wine stood up to our first appetizer—the typical Peruvian snack of savory chips made from banana and native Andean potatoes, served with avocado and hot pepper “salsa de aijes” dipping sauces.
La Mar is famous for its Cebiche appetizers (Cebiche is the national dish of Peru), so we ordered the restaurant’s popular Cebiche Clásico: California halibut in a “leche de tigre” with red onion, Habanero, Peruvian corn and yam. Leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) is a citrus-based marinade of fish and lime juice, sliced onion and “aji limo” (hot pepper).
The 2011 Albariño was the perfect accompaniment not only to our appetizers, but also to our main dish. I enjoyed an aromatic Arroz la Mar: a hearty bowl of prawns, clams, mussels, calamari, white fish and vegetables in a juicy Arborio rice with a blend of Peruvian ajis and served with “rocoto aioli” and toasted bread.
My friend had the “Holy Fish” special. Unusual looking, yet tasty, Holy Fish is a whole red snapper served “chicharrón” style (fried pork rinds), in a spicy Peruvian hot dipping sauce known as “nikei.”
I must say that the 2011 Do Ferrerio Albariño definitely held its own next to the pungent, spicy and citrus aromas and flavors that infused our evening meal.
Even though summer is coming to an end, I’ll continue to enjoy Albariño year-round given how exceptionally well it pairs with myriad cuisines.