The largest and most well-known winery from Chile in my opinion is Viña Concha y Toro. This winery has been recognized by many wine publications and has 15 awards as “Winery of the Year” in Wine & Spirits. They are also acknowledged as “Second most powerful wine brand in the world” according to The Power 100 survey by Intangible business. Concha y Toro does not rest on their past, but still strives to produce wines of extraordinary expression of contemporary Chile. One iconic wine in particular is particularly nurtured each vintage, “Don Melchor“, led by top wine maker, Enrique Tirado, to produce this wine. With great anticipation, as part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, I arrived at the door of the Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown to sample the carefully crafted and paired coastal cuisine of Executive Chef Frank Pabst with Concha y Toro’s wines.
Leading the tasting is Isabel Guilisasti Gana, the Marketing Director Origin Wines for Concha y Toro and wine maker Tamara Baeremaecker.
The Guilisasti family has a long history in Chile and in the wine trade. Isabel Guilisasti joined Concha y Toro in 2000. As marketing manager, she is responsible for Concha y Toro’s ultra premium and super premium brands.Tamara joined Concha y Toro in 1998 after receiving her degree in oenology from the Universidad Catolica de Chile. She has worked on many of their premium-brand wines and in 2006 became part of the Don Melchor wine making team.
Our private tasting room at the Blue Water Cafe was laid out as two long table, with each person getting a name card for their particular seat. It was quite interesting. Some of the people I sat with were other media, but I also sat with people who were there as they love Chilean wine and Blue Water Cafe. I had fun chatting with everyone around me.
Our first pairing:
- Pan seared scallop with fennel basil slaw and kumquat ginger puree, Grilled prawn with garlic and rosemary, mango salsa and avocado, and Smoked Stellar Bayer oyster in brick leaf with white onion grape soubise and toasted hazelnuts. These 3 seafood morsels was paired with Concha y Toro’s Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2009 from the Limari Valley.
I thought the pairing of each seafood, with their own unique flavours and textures, all paired very well with the Chardonnay. The Chardonnay was medium lemon in colour. A very fruity tropical fruit nose with some vanilla too. Medium plus body with high acidity leaving a prickle on your tongue, but it still had some roundness to it. Full of tropical fruit flavours with vanilla on the finish. The higher acidity from the wine comes from the cooler coastal Limari Valley.
The scallop was very fresh, seared lightly on the outside and tasted very nice with the citrusy flavour of the kumquat and the fennel flavour of the slaw. The latin-spiced, grilled prawn with the mango salsa and avocado were nicely complemented by the tropical fruit flavours of the Chardonnay.
Our second pairing:
- Farmed white Sechelt sturgeon with beluga lentils and Berkshire pork cheeks with a mild Madras curry tomato sauce. This was paired with the Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere Peumo vineyard 2009 from the Rapel Valley.
The Carmenere was deep ruby in the glass with a bright rim. Dark fruit, vanilla and very slight capsicum aromas. Very ripe plums, quite spicy with black pepper on the palate. Round and full bodied up front and then lightens up mid-palate.
The sturgeon was soft with fine texture. The lentils added an earthiness to the dish and the light curry tied the two elements together. The curry flavour also made a red berry flavour come out of the Carmenere. Another great pairing.
Our third pairing:
- Marinated bison flat iron steak, grilled and served with cassava root gnocchi, sauteed salsify, eggplant caviar with oregano, and chimichurri sauce. Our pairing was the Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Puente Alto-Maipo Valley.
This was the youngest Don Melchor in our mini-vertical that Concha y Toro provided to us. Don Melchor, Chile’s first ultra-premium wine is the only one with 21 vintages to its credit that are prize winning and known by wine critic around the world. Don Melchor is produced from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape from the Puente Alto vineyard in the Alto Maipo Valley near Santiago. 2008 was a cooler vintage for this wine and it was more restrained than the 2007 vintage. The 2008 Don Melchor was opaque ruby. Light red cherries, some stemminess and cassis aromas. Full body. Very spicy mid palate with ripe plums and cherry flavours. Dry with some minerality. As this wine breathed in the glass the cassis flavour became more prominent. Still a young, tight wine, but one that you could enjoy now, or in another 10 or 20 years.
The Bison Churrasco was a wow dish for me. It was soft, medium rare. The Chimichurri sauce with olive oil, parsley, cilantro, salt, and garlic flavours really enhanced the bison flavour. Red wine loves protein and this held true for the Don Melchor and the bison. In addition the chimichurri sauce I think helped to tone down the spiciness of the wine.
Our fourth pairing:
- Wagyu beef shortrib braised with merken spice and espresso, sauteed portobello mushroom whipped potatoes, green beans, and braising juices reduced with tamarind. To this we had 2 Don Melchor wines. A 2007 and a 1995 vintage.
The Don Melchor 2007 came from a warmer vintage than the 2008 vintage and you could smell and taste the more opulence of this wine. It had lots of plum, vanilla and capsicum on the nose. Very silky mouthfeel. Peppery round and dry on the palate, with black cherries cassis and oak flavours, and vanilla on the finish. A very nice wine.
The Don Melchor 1995 is now 17 years old. You would expect the colour and fruit flavours to have diminished, which they have to some extent. The wine has changed to a medium plus garnet colour with very slight bricking on the rim. The aromas are more complex with capsicum, chocolate and dark fruit aromas. Soft, medium body in your mouth. Pencil leads and dark fruit flavour with higher acidity. A very balanced, complex wine.
If you have never had Wagyu beef, you should try it. It is so soft and so buttery rich. The shortrib was cooked to perfection wit the beef falling apart easily. I think the Wagyu beef with the big braised flavours with the espresso needed a full bodied wine, and the 2007 Don Melchor fit the bill. The fruit from this wine paired with the strong flavours of the beef. The 1995 Don Melchor to me is not as fruity, with more complex aromas and flavours. It was not quite as good to me with the Wagyu beef, but I would have loved a plate of cheeses to try with it and savour them both together.
Our fifth (and last) pairing:
- Kalamansi honey cheese cake with papaya and strawberry salsa. Paired with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from the Maule Valley.
The Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was pear skin in colour. Honey and peach aromas. Medium body with honey, spice, peaches, apples and flowers flavours. Medium sweetness. I think this wine paired nicely with the Kalamansi citrus from the cheese cake and the peachy fruit from the wine.
Blue Water Cafe and Don Melchor
If you have never been to Blue Water Cafe, I hope this review of the food and wine pairing convinces you to enjoy a lunch or dinner with them. Executive Chef Frank Pabst is recognized for his creative flair and his dedication towards responsible seafood practices. He has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Germany and France. In 2010 he was recognized by Vancouver Magazine as “Chef of the Year” and inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame. Quite an achievement.
Here is a web link if you would like to find more information about Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor wine,
I really enjoyed this dinner. All the food and wine were paired wonderfully by the Blue Water Cafe. I look forward to the next time I sit down and enjoy dinner with friends there.