Tag Archives: Carménère

A Cuban and a Bottle of Carménère on Prince Edward Island

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A few months ago I was asked by a fellow wine lover and blogger to do a guest post on his web site: The Winegetter. In need of a personal challenge I said YES. Okay, maybe not with the excitement of capital letters, but yes just the same. With my mission now complete, I must admit that I was not only happy with the outcome but also surprised with its reception; the kind words and now having it picked up by the Canadian outlet: Joy For Organizing for their Leisure section. 

Below you will find my original post as it appeared with additional photos that were not included before. As you will see it truly is a beautiful place.¡SALUD! 

Map of Prince Edward Island

Map of Prince Edward Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When The Winegetter first approached me with the theme of Somewhere Beyond the Sea I have to admit I was a bit lost at sea.  What on earth could I write about? I have always appreciated wine, but most of my travels abroad were prior to my true love of wine. Ireland; beer and whiskey. England; beer and cider. Hawaii; pineapple sparkling wine but lets not go there. Amsterdam? Let’s really not go there!

English: Nova Scotia Cape Breton Island Cabot ...

English: Nova Scotia Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which lead me to a trip taken a few years ago as I was careening towards the proverbial fork in the road. Wine was still a hobby at this point in my life. No blog or wine job in sight. These would come later. Perfect timing for a much-needed first time visit to Nova Scotia and Canada’s Prince Edward Island. I realize some may say a sea was not technically crossed but having experienced the Gulf of St. Lawrence and ferry rides across the Northumberland Strait I would beg to differ. At least for this story.
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An adventure with dear friends. Driving and hiking the Cabot Trail of Nova Scotia prior to ferrying over to Prince Edward Island and the incredible accommodations of the Johnson Shore Inn. Owned by friends of ours who many can attest are beyond wonderful hosts.  This bed and breakfast sits on a red rocky cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence who’s coastline kept us in awe for the entirety of our stay.


Wonderful memories come to mind including fabulous home cooked meals, PEI mussels, roasted pig, a visit to a dance hall where yes we danced into the cold night, a fresh steamed [salt water from the beach a few steps away] lobster dinner party for 18 where guests were asked to show off a talent which included poetry, song, and even tap dancing. Not aware of this tradition of entertaining others at dinner my impromptu talent became speaking Spanish. Luckily the other guests were very welcoming and pretended to be in awe of this talent as I babbled on. A few of my new friends had recently been to Cuba [Beyond the Sea!] so this became quite the topic as I was asked about my people, politics and family lineage.  A visit to our hostesses  Prince Edward Distillery to sample their award-winning potato vodka and many a day sitting along the red cliffs pondering, taking in all the natural beauty surrounding this very special place also made for incredible memories.
 
The wine portion of this story came near the end of our trip. After days of being pampered we decided to cook dinner for our hostesses. We spent most of the day researching and shopping for ingredients that included a stop at the state-run liquor store where the cashier had now started to recognize us after more than a few visits.  Not accustomed to such government operated stores I was first taken aback by their small selection of U.S. wines but at the same time impressed by their also small but varied choice of South American wines. Chile and Argentina were very well represented and Chile became my choice for our farewell dinner.
Those who frequent my web-site may know that I enjoy spreading the gospel of this signature Chilean, albeit originally Bordeaux varietal. In fact in reviewing my earlier posts I even referenced the PEI adventure in my: Our Wednesday night choiceSanta Rita Reserva 2008 Carménère review from last year.  And as fate would have it a wonderfully written recent guest post by The Armchair Sommelier:Drinking Carménère With the Devil.
 
Carménère, thought to be extinct for years, was discovered in Chile during the 1990′s inadvertently being grown as Merlot.  This lush somewhat exotic grape has earthy and leather aromas with a sweet dark fruit taste of plum, blackberry, and cherry.  I would describe it as deliciously rustic.
 



On this occasion our last meal turned out to be a delicious Rib-eye Pot Roast laden with fresh spices and root vegetables that cooked slowly for about 5+ hours. In my mind at least, it was to be perfectly paired with my chosen Carménère. If only I could remember which one in particular I painstakingly decided on that day.  But as it turned out I would come to learn years later forgetfulness was to be shared that evening.  As our meal progressed to the main course I poured the Carménère along with a little history of the grape and it was an instant hit. Those in our party of six that I had previously introduced this varietal to were excited to be sharing our secret.  For the newbies it was love at first sip.  As I recall dinner went off without a hitch.  All courses were better than expected and I would to this day forever be trying to match the perfect pot roast recipe from when we were on Prince Edward Island.  Yes, still trying.
 
Fast forward a few years to our Canadian hosts coming south to Florida for the winter. A reunion dinner planned!  My assignment; wine. What better choice but to relive our last supper, so memorable to me, by bringing a bottle of Carménère.  A joyous reunion. As dinner was served, I poured the wine and pointed out the varietal I had chosen.  Yes the same one we had devoured and shared before on our last night on PEI!  To my surprise I was met with blank stares, a lack of recollection and the comment; “Oh, we’ve never had that varietal”.  What?? Could I have possibly made up the entire experience or more likely romanticized the event that defined our last night together?  We laughed as I reminded them of our first time at the last supper and then we just moved on to the dinner at hand and wonderful new conversations. Our soon to be memories being created.
 
I find it interesting that as I bonded with the wine with friends for my memory of the event, others bonded with the dinner with friends or just the quality time of friends together. The one common denominator: friendship. This realization has made me think about how I may attach too much weight to factors that surround us all instead of what truly is important.
 
So yes, I’d like to take this opportunity to admit: My name is Whine and Cheers and I appreciate wine. But, I love  friendships!  
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Olympics Opening Ceremony 2012 – Weekend of Wine

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The best things in life are usually unplanned. Having spent my Friday assisting customers with their wine and beer needs for the weekend I felt the urge to do the same. A few e-mails and texts later, it turned out we would be hosting a POP-UP beer, wine, fine cheese and pizza party that same night celebrating the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Spontaneity being the key, a fun time was had by all that partook; imbibing what turned out to be some very nice wines while debriefing each other on the week past and enjoying London’s beautiful Olympic show.

The celebrating did not end on Friday. More get-togethers with great friends continued through Saturday and Sunday all including wine.  While thinking about how lucky we were to all be together, how lucky I am to have friends that enjoy wine as much as I do and realizing we had tried eight different wines in 3 days, I decided to record our imbibing in some form for future reference.  Albeit, reviewing/recording wines experienced in a social setting is not exactly easy.  So, below you will find a somewhat chronological [got fuzzy after a while 🙂 ] drinking diary of our Olympics opening weekend.  Some of the tasting notes are mine and some will be winemaker notes etc.

Fortune was on our side because all were good. We had six red’s, two white’s and I would drink/purchase each of these wines again with no issue. In fact I think I will… ¡SALUD!

Casa Silva Reserva Carmenere 2009

A bold and strong flavored Carmenere. After tasting the Mont Gras [below] I believe this one could use more time in the cellar to mellow. That said, the bottle was emptied quickly by the crowd.

Winemaker’s notes:

Authentic Chilean style. Dark almost purple core with deep sooty red at the fringes. A blend of concentrated blackberry and plum softened by some red fruit character. Distinctive dried herbal and white pepper spice character. A superb balance of full fruit, good acidity, sweet French oak, and full tannins on the long lingering finish. Cutting edge grape coming into its own,  a première producer.

Critical acclaim:

“Purple/black; complex nose of balsamic, herbs, spice box, blueberry; easy-going, no hard edges.”

90 Points The Wine Advocate / Pricing; $12.00-18.00

LaMadrid Reserva Bonarda 2009

I have enjoyed a multitude of different wines from this great winemaker from vintages; 2008,2009, 2010. Never disappointed!

90 points (’10), Wine Advocate:
“nose of underbrush, mineral, plum, mulberry, and violets. Concentrated on the palate with good depth, balance, and length, this flavorful effort deftly combines elegance and power, quite an achievement at this price point.”

Price range; $14.00-$18.00

MontGras Reserva Carmenere 2011

Noted: Surprisingly smoother than the Casa Silva [above] and at a 2011 vintage. I was impressed.

Introduced from France in the 1800s, Carmenère has developed a unique  personality in the “terroir” of Chile, which is today the only  significant source of this uncommon varietal grape. The MontGras vineyards,  in the Colchagua Valley, are in the heart of the Chilean wine country.  The climate is typically Mediterranean, favouring the production of rich  concentrated red wines.

Color: Deep violet red Bouquet: Powerful aromas of spices, wild herbs and  vanilla. Taste:Well-rounded, with subtle fruit flavors and soft tannins  leading to a velvety finish.

Price; $13.00

 Folie à Deux Chardonnay 2010

Noted; a nice golden color. On the nose; yeast/minerality, tropical fruit [pineapple], tree fruit [apple] and melon. Also a slight honey aroma. Its rich flavor supplied nice acidity and a slight buttery taste on the palate with slight oak. As the wine warmed vanilla was also noted.  This is a good chardonnay for those who like some wood and butteriness in their selection.

Composition:100% Chardonnay Oak:Combination of French & American oak barrels (22% new) for five months

Fermented and aged in French oak barrels to preserve the wine’s rich, vibrant fruit character, this quintessential Russian River Chardonnay is a joyful dance of sun, sea and soil. Seductive, complex aromas of honey, green apple, tropical fruits, vanilla and baking bread introduce juicy apple, pineapple and tropical fruit flavors with light butter notes from partial malolactic fermentation and crisp balancing acidity.

Price: $16-18.00

Beringer Chenin Blanc 2010

A tasty treat we served between dinner and dessert. Most expected this to be a sweet wine and were pleasantly surprised that it was somewhat dry instead. I am very impressed with the quality and price point of this wine.

Winemaking Notes Gentle handling and careful attention is given to the Chenin Blanc grapes from the vine to the glass. To retain the delicate varietal flavors, Beringer’s winemakers chill the juices immediately following crush and continue to closely monitor the temperature throughout fermentation.  Just before dryness, they cool the juices even further to halt fermentation and retain a smooth, lush mouthfeel and lingering finish.

Tasting Notes The California Collection Chenin Blanc is a well-balanced wine with aromas and flavors of crisp citrus, melon, and spicy ginger.  It’s meant to be enjoyed with a variety of foods, from Asian and Mexican foods to a casual backyard barbecue with friends.

Price: $5-7.00

Pascual Toso Malbec Mendoza Reserve Barrancas Vineyards 2009

 A well-oaked wine with pencil-shaving aromas yielding to coconut and subtle black fruit notes. The palate is dense, structured and full of cherry, cassis and clove flavors. 

Winemaker notes; This Alta Reserva has a complete harmony of color with a deep, bright red combining with violets hints. Characterized by fruity aromas, blackberry and spices, the mouth has sweet tannins with the presence of spices from oak. All these notes give persistent elegance and complexity to this wine.

Wine Spectator

Quite ripe and flashy, displaying lots of spice, licorice and mocha notes up front, backed by fleshy plum sauce, boysenberry preserve and currant paste notes. Stays nicely layered and focused through the finish. An excellent effort for the vintage. Drink now through 2012. 150 cases imported.

Score: 91. —James Molesworth, December 15, 2010.Price: $18.00

Frei Brothers ReserveFrei Brothers Reserve Dry Creek Merlot 2010

I was glad to see this wine served on a Saturday night dinner outing. We sell it at the store and I have looked forward to trying it. It did not disappoint.  Everything a Merlot should be with the help of a few other varietals to soften the edges [see varietal content below].

The 2010 Dry Creek Valley Merlot captures the rich, ripe flavors of the Dry Creek Valley terroir. Aromas and flavors of red licorice, Satsuma plums, red fruit jam and blackberry meld with hints of toasted oak, milk chocolate and medium-roasted coffee. This medium-bodied wine delivers excellent structure and an elegant finish.

Winemaking Notes

For our 2010 Dry Creek Valley Merlot, we co-crushed the Merlot grapes with Petite Sirah to achieve dark fruit flavors and enhance the overall tannic structure in the wine. The grapes were destemmed, but not crushed, before being cold soaked to extract vivid color and intense flavors. We fermented this wine at warm temperatures, reaching 90°F for a few hours, to create a darker, riper fruit profile. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged on fine lees to soften the mouthfeel. This Merlot was aged for seven months in a combination of French and American oak barrels to impart notes of chocolate and vanilla in the finished wine.

Price: $16.00-$22.00

Technical Notes

Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Varietal Content: 88% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Sirah

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Description;

Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon  was one of the first wines we produced in 1975 and three and a half decades  later it is still our flagship wine. From the beginning our Cabernet stood apart  from other California cabs because it was an elegant old world style wine.The climate in the southern end of the valley defines our Estate Cabernet  Sauvignon. Warm days during the growing season allow the grapes to ripen evenly  and develop flavor. The fog rolls in before sunrise each morning, lowering the  temperature; which cools the grapes and maintains the acidity. Our estate  vineyards are home to all five Bordeaux grapes, planted on the terraces, bench  lands and hillsides of our valley where the soil is predominately a gravelly  clay loam. Water from irrigation and precipitation drains away quickly, which  allows the vines to be stressed, leading to smaller grapes and lower yields with  more concentrated flavors. Each lot is picked, crushed and fermented separately  to maximize complexity. We barrel age for 14 months, then blend to create a  complex Cabernet Sauvignon that is enjoyable as soon as you pull the cork.2009: 90 points & Editors Choice Wine Enthusiast Price: $22.00

Appellation Alexander Valley
Grape Varietal 92% Cabernet Sauvignon – 4% Cabernet Franc – 2% Merlot – 1%  Malbec -1% Petit Verdot
Barrel Regimen Aged for 14 months in French and American oak, 25% new
Release Date May 2011

Battle of the Carmenere’s, Don Manuel 2009 vs. Anakena 2010

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Carménère grapes. Cropped from Image:Blue grap...

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Battle of the Carmenere’s, Don Manuel 2009 vs. Anakena 2010

As you may have read in previous blogs, Carmenere was one of my favorite discoveries last year. I have since been spreading the gospel of this signature Chilean, albeit originally Bordeaux, varietal ever since.

Luckily for my friends, okay only the friends that actually listen to the ravings of this wine lover, they have discovered and become enamored by this grape too.

This leads us to last weeks Sunday supper. On the menu was homemade tomato basil soup. Researching what wine to serve I repeatedly came across Merlot as one of the options. This reminded me of the fact that Carmenere, thought to be extinct for years, was discovered in Chile during the 1990’s inadvertently being grown as Merlot. Dilemma solved! If experts thought Chile’s Carmenere was Merlot I sure could exchange them at our wine novice dinner. So the BATTLE OF THE CARMENERE’s came to be. The 2009 Don Manuel was received from the Wall Street Journal Wine Club priced at about $16.00 and the 2010 Anakena was purchased through our local Total Wines & More for only $7.99 after having read two favorable articles from two different sources coincidentally about the same wine.

Winemakers comments:

2010 Anakena: This single vineyard Carmenere is busting with black fruit, black pepper and tobacco. Intense flavours and velvety tannins make this an exceptional wine. Delicious with lamb and white meats, filled pasta and cheeses.

2009 Don Manuel: Few do this juicy red justice like top estate Viña La Rosa, where star Gonzalo Carcamo is chief winemaker. His rich, single-vineyard selection pays tribute to long-time local hero, winery founder Don Manuel. Part civil engineer, part winemaker, Don Manuel helped build roads, bridges and other infrastructure in Chile. He started Viña La Rosa in the early 1800s, and today it’s one of the country’s oldest, greatest estates.

I have to admit that I found having two samples of the same grape varietal side by side to be very educational. It made me realize that in our wine classes we are usually tasting different varietals from the same region and not comparing apples with apples or better said grapes with grapes. It was very interesting to note how similar yet different each one was. They basically both had the same base per se but the delicate features of the wine was different for each.

Don Manuel; strong, deep dark fruit tastes, enjoyably rich with strong tight flavors even after decanting for over an hour. Anakema; was softer and more gentle on the palette. We noted different levels of the following on both: raw peppers, grass, earthy, coffee, medium to soft tannins, and leather.

Both of these wines were a hit. The general consensus developed was that the DON MANUEL was more of a lets sit a spell and sip wine where the ANAKENA would go down smoothly and quickly, what I would call a Guzzler. This distinction between the two may have something to do with the difference in vintages.  All said and done, our verdict since there should be one, is that in today’s economy $7.99 sounds a lot better than $16.00!
¡SALUD!

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My wine varietal discoveries of 2011

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Early stages of veraison of Pinot noir in late...

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Wine Varietal discoveries of 2011

2011 was a very good year for discoveries, considering mostly all but the very well-known varietals were new to this wine novice.  As I review my wine diary of 2011 including 130+ wines, a handful of “discoveries” come to mind.  A handful that we found ourselves going back to again and again [okay and again], confirming we really did like them the first time around and checking their consistency.

Luckily the world was our oyster as we discovered wines from Oregon [Pinot Noir/ Pinot Gris],  Chile [Carmenere], Uruguay [Tanat], Argentina [Bonarda], France [White Bordeaux], Spain  [Garnacha] and even Italy [Primitivo].

BONARDA- Argentina; peppery, earthy aroma. Great out of the bottle but we always decant. Rich dark fruit taste; plum, raisins, casis. Suggestion; Maipe Reserve approx. $12-15.00.  They also have a non Reserve, I say splurge the $2-3.00 it is well worth it. Also; Durrigutti 2008 Bonarda at $13.00 is worthy. Mr. Durrigutti has the midas touch these days in Argentina. Co-owner of Lamadrid winery a personal favorite of our household.

CARMENERE- Chile; earthy, leather aroma. Sweet dark fruit taste with plum, blackberry, and cherry. Mellows after 20 minutes of decanting. Suggestion; Porta Reserva 2009 approx. $12.00. Also Santa Rita Reserve Santa Rita Reserva 2008 approx. $8-14.00 [usually good sales out there].

TANAT- Uruguay; fruity, smokey and buttery on the nose. A rustic and robust deep garnet colored wine that must be decanted, heavy tannins.  Dry yet sweet finish. Suggestion; Pisano Cisplatino 2009 blend approx. $9.99!

White BORDEAUX- France; White? Really? I am maybe the only one in the world who thought all Bordeaux was red. Go figure. This is now considered a staple at our house. Suggestion; Chateau Montet 2009, 2010 approx. $8-9.00.  BTW stay away from their red!

GARNACHA- Spain; purple almost black in color. Peppery on the nose, jammy taste with plum, ripe raisin in there too. The tannins seem to grow at the finish for a nice finale.  This is the first time I have ever been able to detect strawberry[!] while tasting a wine. It just jumped out at me. Although this varietal is blended in many if not most Rhone wines it is quite distinctive on its own too. Suggestion; Evodia  Altovinum Old Vine Garnacha 2009 approx. $12.00.

PRIMITIVO- Italy; related to America’s Zinfandel. Dark, rich and peppery tasting, fruit forward and woody. We also detected a clove taste. It is smooth on the tongue. Suggestion; Il Primitivo Puglia 2009 approx. $12-15.00. Pillastro Primitivo Negro Amaro Selezione de Oro approx. $20.00.

PINOT GRIS/NOIR- Oregon;  nose and flavors of apple, pear, honey, grapefruit, pineapple. Very crisp. Suggestion; Kudos Pinot Gris 2009 approx. $8-10.00. NOIR is where I have discovered price does make a difference. The lower end variety have a light viscosity as most Pinot Noir’s do but the higher end ones in the $40.00 range coming from Oregon’s small production vineyards are actually rich and Port like. Making me want to drink the entire bottle.  Purple/ruby in color, smooth flavorful lingering dark fruit throughout and finish. Suggestions; Lachini 2007 from Chehalem Mountains  and Coehlio 2006 from Willamette Valley. Both in the $35-45.00 range.

 

Our Wednesday night choice; Santa Rita Reserva Carménère 2008

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Santa Rita Reserva Carmenere (2006)

Our Wednesday night choice; Santa Rita Reserva Carménère 2008

We discovered Carménère about a year ago in a South American wine class and it has become one of our favorite and go-to wines. The Reserve always being somewhat better than the non.  In fact while in Nova Scotia and Canada [PEI] this last spring this varietal was our saving grace and actually made us look good in the eyes of our gracious hosts who had never imbibed such a delicacy. At this point I should tell you that this grape from Chile usually has a strong and robust taste almost comparable to a Cabernet Sauvignon but slightly mellower. It also mellows and opens nicely when decanted. Just 20 minutes will make a difference.

I refer to this as our Wednesday night choice because of its price point. As priced at about $8-9.00 it is the perfect non-guilty pleasure and can easily impress guests in a pinch. We had ours with spaghetti and garlic bread. I could also see this working well with grilled meats and other hearty dishes.

At opening the nose was of; leather, earth/dirt, sweet dark fruits [blackberry, plum, cherry]. My better half detected aromas of; grass, chocolate and malt. As the wine mellowed I tasted an after taste of almonds.

We had never tried the Santa Rita Reserva Carménère and I was attracted to it because of its price.  Having been impressed we will definitely be coming back to this one and it may even make my 2012 best value wine list.  This will be entry #1 in my 2012 wine diary; not a bad way to start the year. Good wine AND a great value.