The Chileans are Coming! Preview Notes for You

Flag of Chile

Every year we look forward to our pinnacle wine event, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Next year’s event will be Feb. 27 – March 4, 2012.  What does this have to do with Chile?  Chile is the theme country for the Festival!

A group of Media, myself included, were invited to a preview of the Chilean wines we can expect to see at the Festival, plus give us some background into this long, thin country.

My Experience in Chile

Karl aka MyWinePal at Casa Lapostolle

Two years ago I travelled down to Chile and visited wineries from the Aconcagua, Maipo, Casablanca, and Colchagua Valleys.  Some of the wineries were Casa Lapostolle, Montgras, Montes, Errazuriz, and Casas del Bosque.   I was impressed with how much the wineries cared for their vineyards and the production of their wines.  One of the nice thing with Chile, is that it is dry due to it’s location on the west coast of South America, and the Andes Mountains on it’s eastern border.  The dry climate, plus topography, and soil factors have made the area a great place to grow grapes.  There is very little, or no, phylloxera louse to attack the grape vines, plus the dryness keeps fungus and mold at bay.  So less pesticides and/or herbicides are needed here.  Many of the wineries in Chile indicate that they are organic or follow organic principles.

Chile’s Natural Advantage

Chile is a wine maker’s paradise.  They get 3 weeks more ripening time than in Bordeaux and 300 + days of sunshine each year.   The cool air from the Andes cools the grapes in the evening so that the grapes mature slowly so that they reach full phenolic ripeness; lots of ripe fruit and a good backbone of acidity. The adjacency to the coast, and the cool Humbolt Current helps produce coastal fog which cools the grapes near the coast, such as from the Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley.

What Grapes Grow in Chile?

There is a wide range of red and white grapes grown in Chile.  The top 5 red grapes in order of volume are:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. Merlot
  3. Carmenere
  4. Syrah
  5. Pinot Noir

Montes M, Folly and Purple Angel wines

Cabernet is King is Chile.  With the 300+ days of sunshine, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produce very full-bodied, ripe, supple wines.  Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor is one of the top quality wines for this grape.  Merlot and Carmenere come in, in 2nd and 3rd place.  Yet they were thought of both being Merlot for many years.  The grapes were planted together in the same vineyard and the grapes and leaves of both vines look very similar.  It was only fairly recently that the Carmenere grape was identified (it’s a Bordeaux grape btw), and has become a signature grape for Chile. A second signature red grape is coming through the ranks, and that is the Syrah grape.  I think people started to recognize Syrah’s potential in Chile, with Aurelio Montes‘ plantings in the Apalta Region of the Colchagua Valley.  There he produces an ultra premium Montes Folly wine from Syrah.

For white grapes, the top 5 varieties are:

  1. Sauvignon Blanc
  2. Chardonnay
  3. Moscatel of Alexandria
  4. Riesling
  5. Viognier

Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc and Reserva Chardonnay

Most people probably think of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay when they think of white wines from Chile.  Probably also the Casablanca Valley, where a lot of very good Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are produced. An upcoming region for Sauvignon Blanc is slightly south of the Casablanca Valley and much closer to the coast is the Leyda Valley.  While the Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Casablanca Valley can be more tropical fruit, from the Leyda Valley, expect more citrus and herbal aromas and flavours.  Have you ever heard of Moscatel of Alexandria?  You might not have, but you probably have tried some Chilean Pisco.  Pisco is produced from the Moscatel grape.  Riesling and Viognier and two grapes with great potential.  I don’t think a particular region is well-known enough for these grapes, but I would hazard to guess that the Riesling grape would be very good in the Casablanca and San Antonio Valleys while Viognier would shine in the more inland, warmer regions, like Aconcagua, Maipo and Colchagua Valleys.

Wines We Tasted at the Media Preview

Montgras Santa Carolina and Undurraga Sauvignon Blancs

We enjoyed 3 Sauvignon Blancs and a range of single varietals and red blends.  The three Sauvignon Blancs:

  • Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Leyda Valley). Light straw colour with a green tinge. Gooseberry and sweet honey nose. Light body with medium plus acidity.  Gooseberry and citrus flavours.  Medium length. My favorite of the these 3 wines.
  •  Vina Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Leyda Valley). Light lemon colour with herbal, asparagus and mint on the nose.  Round mouth feel with light body. Herbal, citrus and green apple fruit flavours with some minerality on the palate.  Quite sour on the finish.
  • Undurraga Terroir Hunter Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Leyda Valley). 2008 was a later harvest than the other years, resulting in riper more tropical fruit flavours.  This wine was light lemon/green in colour.  Tropical fruit, lees and oak on the nose.  Light body,  round mouth feel but also has a good backbone of acidity. Oaky, smoky, citrus flavours.  Long length.

Wide range of Chilean red wines

Our red wines included single varietal Pinot Noir, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and blends.  The wines are:

  • Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir 2009 (Casablanca Valley). Medium ruby, Vanilla and cherry aromas. Medium body, dry, but full fruit, cherry flavours.  Vanilla in the back ground and some spiciness and raspberry leaf.  Slightly sweet cherry finish.
  • Emiliana Vineyards COYAM 2007 (Colchagua Valley). This is a biodynamic wine, which goes beyond organic wine making principles. Opaque garnet in the glass with ripe black fruit, vanilla, dark chocolate and cherrie aromas.  Full body, very round, with milk chocolate and ripe cherry flavours.  Some spice, raspberry leaf and vanilla on the finish.  A very high quality, balanced wine. You can read about biodynamic wines at this link.
  • Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carmenere Syrah 2008 (Maule Valley). This blend is 75% Carmenere and 25% Syrah.  Deep ruby colour.  Meaty sausage and ripe cherry aromas. Full body, round with minerality.  Cherries, blueberries and vanilla flavours.   Medium plus acidity gives this wine bright flavours.
  • Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere 2009 (Apalta Valley).  Some dustiness on the nose, along with ripe cherries, capsicum and vanilla.  Medium minus body with high acidity and soft tannins.  Dark chocolate and cherry flavours with a mineral streak running through the wine. Not mouth filling but very pleasant sensation in your mouth.
  • Vina Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Carmenere 2010 (Colchagua Valley). The nose on this wine was a little closed, but I did get some nutmeg and cherry aromas. But on the palate, nutmeg, cedar and dark fruit flavours jump out.  Round mouth feel, dry with some spiciness.
  • Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Maipo Valley). Deep garnet in colour with cedar and ripe fruit aromas. Full body, rich feeling ,with  ripe dark fruit flavours and vanilla.  Dry with soft tannins and cedar on the finish.  This is a real good value wine at $19.99 a bottle. Also try their Medalla Real Pinot Noir!
  • Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Maipo Valley). This wine I think is starting to show it’s age as there is a slightly brownish tinge to an otherwise garnet colour in the glass. Some dark fruit on the nose.  Medium body, light mouth feel, with juicy black fruit flavour.  An elegant wine.
  • Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet 2009 (Maipo Valley). Deep dark core with a ruby rim in the glass. Vanilla, dark fruit and oak/cedar aromas. Full body, round mouth feel with soft tannins.  Light vanilla with some mintiness.
  • Vina Chocalan Gran Reserva Blend 2009 (Maipo Valley). This is a blend of 6 grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, and Syrah.  Opaque garnet in the glass. Nice cedar, allspice and vanilla on the nose. Very round in your mouth with soft tannins. Allspice, cedar and ripe black fruit flavours.  Nice texture.  A favorite wine of many of the media I spoke with.

If these wines have enticed you, you may want to buy advance tickets to the Playhouse Wine Festival.  Here is my link to the tickets.  Enjoy and Salud!

My Favorite Wines in 2010 – MyWinePal Blog Selection

Wines change yearly with each new vintage. That’s one thing that makes tasting wine exciting. What wines did I try this past year, 2010, that made my favorite list?  I went through the list and noted that I recommended approximately 111 different wines this year.  The wines below are the ones I’ve selected from my BLOG.  I also have a wine selection from my main MyWinePal.com website.  I’ll post that separately.

From the 111 different wines my favorites for 2010 are:

White Wine

Domaine Comte-Senard Corton-Charlemagne 2006 (Burgundy). This wine was medium to deep lemon in the glass. Lemon vanilla, wood, and butterscotch on the nose. Medium body, with lemon, woody, earthy, and nutmeg aromas. Quite complex. Medium acidity which nicely balanced the fruit in this wine.

Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Marlborough, NZ) is a very elegant wine. Oak, lemon and herbal on the nose. Big legs from a higher alcohol content, but the wine is balanced by the fruit so not hot on the palate. It does have nice herbal and lemon flavours with good acidity, not too strong.

Church & States Wines Chardonnay 2007 (BC) is medium lemon colour. Nice apricot nose. Vanilla, sweet spice, pineapple and apricot flavours, with a bit of spice. Lots of flavours coming out the glass the more you swirled it around in your mouth.

Van Westen Vineyards Vivacious 2008 (BC) is Pinot Blanc with a hint of Pinot Gris, again has peachy fruit as well as some apricot aromas. Good acidity. Peach and apricot flavours with a touch of greenness.

La Frenz Andrew Vineyard Riesling 2009 (BC), is light lemon in colour. Flowery and apple aromas. Good acidity with a bit of residual sugar. Red apple and citrus flavours. Elegant.

Sperling Vineyards Pinot Gris 2008 (BC). This is a new winery in Kelowna, BC. No tasting room yet, but they are located near the Tantalus winery. Pale lemon in colour. A very nice nose with grapefruit and flowers. Medium body, high acidity, with flavours of lemon rind, flowers and some spice.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Chardonnay 2008 (Washington) was very elegant.  This wine was medium golden in the glass. Vanilla, oak, lemon and apple aromas.  It was medium body with toasty, lemon and light spice on the palate.  Light acidity to complement the roundness of the wine.  Spice and lemon on the finish.

Red Wine

Howling Bluff Estate Pinot Noir 2008 (BC). New world style, with ripe strawberry and cherry aromas with a bit of sweet spice and vanilla. Silky on the palate with vanilla, cherry, and raspberry flavours.

Dominique Laurent Chambolle-Musigny “Les Charmes” 1er Cru (Burgundy). I was told that Dominique Laurent is a bit of a controversial producer in Burgundy in that he buys wine and “elevates” it through the use of oak aging before bottling. His wines have his stamp or “signature” on them. Some enjoy having a wine with a certain style, while others do not. I did enjoy this wine. It was deep garnet in colour. Complex nose with dark cherry, liquor, slight smoke and vanilla aromas. Drying tannins but very fine grained. Medium body. Cherry flavour with slight spice on the finish.

Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux AOC 2007 (Bordeaux). This wine was a blend of 60% Merlot / 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was deep purple coloured in the glass. Meaty, dark cherry, cassis, and vanilla aromas. Full bodied, with ripe cherries, vanilla, and medium fine tanning. It had a very nice cherry finish and a long length.

Chateau de Gironville, Haut-Medoc AOC 2007 (Bordeaux) is a blend of 45% Merlot / 45% Cabernet Sauvignon / 10% Petit Verdot. Opaque purple in the glass (courtesy of the Petit Verdot). A very aromatic nose. Lots of coffee of black cherry. On the palate you get firm tannins, with black cherry, coffee, and vanilla flavours. Full body with long length.

Vina Maipo Syrah (Chile).  It is 85% Syrah with 15% Carmenere.  Deep purple in colour.  An interesting nose with vanilla, rubber and purple fruit.  Dry tannins.  Blueberries show up mid-palate, and cherries on the finish.  A bit of pepper and vanilla.  It has good tannic structure for the fruit to hang.

Ata Rangi ‘Crimson’ Pinot Noir 2008 (Waiparapa – New Zealand). Light cherry colour. Raspberry aroma. Red cherry and raspberry flavours. Soft tannins. Very elegant.

Panther Creek Freedom Hill Pinot Noir 2006 (Oregon) is light cherry coloured. Smoky, strawberry aromas. Earthy, cherry flavours, with a bit of spiciness and low tannins.

Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Pinot Noir (New Zealand) was medium garnet in the glass. A very pretty raspberry and plum nose. Raspberry, leafy, cherry flavours. Slightly spicy. Silky on the palate.

Le Vieux Pin Syrah / Viognier 2008 (BC). This Syrah / Viognier was deep purple in the glass, with aromas of vanilla, blueberry, plum and honeysuckle. On the palate you get ripe plum, black cherry and vanilla. Quite spicy, round in the mouth and long length.

Man O’ War Merlot / Cabernet / Franc / Malbec 2008 (New Zealand). The blend for this wine is 42% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 19% Malbec, and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium purple/garnet in colour. Smoky with black cherry and tar aromas. Black cherry, cassis, and vanilla flavours. It was medium plus in body with medium silky tannins and good acidity to balance the fruit. Very nicely done. It had a long length with a dry cherry finish. A quality wine that coated the glass.

Travaglini Giancarolo Gattinara DOCG 2005 (Italy) was a light cherry / tea colour in the glass. Tea leaves, strawberries, cedar and slight oak on the nose. Light body, with medium mouthfeel. Good fruit, with flavours of plum and cherries. The tannins were firm but refined. Dry finish with medium length.

La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir 2008. (BC). This wine won a Silver in the Northwest Wine Summit this year, and two Gold medals at the Northwest Wine Summit in 2009. It had a nice smoky, strawberry nose with a hint of oak. Light body with strawberry and cherry flavours. Silky with low tannins. Long length with a cherry finish. Buy it before it is all sold out.

Nicol Vineyards Syrah 2008 (BC) is opaque purple in the glass. Vanilla and sweet dark fruit nose. Raspberries, red cherries, blueberries and a bit of minerality on the palate. Soft tannins. I do enjoy a syrah when the blueberry characteristic of the grape is detectable.

Bodega Noemia J Alberto 2008 (Argentina). This is a single vineyard Malbec. The vineyard and winery is certified biodynamic. This wine is deep purple in the glass. A very interesting nose with aromas of cassis, tar and cherries. Full bodied with a smooth round mouthfeel. Cassis, black plum, black cherry and quite spicy on the palate.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Washington).  Ethos is the top tier wine level from Chateau Ste Michelle.  The wine is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 3% Syrah. The wine is deep garnet in colour.  A nice nose, with aromas of capsicum, cherry, and meat.  Round on the palate with soft tannins.  Meaty, cassis, black cherry, and chocolate flavours.  The wine went through a very light filtering before being bottled, so don’t be surprised to see a bit of sediment in your glass.

Fortified / Dessert Wine

Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica Riesling Ice Wine 2006 (Washington). This wine was made in conjunction with Dr. Loosen from Germany. The Riesling grapes were harvested from their Horse Heaven Vineyard on Oct 31, which according to Chateau Ste Michelle is very rare.  This is only the fifth time in their 40 year history that this has occurred.  The wine was a medium golden colour in the glass.  Petrol, flowers, lemon nose.  Very pretty. Medium body, with a wonderful lime flavour, petrol, and good acidity to balance the sugar and fruit.  Medium sweetness.  Lovely lime finish.

Sparkling Wine

Moreson, Blanc de Blancs Brut Method Cap Classic, South Africa. This is 100% Chardonnay. A very fine bubble. Red apple, citrus, light spice and bready flavour. Long finish. Nice.

Enjoy this selection and stay tuned for my next blog article, where I will cover my wine selections from the main MyWinePal.com website.

Taste Chilean Wine Event 2010 in Vancouver

‘ve been a proud supporter of Chilean wines for many years. A year ago, I had an opportunity to go to Chile for my vacation, and visit many wineries in Aconcagua, Casablanca, Maipo, and Colchagua. Some of the wineries I was able to visit include Santa Rita, Casa Lapostolle, Montes, Montgras, and Casas del Bosque. The Chilean wineries I visited and winemakers I spoke with, take the health of their vines very seriously and try to use as much natural processes as possible. The climate is wonderful for grapes, and with the grapes growing on natural root stocks, you get a very true expression of the grape character.

Every September for many years, Wines of Chile, hold a tasting in Vancouver, and other cities across Canada. The Vancouver tasting is coming up soon, and the tickets are on sale. Below is the announcement from Wines of Chile, plus the link to purchase your tickets. Please come and try some wines from Supernatural Chile!  To find out about last year’s tasting you can click on my link to my Wines of Chile 2009 tasting blog.

Wines of Chile Consumer Event Details:

On Thursday, October 7, 2010, at 7:00pm a $39 ticket gives you the chance to mingle with Vancouver’s hottest wine lovers and Chilean wineries as they showcase their wines in Vancouver at Taste Chile 2010!

Meet visiting winemakers and taste wines from wine regions across Chile from more than 30 visiting wineries, each pouring up to six different wines at their table. Chilean style passed hors d’oeuvres will be provided to pair with the fabulous wines on offer. Educate yourself on Chilean wines while sampling additional wines at three focus stations. After tasting your way around the room, relax and enjoy the food and wine in our Santiago Lounge while taking in the sounds mixed by a local DJ.

Taste Chile 2010

W2 Storyeum – 151 West Cordova, Vancouver

Thursday, October 7th

7:00-9:30pm

Tickets $39

Charitable proceeds from the event will be donated to the Grapes for Humanity Canada.

For tickets and information, please visit www.winesofchile.ca.

Salud!

Chile Day 7 – Maipo Valley

Chile Day 7, Half way through my visit to Chile and the wineries I planned to visit. Today I visited 3 wineries spread across the Maipo Valley, south of Santiago. The first winery of the day was Santa Rita. I’ve met two of Santa Rita’s wine makers in the past through their visits to Vancouver, and now it is my turn to see the winery. Mr. Jose Ignacio Villalobo gave me a tour of their winery as well as pointing out the historical sites that are within the winery. One of the lines of wine is the “120” series. I’ll write about it when i’m back in Vancouver, but if you are interested, please check out Santa Rita’s website, www.santarita.cl. Mr. Villalobo had selected 5 wines for me to taste: 2 Sauvignon Blanc, 1 Carmenere, and 2 cabernet sauvignon. These wines were from their entry to to their premium levels. Although i can’t take you through all wines from all 3 wineries in this brief blog, i’ll point out a few wines. The Santa Rita Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008 had a mix of asparagus and citrus on the nose. Medium acidity, with more asparagus flavour as well as some herbaceousness and citrus. The wine had medium body and a bit of roundness. For a red, I’ll point out the Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2007. This one was deep garnet in colour, with cassis, back cherry and a hint of vanilla on the nose. Lots of black cherry flavour, with a bit of meatiness. The tannins were medium and allowed for a smooth mouthfeel. Nice.

 

The second winery of the day was Vina Undurraga. Their grounds and winery were beautiful, just like Santa Rita. I’d love to just spend a day at each on their grounds enjoying the sites. At Undurraga I met with a wine maker named Pilar. She led me through a tasting of 5 different wines; 2 whites, 2 reds, and 1 sparkling. I found out that Undurraga has a range of sparkling wines. Hopefully we will get them in BC sometime soon. A white from Undurraga was the Sibaris Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from the cool climate, Leyda Valley. This wine was light lemon in colour. It had a sweet and saliness to the nose with lemon and a herbal note. It was quite high in acidity making it quite refreshing. I tasted green fruit, herbaceousness and some lemon. it had a long length with a spicy finish. On the red wine side, I enjoyed the Sibaris Carmenere, 2008 from the Colchagua Valley. This wine spent 23 months barrel aging in French and American oak. It was deep purple in the glass with good legs. It had tarry, meaty, cassis ad a bit of capsicum aromas. On the palate there as tar, vanilla and black cherry. It was quite smooth in the mouth with a slight peppery and dark fruit finish.

The third winery of the day was from Vina Tarapaca ex Zavala. This winery was a bit out of the way but well worth it. It has 8 km of private road that leads you to the winery. You drive through their vineyards along the side of the valley overlooking I think the Maipo River. Once there, there is beautiful grounds, and a private airstrip! Mr. Edward Flaherty, winemaker, led me through the tastings of his wines. Edward is originally from California, but has been living in Chile for many years. A white wine I enjoyed was the La Isla Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from the Leyda Valley. This wine ha a herbal nose with some green pepper, some floweriness and some lime. It had a ice round mouthfeel which was balanced with medium acidity in the glass. Green pepper and herbal flavours, with a long length. For the reds, I enjoyed the Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Maipo Valley. This wine was deep garnet in colour. very aromatic. Tar, ripe black fruit and cassis aromas. On the palate, there was tar, cassis, and black cherry. The tannins were medium, leading to a dry, sweet ripe black fruit finish. Very tasty.

That is all from the Maipo Valley. I’ll provide full tasting notes for all the wines once i’m back in Vancouver. The next valley for me to visit is the Colchagua Valley. Saludos!

Santa Rita Winery event at Boneta

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} catch(err) {}Last night was a lot of fun. I was invited to meet a new winemaker from Vina Santa Rita winery, Mr. Carlos Gatica Llop, retry their range of wines, and enjoy some food from Boneta Restaurant. Carlos is a very friendly guy, who has worked in France and Spain, before working for Santa Rita in Chile. He has his feet in both the Old and New Worlds.

For those that are not familar with Vina Santa Rita, it was founded in 1880 by Domingo Fernandez Concha. The winery currently owns vineyards in the Maipo, Casablanca, Rapel, Leyda, Lontue and Limari valleys. They own the 2nd largest vineyard area in Chile.

I was fortunate enough many years ago to meet Santa Rita’s senior wine maker, Mr. Andres Ilabaca, during a South World Wine Society wine maker dinner at the Seasons in the Park Restaurant in Queen Elizabeth Park. Now I have met Mr. Carlos Gatica Llop, their newest wine maker. I couldn’t get Carlos to pick a favourite wine from Santa Rita. To him it is like choosing your favorite child. All your children are your favorite. But I can pick a few of my favorites!

The Medalla Real Single Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 ($20.99) was wonderful. Opaque purple in the glass. Capscium and black fruit on the nose. Black fruit, licorice, and a bit of spice flavour. Smooth.

The Floresta Apalta Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($55.99) was also an excellent wine. It is from 100 year old vines. Earthy, rich nose. Black fruit and black cherry flavours. Medium/fine tannins.

Other wines that are worth a buy are:
Pehuen 2005 ($55.99) a premium wine made with 85% carmenere and 15% cabernet sauvignon.
Floresta Petite Sirah / Sirah 2003 and 2005 vintages are around in BC ($32.49). Lots of black fruit and licorice.
120 Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99) A really inexpensive sauvignon blanc with LOTS of flavour.

Boneta served a variety of salads, gnocci, sausages with chicken and white beans. All were delicious and paired nicely with the wines I tried. For more info about Boneta click here.