27 Apr 2011
Earlier this year I made the observation that I’ve tasted a lot of wine from Washington. While I’m a huge fan of Washington Wine, I made the comment that I needed to expand my horizons and tasting experiences. So far, I’ve been fortunate this year to enjoy wine from Bordeaux, South Africa, Beaujolais (notes coming soon), Chile, and Italy. In 2010 only 1 non-American wine made my top 10 list – a Chilean red blend of Syrah, Cabernet, Carmenere, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Mourvedre. Chile makes a lot of wine. In fact, they are the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world. In all, I’ve officially explored about 20 Chilean wines in regular tastings and Wines of Chile tastings.
I’m impressed by the focus on engaging wine bloggers to “get the word out” about the various regions of Chile. While I recently participated in a Chilean wine tasting called #redblends, the following wines were sent by Vina Santa Carolina winery. With over 125 years of history and heritage in seven Chilean wine regions, Vina Santa Carolina showcases quality wine at a value.
Approximately right in the middle of the long narrow country of Chile is the region of Maule Valley. This 100% Pinot Noir is fairly substantive in the glass with a thicker than expected crimson color. The cooler climate Pinot starts off like many of the Chilean wines I’ve had lately with hints of burnt rubber. After letting this wine sit for about an hour the magic shines through. A very soft perfumed blueberry is shy in the glass. Subtle candy aromas come out as well. In the mouth the wine is soft on the front palate but offers a touch of sweetness, light tannin and pepper on the back end and finish. The 14.5% alcohol is well balanced with the acidity. A little research shows that this wine is available online for around $10. A fantastic value even at $20. Easily a 3+/5 and a tremendous buy for any Pinot Noir lover.
- 88pts Robert Parker and Best Buy from Wine Enthusiast
Hailing from the HOT Maipo Valley is the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The weight of the muscular heavy bottle shouts strength and power. In the glass the wine is dark, thick and inky. The 12 months in new French oak help to impart a nicely balanced aroma of dark chocolate and toast. EVEN more aromas of dark red fruit jump out of the glass along with hints of holiday baking spices (think pumpkin). In the mouth this wine is a full bodied delight of fruit, cedar and oak. While lacking an evolving flavor profile the straight forward approach is tastefully done. Put Napa on this wine and you’ve got a price tag of $39. This Chilean wine comes in at under $20. 3+/5
- 88 Pts Wine Enthusiast
Chile’s flagship grape, previously mistaken for Merlot, shines bright in this wine. The 12 months in French oak are not overpowering and offer the perfect balance of fruit and thickness. After a brief decanting the wine loses the notable burnt rubber aroma and gives way to a beautiful minty blackberry aroma. Smelling this wine was almost as enjoyable as drinking it. The wine is dark and intense in the glass. A slight herbaciousness on the nose gives way to a very complex flavor of red fruit, baking spice and thick plum. A light tannin joins the medium finish on the back end. I often describe wine as being ‘one note wonders’ or just offering ‘two dimensions.’ This Carmenere is the full package of aroma and complex flavor. Again, under $20, scores a strong 4/5.
- Robert Parker 90 Pts
In conclusion, these are three wines that I will not only keep my eyes out for, they are wines I will strongly endorse in the good tasting under $20 range. Go Chile – keep up the great work!
26 Nov 2010
I am not a huge fan of turkey. For Christmas I’d rather have ham, for Easter, I’d rather have prime rib. For Thanksgiving, we’ve established a tradition of lasagna and cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate turkey. If you’re going to invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner, don’t think you have to serve something different. Just don’t serve me mushrooms, brussel sprouts or liver and onions.
Every other year my wife and I end up alone for Thanksgiving. With family in Portland, some in Phoenix, and shared custody of the boy, we stay by ourselves in Spokane on the even years. When we first got married we decided to try something different. Rather than make a big turkey dinner for the two of us, we, well mostly me, decided, “Why not make my two favorite things in the whole wide world?” Enter, lasagna and cheesecake.
Our good friends, Tim and Tracy Nodland (owners of Spokane’s Nodland Cellars), were gracious enough to provide us with three of their newer, recently released and soon to be released wines. Not one to be very patient, I jumped at the opportunity to pair these three wines with our non traditional Thanksgiving meal.
2008 Nodland Cellars Bebop Riesling
The Nodland’s make a Riesling only when the vintage is right. Tim loves the old world Mosul style Riesling full of petrol and minerality. I recall the 2005 Bebop having aged very nicely to display these characteristics. The 2008 is a very bright golden delicious apple color in the glass. A slight effervescence jumps out on the aroma. Further scents of slightly sweet peaches and tropical flowers add to the beautiful bouquet. On the sip, the Bebop strikes a nice chord or a hint of sweetness and a mild tartness. A little steely minerality spikes up on the mid-palate and the wine has a really good acidity which helps to cleanse the palate.
We used ½ cup of the Riesling in the raspberry puree reduction for the cheesecake. The dry Riesling was a great pairing for the tart sweetness of the raspberry sauce. The medium acidity provided a great wash after each bite of the thick white chocolate cheesecake. At $20, some may find this Riesling to be a tad out of their normal budget for white wines, but if you like a gently sweet dry Riesling, you’ll love this wine. 3+/5
2008 Nodland Cellars Bad Attitude
The first release of the Nodland Cellars Rock-n-Roll series label, Bad Attitude, has been a huge success. Tim and Tracy have only made one red wine in their previous vintage releases. At $35, their traditional Bordeaux Red Blend can be out of reach for most people’s every day drinking wine. The Bad Attitude uses the same great Seven Hills fruit but rather than aging the wine in $1200 French oak barrels, the wine is aged in $500 American oak barrels. This year’s Bad Attitude is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Malbec (two of the more amazing grapes grown in Washington).
The swirl showcases the light characteristics of Merlot with a fairly translucent color. The wines aromas begin to showcase their rock-n-roll attitude right from the beginning. A huge power chord of vanilla, blueberry and charcoal reverberate from the glass. In the mouth the wine is also very gentle. This wine reminds me more of a gentle Over the Hills and Far Away rather than the driving Black Dog (bonus points for those that get the reference). In the mouth you can feel the use of American oak. For me, it’s nicely integrated and I like the play of the overly cooked marshmallow, vanilla and graham cracker. At $20, the Nodland’s have a number one single on their hand. 4/5 Instant Classic!
2007 Nodland Cellars Avant-Garde
From the back label:
“Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo. This wine is made from the obscure Carmenere grape, referred to a Grand Vidure in French.”
Carmenere is rarely used, and when it is, it is used as a blending grape. The original traditional Bordeaux blends included Carmenere, but it has since been mostly neglected. Nodland Cellars uses Carmenere in their Red Blend release. For 2007, they held back a small portion to be released as a 100% Carmenere, a showcase of the varietal.
On the swirl the Avant-Garde has a thick center core of plum that fades to more translucence around the edges. Typical of all Nodland wines the aroma is full and big. Strong bouquet of blueberries and exotic spice (not sure how to describe it) are most prevalent. On the sip the wine is full and lush with a gentle mouth coating feel. A hint of cherry sweetness graces the front palate and strong minerality of lead and rocks poke through the mid palate. One of our guests didn’t care for the minerality and described it as a little biting. There is a slight alcohol heat on the finish. The spice of the wine wasn’t a great pairing with the spice and acid from the tomato based lasagna. A better pairing for this wine would be beef, or a Pork Osso Bucco. Personally, I loved the wine and the uniqueness of flavor. At $32 it might not be for everyone. Unless you know you’re a spicy Carmenere lover, I suggest you head to the tasting room for a sip of this wine before dropping the cash. Personally, I’d buy TWO, one to drink now and one to see how the magic evolves in five years. 4/5
The Avant-Garde is being released on Friday, December 3 at the Nodland Cellars tasting room at 11616 E Montgomery 5:30-8:30. Enjoy a sip and a special discount.
How was your Thanksgiving? Did you have any amazing wine pairings? Please share…
28 Jan 2010
Climate. Soil. Fruit. Walla Walla is home to this trifecta of wine perfection. Trio Vintners is a trio of wine makers coming together with a common purpose of pursuing their passion, pursuing continued education(in Enology and Viticulture) and emphasizing the region of Wallula Gap. The result is wine with structure, character, and flavor (a trio of perfection).
I received a trio of wines from Trio Vintners, but I chose to save the third (a red blend) for another review with other quality Washington Rhone style blends. Wine makers Steve Michener, Denise Slattery, and Tim Boushey each has their hand in the process from sourcing to marketing. The trio works their magic with only 1200 cases per year of Riesling, Rhone Blend, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Carménère, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Syrah. The prices range from $16 – $30 respectively.
Before I get into the NectarView, I want to provide a little background on these two grapes for those who have yet to experience their joys.
History buffs vary on Carménère’s past but most point to the Bordeaux region of France as its main original stomping grounds. One of the original six Bordeaux blend grapes, Carménère is now rarely found in France. Benefiting from the long growing season for optimal ripening, Carménère’s prominence is in Chile. American Carménère is grown in Walla Walla and regions of California. Mostly used as a blending grape to soften a wine and add an earthy fruit. The pure varietal will showcase a nice smoky cherry that is crimson in color and very smooth in flavor.
Spain’s noble grape, Tempranillo is often bottled with Granache or Syrah. Tempranillo is very susceptible to weather changes and imparts qualities of the soil. Blending with Granache or Syrah tends to add balance and acidity. Tempranillo benefits from hot days and cool nights and tends to have plum, leather, vanilla and herb flavors.
2007 Carménère Walla Walla Valley
- The Stuff: 95% Single vineyard Carménère; 5% Single vineyard Sangiovese, from Walla Walla and Yakima Valley respectively. Only 46 cases produced.
- The Swirl: Beautiful dark Garnet jewel tones
- The Sniff: Mild aromas of cherry, vanilla and my wife said, “Powell’s Book Store in Portland” – I think she was referring to a slight earthiness
- The Sip: Very nice pairing with our Spanish chili. The wine is mild on the front end, but opens up well to a nice fruit. The balance is rounded off with some mild acidity and a little tartness.
- The Score: At $28 retail, I score this wine a 3+. This is better than the majority of Carménère that I’ve had. The flavor was balanced but the fruit was mild and the finish was moderate. I really enjoyed the unique varietal. If you like medium bodied wines like Merlot, then you’ll enjoy this.
2007 Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley
- The Stuff: 82% Tempranillo, 9% Carménère, 8% Sangiovese from Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley. Only 75 cases produced.
- The Swirl: Slightly darker than the Tempranillo but still moderately translucent
- The Sniff: First aroma was bright bold red fruit (like a Mike and Ike). After sitting out for an hour or two, the fruit turned to a nice sour cherry, dark chocolate, and a spice I couldn’t quite identify (like an herbal garden or something)
- The Sip: A medium bodied wine that jumps out with a nice cherry and cocoa and vanilla. The sweet acidity and medium tannin make this a nice well rounded offering. The finish lingered for quite some time.
- The Score: At $28 retail, I can score this wine a solid 4. The combination of a beautiful bouquet, balanced fruit, spice, acid and alcohol, and a rounded finish make it a stellar purchase.
*Both wines were provided as industry samples with the intent to review.