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More Chilean Wines

VIĐA ALMAVIVA
Is this project the marriage of a French Bordeaux firm and a major Chilean winery or is it the "Marriage of Figaro"?  Well, it's a little of both!

In 1997 the Bordeaux firm of Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Chile's Concha y Toro signed on to this joint venture called "Almaviva," named after the Count Almaviva of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."  

Apparently they were buoyed by the success of Rothschild's Napa collaboration with the Robert Mondavi winery, so why not try the same venture in another part of the New World?

Concha y Toro first planted the Puente Alto (south of Santiago) vineyard in 1978.  Since taking on Baron Philippe's team, they've added Malbec and Petit Verdot to the Cabernet Sauvignon, CarmenŔre and Cabernet Franc.  

The first vintage was culled from Concha y Toro's 1996 harvest.  This was a nice enough wine, but you could really taste the difference and the French influence in 1997 and 1998 (especially).  One would be hard-pressed to guess that 1998 is (was) a difficult vintage in Chile!  The wine is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon.  Maturation in a high percentage of new French oak gives a wonderfully cedary character.  I found blackberries, sweet oak, a touch of anise and cassis in this wine.  Very drinkable now, though I suppose this may cellar well for another 5-10 years.  

The 2006 vintage was also very fine, this wine having some elements which are quite reminiscent of top Bordeaux, though it is a bit tannic and backwards at this young age.  We expect this to need several more years before reaching its potential.  It's very fine and stylish and you can taste the French influence here, in my view.

The harvest was unusually late in 2006...they were picking grapes into May.  Cabernet dominates the blend, but there's a fair bit of Carmenere with 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% of Merlot.  Dark fruit notes dominate with a nice bit of a cedary tone from the oak.  

 
 
The brain-trust marketing this wine decided they ought to increase the pricing to a level comparable to some of Napa's famous Cabernet bottlings or somewhat modest French Bordeaux wines.  
In early 2016 a customer asked if we had any bottles of Almaviva and we told him the new inflated pricing was precisely why we DID NOT have the wine.
Oh...and by the way, a wine geek friend from Europe told us he had seen the wine there for about $80-$90 a bottle, well under the wholesale pricing here in California.

Just by chance we happened to check the pricing in September of 2016 and, lo and behold, the wine was still premium-priced, but far less than it had been earlier in the year.
Maybe they got the message from the market saying it won't accept Almaviva at a stupidly high price?

The 2013 is 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Carmenere, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Merlot.  It spent a year and a half in French oak, with nearly 3/4s of the barrels being brand new.  The wine shows a nice cedary note from the oak and lots of red fruit tones.  It's showing well presently and ought to age well for at least another 5-10 years.

Currently in stock:  2013 Vi˝a Almaviva (List $135) SALE $99.99
 

 

VIĐA SAN PEDRO
Thisgato.gif (12049 bytes) winery has undergone numerous changes in ownership since its inception in 1865.  The current proprietor is a beer company and they don't use lizards, iguanas or dogs to sell their wines.  Nope.  

But they do make a wine we call "Catbernet Sauvignon."  It's one of the more ubiquitous wines in Chile having a black cat on the label.  "Gato Negro" is made of Cabernet and Merlot.  It's a nice, simple table red that's essentially a Beaujolais-styled wine.  We suggest serving it (the bottle, not you) lightly chilled. 

Currently available: "Gato Negro" Catbernet  SALE  $5.99 750ml







 
ERRAZURIZ / CALITERRA
Robert Mondavi imported these wines and I believe they may even have had an ownership stake in this Aconcagua River Valley producer.  The property went by the name Panquehue, so you can imagine that initial attempts at selling wine with the name "Errazuriz Panquehue" were difficult.   Mondavi is now out of the picture, no longer associated with this winery and no longer importing its wines.


The one wine in the portfolio we've found to be novel, interesting AND worth its price is a late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc.  It's a very nice dessert wine and just $14.99 for a half-bottle.  They froze some of the grapes in order to obtain a sweeter result.  The grapes are frozen and then pressed...this yields more sugar in the resulting juice.  It's very fruity and moderately sweet.


 The real collaboration between Mondavi and Errazuriz is a red wine called "Sea," a Cabernet-based red from the Aconcagua Valley.  I've tasted it a couple of times and find it to be a likeable wine.  They call it "the signature wine of Chile."  I'm not sure whose signature it is, but I know with the fifty-dollar price tag on it, a lot of people will have trouble reading the handwriting.
Currently available: 
2006 Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc Sold Out
1999 "Se˝a" Sold Out







 
LOS VASCOS
The Rothschilds of ChÔteau Lafite have investments around the globe. losvascos.gif (15237 bytes)They purchased the Los Vascos property in the Colchagua Valley of Chile a few years ago.   With some 2000 hectares of land, vineyards cover 25% of the estate.  They make something like 200,000 cases of wine here annually. 

Initial efforts had lots of green bean aromas, a sign of over-cropped fruit (or, at least, immature grapes).  The latest Cabernets of "normal" designation have improved somewhat and the wines are quite respectable.  I'm not sure if, given the Rothschild name on the label, I'm not expecting a grander wine.  

We had been disappointed in their higher-priced reds early on, but the past couple of "Le Dix" bottlings have been stellar.  The 2012 is currently available.

The Reserve shows hints of "Lafite" in this Cabernet as the wine shows nice woodsy, pencil-shavings sorts of fragrances.  It's a medium-bodied red which actually has some elements of the grace and finesse of Lafite.   Since the 2002 vintage, each has gained in quality and complexity.   We are even willing to suggest this wine over most California Cabernets in a similar price range...that's a first!
 
 
 
The top-of-the-line wine is called Le Dix de Los Vascos, first made for the 10th anniversary of the Rothschild's "occupation" of the Chilean wine scene.  We tasted the 2003 and 2004 vintages years ago and found them to be worthy of purchase.  And the wines since then have been terrific.  Really good...you can actually smell and taste the "Lafite" influence in the wine.  It's impressive.  2010 is the current vintage.

Their basic bottling, a 2013, is a perfectly serviceable wine, but not in the same league in terms of quality or price.  If you're just having something simple such as mildly-seasoned lamb or beef, this is a good, solid bottle and reminiscent of basic, entry-level Bordeaux.

We have (finally) purchased our first white wine from Los Vascos.  They make a rather standard, ordinary Chardonnay and we've not been thrilled by that wine...


But the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was worth trying.  It's a blend of Sauvignon Blanc from different regions and perhaps this accounts for its special character.  We find it teeters on 'wild' or herbal notes typical of cool climate Sauvignons and citrusy/melon notes of warmer region wines.  No oak.  Dry.  Fresh and nicely expressive for a ten buck white wine.
Perfect as a cocktail white or with seafood dishes.
 


Currently available:  2013 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon (list price $12) SALE $9.99
2012 Los Vascos Reserve Cabernet (list $20)
SALE $17.99
2011 Le Dix de Los Vascos (list $50)
SALE $57.99
2009 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc  Sold Out







CONCHA y TORO
conchaytoro.gif (13576 bytes)A humungous winery, these people sell but a modest amount of wine here in the U.S.  I read sales tallied to something like 2 million cases.  In the U.S. alone! 

 Much of their wine is basic "plonk."  They now are marketing the standard wines with the designation "Sunrise."  I suppose these are to be consumed out of coffee cups in the morning.  

Then they have their "Casillero del Diablo" label, a significantly better wine.  

The top of the line is a Cabernet bearing the "Don Melchor" label. 
Currently available: Cabernet/Merlot "Valle Central" $4.99  ($8.99 magnums)
Frontera Chardonnay "Valle Central"  SPECIAL $5.49
"Sunrise" Merlot  Valle Central   sale $5.99
"Casillero del Diablo" Casablanca Chardonnay $10.50
"Casillero del Diablo" Maipo Cabernet   $10.99
2006 "Don Melchor" Maipo Cabernet  SALE $69.99 (limited)
Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99







COUSIĐO MACUL
wpe31.jpg (4074 bytes)This famous Chilean winery has been in the hands of the Cousi˝o family since the mid-1800s.  
The winery is close to Santiago and vineyards were planted with cuttings brought back from Europe.  They, apparently, got vines from Germany (Riesling!), as well as France.  
One of their early winemakers was a French man who left during the scourge of the root-louse, Phylloxera.  His expertise helped establish a good name for Cousi˝o Macul. 
The wines from this producer are highly-regarded by Chileans.  I have tasted these wines over the years and think they were, perhaps, a bit more remarkable compared to their competitors some years ago. 

The current wines are of good quality, but not excitingly so. Still, these wines have their fans and we notice many customers who became familiar with these wines in Santiago.  

The 2011 Cabernet is 100% varietal and entirely from the Valle Central. Oak is not a major part of this wine...you'll find more black fruits (plums and blackberries) than anything else.  It's intended for immediate drinking or rather short term aging...I wouldn't keep this for more than a couple of years.
Currently in stock:  2011 Cabernet Sauvignon $11.99
2010 Chardonnay $10.99




APALTAGUA

apaltagua-enveroHere's a Chilean winery owned by an American fellow who's a Cab fanatic.

Well, maybe he enjoys Cabernet Sauvignon, but it seems the fellow, Edward Tutunjian, is a major mover & shaker in Boston's taxi cab scene.

This guy was born in Jordan to parents of Armenian descent.  The family immigrated to the Boston area and the fellow, as a youngster, worked as a cab driver.

After investing in Chilean vineyards, you might say he's still a "Cab driver."  

We tasted a Carmenere-based red called "Envero" which we thought was not only good quality, but good value (it costs less than a cab ride from Burlingame to San Francisco, for example).
The wine comes from 60+ year old vineyards and they do a cold soak before starting the fermentation.  After the juice is fermented, about 60% of it goes into wood.  They use both French and American cooperage.  
The other 40% stays in stainless steel, so they can moderate the presence of oak in the wine.  We think the balance is pretty good, but you might find the wood to dominate.  As they say in the taxi business, "your mileage may vary."

The tannin level is modest, so enjoying this tonight with something grilled would be perfectly fine.

We have the 2014 in stock presently.  It's a good value, too.

Currently in stock:  2014 APALTAGUA Colchagua Valley CARMENERE "Envero"  $15.99






KINGSTON FAMILY VINEYARDS

A member of the Kingston family traveled from Michigan to Chile to seek his fortune.  He'd made the long trek there in the early 1900s, taking a job as a mining engineer for the Cerro de Pasco Mining Company.  But, while he never really struck gold, five generations later his descendants did.   But with wine!

Courtney Kingston and her husband Andy Pflaum have lived in the Bay Area town of Woodside.  But they split their time between here and Chile.
 
Former Weimax staffer Monica Ugarte spent a harvest season in Chile at the Kingston estate, meeting Kingston's lab technician, Pilar Jara (on the left) and causing all kinds of trouble!  (Just kidding.)

Monica learned a ton about Chilean wines and culture.  She was such a good intern there, they insisted she stick around.  She did, but just until it was time to head to Italy's Barolo region to work a harvest with the Oddero family.
 
Kingston collaborates with California winemaker Byron Kosuge who worked many years for Saintsbury before launching his own label.
 
Kosuge knows how to make Pinot Noir and he's got a good touch with Syrah.
 
We have a couple of red wines from Kingston.
 
There's a 2011 Pinot Noir called Tobiano.

They make a more costly Pinot Noir, but we've typically preferred this one for both quality and value.
Tobiano Pinot spends about ten months in French oak and it shows lovely, classic Pinot Noir fruit.  We detect hints of cherry and maybe a rhubarb note (or is that pomegranate?)...red fruits, anyway.  There's a faintly earthy note, too, so on the nose you might guess this to be from Burgundy.  But it's a bit softer and rounder on the palate than a French wine, so you might conclude it's a nice mix of Old World and New.

Syrah is called Lucero.

Syrah, at the outset, was just for kicks, but now it's a major part of the Kingston line-up.
We find elements here which we appreciate in Northern Rh˘ne Syrah wines.  There's a smoky/hickory sort of note, a touch of tapenade and a bit of spice.

These are good wines and they're well-priced, too.
 

Currently in stock:  2011 TOBIANO PINOT NOIR $22.99
2010 LUCERO SYRAH  $16.99

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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