This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme is hosted by Tim Lemke of Cheap Wine Ratings (“Good Value Makes Wine Taste Better”). The theme is affordable red wines from Chile (South America). Tim offers a nice overview of this theme in this post in his blog. I enjoy reading Cheap Wine Ratings as it relates more to my wine-buying reality at this point than, say, Unidentified Appellation. But I adore reading that blog too.
My most recent experience tasting red wines of Chile was at a tasting at Gordon’s Fine Wine and Liquors a few months ago of some of the wines of Viña Haras de Pirque, which is a gorgeous winery/horse stud farm in the Maipo Valley, Pirque subregion, Chile. We tasted mostly Cabernet Sauvignon wines that were probably more than $20 per bottle. They were tannic powerhouse wines suitable for aging.
For this Wine Blogging Wednesdsay, I chose from my wine unit the Viña Chocalan Carmenere Selección Maipo Valley 2006. This cost about $11.00 at one of my local wine stores. Carmenere is a grape that was confused with Merlot for quite a while in Chile. This wine received a score of 90/100 from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate (Jay Miller rating). I remember watching Gary Vaynerchuk who was not so impressed and gave the wine an 84/100 on Wine Library TV. So, how would I feel about this wine?
The answer to that question is: I feel that Gary’s tasting notes and review are spot-on and I know exactly where he is coming from. For me, this ended up being half a good wine experience. I found the color to be a beautiful dark cherry/plum, and the nose to be quite enchanting. The nose is a wonderful combination of wood, dirt, herbs, spice box, vanilla, and maybe even a little chocolate. The mid-palate is sort of like… watered down pepper. The wine goes in your mouth and there is just not a lot there. There is very little finish at all as well. I found this wine to be strange. How did the great nose turn into nothing on the palate? Well, at least it doesn’t interfere with food, is the best you can say.
I understand there are fine Reserva and Gran Reserva offerings from this winery that undoubtedly offer more oomph and I will surely try some of those at some point.
On April 26th I attended another big mass tasting of wines at The Vineyard in North Andover, MA. This is located on Rt. 114 very nearly across the street from my Alma Mater Merrimack College (where if I recall correctly the preferred potent potable was beer, LOTS of beer). I love these big mass tastings as it gives me, as a newly hatched wine enthusiast, a chance to expand my palate, as it were, and figure out what I like. Also I’ve decided to try to join the Wine Century Club. The WCC sends you a neat certificate if you have tasted at least 100 different grape varietals (compliance is by honor system, and they do email you a nice spreadsheet for keeping track). I’m up to 56 at last count, since last November – I must be some kind of wino.
There were 48 wines there at The Vineyard to be tasted from 6 different distributors. I scoped out the wines beforehand so as not to get my palate fatigued on the less worthy stuff. For instance, I noted that the Bogle Pinot Noir received a VaynerPAZZZZZZ from Gary Vaynerchuk so pazzzed on tasting that one. I also went to the table first with the potentially most interesting selections.
I found several nice wines that pleased my tasting apparatus and went home with a few. Firstly, the Morgon Chardonnay Metallico 2006, a really delicious & crisp Monterey CA chard that I can only describe as mouth watering. Also splurged on the Clayhouse Vineyard Estate Cuvée 2004 which is a really fine “Rhone blend” of Grenache, Petite Syrah, and Syrah. This received the following review from Stephen Tanzer/IWC Sept/Oct 06 review (from Clayhouse Vineyard website):
2004 Clayhouse Estate & Vineyard Estate Cuvee Paso Robles 85
($30; 43% syrah, 43% petite sirah, 14% grenache) Bright ruby-red. Raspberry liqueur, dark chocolate and pepper on the rather roasted, exotic nose. Sweet, dense and unrefined, with a somewhat gritty element of torrefaction and a saline quality. This is stuffed with dark berry and spice flavors but comes across as rather ungiving.
I thought this cuvee was the most giving thing I tasted at the Vineyard :-). Well, maybe a year in a half in bottle since this review has made it more generous. Tanzer liked the Clayhouse Hillside Cuvee 2004 much more (91) so I feel just obliged to try that out sometime as well. Next I found the overperforming Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2004 from Maipo Valley in Chile. At about 10 bucks, this is a must buy. In fact, if I had a ‘house red’, this would probably be it. Lastly, I fell for the very fruity Pure Love Layer Cake Primitivo 2006. The Italian varietal Primitivo has been proven via DNA tests to equivalent to the CA varietal Zinfandel. This wine was jammy and aromatically reminded me of cake batter, which doesn’t bother me. We also picked up 2 really excellent Sauvignon Blancs – the Marlborough New Zealand Dryland Sauvignon Blanc 2007 which was just about the most varietally correct, crisp SB I’ve ever had, and the interestingly fizzy & zesty Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc 2006 from Sonoma.
On Sunday we attended a wine tasting at The Vineyard in North Andover featuring 22 wines of South America. I brought glasses lest there were only plastic cups. They did provide actual wine glasses, but I used mine anyway. One of them broke in my back seat and I haven’t cleaned it up yet (bummer). Good thing it wasn’t Riedel! Anyway, the wines. The first table featured wines of Argentina and was my favorite. I’m not sure if that was the wines or my palate was not yet ‘fatigued’. I tried my first Torrontes and was blown away by the extremely floral nature of the nose – like burying your nose in a bouquet of honeysuckle. I picked up a bottle of this 2007 Jacques et Francois Lurton Torrontés. Of curious interest to me was the 2006 Michel Rolland Clos de Los Siete Mendoza Argentina. To my nose it was very young, tannic, and tight, and not close to being drinkable yet. Table 2 featured mainly wines of Chile. I picked up a bottle of the surprisingly complex 2007 Montes Sauvignon Blanc Classic Series. Table 3 featured more wines of Argentina, and is where I found the irresistible wine of the day: the silky smooth as a baby’s bottom 2006 Pascual Toso Malbec Reserve Barrancas Vineyards. Wow, the first Malbec I’ve tried that I’ve completely enjoyed. When I open these 3 bottles I’ll add more complete tasting notes in Cellartracker. Overall the distributors at each table where very nice and open to all sorts of questions and a good time was had by all.