Sunday, October 11, 2009

Koyle and Terrapura

This past week I had the priviledge of having dinner with winemaker Cristobal Undurraga of the Koyle wines from Santiago, Chile. Cristobal's enthusiasm and love of not only his wines but of the wine industry cannot be matched. The famed Undurraga family has been making wines for six generations dating back to 1885 with their first imports to the US in 1903. Cristobal has learned the business from some of the best around the world having worked at Franciscan Winery in Napa, CA; Rosemont Wines in Barossa Valley, Australia; Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux, France and Vina Kaiken in Mendoza, Argentina. He then returned to Chile to join his father, two brothers and sister to start the Koyle wine label in 2006. The Koyle name came from Cristobal's love of a purple flowering vine that dates back to the Indians. These once endangered vines still grow on the family property.

We began the dinner with four wines from the Terrapura label made by his brother Alfonso. The first wine served with appetizers was the Terrapura Sauvignon Blanc 2009 which is a single-vineyard wine that has an intense aroma of tropical fruit. The flavors follow on to the palate along with some citrus and nice acidity. This does not have the crispness and exotic flavors as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but a wonderfully structured Sauvignon Blanc. This is a must buy! This retails for $11.

Next up was the Terrapura Chardonnay 2008. This 100% Chardonnay has a light yellow color with aromas of apples, pears and slight hints of tropical fruits. Alfonso says there is also a mandarin orange aroma but I did not pick this up. The soft Chardonnay flavors were complimented with some amber honey. This wine is aged in steel tanks for four months with innerstaves of French oak. This will pair well with appetizers as well, or a mild white fish. The 2008 Chardonnay retails for $11.

Those were the only whites we tasted. The Koyle label also has a Sauvignon Blanc, but it has not been shipped to the US as of now. The first red for the evening was the Terrapura Merlot 2008. This had a nice cherry and mulberry aroma, along with some spices and pepper. On the palate, the fruits were well balanced with soft tannins and a medium finish. Like the Chardonnay, this is aged in steel tanks for four months with innerstaves of French and American oak. For the $11 price tag, this a nice Merlot.

The next wine may not be known to alot of people. The Terrapura Carmenere 2008 is a red wine made from 100% Carmenere grapes. This grape was originally grown in the Bordeaux region of France until it was almost wiped out by disease in the mid 1860's. There has been long speculation as to the grape as a possible clone but in 1998 it was officially recognized by the Chilean Department of Agriculture as a seperate distinct variety. As with the Terrapura Merlot, this wine is aged in steel tanks for four months with innerstaves of French and American oak. The Carmenere has a very deep red color and starts off with an abundance of green bell pepper aromas along with some strawberries and spicy peppers. The flavors remind me somewhat of a Cabernet Franc with the more vegetable and herbal notes along with fresh red berries.  The tannis were smooth and mellow. You could pair this with an entree of pasta or would go well with a pork loin. The Carmenere retails for $11. Give it a try.

The final four wines are from the Koyle label. Presently, Cristobal grows seven different varieties of grapes, but hopes to expand to 14 and then eventually to 21. The main vines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec and Syrah. They also grow a small amount of Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Mouvèdre that they use for blending.

The Koyle Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was one of my favorites. This dark ruby colored wine is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Carmenere that came from two regions in Chile - Maipo and Colchagua Valley. There was a wonderful blackberry and blueberry aroma along with tobacco and coffee. The Carmenere added some spiciness to the taste. 60% of the wine is aged in French oak for 12 months and the remaining 40% is aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve the aroma and taste of the grape varietals. They recommend decanting this wine for at least 30 minutes before serving and also feel that this will cellar well for another 5 years. Only 4,000 cases of the Cabernet Sauvignon were produced and it retails for $17. A must buy.

The Koyle Syrah 2007 was the first vintage of this wine and is a blend of 87% Syrah and 13% Carmenere. It is dark violet in color with creamy, intense cassis and graphite notes, along with some chocolate and toasty oak on the nose and palate. The tannins were a little chewy on this vintage but should evolve nicely over the next 5-10 years. This is slightly less acidic than the Cabernet. Be sure to decant the Syrah at least 30 minutes prior to serving, but 60 minutes is better if you have the time. Again, only 4,000 cases were produced. The 2007 Syrah retails for $17.

Another favorite of mine was the Koyle Royale Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, which is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and 6% Carmenere. The Cabernet grapes are harvested from vines planted in the early 20th century. This dark ruby Cabernet has a complex aroma of black currants, blackberry, violet and black tea. The black fruits continue onto the palate along with some spiciness from the Carmenere, followed by a nice long lingering finish. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. The barrels included 20% new oak, 20% 1 year used, 20% 2 years used and 40% 3+ years. Again, be sure to decant this wine. The 2007 Royale Cabernet, which retails for $26, will cellar nicely for the next 10 years. Another must buy.

The final wine of the night was the Koyle Royale Syrah 2007, which is a blend of 85% Syrah, 11% Malbec and 4% Carmenere. This bright purple full-bodied wine SHOCKED me with a big aroma of grilled meats. Once I got beyond this, there was some cherry and mulberry aromas along with some herbs and a little chocolate. In addition to the blackberry flavors from the Syrah, the Malbec and Carmenere added some plum and peppery flavors. As with the Royale Cabernet, this wine was also aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. This is a very complex wine that should age well.   This Syrah retails for $26.00

Overall, I had a tremendous evening listening to Cristobal's excitement and knowledge of his wines and the wine business and tasting the above noted wines. You really can't go wrong with any of the wines from the Unduragga family. The Chilean wines are still at the lower end of the price scale and have some outstanding buys. If I ever get a chance to visit Chile, Cristobal Undurraga and Koyle Wines will be the first stop on my trip.

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