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More Chilean Wines
- VIÑA 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
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, Carmenère and Cabernet
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
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 Viña Almaviva (List $135) SALE
- VIÑA SAN PEDRO
- This 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.
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.
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
- 1999 "Seña" Sold Out
- LOS VASCOS
- The Rothschilds of Château Lafite have investments around the
globe. 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.
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
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!
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
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
- 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
2012 Los Vascos Reserve Cabernet (list $20) SALE
2011 Le Dix de Los Vascos (list $50) SALE $57.99
2009 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc Sold
- CONCHA y TORO
- 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.
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
- "Casillero del Diablo" Casablanca
- "Casillero del Diablo" Maipo Cabernet
- 2006 "Don Melchor" Maipo Cabernet
SALE $69.99 (limited)
Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99
- COUSIÑO MACUL
famous Chilean winery has been in the hands of the Cousiño 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
We find elements here which we appreciate in Northern Rhône 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