Chile: Chock full of Springtime Wonder

5:22 pm Chile, Tasting Notes

Springtime is glorious in Chile.  Sunshine abounds and vineyards are bursting with new life; the 2009 vintage of Chilean wine has been born.   A delightful, enlightening trip this month (in their mid-springtime, November) uncovered more than a few stunning examples of why wines from Chile are making their mark around the world.   One that may be most known here is Carmenere. 

Carmenere resurfaced in Chile in the 1990’s after it was thought to be extinct in Bordeaux when phylloxera destroyed the vineyards in France.  Interestingly, around that time, Chile was planting vineyards they believed were Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The Merlot that Chile produced seemed to have a much more pronounced spiciness and a different fruit profile than what is typically found in Merlot.  Inquiring minds and palates were moved to study this further, and upon completion of DNA studies, it was learned that the previously identified Merlot plantings were actually Carmenere.  Chile rapidly expanded the planting and production of this lush, spicy varietal; often called “Chile’s varietal”.   Stay tuned for more about several Carmenere gems, noteworthy Cabernet Sauvignon, and other impressive wines made in Chile.

 In the foothills of the Andes Mountains in the Maipo Valley you will find the picturesque Vina Haras de Pirque property owned by the Matte family.  They share their love of world class wine with their passion for raising thoroughbred horses, and continue to receive accolades in both regards.  Winemaker Cecilia Guzman explains there are 140 hectares of vineyards planted on the 600 hectare estate.  They produce wines at their uniquely designed horseshoe shaped gravity fed winery built on a hillside.   Their vertical shoot positioning trellis system in the vineyards provides for excellent canopy management, good air flow and optimum exposure to the sun.  Their wines are aged in 100% French oak:

2006 Elegance (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) showcases cassis, raspberry jam, subtle oak notes and an herbal earthiness that adds complexity.  A bit restrained in its youth; this full bodied, structured wine has plenty of tannins to balance the dense fruit.  This wine promises to age with grace and refinement for years to come.  

Tasting the 2000 vintage Elegance gave us a peak at what the 06 vintage will grow into with its pretty dark fruit, cassis and tobacco flavors filling the palate expansively.  It is well balanced with nicely integrated oak, finishing long with cedar, leather and herbal notes.

From various regions around Chile, we enjoyed a tasting of  “garage” wines (term used for those crafting a limited production of wine in a small facility or their own garage).  Derek Knapp led us through an informative tasting, with highlights including:

Meli 2005 Riesling from Maule Valley:  Flinty, stone notes fill the nose; followed by lean, focused stone fruit flavors and a splash of citrus filling the palate; delightfully delicious.

Flaherty 2005:  From the Aconcogua region comes this nicely balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Syrah (40%).  Ripe plumminess rises from the glass and remains bright and focused with accents of vanilla and a hint of spice; pretty finish too.

Garage Wine Company 2006 #50 Syrah:  Made from grapes grown in the Aconcogua Valley in Chile’s central valley, this meaty, richly fruited Syrah with small bit of Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) is a gem.  Layers of smoky toast and cocoa tantalize the palate, weaving through generous dark berries at the core.   

Also impressive from the Garage Wine Company is their 2007 #14 Alto Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with 5% Carmenere from grapes grown in area of the Maipo Valley closest to the Andes.  Although still a baby, this wine screams mountain cab, with its big structure, minerality and dense, layered fruit.   Oak presence is evident now and will become increasingly more integrated as it continues to age – a powerhouse wine that should develop very nicely.

 At the prominent Concha y Toro estate (where they welcomed their 100,000th visitor this month) we were treated to a broad range of delectable wines, including several priced to fit most any pocketbook. 

2007 Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc (around $15) from the Casablanca Valley.  Situated close to the ocean, this region offers a cool Mediterranean climate, well suited for this varietal.   Mouthwatering aromatics are full of freshly mowed grass and herbal qualities.  Bright citrus focused fruit and racy acidity shine brightly from entry, through the palate, to the attractive finish that captures a pleasing touch of honey. 

Their 2006 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay from the Maipo Valley opens with aromas of roasted almonds and stone fruit, and showcases a judicious use of oak.  In the mouth, an artful blend of minerality alongside creamy, ripe pear and peach flavors delicately intertwine with zesty lime and lemony citrus notes.  Beautifully balanced!

2007 Casillero del Diablo Carmenere:  Incredible aromatics on this classic Carmenere lead to an abundance of black plums and juicy blackberries on mid palate, with a thread of sweet green pepper and plenty of spiciness.  Muscular tannins with plenty of fruit to balance them out.  What a steal at around $10.

2006 Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada:  A seamless blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) from the Pirque Vineyard in Maipo Valley and Syrah (40%) from the slopes of Peumo, Rapel Valley.  Opens with dark fruit and licorice aromas, round and full on the palate with layers of currant, blackberry and cherry and hints of eucalyptus.  Beautifully integrated and balanced with a juicy finish.

 2005 Don Melcher Cabernet Sauvignon: One of Concha y Toro’s top of the line offerings (named after founders Don Melcher and his wife Dona) comes from the Puente Alto vineyard in the Maipo Valley.  This blockbuster Cab that greets the nose with cassis, black cherry and tobacco notes.  Focused with good depth of concentrated fruit, a touch of anise, artful oak integration on mid palate, and a good dollop of spice including black pepper, thyme and basil adding dimension on the finish.  Structured tannins suggest a long life, too. 

Anakena Winery: Founded by Felipe Ibáñez and Jorge Gutiérrez, this property is handsomely perched at the foothills of the Andes mountains in the Alto Rapel Valley.  They planted the first vineyards in 1999, and today they have over 400 hectares planted in various terroirs in Chile including the Ninguen Hill in Colchagua, Leyda in the San Antonio Valley and Alto Cachapoal in the Rapel Valley.  We were warmly welcomed by Tatiana Cerda and chief winemaker Gonzalo Perez. 

We were simply wow’d by their 2008 Ona white, which is a blend of Riesling, Chardonnay and Viognier; what a palate pleaser!  Gorgeous florality in the nose, with notes of stony minerality, herbal essence and ripe peach and apricot flavors that meld together in perfect harmony and compliment the lively acidity.  Refreshingly bright and ever so quaffable.

 2008 Anakena Viognier:  From the Alto Cachapoal Valley this single vineyard viognier’s exotic floral, perfumed nose is irresistible and the mouth feel is equally impressive.  Flavors of ripe peaches sprinkled with ginger and nutmeg flourish on the palate and the finish is soft and elegant with subtle oak notes. 

2006 Anakena Carmenere: Spicy, smoky aromas waft from the glass, and the minute the purplish red hued elixir meets your lips, inviting flavors of warm blackberry compote laced with toffee open up and remain full and focused.  Attractive minerality and coffee overtones last through the lingering finish.  This 100% Carmenere from the Rapel Valley is one amazing bargain for around $10.  The 2007 is fabulous as well; similar fruit profile and a bit earthier than 2006 with a touch of green pepper and finely structured tannins along with a delectable coffee, toffee, praline finish.

 2007 Anakena ONA red blend:  A lively blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Carmenere (30%) and Syrah (20%) all from the Rapel Valley that boasts a cornucopia of flavors.  The Cab’s firm tannins and cassis flavors at the core, the Carmenere’s sweet, chewy berry fruit and dash of spice, and the earthy, meaty essence of the Syrah meld together brilliantly and seamlessly.  This well crafted wine is approachable now, yet built to last for years. 

 Viu Manent:  In the 1930’s Miguel Viu Garcia and his two sons formed the Bodegas Viu Wine Company and the family winery has expanded and grown from there ever since.  Today they have 270 hectares of planted vineyards in the Colchagua Valley, and produce about 170,000 cases of wine.  Chief Winemaker Grant Phelps provided an entertaining and enlightening tour and tasting of several vintages of their Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.

1999 Cab Sauvignon:  Essence of oak and tea leaf in the nose; followed by dark berry fruit flavors framed by fresh rosemary and dried herbs; a nicely developed wine with soft elegant tannins and a clean, lingering finish.

 2001 Cab Sauvignon:  Enticing fruity aromas followed by a mouthful of juicy blackberries, cassis and hint of toasty oak and spice on mid palate broadcast a varietally correct and lovely drinking Cabernet Sauvignon.   This vintage is full bodied, round and balanced, with dry tannins offsetting the juicy fruit perfectly.

 2003 Cab Sauvignon:  Abundantly fruit driven in the nose; with a seductive entry leading to a bright explosion of ripe black cherry and raspberry flavors zinging around the palate.  The generous fruit is complimented by anise and eucalyptus accents and attractive nuances of spice and French oak barrel aging.  Ends with a viscous, smooth cherry cordial finish. 

2004 Cab Sauvignon:  Smoky aromatics make way for enticing soy and freshly picked wild berries on center stage, with a kick of spice and hints of toasty oak that add another dimension.   Extremely balanced and well structured with supple tannins.

2005 Cab Sauvignon:  Cherry liqueur aromatics transition seductively to gobs of ripe berry and cassis cloaked in spice on mid palate.  Juicy and inviting with plenty of complexity.  Oh so rich, with silky, refined tannins and a forever finish.

2006 Cab Sauvignon:  Pretty florality and a splash of root beer on the nose; leading to a mouthful of generous, juicy blackberries framed by subtle oak and anise.  Still young and tightly woven with powerfully structured tannins, this wine will age beautifully. 

The vertical tasting of Viu Manent Malbec revealed vintages displaying a commonality of soy, bacon fat, and brown spices:

2000 Malbec:  Intense soy and teriyaki aromas at first whiff lead to dusty herbs and dried fruit on the palate.  Tannins hold firm through the finish with dried berries and a slight tobacco leaf note showing through.  Balanced and drinking well now; should continue to show well over the next couple of years.

 2001 Malbec:  Aroma full of violets and wild berries that carry through on mid palate with faint hints of soy and root beer.  Soft, round and more delicate than the 2000 vintage with berry fruit, subtle oak and gentle tannins blending artfully, creating an ethereal mouthfeel and clean finish.

2003 Malbec:  Intense berry aromatics and pie spices jump from the glass and lead to a viscous mouthful of blackberry, mushroom, soy and brown spices coating the palate richly.  Firm, velvety tannins and powerful fruit suggest a long life.

 2004 Malbec:  Opens with intriguing bacon fat and soy in the nose; which diminishes with aeration and transition to a pretty florality.  Firm, structured tannins wrapped around a core of concentrated black and red fruits are dominant on the palate, complimented by spice notes and soy. 

2005 Malbec:  With this vintage the aromatics are all about herbs and soy; followed by black fruits and a generous dollop of pumpkin pie spice on the palate.  Lovely texture on the palate, with a huge tannic backbone surrounded by blackberry and currant fruit accented with nutmeg.  Full bodied and bold; will last for years.

2006 Malbec:  A distinctive nose of soy and caramelized brown sugar lead to a mouthful of dark raspberry fruit laced with toffee – delicious.   Showcases a beautiful purity of fruit, with toasty oak, coffee and a pleasant smokiness that add complexity on the palate.  Additional aging time should further integrate the layered flavors, if you can wait!

2007 Malbec:  Soy and liquid smoke dominate the aromas, with a young wine grapiness still lingering.  After aeration, fresh red cherry and raspberry flavors begin to shine through; yet still a bit angular.  A full bodied wine with firm tannins and generous fruit that will blossom more fully as it further matures. 

 Vina Montes located in Colchagua was founded by Aurelio Montes, Douglas Murray, Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand back in the 1980’s.  Their 1987 Montes Apalta Cabernet Sauvignon became the first premium export Chilean wine, which opened up a path soon followed by other Chilean wine producers.  They unveiled their new winery at Apalta in the Colchagua Valley in December 2004.   Here is a snapshot of some of their impressive wines:

 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Limited Selection:  From the Leyda Valley comes this fabulous example of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, with aromatics of fresh mowed grass and focused citrus notes.  From the initial entry through the palate, lively grapefruit grabs the taste buds and holds plenty of interest with its racy acidity, fresh kiwi and citrus fruit intermingling handsomely. 

 2008 Rose of Syrah:  Crushed raspberries on the nose followed by snappy cranberry, strawberry and raspberry flavors blending harmoniously on the palate.  Appropriately dry and fresh with a pleasing note of minerality, and very clean and vibrant on the finish.

2008  Montes Pinot Noir Limited Selection:  From the Casablanca Valley, bright red cherry aromas draw you fully into this Pinot Noir.  The cherry fruit flavors are enhanced with red licorice and a delightful smokiness through the palate.  A well balanced, medium bodied Pinot Noir with a pleasurable texture.  The finish is long and lingering; quite a bargain at about $14. 

 2007 Montes Cabernet/Carmenere Limited Selection:  From the Colchagua Valley this charming blend opens with black raspberry aromas and explodes on the palate with raspberry, cassis, spices and black licorice notes accompanied by a flavorsome nuttiness through the finish. 

2005 Montes Purple Angel:   Here is a stunning example of Carmenere from Chile (blended with 8% Petite Verdot).   Provocative aromas of tobacco and dark berries in the nose make you want to linger endlessly before taking the first sip.  Once you do, the black fruits stand tall on the palate, surrounded by enticing herbs, smoke, subtle oak and a hint of chocolate.  The lush, concentrated fruit is well balanced with the velvety tannins; an angel indeed!

2005 Montes Apalta M:  From the slopes of Apalta, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Cabernet Franc (10%), Merlot (5%) and Petite Verdot (5%) with its inviting fruity, herbal aromas has a rich texture and tons of complexity.  Layers of mushroom, toffee, black currant and a generous sprinkling of fresh herbs unwind stylishly on the palate; and linger through the lasting finish.

 Neyen de Apalta:  The Raul Rojas family had owned the 125 hectare property for decades, and in 2002 the winery was born.  The original Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards were planted back in 1890 in the Apalta Valley of the Colchagua Valley.  Thirty of the original hectares provide the foundation for their premium wines today.  Neyen produces 1500 cases of their highly respected red blend wine from deeply rooted vines:

Neyen 2003:  This darkly hued blend of Carmenere (70%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) opens gracefully with smoky, blackberry aromas, and glides heavenly over the palate with rich fruit and beautiful oak integration (70% new French oak).  It is balanced and boasts a long, lingering finish.

 Neyen 2004:  Spice comes forward expressively in the nose of this vintage, followed by black currant,  berry, a pretty touch of oak and enhancing spice that broadens fully in the mouth.  Very focused and elevated on the palate, with a smooth texture and a similar impressive long finish as the 2003 vintage.

Neyen 2005:  Notes of tobacco compliments the berry flavors that rise from the glass, and continue to build with dark red and black fruits on the palate.  Complex with layers of black and red fruit and spice and pretty, velvety tannins; built to last for years.

Vina Echeverria:   The vineyards and winery of Vina Echeverria (owned and managed by the Echeverria family) are located at parallel 35 degrees south in Molina, Curico Valley, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.  Head winemaker Roberto Echeverria Jr. shared with us the family’s passion for all that happens in the vineyard and beyond; treating the vines and fruit with utmost care.  Roberto emphasizes that no pesticides are used in the vineyard; they are meticulous about integrated pest management.  In the glass, their passion shows through clearly:

2008 Sauvignon Blanc:  Enticing herbal, green pepper and mineral notes in the nose; followed by a burst of grapefruit, lemon and mineral notes on the palate.  The juicy citrus fruit and focused acidity are refreshing, bright and clean, a treat on a warm sunny day, or anytime; and what a bargain at around $10!

2005 Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon:  Anise and plums come forward in the aromas of this Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Syrah and 5% Carmenere adding complexity.  Black currant, plums, chocolate, caramel and anise are layered artfully on the palate and expand broadly through the pleasing, persistent finish. 

2001 Echeverria Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon:  Opens with ripe berries and licorice on the nose, eucalyptus and minerality accent the blackberry and plums that fill the mouth.  The bright palate of fruit and sweet tannins are well integrated and delightfully balanced.

2004 Echeverria Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon:  Opens with inviting aromas of cocoa and black cherries, and once it hits your palate it’s as though you’ve bitten into a deliciously juicy chocolate covered cherry; truly irresistible.  Plush tannins with elegance across the palate, and the finish is bright and persistent. 

2005 Echeverria Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon:  Opens with understated mixed herbs and licorice in the nose; and then a blast of plums and black currant surrounded by leather and spice notes explodes onto the palate – wow.  A richly orchestrated mosaic of flavors with wonderfully sweet tannins, and finishes divinely.

1999 Special Selection Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc:  Honey and sherry-like on the nose, complex and viscous on the palate, with flavors of brandied fruit cake and figs complimented by honeyed nut flavors.  Beautiful botrytis characteristics; this vintage could hold its own against many famous sauternes.   Great depth and intensity with a heavenly finish that goes on and on and on!

2005 Special Selection Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc:  Clearly a younger version of its 1999 predecessor.  With this 2005 vintage, bright honeysuckle welcomes you into the glass and blossoms richly with apricot, honey and candied orange notes.  Creamy and viscous yet plenty of acidity to balance it out; look to the future as this will age with grace and become even more alluring as it matures.

El Huique Wine Cellars:  The adobe building at El Huique was built in the 1870’s and vineyards were planted in the 1930’s, at which time some of the buildings were transformed into wine production cellars.  The beautiful 5,000 sq. meter interior patio is planted with vines and surrounded by lovely floral enhanced verandas.   Favorite wines here include:

2004 Carmenere:  From 25 year old vines, this Carmenere boldly showcases green pepper and spicy tea in the nose; and juicy red cherry fruit laced with spice on the palate with accents of green, pink and black peppercorn notes weaving throughout.  Lush, elegant and well balanced with firm tannins.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Marchigue Estate:  Primarily Cab Sauvignon with 4% Cabernet Franc blended in; this wine is brimming full of intriguing anise and green pepper aromas.  Focused blackberry, black plums, currant and tobacco flavors are bold and nicely layered on the palate.  The impressive complexity with structured tannins holding up the generous fruit suggests excellent ageability.

Lapostole:  As we toured the stunning property and viewed the vineyards at Casa Lapostole, the energy and excitement was tangible.  They had just been awarded the coveted Wine Spectator 2008 Wine of the Year for their 2005 Clos Apalta (Colchagua Valley)!  They practice biodynamic farming for this highly acclaimed blend of Carmenere, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The berries are handpicked in small baskets and sorted and destemmed by hand, as well.  They restrict the yield to ensure ideal concentration of fruit, which is evident in their wines.  During the impressive tour and tasting we were reminded that Chile has the unique distinction of growing grapes on original, ungrafted vitis vinifera rootstock.    Favorites here included:

2008 Casa Sauvignon Blanc:  Here is a striking marriage of flinty mineral characteristics, lemon lime, peach and melon that ooze from the glass with the delectable layered fruit flavors on the palate.  A distinctive spine of acidity keeps it crisp and balanced; what a steal for around $10.

2007 Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay:  A brilliant, sparkling hue with aromas of just ripe fruit and minerality that persist from the nose through the palate is just the beginning.  Juicy stone fruit flavors are focused at the core with a dose of butter and warm spices, and a delightful viscosity with enough acidity to keep it lively and fresh.  Finishes with a lip-smacking honeyed note.

2006 Cuvee Alexandre Merlot:  Almost a biscuity quality in the nose surrounds ripe black raspberry, plum fruit and an attractive earthiness in this Merlot blended with 15% Carmenere.  Black and pink crushed peppercorns add another dimension and keep you reaching for more!

1999 Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon:  Inviting smoky, earthy, tobacco notes in the nose; consistent with a palate full of alluring forest floor mushrooms and red currants.  Beautifully integrated with sweet tannins that top off the lingering finish.

2006 Clos Apalta:  A blend of Carmenere, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that grabs your full attention from the dark purple hue, to the rich black cherry, blueberry nose, to the creme de cassis, cherry and blueberry exploding on the palate, through the perfectly integrated oak, refined tannins and everlasting finish; wow.

Vina Casa Marin:  Located in the village of Lo Abarca (2.5 miles from the coast) in San Antonio Valley, this family owned winery is proud to own and manage Chile’s closest vineyards to the Pacific Ocean.   As you would imagine, the San Antonio Valley appellation is influenced by this close proximity to the ocean; a climate ideal for growing grapes.  Oswaldo treated us to a wonderful vineyard tour, and a unique, special tasting that won’t be forgotten.  Favorites include:

2007 Laurel Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc:  Incredibly welcoming aromas of citrus and herbal notes jump from the glass and carry through on the palate with layers of melon, nectarine, grapefruit, and a lovely thread of minerality.  Full bodied, lively and focused with plenty of acidity keeping it fresh and bright from start to very satisfying finish. 

2004 Lo Abarca Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir:  I must say I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over by Pinot Noir in Chile; but this one from the cool San Antonio Valley really grabbed my attention.    It begins with a smoky, dried cherry nose and fans out richly on the palate with lush black cherry and freshly crushed berry fruit, spicy accents and forest floor nuances.  Silky tannins and perfectly integrated oak add to its charm; simply irresistible!

The Garces Silva Family is at the helm at the Amayna property in the Leyda region in San Antonio Valley.  Warm days and cool nights suit their vineyards well.   Grapes are hand picked, followed by a meticulous hand selection process, and treated with great care each step of the way in their gravity fed facility.  Among their impressive wines are:

 Amanya 2007 Sauvignon Blanc:  All about tropical fruit in the nose; sun ripened papaya, pineapple and banana waft from the glass.  The mouth feel is creamy and the expressive fruit laced with herbs really captures the taste buds.  A vivid thread of acidity balances the rich fruit impeccably.

Amanya 2006 Chardonnay:  Aged in 50% oak and 50% stainless steel, this Chardonnay opens with toasted marshmallow and buttered biscuits on the nose; followed by essence of banana cream pie and roasted nuts on the palate.  Complex and nicely crafted with an attractive hint of oak lingering through the finish. 

Amanya 2007 Pinot Noir:  Another beautiful Pinot Noir from Chile, this one from Leyda in the San Antonio Valley – I’m a believer now!  The lovely perfumed nose of violets and a hint of smoke are intoxicating.   Focused and clean on the palate with cola and spice wrapped around ripe raspberry and black cherry fruit at the core.  Elegant with velvety smooth tannins and a memorable finish. 

Vina Errazuriz was founded by Don Maximiano Errazuriz in 1870 in the Aconcagua Valley.  In 1985 Eduardo Chadwick became the fifth generation of the family to be involved in the business, and became President in 1993.  Through the generations they remain committed to producing the finest wines from the Aconcogua Valley.   A delightful tour with Pedro gave us an up close perspective of the thriving vineyards. 

You may have heard that earlier this year at the Beijing Wine Olympics, their Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2004 and 2005 defeated top French classics and Italian Icon wines – quite a feather in their cap; and this is not their only impressive wine:

2008 Sauvignon Blanc:  Their first single vineyard SB from the Aconcogua Coast (newly designated appellation in Chile) shows distinctive green pepper and fresh grass in the nose with a hint of gun smoke.  The flintiness carries through the palate and is complimented with abundant fresh kiwi and subtle spice.  A kick of acidity keeps it lifted on the palate. 

2007 Wild Ferment Chardonnay:  From the Casablanca Valley, with hand picked fruit, carefully selected berries and wild fermentation using native yeasts, this is a very impressively crafted wine.  Wet stone, minerality and toast greet the nose; and a burst of pineapple and crisp Asian pear dotted with an alluring hint of lemon and focused minerality fill the palate.  Complex and full bodied, reminiscent of a sophisticated Burgundian style wine – wow.

2006 Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon:  Aged in 50% new French oak, this Cab opens with aromatics of anise and cassis.  On the palate red and black currant and tea spice meld nicely with tobacco and leather notes.  Nicely incorporated flavors and well integrated oak that persist through the finish. 

1999 Founder’s Reserve Don Maximiano:  Aged 20 months in 40% new French oak, this wine is complex with an old world elegance about it.  Green tea on the nose leads to layer upon layer of black cherry, cassis, caramel, hay and an attractive earthiness filling the palate, with a hint of soy sauce adding further complexity.  Superbly balanced with refined tannins that cap it off to perfection. 

Corcoran Gallery is a “garden” winery in the high valley of the Maipo Valley (DO San Juan de Pirque).   Clearly a well executed creation of Madeline Corcoran and partner/winemaker Javier Rodriquez, who literally do everything from tending to the vines, picking and sorting the fruit, fermenting and aging, and bottling the wine.  They have just under one hectare of 35 year old vineyards planted at an elevation of 680 meters; and produce one very special wine, which is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Their warm days and cool nights (typically 30 degree C difference in temperature) serve the vines well; and their care in the vineyard and meticulous winemaking practices along with their deft handling of French and neutral American oak combines to produce a jewel of a wine. 

Their exquisite 2005 Limited Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon unites the beautiful fruit forward characteristics of a new world wine with the elegance and earthiness of a treasured old world wine.  The alluring aromas display black currant, cassis and a hint of licorice; and layers of cassis, black raspberry, toffee and tobacco along with an attractive earthiness captivate the palate – wow.  The purity of fruit is impeccably balanced with velvety tannins and the finish simply goes on forever; an impressive first vintage for Madeline Javier.  Keep an eye out for future vintages, too; I certainly will.

Vina Almaviva:  A joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Bordeaux and Chile’s Concho y Toro, Almaviva produces a rich, powerfully structured blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Cabernet Franc, grown in the Puente Alto region of the Maipo Valley.  Winemaker Michel Friou and Commercial Manager Diego Garay provided an enlightening tour and tasting of three vintages of Almaviva, each one with a striking profile: 

1999 Almaviva:  Distinctive earthy, eucalyptus and cigar box aromas provide an intriguing entry into the mouthful of mineral laden bright red and black fruit cloaked in cinnamon spice and smokiness.   Remarkably balanced with plenty of potency and pure elegance at the same time; simply divine. 

2002 Almaviva:  This vintage emanates an appealing herbal minty bouquet, and a rich concentration of black cherry and cassis fruit dotted with spicy, herbal qualities fills the palate.  Well structured with firm tannins, and a kick of orange peel adds dimension to the long finish.

2006 Almaviva:  The 2006 vintage features dense black cherry aromas with a sprinkling of cinnamon, and an intense expression of fruit at first sip.  Through the palate, cinnamon and cocoa notes meld dreamily with the black cherry and cassis flavors, gliding exquisitely through the finish.  This full bodied wine sports a velvety texture with plenty of complexity and refined, silky tannins and will age gracefully for many the years. 

Why not expand your wine horizons; visit Chile and seek out my discoveries, or uncover fabulous wonders of your own?  You will simply be overwhelmed with the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, the generous, open arms of the people, and the magic of the terrior.   

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