Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Apaltagua Reserva Carmenere 2008

The Carmenere is a varietal that is still unfamiliar to many wine drinkers, but it is catching on quickly.  I, like many of you, had not tasted the Carmenere until Cristobal Undurraga introduced me to it about 2 years ago.  This grape was originally from France and was actually 1 of 6 grapes that could be blended in Bordeaux wines.  Unfortunately, it was a late ripening grape and was not flourishing in the cold weather.  Since being planted in Chile, the varietal has really gained an audience in Chile.  Today, it is one of the most planted grapes.  Historically, it has been used as a blending grape but now it can stand on it's own.  The Apaltagua Reserva is a wonderful wine that is 100% carmenere which was harvested from 60+ year old vines in the Apalta Valley Estate.  This crimson colored wine starts off with aromas of a basket of black cherries and cassis along with some green herbs.  My wife compared it to a fir tree.  There was also a bit of smokiness and spices.  On the palate, the initial cherry and plum flavors are followed up by raspberries and then some spicy dark chocolate and a slight creaminess from the French oak back end.  This unfiltered Reserva was well structured with nice acidity and very smooth tannins with a long finish.  If you are not familiar with Carmenere, give it a try.  It might remind you of a cabernet franc.  For $10-$14/bottle, this might be the next big following.  We served it with a grilled (wood fired) flank steak with a smoked paprika chimichura sauce along with a side of grilled corn and tomato salad.  Paired well with both dishes.  I opened this bottle about 30-45 minutes before dinner was served.  Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar rated this 88 points.  This was a very enjoyable wine and it received two thumbs up at our house.  This was purchased at Wine Wise (see side bar for link).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2009

One of my wife's friends introduced us to the Yealands Sauvignon Blanc.  Yealands was started in 2002 by Peter Yealands who, in such a short period of time, has turned his winery into the leader in sustainable growing. They have received both the Sustainable Winegrowing Certification (SWINZ) and has a CarboNZero Certification, which is shown on the label.  In addition to other techniques, Yealands uses wind turbines and solar panels.  To reduce spraying and tractor mowing, they allow the sheep to graze in the vineyards. Yealands is the largest privately owned vineyard in New Zealand.   2009 was a trying year for the Marlborough region due to the lack of rain in March and April.  The grapes for this vintage were picked a little later than normal.
Last night we opened a bottle of the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc which started with tight aromas of lime and grapefruit and some stoniness.  The Awatere Valley located south of Marlborough is know for its stony ravines and sloping landscape.   On the palate, there is a biting pink grapefruit flavor followed by green apples and green vegetable (asparagus) and some minerality on the back.  The wine was medium bodied with some complexity but the acidity was unusually high and the back end had a bitterness that didn't encourage me to have another glass.  This wine must be kept cold.  Also, I would not drink this as an aperitif.  This could be enjoyed with an appetizer or a main course of scallops and fish.  Overall, a decent wine but I would probably try another sauvignon blanc instead of this one next time.  Wine Spectator gave it an 88 point rating which is probably at the high end of my range.  I think 85-87 is more representative of this wine.  It retails for about $11-$12.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Koyle Wines

My friend Cristobal Undurraga was in town last week and introduced several new wines from Koyle and one from Terrapura.  This is the 4th meeting I have had with him and I have to say the wines just keep getting better.  As mentioned in previous postings, the Undurraga's have been making wines since 1885 when Francisco Undurraga started the family business. They were the first Chilean winery to export to the US in 1903.   In 2006, the family sold the winery, vineyard and brand name to an investment group.  Shortly thereafter, Alfonso Undurraga Mackenna and his three sons, Max, Alphonso and Cristobal purchased 2,718 acres in Los Lingus, in the foothills of the Andes Mountain.  Also mentioned previously, Cristobal has learned the trade not only from his family but some of the top wineries in Argentina, Napa, Australia and France.  His last stop before coming back to the family business was with Aurelio Montes´s Kaiken.  Cristobal's grandfather's motto was "quality before quantity".  And the brothers have certainly lived up to that.  The Undurraga's began working on transforming their winery into a biodynamic winery in 2009 and expect to receive the official designation later this year. When you are ready to give Chilean wine a try, be sure to search out the Koyle and Terrapura wines.
We began the night with the 2010 Terrapura Sauvignon Blanc.  Terrapura is small production by Alfonso Undurraga.  Once I took a "sniffy sniff" (thanks Gary V), I was ready to dive in.  The rich intense aromas of exotic fruits and citrus were overwhelming.  These wonderful fruits followed onto the palate with smooth, crisp acidity.  A perfect aperitif or serve with appetizers.  This was one of the nicest sauvignon blancs that I have tasted in a long time.  Probably my pick of the year. This is a steal at $9.99.

Next we turned to the reds and the Koyle label.  We started with the 2009 Koyle Reserva Carmenere.  Until 2009, Carmenere was primarily used as a blend with other grapes, most notably Syrah at the Koyle winery.  However, the 2009 was so good that it could stand on it's own and then blended with 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Syrah.  Cristobal said they tried other grapes including Merlot but they just didn't work.  The carmenere grape is a late ripening grape with plenty of black fruit and cassis.  There is also a gentle as well as some minerality from the stony terroir.  60% of the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, while the other 40% was aged in stainless steel to preserve the individual characteristics of each grape.  This was served with a lamb chop appetizer.  The Reserva retails for $19.99.

The 2008 Koyle Royale Syrah is a very dark colored wine that is a blend of 93% Syrah and 7% Malbec.  The Royale line of wines from Koyle are the top end wines.  This full bodied Syrah had a wonderful nose of fresh plums, coffee and notes of black pepper .  The black fruits overwhelm your taste buds along with cedar, some smokiness and  minereality from the granite slopes of the Andes Mountains.  The tannins were smooth and silky and long lasting flavors.  The wine was aged for 18 months with 1/2 being aged in new French oak and the other 1/2 aged in 1 year old used French oak barrels.  Just before bottling the wine is blended without filtration.  Although this wine is ready to be enjoyed now, put it away for another 5-10 years and you will have a great wine.  I recommend serving this with grilled meats or a BBQ sauce.  Only 2,200 cases of the 2008 Koyle Royale Syrah were made.  It retails for $25.99.  I really enjoyed this wine and would recommend buying a few bottles.

The 2009 Koyle Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon was a tighter wine with aromas of sweet blackberries and blueberries, along with some vanilla and green vegetables.  The black fruit flavor followed onto the palate along with some currants, tobacco and a hint of mint.  This is a blend of 90% cabernet and 10% malbec with the grapes coming from three lots in the Colchaua Valley: Los Lingues, Apalta and Lolol.  Following maceration, the wine is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months.  The Reserva Cabernet was not as bold as the typical California Cabernet, which also made this enjoyable but the young tannins were still chewy.   You will want to decant this for at least an hour to get the most out of it.  The 2009 Koyle Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $16.99.  A nice Cabernet that you won't have to break the bank.

The 2008 Koyle Royale Cabernet Sauvignon is a few giant steps above the Reserva Cabernet.  Koyle has 15 hectares (37 acres) of Cabernet.  The 2008 Royale is a dark ruby colored wine that is a blend of 85% Cabernet, 13% Malbec and 2% Carmenere.  Although the nose had more of a juicy  red fruit aroma along with cassis, the black fruits were prevalent on the palate, along with some spiciness and toasty oak.  Unlike the 2009 Reserva Cabernet, this wine had a much fuller and complex structure with perfectly silky tannins and flavors that were never ending.  As similar to the Royale Syrah, the Royale Cabernet is aged for 18 months in French oak and is also unfiltered.  This is a limited production with only 4,000 cases produced. If you are lucky enough to find it, be sure to treat yourself. I suggest decanting this for about an hour.    If this wine had a California label, it would likely be retailed for double the $25.99 that Koyle sells it for.  This will age well for the next 5-10 years.  This was probably my favorite red of the night, although each of the wines were very nice.

Last up was the 2007 CAYU.  This is a wine made from four producers: Larrain, Lasmatres, Toso & Undurraga.  Cristobal went back to Mendoza and created this wine with the five friends from his days working in Mendoza.  CAYU means the number 6 in the the local Mapuche dialect.  The CAYU is a 100% malbec with all grapes coming from a single vineyard in the Uco Valley, southwest of Mendoza City.  Malbec is a grape that came from Europe prior to the phylloxera infestation and thus the vines had the original roots.  Following the outbreak, vines would be grafted onto other grapes roots.   Today, it is one of the most widely harvested grapes in Argentina.  This aromas reminded me of a blueberry pie with some spices on top.  The rich anise and plum flavors were combined with the sweetness of the blueberries and some vanilla on the back end.  The acidity was higher but the tannins were soft and subtle.  Like several of the others, this wine is unfiltered and aged for 24 months in new French oak barrels.  Give this wine about 30-60 minutes of decanter time before serving. I generally have a tough time putting bottles away in the cellar but this will be outstanding in another 5 years.  This was tied with the Royale Cabernet Sauvignon as my favorite red wine of the night.  This is a very limited production with 1,200 (Six-bottle cases) produced.  It retails for $49.99.  

I highly recommend the Koyle and Terrapura wines from Chile.  If you can't find them in your local store, you can purchase them from Quintessential Wines (click on logo on sidebar).