Archive for January, 2013

Tasting Recap: The Wines of Vina Errazuriz

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Chile is a land of soaring Andes mountains, a mild Mediterranean climate and fine wines and it is here that Viña Errázuriz has been producing high quality Chilean wines for more than 130 years. Don Maximiano Errázuriz founded Viña Errázuriz in 1870 in the Valle de Aconcagua, 65 miles north of the capital city, Santiago. Recognizing that this valley, with its cool, rainy winters, hot, dry summers and moist Pacific Ocean breezes, was ideal for growing grapes, Don Maximiano sent for the finest clones from France and transformed this barren land into a world-class vineyard. Today, the tradition of quality lives on with Don Maximiano’s descendant, Eduardo Chadwick, the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business. This past week’s tasting featured Nicolas Lopez, brand manager for Errazuriz, guiding tasters through seven of their wines, from a crisp, single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc to a powerhouse red blend and a few other stops along the way. We always enjoy having winery representative in the shop to offer our customers a more in-depth and enlightening experience – and without that pesky airfare! As the evening was a smashing success and there were quite a few bottles taken home by our guests, we recommend giving one a go!

Errázuriz 2011 Sauvignon Blanc “Single Vineyard”

Chile isn’t known for its Sauvignon Blanc, but this brings great value to the quality bottlings available. This single vineyard offering shows beautiful notes of grapefruit and green pepper, a rounded yet bright acidity and a creamier palate from a few months of lees aging. Harvested from their Manzanar vineyard, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, this cooler climate reminds us of a more classic old world take on Sauvignon Blanc, though Chile’s hot, sunny days bring a riper fruit profile to the mix. The final product is a balanced wine with the ability to please all Sauvignon Blanc fans alike.

Errázuriz 2011 Chardonnay “Estate”

Errázuriz 2010 Chardonnay “Wild Ferment”

Chardonnay is a fairly malleable grape, and the next two wines sampled showed just how varied this varietal van be vinified. Both the Estate and the Wild Ferment chardonnay show great characteristics of the region and varietal, but at different price points varied qualities are expected. The Estate Chardonnay sees a quarter fermented in oak, no malolactic fermentation and brings a fresher, brighter profile. Bright orchard fruits, a more vibrant acidity and a crisper profile combine to create an easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing Chardonnay. The “Wild Ferment” Chardonnay is a homage to a more hand-off style of winemaking, using whole cluster fermentation with natural yeasts. About half the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, rounding the acidity and softening the palate, ages 10 months in French oak, only 4% of which is new, bringing very subtle spice notes to a hint of butter amongst lemon and lighter fruit. For the price, we prefer the Wild Ferment, but tasters took home a fair bit of the Estate Chardonnay as well – reinforcing our belief that there is a style of Chardonnay for everyone!

Errázuriz 2010 Carmenere “Estate”

Errázuriz 2010 Carmenere “Single Vineyard”

Simply stated, Carmenere is Chile’s grape.  Historically a blending grape in Bordeaux, Carmenere has taken deep root in Chile and has formed a great identity for the country and the ability to produce pure varietal bottlings. Black fruits, dried herb notes, and a savage quality all give this grape a wildly unique character. The next two pours again showed what a classic, everyday Carmenere represents next to a single vineyard Carmenere with a bit more polish. The Estate Carmenere sees a blend of oak (French and American) both new and re-used offering flavors of vanilla, spice and coconut to support the dark fruits and weedy green flavors this Carmenere offers. With a step up to their Single Vineyard Carmenere, we see more French oak utilized (80%, the remainder American) 33% of which is new – allowing the wine to extract more brown spices. Aging 12 months in this oak tames the Carmenere’s feral qualities and brings a more international palate, though one could never mistake this wine for any other grape. Dark black fruits, a bit of earth and spice amongst faint herbal notes with a touch of umami on the palate and a smoother, lush palate create a truly fantastic Carmenere that well over-delivers for its price. We have carried this wine in the shop for years and tasting it again reinforced why it’s a staple on our shelves.

Errazuriz 2009 Syrah “Single Vineyard”

Syrah is certainly a world-class grape, producing classic wines of the northern Rhone and the modern Shiraz of Australia. Chile isn’t the first place we think of for Syrah, but this bottle forces us to question why. With a dark and brooding profile of dark black fruits, cocoa powder and a touch of pepper amidst spices from a year in French oak, this Syrah is a winner. Syrah is thicker skinned, bearing more tannins and pigments and the winemakers use this to their advantage to create a wine rich purple in color with tannins tamed by the oak, however still containing a subtle grip creating complexity. For those who prefer an old world Syrah, this may be fruitier and lusher than desired, and for Shiraz drinkers this is a step away, as well, however this style of Syrah is far more accessible than understood. Never had a Chilean Syrah? This is the one to try first.

Errazuriz 2007 “Kai”

This was the big boy for the night, representing the higher-end wines that Errázuriz produces. For those who enjoy their heavily oaked wines with lots of fruit and lower acidity this is the one. A blend of primarily Carmenere with touches of Syrah and Petit Verdot sees 20 months aging in just about 100% new French oak bringing great depth and complexity to this wine. After aeration and decanting, this wine blossomed into a powerhouse wine full of intense purple and black fruits, faint notes of roasted peppers with a little earth and brown spices galore. There is serious structure to this wine allowing it to age for several years or, with a good decant, the ability to drink a little sooner. A great way to end the tasting.

Tasting Recap: the Beguiling Charms of Nebbiolo

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Hailing from Piedmont in northwestern Italy, the Nebbiolo varietal has been producing some of the world’s greatest wines for centuries. Growing well only in the specific soils and climate of this sub-Alpine region, this naturally highly tannic and acidic grape has the means to produce wines that will dazzle consumers and age for decades, though it can take some getting used to. Nebbiolo’s flavor profiles generally include notes of tar, roses, cherries and cocoa all balanced with a great sense of place – and yes, tar is indeed a good thing. This past week’s tasting focused on six expressions of Nebbiolo sampled in three sets of pairs to greater understand the contrast of producer and region as well as Nebbiolo’s transparent nature when it comes to terroir. We began with two accessible options (both on the palate and wallet) and progressed to a gorgeous Barbaresco and three mighty Baroli – including a true apples to apples comparison of the same wine from two consecutive vintages – an incredibly enlightening experience no taster could forget. We personally love Nebbiolo so this is always one of our favorite tastings, and last week’s attendees certainly agreed. Never had Nebbiolo? Stop into either location and pick up a bottle to indulge in – you may find yourself as enamored with this grape as we are!

Guidobono 2011 Nebbiolo, Langhe ($15.95)
Andrea Oberto 2010 Nebbiolo, Langhe ($24.95)
As world class wine often requires more effort (lower yields, longer aging time, etc.) in the vineyards and winery, producers of these wines need a little bit of cash flow while these high-quality gems are coming to in their cellars. The result of this are pocket-friendly wines fashioned in a style ready for more youthful consumption – often sourced from high-quality fruit with the same love and care that goes into the higher-end labels. This first pair showed two entry-level Nebbiolos – the Guidobono, sourced from just south of Barolo, and the Oberto which is all high-quality Barolo fruit declassified to keep separation from Oberto’s higher end bottlings. With the Guidobono we find a nice ripe cherry fruit with a hint of cocoa and that delicious tar with a slightly rounder acidity and smoother more polished tannins. Seeing just a few months of barrel aging softens the palate and combined with the predominance of fruit makes this wine a perfect way to sample Nebbiolo as it has a modern edge that new world wine drinkers will appreciate. This isn’t one to cellar but to drink now (and often!)

Oberto, though often considered to be a modernist, certainly shows why you spend a few more bucks on a bottle expressing even more the potential for this varietal. Sourced from La Morra in northern Barolo, this wine sees six months in partially used barrique after a warmer fermentation creating richer and deeper flavors and showing a step up in structure. Secondary notes of mineral, tar and roses surface here with a darker cherry profile to balance. The palate is a bit more put together here with the acidity a touch brighter, bolder but more nuanced flavors and just enough grip to remind you that this bottle could cellar for a few years. Tasters were split on this pair overall, but both wines showed extremely well for their styles and we certainly wouldn’t refuse a glass of either.

Roccalini 2008 Barbaresco ($34.95)
Vietti 2008 “Castiglione” Barolo ($46.95)
With this pair we moved into the more specific regions of Barbaresco and Barolo and though only a few miles apart and sharing fairly similar laws, these wines are where Nebbiolo really shines. Roccalini is a small producer (about 600 cases annually) who creates just this Barbaresco and a Dolcetto. This 2008 bottling is an incredibly pretty wine reminding us of how Nebbiolo features bold flavors and textures yet remains fairly medium bodied. A heightened florality comes through here with a bright acidity to balance gentler tannins and a fairly lengthy finish. Delicate yet expressive, this wine showed extremely well and has cellaring potential, but its abundance of ripe fruit makes it accessible now.

For contrast, the Vietti holds true to an earthier, traditional Barolo. With more time in oak and tank, this wine shows how Barolo can be more assertive than Barbaresco. Vietti has been producing wines for just over a hundred years paving paths and opening doors along the way for this esteemed region. Their 2008 “Castiglione” brings more firm tannin, dried rose, a darker fruit and more tar than we’ve sampled at this point. The palate is more extracted yet still remains medium bodied, acidity is well-integrated and though the tannins are firm, in due time this wine will please those traditional palates that enjoy drinking more non-fruit flavors. A classic Barolo.

Luigi Einaudi 2007 & 2008 “Nei Cannubi” Barolo ($84.95 each)
Tasting these two wines side by side, tasters experienced just how much variation there can be between vintages and though the wines were only one year apart, boy was there variation! These wines were sourced form the Cannubi vineyard in central Barolo, considered to be one of the top crus of the region. Einaudi owns 6 acres in the cru, and the wines show the versatility and significance Barolo wines can offer from vintage to vintage. The 2007 extolled that vintage’s ease with a riper, lusher palate and more giving aromas and flavors and the 2008, with floral notes intermingled with red cherries, a rounder acidity and a lengthy, grippy but graceful finish. This wine drinks incredibly well young and will certainly age well, though perhaps not as extensively as a more classic vintage.

The 2008 growing season was not as easy to work with, proving to be much more traumatic in comparison. Consistent rains, varying weather patterns and hints of hail caused turbulence this season, however through adversity, peace was found with a sunny, warm fall. 2008 has proved to be a classic vintage for Barolo creating vibrant, refined wines. Structure is quite different here as the components for this wine demand more time to integrate, and we find more mineral, earth and a greater sense of terroir here. More tar, more earth, more grip, more acid, more length and finish – this wine is a baby and will cellar well for 10-15 years. (Running it through the Vinturi to aerate it worked wonders, though, the wine was opening up beautifully by the end of the evening.) For an apples to apples comparison, this pair showed just how different those apples can be, both unique, and both quite delicious.