Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Viña Morandé, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Viña Morandé Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2020

At long last, our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is drawing to a close. It has been a long, hot summer here in NorCal, but we persevered with the help of these crisp, refreshing white wines. It’s been fun reaching into the wine chiller and randomly grabbing one of the bottles. Sadly, this time when we opened the door, there was only one Chilean Sauvignon Blanc left. The final wine for this series is the Viña Morandé Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

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

Pablo Morandé is a visionary, and reputed to be the first to plant grapes in the Casablanca Valley in the 1980s. He founded Viña Morandé in 1996 to further his vision for the future, and showcase the varied and diverse terroirs of Chile. Among other innovations, Viña Morandé launched a high-density planting program, with up to 10,000 vines per hectare. High-density planting allows growers to take better advantage of soil moisture and solar energy. In addition, Viña Morandé utilizes concrete eggs for fermentation, and large, oak foudres for aging. The result is high-quality wines that highlight the diversity of the Chilean terroirs.

With that, on the Autumnal Equinox marking the end of summer, we introduce the final wine in our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

Viña Morandé Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Pale straw color. Nose of citrus and tropical fruit. On the palate, lemon zest, quince, pineapple, mango, white grapefruit, and notes of straw and hay. Light body with tart acidity and a medium finish.

We hope you have enjoyed following along on the journey through our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. If you have the chance to try this wine, or any of the others in this series, please leave a comment to let us know how you liked them.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Casas del Bosque, Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Casas del Bosque La Cantera Sauvignon Blanc 2020

At long last, we are moving out of 100°+ temperatures, and can see autumn on the horizon. There’s even rain in the forecast for today! But we still have a few more days of summer, so our journey continues! The penultimate wine in our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is the Casas del Bosque La Cantera Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

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

Casas del Bosque is located in Las Dichas, on the extreme west of the Casablanca Valley. The winery was founded in 1993 by the Cúneo family. The estate takes it name from the ancient pine forests, olive trees, and small adobe houses in the area. Casas del Bosque roughly translates to “Forest Houses.”

Casas del Bosque has 89 hectares under vine, planted with cool climate varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. They also source Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from vineyards in Maipo, Colchagua and Cachapoal.

In addition to their passion for crafting fine wines, Casas del Bosque also promotes the region through wine tourism. They offer a wide range of tasting and tour options, including a harvest experience and bicycle tours, and also operate three restaurants, ranging from vineyard-centric casual, to gastronomic fine cuisine.

The western location of the vineyards are the coolest in the Casablanca Valley, which help promote excellent conditions for crisp Sauvignon Blanc wines. The name, La Cantera, is derived from an old granite quarry and the red clay soils in the area. The vines are planted in these rich soils, providing fresh minerality and structure.

Casas del Bosque La Cantera Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Soft golden color. Aromas of pineapple, citrus, and straw. On the palate, lemon lime, pineapple, quince, fresh cut grass, and a healthy dose of cat pee. The wine is light bodied, with vibrant acidity, yet a surprisingly soft, smooth mouthfeel. Long, citrus and tropical fruit finish. Perfect pairing with fish tacos.

Another fantastic Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy the waning days of summer. We hope you have the opportunity to try this wine. If you do, please let us know how you liked it by leaving a comment.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Chile, Chilean Wine, Matetic Vineyards, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020

We’ve made it past Labor Day Weekend in the United States, the unofficial end of summer. Yet it seems Mother Nature didn’t get the memo this year! We’ve just survived a record-setting heatwave in Northern California, with temperatures in the 110° to 115° range this past week. Thank goodness for dry, crisp, refreshing white wines. Remember, summer doesn’t actually end until September 22! As we continue our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, we cracked and enjoyed the Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

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

Matetic Vineyards has it roots in Eastern Europe. The patriarch of the family business, Jorge Matetic-Celtinja emigrated to Chile in 1892, from a town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is now Rijeka, Croatia. He settled near the southern tip of Chile, in Punta Arenas. Fast-forward more than 100 years to 1999, when Jorge’s descendants planted vines in the Rosario Valley, in Casablanca, becoming pioneers in cool-climate viticulture in the region. The EQ line of wines was born with the first harvest in 2001. Grape varieties in that year included Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

The Matetic family wasted no time in embracing organic and biodynamic farming practices, beginning that transition the very next year, in 2002. Certification was achieved in 2004.

The winery itself opened in 2003 and features a beautiful blend of modern architecture with the use of natural wood and stone from the nearby region. Environmentally friendly with gravity flow, the winery continues the sustainable tradition. Matetic Vineyards also built a boutique hotel, La Casona, which opened in 2004, and ushered in a commitment to wine tourism in the area.

The vineyards for this Sauvignon Blanc are planted just 3 ½ miles from the coast, in granite-rich soils. Cool mornings and sunny afternoons contribute to ideal growing conditions, resulting in fresh, crisp wines. As always, the proof is in the bottle!

Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Golden straw color. The nose is pineapple and citrus. On the palate, flavors of pineapple, lemon, lime, and quince, with notes of mango, passion fruit, and grass. Light body with zesty acidity, yet quite easy drinking. Great with seafood and also nice sipping on its own.

The Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020 is a fantastic representation of the unique terroir that Chile has to offer. We thoroughly enjoyed this wine, and are confident that you will, too! If you try it, please let us know in the comments what you think of it.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Viña Koyle, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc rolls on! We may never grow tired of these tasty, racy wines, and are ever grateful for them on what has been a summer for the record books with more than 35 days over 100°! Next up on our journey is the Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021.

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

The people at Koyle Family Vineyards sound like our kind of people. Their tag-line on their home page is “A Great Family – Wine Runs Through our Veins”. Koyle Family Vineyards history spans six generations, beginning with Don Francisco Undurraga Vicuña in 1885. It was he who imported vines from France and Germany and plant them in Chile. The original winery was named Viña Undurraga, in 1903, became the first Chilean winery to export wines to the United States.

The Koyle Family Vineyards name was born in 2006, after Alfonso Undurraga and his son Cristóbal began planting grapes on the rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains, in Alto Colchagua. Three years later, in 2009, Koyle Family Vineyards began the process of becoming biodynamic and working with the International Demeter Biodynamic Federation. Their mission is to create wines that respect their origin and highlight the terroir of the region.

The Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021 is an exceptional wine that certainly expresses the character of the Chilean region. The grapes are from vineyards located just five miles from the sea, in granite soils rich in quartz and clay. The wine is sur-lie aged for four months to soften the natural, sharp acidity.  

Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Golden straw color. On the nose, citrus, tropical fruit, and cat pee. On the palate, flavors of big notes of quince, with lemon zest, pineapple, pear, white peach, grass, and minerals. Dry with tart acidity and a medium finish.

If you like a zesty, racy, puckery Sauvignon Blanc, this is the wine for you! It was super refreshing as we tried to cool down from another scorcher. If you try it, please let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Chilean Wine, Montes, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Montes Wines Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Montes Wines is one of the most recognizable names in Chilean wine production. Known for their stunning, bold red wines like Montes Alpha M and the Purple Angel, we were happy to learn they produce equally impressive white wines, too. As we continued our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, the Montes Wines Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021 was the next to be drawn from our cellar.

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

We feel very fortunate to have received the samples of crisp refreshing Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wines, just in time for what has proven to be a particularly toasty summer. Here in NorCal in the greater Sacramento area, we have experienced a run of nearly 3 weeks of temperatures over 100°, many 105° or more! So, we have really been enjoying these wines to help cool off and relax in the evenings.

Montes Wines was established in 1987 by Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray, who had a vision of elevating Chilean wines on the world stage by producing wines far superior to what was available from Chile at the time. They brought in two more partners, Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand, the next year. Their 1987 vintage Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon was the first of their wines to gain notoriety and worldwide acclaim. People started to take notice of Chile as a serious wine producing country.

Montes Wines are widely available at a variety of retailers and at various price points. We’ve enjoyed a number of their red wines in the past, but the Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021 was our first experience with one of their white wines. While we were sure it would be good, given the producer’s reputation for crafting fine wines, we were not expecting to be as blown away as we were!

Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Wow! This is good! We know Montes reds, but this is our first white. Pale straw color. Initial aromas of pineapple and cat pee (in a good way), followed by quince. On the palate, pineapple, white grapefruit, pear, lemon zest, and citrus, with saline and minerals. Light body with well balanced acidity and a crisp, clean finish.

This is a truly stunning wine, and we hope you have an opportunity to try some. If you enjoy and appreciate a finely made Sauvignon Blanc, you will not be disappointed!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Rahael-Reynolds
Chile, Chilean Wine, Limari Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Viña Tabalí Talinay Sauvignon Blanc 2021

To kick off our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, we started with a completely random choice. I closed my eyes, reached into the wine fridge, and grabbed one of the eight sample bottles we had received. It happened to be the Viña Tabalí Talinay Sauvignon Blanc 2021, and it turned out to be a great way to start. The day was 103°F so a cold, crisp white was perfect.

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

Viña Tabalí was founded in 2002 by Guillermo Luksic, in the Limarí Valley. His goal was, and is, to create high quality wines that reveal the terroir of the area, and transport those tasting the wines to the very vineyards where they were produced. Viña Tabalí quickly achieved international recognition and acclaim, and established a reputation for quality and innovation. A unique winery, Viña Tabalí has vineyards ranging from 12 kilometers from the ocean to mountain vineyards as high as 1,600 meters – the only winery in the region with vines from ocean to mountains in the same valley.

The Viña Tabalí Talinay line includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and our featured wine, Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards for these wines are on the coastal side of the valley, with cooler temperatures which helps contribute to crisp, refreshing wines. What a treat this was, and a fantastic way to start what looks to be a long, hot, tasty summer!

Viña Tabalí Talinay Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Pale straw color. The nose is tropical fruit and citrus. On the palate, peach, pineapple, lemon lime, grapefruit, saline, and minerals. Light body with well-balanced acidity and a clean, fresh finish. A truly delightful wine, paired well with baked Sea Bream, and equally nice sipping on its own.

We hope you have the opportunity to try this delightful Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. If you do, let us know in the comments, and tell us how you liked it.

Stay tuned for more of our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc in the coming weeks!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Napa Valley, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Samples, Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Titus, Titus Vineyards, Wine, Zinfandel

A Visit to Titus Vineyards

The weather forecast was not promising; rain showers and mid-60’s. We had been invited to a private tasting and lunch, with vineyard and winery tour, at Titus Vineyards, hosted by Eric Titus, co-owner of this multi-generational family estate. Undeterred by the forecast, we packed our jackets and raincoats in the car and headed off the winery, located off Silverado Trail, in St. Helena. The sun was shining at home, but we expected to hit rain any minute along the way. Thankfully, they got it wrong. No rain on the drive, and when we arrived it was comfortable in the low 70’s.

This trip was offered as a complimentary media event. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

It turned out to be a spectacular day; mid-70’s with puffy, cotton ball clouds. It had rained heavily the previous day, so the vineyard tour was a no-go, but that did not dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of all in attendance. Eric himself greeted us on the covered patio and quickly offered us a tasting of the just-released 2021 Sauvignon Blanc. As we sipped, Eric gave us some of the history of the Titus family and the vineyards.

Titus Vineyards is a 50-acre property, currently planted to 40 acres of vineyards. The land has been in the Titus family since the late 1960’s, though its history goes back much further, with an impressive roster of notable landowners, including General Mariano Vallejo, Dr. Edward Bale, and Charles Krug. When the Titus family acquired the property, the vineyards consisted of a wide range of grape varieties: Semillon, Zinfandel, Carignan, Berger, Pinot Noir, and even Concord. The Titus family replanted and now grows primarily Bordeaux varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Sauvignon Blanc, while retaining some Zinfandel. To round out the Bordeaux noble grape portfolio, they source Malbec and Merlot from nearby vineyards.

Early in the life of Titus Vineyards, the family sold their grapes to nearby wineries. You may have heard of a few: Charles Krug, Beaulieu Vineyards, Cuvaison. Each of these famous wineries have produced their fine wines using Titus Vineyards fruit. Today, Titus Vineyards uses their grapes to craft distinctive Napa Valley wines in a balanced, Old-World style.

We found Eric Titus to be friendly, engaging, and generous. He and his brother, Phillip, grew up working (and playing) on the family farm. Philip pursued viticulture early on, studying at U.C. Davis and traveling to Bordeaux and Burgundy before starting his career in the Napa Valley. Eric, on the other hand, went a different direction, earning a doctorate degree in Biology, and working in marine science for a number of years. In 1997, Eric came to help with the harvest at the family farm. The business was growing, and in 2002, made the decision to return to Titus Vineyards full time, and is now General Manager and Vineyard Operations Manager.

Photo credit: https://www.titusvineyards.com/

In 2014, Titus Vineyards broke ground on their new, state-of-the-art winery facility. Elevated on a hill near the east end of the property, the striking edifice is a beautiful, modern merging of cutting-edge viticultural technology and art. Eric escorted us on a tour of the facility, pointing out the architectural design and striking view from the crush pad, though the fermentation room and tasting room, to the vineyards. (The photo does not do it justice!)

After the tour, we enjoyed a seated tasting and lunch, paired with the delicious wines from Titus Vineyards. With Eric as our guide, this was a most informative and educational tasting. The lunch, catered by Chef Michelle Mutrux, was divine! We provide here some drool-worthy photos, along with tasting notes on the wines.

Tasting notes:

Pre-meal, during the tour:

2021 Sauvignon Blanc

Blended with just a touch (5%) of Viognier, the wine is a pale straw color with aromas of tree fruit and stone fruit. On the palate, there is tropical fruit and citrus, with soft, floral, aromatic notes. Dry and crisp, with a pleasing finish. (SRP: $36)

2019 Malbec

Deep garnet color with a ruby rim. Bold black and red fruit on the nose with hints of clove. A swirl in the bowl stains the glass due to its inky color. On the palate, black cherry, ripe raspberry, smoke, coffee, and black pepper. Full bodied, with firm, mouth-drying tannins, and a long finish. (SRP: $55)

Seated tasting and lunch:

2019 Merlot

Fruit sourced from the Sugarloaf Ridge vineyard. Inky purple color with blueberry and black cherry on the nose. Flavors on the palate include bright red cherry, blueberry, blackberry, clove, and black pepper. Well balanced with soft tannins, bright acidity, and a long finish. (SRP: $52)

2019 Cabernet Franc

Deep garnet color with ruby rim. On the nose, black cherry, Marionberry, and just a whiff of bell pepper. The palate is blueberry, black cherry, blackberry, bell pepper/jalapeño, and baking spice. Full bodied with vibrant, bright acidity and firm, yet approachable tannins and a long finish. (This was our favorite of the tasting!) (SRP: $60)

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep, opaque purple with a garnet rim. This has the classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromas; blackberry, black cherry, cassis, and smoke. On the palate, the fruit is bright and balanced, and includes black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, cassis, and hints of dried herbs, with a bit of bell pepper, vanilla, tobacco, and black pepper on the finish. Smooth tannins with lively acidity. (SRP: $65)

2019 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Inky, almost black in color. On the nose, bright red fruit, cherry, blackberry, and anise. The wine hits the palate with a creamy, soft feel, like cherry cream, with black currant, blackberry, coffee, and mocha notes. Tannins a soft and smooth, balanced with medium acidity, leading to a long, spicy finish. (SRP: $115)

2018 Lot 1 Blend

A unique and fun blend of 45% Petite Sirah, 28% Malbec, 22% Petit Verdot, and 5% Zinfandel to soften and polish. Dark purple color with a garnet rim. Aromas of boysenberry, blackberry, and blueberry greet the nose. On the palate, this is a bid, bold wine with black fruit flavors, blackberry, black cherry, and currant, with chocolate and baking spice notes. Full body, with big tannins and bright acidity. (SRP: $89)

As we mentioned, Eric is quite generous, and as we enjoyed the lunch, conversation, and company, he brought out a couple of bonus bottles; the 2020 Zinfandel and the 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. By this point, we were entering food coma mode, so tasting notes are sparse. Suffice it to say the Zinfandel was quite exquisite, and the 2014 Reserve Cab paired perfectly with the last few bites of the short rib.

We are grateful to have been invited to this one-of-a-kind event. We enjoyed meeting Eric Titus and learning more about Titus Vineyards. Though we’d heard of Titus Vineyards before, this was our first visit and tasting. Based on what we experienced, Titus Vineyards will be on our “return to in Napa” list. If you haven’t visited Titus Vineyards, you should make a point of doing so soon.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds, except where noted.
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
Alentejo, Herdade do Esporão, Portugal, Samples, Wine

A Taste of Alentejo with Herdade do Esporão

Many travelers who plan a trip to Portugal think of Lisbon, the country’s capital and largest city. People who are familiar with Portuguese wine may think of Porto, home of the famous fortified wines, or Duoro, and it’s intense reds. All locales are magical in their own right, and everyone we know who has visited has raved about their experiences. They are definitely on our short list of destinations for our next European excursion. 

Yet as much as our friends loved visiting these well-known places, the one region in Portugal that all of them mentioned as “must-go” on their next trip is Alentejo. Intrepid wine explorers know Alentejo as a world-class wine region, producing stunning, high quality wines. However, wines of Alentejo are not as readily available, at least in our area, as other, better known Portuguese regions. (Vinho Verde, anybody?) In fact, a check of our local Total Wine & More store revealed just five wines from that region in their inventory, and only four in stock.

When we received an invitation for samples of four wines from Alentejo producer Herdade do Esporão, and to attend a virtual tasting with Esporão Group CEO João Roquette and winemaker Sandra Alves, we gladly accepted. With this blog, we hope to help promote the region and the wines, to foster interest and enthusiasm, and hopefully greater availability!

The samples and tasting were focused on Herdade do Esporão in Alentejo. Of interest, though, is that the Esporão Group has expanded beyond Alentejo, and has operations in other Portuguese regions. These include Quinta dos Murças in the Douro, Quinta do Ameal in Vinho Verde, and even the Sovina Craft Beer brewery in Porto. 

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

The Alentejo region is the largest in Portugal, and is located in the southern third of the country. Herdade do Esporão is centrally located in Alentejo, in the Reguengos de Monsaraz DOC subregion. Receiving an average of just 23 inches of rain per year, and boasting at least seven distinct soil profiles, the area is ideal for viticulture. The estate is planted to 37 grape varieties, most of which are indigenous. Some of the Touriga Nacional, Verdelho, and Semillon vines are more than 40 years old. 

During the virtual event, we first heard from João Roquette, who provided some history, and described the diversity and sustainability practices employed at Herdade do Esporão. Originally established in 1267, the boundaries of the estate remain essentially unchanged to this day. The estate’s 4,522 acres include 1,091 acres planted to vines, with olive trees, orchards, and vegetable gardens on other parts of the land. 

João Roquette’s relative, José Roquette, and his partner Joaquim Bandeira, purchased the estate in the 1973, shortly before the 1974 military coup overthrew the ruling dictatorship. The Roquette family moved to Brazil in the short term, but José returned in 1983 to begin wine production. The first vintage was a 1985 Esporão Reserva Red. Today, Herdade do Esporão wines are exported to some 50 countries. In the U.S., there are about 25 different wines available, including reds, whites, rosés and Port, ranging in price from $10 to $300.

Herdade do Esporão’s sustainability practices are four-fold: Environmental, Social, Cultural, and Personal. Their mindset is one of thinking about the next generation. On the Environmental front, Herdade do Esporão achieved Organic certification in 2019, following an 11 year process. Beyond the estate, they are helping 16 of their supply growers attain their own Organic certification. On the Social plane, Herdade do Esporão promotes employee equality, fair pay and benefits, and social activism. The estate provides everyone with transportation to and from work, hot, sit-down meals, health insurance, access to legal and mental health assistance, and the possibility of bonuses and advancement. Culturally, they sponsor experience centers, including a restaurant in Alentejo, and host a cultural ambassador program. Finally, Personal sustainability involves encouraging a slow forward lifestyle, encouraging a slower pace of life, taking the time to pay attention to details and perspective that is often overlooked in our fast-paced world. 

Winemaker Sandra Alves took the reins to talk about the sample wines, and walk us through the tasting. Sandra joined the Herdade do Esporão team in 2001, and took on the lead winemaking role just two years ago, in February 2020. Sandra’s early winemaking education was at the side of her grandfather, who made wine from backyard grapes. She pursued an education in Oenology and has received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Early in her career, Sandra was focused on producing white wines…in a country and region dominated by reds. Herdade do Esporão had faith and invested in the project, and as we can attest from the tasting, it has been a tasty success! 

Full disclosure, the Zoom call fell in the middle of a workday, and as such we opted to open and sample the wines over the weekend, a few days before the call. The experience was no less informative, and we were very impressed by the quality. Then, we enjoyed the bottles throughout the week, with the food pairings we suggest in our reviews, below. 

One of the topics of conversation during the call was the affordable price point of these wines. Like wines from many regions that are emerging on the global scale, the values in Alentejo are well worth searching out. 

Whites

Colheita Branco 2020 (SRP $18)

Golden color. Aromas citrus and tropical fruit. On the palate, lemon, pineapple, and Granny Smith apple. Bone dry with refreshing, zesty acidity. Pair this with grilled or pan-seared seafood. Delightful! 

Reserva Branco 2020 (SRP $20)

Golden straw color. On the nose, pear, yellow apple, and butter notes, indicative of the oak aging. Flavors of pineapple, lemon lime, pear, and apple, with hints of toast and butter. Full bodied, with a rich, creamy mouthfeel, and bright acidity. Very satisfying finish. Nice alternative to Chardonnay for pairing with roast chicken. 

Reds

Colheita Tinto 2018 (SRP $18)

Deep garnet color with a brick rim. Aromas of ripe black cherry and blackberry, with hints of clove. On the palate, bright Bing cherry, raspberry, and blackberry, with baking spice and white pepper. Medium-plus body. Chalky, gritty tannins with medium acidity and a long finish of red fruit and spice. Excellent with grilled pork dishes. 

Reserva Reserva Tinto 2018 (SRP $25)

Garnet color with a ruby rim. On the nose, toasty raspberry and cherry notes. Flavors of black cherry, blackberry, and cassis, with hints of nutmeg, clove, and other baking spice, and oak and cedar notes. Full body with firm tannins with balanced acidity and a long, tasty finish. Great with grilled beef or game. 

As we mentioned above, about 25 different Herdade do Esporão wines are available in the U.S., but here in our little corner of suburbia, they are not easy to find. If you happen to spot some in your local wine shop, or on a restaurant wine list, do yourself a favor and buy all you can! Oh, and did you catch earlier in the post, Herdade do Esporão has a restaurant in Alentejo. We started following the Esporão Group Instagram account, and the food shots are amazing! If you’ve been, or get to go on an upcoming trip, do leave a comment to let us know how it is! We’ll be making our reservation as soon as we book our Portuguese vacation! 

Felicidades! 

  • Text and photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Charmat, Domaine Bousquet, Samples, Sparkling Wine, Wine

Bubbles from Argentina!

With Christmas still six days away, there’s still time for you to head out to your local wine shop and grab some bubbles for the holiday. There are many regions and styles to choose from: if you want French, you can have Champagne from, well, Champagne, Crémant d’Alsace or Crémant de Bourgogne from (as the names imply) Alsace or Burgundy, respectively. Other options include Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or sparkling wine from most any region in the United States. Any or all of these are solid choices to add some sparkle to your holiday table.

But what about south of the equator? Allow us to introduce you to two delightful sparklers from Domaine Bousquet, in Argentina. 

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

We’ve written about Domaine Bousquet before, and have really come to appreciate the quality of their wines, and their commitment to environmental and social responsibility. (Go ahead, click the link and read about them. We’ll be here when you get back.) 

Like most of the wines from Domaine Bousquet, their quality far exceeds their price point, making high quality wine, including sparkling wine, affordable for pretty much anybody who drinks wine. 

The Domaine Bousquet sparkling wines are made using the charmat method. This is the same method used to produce prosecco. In the charmat method, the winemaker produces a still wine to completion, then adds a blend of sugar and yeast, known as the liqueur de tirage. The wine is then moved into a large, stainless steel pressure tank where the sugar and yeast interact to create a secondary fermentation. Since the wine is held under high pressure, the carbonation created by the secondary fermentation is forced into the wine, resulting in the bubbles we all know and love! 

Charmat sparkling wines are generally bottled and released directly after the second fermentation has ended, and are not aged. As a result, they tend to be lighter and fresher, with a more fruit-driven character. Perfect for food pairing and celebrating. 

Domaine Bousquet Charmant Brut (75% Chardonnay & 25% Pinot Noir) SRP: $13.00

A fresh, fruit forward sparkling. Golden color with vigorous, vibrant streams of bubbles. Nose of pear, apple, and citrus. Flavors of green apple, Asian pear, citrus, and minerals. Bone dry with crisp acidity and a clean finish. 

Domaine Bousquet Charmant Rosé (75% Pinot Noir & 25% Chardonnay) SRP: $13.00 

Salmon-peach color. The nose is fresh strawberry, raspberry, and cherry, driven by abundant tiny bubbles. On the palate, luscious strawberry, raspberry, peach, red cherry, and citrus. Dry with bright acidity and a zesty finish. 

We hope all our readers take some time this holiday season to appreciate and enjoy the joyful things and people in their lives. When you do, we encourage you to raise a toast to health and happiness, with a glass of Domaine Bousquet Charmat! 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds