Carmenere, Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Wine

An Accidental Carménère

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to be offered some samples of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Six of them, to be precise, from two major Chilean regions, Colchagua Valley and Maipo Valley, for a head-to-head Chilean Cabernet throwdown! (Read all about it here.) As we awaited the shipment, we received an email from the PR Rep coordinating the samples. Seems there was a mix up at one of the wineries, and rather shipping their Cabernet Sauvignon, they sent their Carménère, and it ended up in the sample shipment of Cabernets. It was from the same producer as the Cabernet, but clearly not a contender for the highly anticipated Chilean Cabernet Competition. Apologies were followed with assurances that the missing Cabernet was on its way to the warehouse and would be shipped to us immediately upon arrival. Meanwhile, the remaining five Cabernets would just have to rest a little longer in the cellar before their fierce faceoff.

But what of the lonely Carménère? This poor bottle had done nothing wrong! It was the victim of a warehouse kerfuffle, and nothing more. Should it be returned to its warehouse purgatory, not knowing how long it might be before someone deliberately orders it? Thankfully, no. Our friendly PR Rep confirmed that as consolation for the mix up, is that we can keep and enjoy the bonus, accidental Carménère.

The following wine was provided as an accidental media sample. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

To those who may be unfamiliar, Carménère is a red Bordeaux grape. It is often considered the overlooked sixth Bordeaux grape, less known that the powerhouse Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. Typically relegated to a very minor blending role in Bordeaux wines, Carménère has found a recent spotlight in Chile, where winemakers are crafting delicious, 100% varietal wines. If you are unfamiliar with Carménère, you really should get acquainted. Carménère wines are dark, rich and complex, bursting with fruit and spice. Plus, as with most Chilean wines, Carménère is also surprisingly affordable!

Our Accidental Carménère was the TerraNoble Carménère Gran Reserva 2018, from the Maule Valley. TerraNoble was established in 1993, under the leadership of Jorge Elgueta, with the mission of producing world class Merlot wines. However, the following year, it was discovered that what was believed to be Chilean Merlot was actually Carménère. Seems the leaves and clusters of the two varieties are very similar in size and shape, so the grape had been misidentified for decades. The TerraNoble team pivoted and has built a strong reputation for producing high quality, award winning Carménère wines. They are proud stewards of the land and soils, crafting wines that showcase the unique terroir of the region.

What a happy accident this turned out to be! When we opened the bottle, we were greeted with an exquisite wine, and an excellent pairing with Garlic and Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops with Mediterranean Salad.

Deep ruby color with a garnet rim. On the nose, smoky raspberry, cherry, blueberry, and fresh oak. On the palate, juicy raspberry, red cherry, blackberry, and Planck pepper, with tobacco, vanilla, jalapeño, and vegetal notes of dried herbs. Medium-plus body with medium tannins and bright acidity. Long, spicy finish of red fruit and black pepper.

Nobody hopes for an accident. Yet we are happy to be the beneficiaries of this one. Our hope is that you have the opportunity to try a TerraNoble Carménère soon. You’ll be glad you did.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chilean Wine, Colchagua Valley, Maipo Valley, Samples, Wine, Wine Blog

Chilean Cabernet Challenge – Colchagua vs Maipo

Chile has been building quite a reputation for quality wines in recent years, with Cabernet Sauvignon leading the charge. Cabernet Sauvignon is the leading grape grown in the country, accounting for more than 20% of all vineyards. Though Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards are planted many parts of the country, some 97% of vines are located in the Central Valley subregions of O’Higgins, Maule, and the Metropolitan Region. Within these large subregions, we discover smaller valleys and denominaciónes de origen (DOs) where the differences in soil and climate produce wines with distinct terroir.

We recently were honored to be included in a sampling of six Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon wines, with the focus on two of these DOs: Colchagua Valley and Maipo Valley. As suggested by our host, we approached this as a head-to-head challenge, akin to a championship sporting event – Team Colchagua Valley vs. Team Maipo Valley. Which team would prevail?

Image Credit: Creative Palate Communications

The following wines were provided as media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

DO Colchagua Valley is situated in the O’Higgins subregion, and accounts for about two-thirds of the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards there. Located about 80 miles south of Santiago, the valley is carved from the Tinguinirica River, which flows from a volcanic crater. Elevations in this region range from approximately 2,000 feet at the volcano’s crater, to 360 feet at the coast. Soils range from gravelly, alluvial terraces to rich, clay deposits downriver. As one would imagine, temperatures vary also; cooler at high elevations, and warming toward the coast. These soil and climate conditions produce a range of profiles in the Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Image Credit: Creative Palate Communications

DO Maipo Valley is in the Metropolitan subregion, and is one of the better-known Chilean wine regions, with a long history of production. The Maipo River begins at the Maipo volcano. As with Colchagua, there are dramatic elevation variations, from 2,500 feet at the volcano, to 600 feet near the coast. There are four distinct alluvial terraces in the Maipo Valley with different soil types, from thick gravel and sand to clay and loose, rocky soils. Again, temperature variations at different altitudes combine with the various soils to create unique terroirs, influencing the resulting wines.

Image Credit: Creative Palate Communications

Now that you know a bit about the regions, let’s get to the wines!

Colchagua Valley

Maquis Gran Reserva 2018

Brick red color. Cherry and raspberry on the nose. The palate is bright cherry, with raspberry, licorice, baking spice, and black pepper. Medium body, edgy tannins, and vibrant acidity. Long, spicy finish.

A very tasty wine, but neither of us would not have called Cab Sauv in blind tasting. (SRP $20)

Los Vascos Cromas Gran Reserva 2018

Deep ruby color in the glass. Nose of blackberry, black cherry, and plum. On the palate there are flavors of ripe blackberry, Marionberry, black currant, black cherry, leather, and a hint of chocolate. Full body with soft, luxurious tannins and nicely balanced acidity. Medium finish of soft black fruit. (SRP: $22)

TerraNoble Gran Reserva 2018

Ruby color with a garnet rim. The nose is quite lively with a bouquet of violet, raspberry, cherry, and spice. On the palate, equally delightful and incredibly smooth, with bright red cherry, raspberry, red currant, blueberry, violet, with hints of tobacco, chocolate, and baking spice. Medium body with satin soft tannins and acidity. Medium red fruit finish. (SRP $20)

Maipo Valley

Echeverria Limited Edition 2016

Garnet color. On the nose, blackberry, cherry, and cassis. Flavors of ripe raspberry, blackberry, cassis, and fig, with soft spice notes and a hint of milk chocolate. Medium plus body, with soft, almost milky tannins and medium acidity. Medium finish of spicy red fruit. (SRP $25)

Viña Aquitania Lázuli 2017

Brick red color fading to garnet at the rim. Aromas of red cherry, raspberry, and blackberry on the nose. These carry onto the palate, with the addition of plum, cassis, clove, and white pepper, with hints of chocolate. Medium body with velvety soft, milky tannins, and bright acidity. Long finish of black fruit and baking spice. (SRP $45)

Miguel Torres Reserva Especial Cordellera 2018

Dark garnet black color. The nose bursts with red cherry, raspberry, licorice, and spice. On the palate, black fruit; blackberry, black cherry, black plum, with ripe wild blueberry, cedar, tobacco, clove, and pepper, with fig, licorice, and raisin emerging on the finish. This wine continues to evolve the longer you ponder it. Full body with ultra-soft tannins, and bright acidity, leading to a long finish. (SRP $20)

This was a fun and interesting competition, with some rather surprising results. We knew going in that it was possible it could be a split decision, with one of us favoring Colchagua Valley and the other preferring Maipo Valley. We also took it a step further, with each of us selecting an MVP – our personal favorite wine from the tasting.

Though we enjoyed every wine from both regions – we can heartily recommend all of them – after much consideration and contemplation, our unanimous conclusion was that the winner, by a very slight margin, was…

The Colchagua Valley!

While the wines from Maipo Valley definitely win the prize for incredibly soft tannins and full, round mouthfeel, we felt the Colchagua Valley wines had a bit more interest and character.

The real surprise, however, was the individual MVP Award. There was one from each region! Robyn’s personal pick was from the winning team: the TerraNoble Gran Reserva 2018. For Kent, this one was a very close second. However, his personal MVP was the Miguel Torres Reserva Especial Cordellera 2018. You can tell from the tasting notes (that Kent wrote) that he was swooning over the layers of continually emerging complexity.

But at the end of the day, when you’re enjoying a really good bottle of wine with family and friends, isn’t everybody a winner? No matter your taste, preference, or profile, there is a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon for you. Next time you are in your wine shop, looking for a nice Cabernet to pair with your meal, or even just to sip, look to the south, and head for the Chilean wine section.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos, except where noted, by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Chile, Chilean Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine, Wine of the Week

Our Wine of the Week: La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Selecting our wine of the week this week was pleasantly challenging. We had to choose between two wines that were both equally impressive. The deciding factor in our decision was the fact that we have another bottle of one of them, so we can revisit it to feature in a future week. And so it is, that our wine of the week is La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2020, from the Curico Valley in Chile.

We’ve become big fans of Sauvignon Blanc in the past few years. Light, crisp, and refreshing, it is also quite versatile in food pairing. Often considered a summertime wine, we enjoy Sauvignon Blanc year-round. While New Zealand, specifically Marlborough, has taken center stage in the world of Sauvignon Blanc, the grape originated in France, and is now planted world wide. (Fun fact: Sauvignon Blanc is one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, the other being Cabernet Franc.) 

In general, at least to our palates, we have concluded there are three overarching styles of Sauvignon Blanc: 

  • The French style found White Bordeaux, or Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire Valley – often blended with Semillon, resulting in a fuller, rounder wine, with gooseberry, green apple, pear, and citrus.
  • The New Zealand style – grassy, cut straw, grapefruit, lemon, and occasionally cat pee (yes, this is actually a desirable quality in a Sauvignon Blanc!) with light body and zesty acidity.
  • The Northern California style – bursting with tropical fruit; pineapple, mango, passionfruit;  and stone fruit; apricot, peach, nectarine; with a bit more body and softer acidity. 

As we said, this is a general observation. Plenty of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc have pineapple or other tropical fruit flavors, and NorCal can show grassy, apple and pear notes. With Sauvignon Blanc, style transcends location. Any of these styles can be produced in any of the growing regions. We’ve just come to associate these styles with these places. 

Make no mistake, we enjoy all the different styles. Thus is the approachability and appeal of Sauvignon Blanc. However, we each have our preferences. Robyn prefers the fresh, clean citrusy style from New Zealand, while Kent favors the tropical and stone fruit from NorCal. 

Always eager to explore new wines, we thought we’d try the La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2020 with our meal of grilled fish tacos. A bargain at just $8.99 from Wine.com, we’d put this up against Sauvingon Blancs at three times that price! The biggest surprise was that we had expected more of a New Zealand style, as most of our Chilean Sauvignon Blanc experiences have been, but La Playa is decidedly NorCal, in our estimation. 

Pale golden color. Aromas and flavors of fresh tropical fruit; pineapple, mango, and lychee; with citrus, including lime and quince. Soft mouthfeel with medium acidity and a pleasing finish.

La Playa Vineyards produces only sustainably farmed wines, using native yeasts. They also produce Chardonnay and Viognier, along with a red wine lineup of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, and a red blend. We have tasted their Dry Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, several months ago, and it was equally delicious. 

What was your wine of the week? 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo cred: Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Biodynamic, Biodynamic Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chile, Chilean Wine, Organic, Red Blend, Samples, Wine

Odfjell Vineyards Organic Wines

What do a Norwegian ship owner, a verdant Chilean valley, and sustainable farming  have in common?

Wine!

What did you think we were going to say? This is a wine blog, afterall.

More than 25 years ago, Norwegian Armador (that’s “ship owner” in case you were wondering) Dan Odfjell discovered the Maipo Valley in Chile. Well, not discovered in the Viking explorer sense; he found it for himself. Dan fell in love with this little corner of the planet, far from home both in distance and climate. He settled in the valley, and began pursuing his passion for wine.

Today, sons Laurence and Dan Jr. are at the helm, managing 284 acres of 100% certified organic and biodynamic vineyards in the heart of the Chilean wine country. They carry on the family mission of  producing unique quality wines in a sustainable way.

Recently, we were given the opportunity to experience their craft. Odfjell Premium Organic Wines are offered in three different tiers, with labels representing Land, Water, and Fire. We were fortunate to receive samples of each.  

The following wines were provided as a media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

odfjell-cabernet.png
I really don’t know what happened to our photos. Sorry, but it’s your loss. The marinated flat iron steak was delicious with this Cabernet!

2016 Odfjell Armador Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $15)

From the website: In the bygone days of sailing ships, wine was the drink of choice on long voyages. Today Dan Odfjell, a Norwegian shipowner, perpetuates his legacy by making wines to sail from Chile across the seven seas.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Ruby-red in color with a hint of violet. Red-fruit aromas recall strawberries and plums, along with notes of licorice and anise. Perfectly balanced on the palate with ripe tannins and a long, refreshing nish.

Here’s what we thought:

Inky purple color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, bramble, and cassis. On the palate, there are flavors of ripe blackberry, raspberry, bramble, black currant, and cherry, with oak, cedar, tobacco, and black pepper, with earthy notes mid-palate. Tannins are firm and chewy, balanced with bright acidity. Full bodied with a long, spicy finish of black fruit, earth, and smoke. Outstanding paired with balsamic marinated flat iron steak.

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2017 Odfjell Orzada Carignan (SRP $23)

From the website: When the Norwegian shipowner Dan Odfjell founded our winery, he embarked upon adventure filled with challenge and promise. Orzada is a nautical term for sailing up against the wind before setting a direction. Our Orzada wines reflect our staking a course in pursuit of a beautiful and memorable wine.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Dark red in color. Intense and complex on the nose, with spices and ripe red fruits such as cherries, raspberries, and plums mixed with aromas of blackberries and anise. The palate is juicy and powerful with velvety-soft tannins and a long finish.

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Now we’re talking!

Here’s what we thought:

Deep purple color with a brick rim. Aromas of fresh-picked cherry, oak wood, and spice. On the palate there are flavors of raspberry, boysenberry, tart cherry, licorice, cedar, and black pepper. Soft tannins, medium body, and bright, lively acidity. The finish is long, with red and black fruit, oak, and spice. We paired this with grilled, chili-rubbed pork chops and it really complemented the meal nicely.

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2013 Odfjell Aliara (SRP $44)

From the website: In the age of sail ships, safe and healthy provisions were crucial for the success of the adventure. A “liara” was a tin cup measurement for the crew´s daily ration of wine. Our Aliara is an assemblage made in small and precios quantitites as a tribute to this tradition.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Concentrated deep violet in color. The nose is attractive and intense with a range of aromas from the different varieties in the blend, including nuts such as hazelnuts, dates, and dried figs, as well as floral notes recalling jasmine and roses. The palate is sophisticated, intense, and juicy and complemented by chocolate, coffee, and tobacco leaves. The finish is long with ripe and velvety tannins. An unforgettable experience.

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That’s some dark, inky wine.

Here’s what we thought:

A blend of 65% Carignan, 20% Syrah, and 5% Malbec. Deep, inky purple color. Aromas of blackberry bramble and plum. On the palate, flavors of blackberry, cherry, blueberry, and plum, with white pepper and cedar. Tannins are big and chewy. Medium acidity. Long finish of black fruit and black pepper. Outstanding with spice-rubbed grilled steak tacos.

​The Odfjell is doing some remarkable things with organic, biodynamic wines in Chile. If you get the opportunity to try these wines, don’t let it pass you by!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Creative Inspiration by Robyn Raphael