MyWinePal Visits Chile – October 2009, Part 2

In Part 1 of of my trip notes to Chile, I talked about the Casablanca and Maipo Valleys, plus gave you some information about the following wineries:
Casas del Bosque
Vina Santa Rita
Vina Undurraga
Vina Tarapaca ex Zavala

In Part 2 of my trip notes, I am going to cover the Aconcagua and the Colchagua Valleys, and tell you about my visits to the following wineries:
Vina Errazuriz
Vina Montgras
Vina Montes
Casa Lapostolle
– Viu Manent

Before I talk about these wineries, I should tell you a bit about the valleys as they influence the grapes and of course the wines that are produced. The Aconcagua Valley is quite an arid area (to the north of Santiago), looking much like parts of the Western USA. The wineries in this area follow the Aconcagua River. Mt. Aconcagua, the highest mountain in North and South America, towers over the valley and its snow-capped peak provides water to the valley. Red grapes have long grown in the interior, but new coastal plantations are proving the valley’s potential for white wines as well.

To the south of Santiago, about 3-4 hours by car, you reach the Colchagua Valley. This one of Chile’s best known wine regions and has earned many good reviews for its full-bodied Cabernet, Carménère, Syrah, and Malbec. Many vineyards are located in the flatter valley, while the premium vineyards are planted against the slopes of the mountains. The Apalta hillside area is where many of the premium wines come from the Colchagua Valley.

For many of the wineries I visited, and read about, there is a big push for sustainable vineyard practices, with many wineries offering organic and/or biodynamic selections of their wines. In one of the Montes pictures you will see horses grazing in the vineyards to keep down the grass and weeds. They also use llamas for grazing. I think that this is great, and shows Chile’s movement along with other areas in the world with the same thinking, such as New Zealand.

In the Aconcagua Valley I had the opportunity to only visit one winery. The winery, one of the largest in Chile, is Vina Errazuriz. Errazuriz is located in the “isolated” Aconcagua Valley, north of Santiago. I call it isolated, not due to distance, but that there are only a handful of wineries in this area.

was first met by Mr. Pedro Olivia Farias in Public Relations who showed me part of the vineyard, plus their winery processing facilities. It was very informative. Pedro showed me the upgrades that Errazuriz has done to the winery, and changes upcoming to make it more sustainable. Gravity fed, using thermal heating from the ground, natural lighting and more. He also provided me a brief history of the Errazuriz winery, which was founded in the 1870. Don Maximiano Errazuriz pioneered wine growing outside of the traditional Maipo Valley. He brought in clones from France to start his winery. Today the winery is completely owned by 4 family members. Pedro also described to me the different wineries owned by Errazuriz, which include Arboleda, Sena, and Caliterra (their organic winery), and the different emphasis of each winery. I found out that Canada is the 2nd largest market to Errazuriz, behind the UK. That was quite amazing.

After the tour by Pedro, I was handed over to winemaker, Mr. Rodrigo Zamorano. Rodrigo spent a lot of time with me and went into much depth about the Aconcagua Valley and each of the 9 different wines we sampled together. Errazuriz is the largest winery in the Aconcagua Valley and is the only valley to have a continuous valley up to the Andes. This allows the coastal fog to reach far in land moderating the temperatures in the Aconcagua Valley. He also mentioned that they started a new vineyard area called Manzanar near the coast in the Aconcagua Valley where they are trying white varietals plus pinot noir. This area, being closer to the coast, will be cooler climate and hopefully produce flavourful whites and beautifully scented pinot noir, just like the Leyda Valley further south. They are just starting to produce wines from this area so time will tell which varietals produce the wines up to their standards.

I tried 8 different wines, from the Estate Level, Reserve Level, and their top level wine, Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve. One white wine I enjoyed was their 2007 Wild Ferment Chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley. This is a 100% barrel fermented wine, using all French oak. One third of the wine went through malolactic fermentation to provide a more round mouthfeel and butteriness. I’ve tried this wine in the past in Vancouver, and enjoyed it this time with the wine maker Rodrigo. The wine had lots of vanilla, caramel and tropical fruit on the nose. Very aromatic. Full bodied, with tropical fruit and vanilla flavours. Very smooth, but still had some acid to balance it. It had a long length with a spicy finish. Rodrigo suggested aging it for a year to integrate more in the bottle, but I thought it was fine already.

A red wine I enjoyed was the 2007 Max Reserva Carmenere from the Aconcagua Valley. This wine spent 12 months oak aging. 2007 is the first vintage for the vines selected for this wine. It had a deep purple color in the glass. Cassis, smoke, black cherry, and oak on the nose. Black cherries, vanilla and cassis flavours. Smooth tannins. It had a long length, with a spice and red cherry finish. Highly recommended.

of my days in the Colchagua Valley I named as my M&M day. That is for Montgras and Montes. In the morning I met with Mr. Santiago Margozzini from Montgras. He led me through a tasting of their wines as well as drove me through part of their Ninquén vineyards. Ninquen is a special area within the Colchagua Valley. Ninquén (nin-ken) means “Plateau on a Mountain” in a native dialect and describes its geographic location. The higher altitude and the soils on this plateau produce very distinct, full-bodied wines. A nice touch when they greeted me, is that they flew the Canadian flag (Undurraga also did this for me).

Most of their vines are located in the Colchagua Valley, but they also have some vineyards in the Leyda and the Maipo Valley. Many of the wines I tasted I do not think are in BC yet, but may soon arrive. From Leyda, I tried a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay. Their Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is 100% stainless steel fermented. They tried to minimize oxygen content with the grapes using dry ice. The wine was only bottled a little over one month ago, and I think I am one of the first few non Chileans to try this vintage so far. The wine has lots of lemon, lime and grapefruit aromas with a slight hint of greenness. On the palate it had high acidity, with more lemon, lime and grapefruit flavours. And a very long length. I tried 7 reds with Montgras. All but one came from the Colchagua Valley. The MontGras Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was deep garnet in the glass. Vanilla, black fruit, black cherries, cassis and tarry aromas. It had lots of fruitiness on the palate, with flavours of black cherry, vanilla, cloves, and chocolate. The tannins were soft but still provided a dry finish.

The afternoon I dedicated to the Vina Montes winery, and wine maker Mr. Aurelio Montes Jr. I had met Aurelio in Vancouver during the Wines of Chile events in September and arranged to meet him at the winery in October. Aurelio first drove me around the vineyard, pointing out the differences within the vineyard topography and how that influenced the varieties planted and how the vines were planted (e.g. training the vines, and vine density). They are constantly evaluating the wines produced by the different varietals, and if a plot is not producing wines to their quality level, they will pull up the entire vine, then plant a different varietal from root stock. This is different from grafting onto existing root stock, as with a graft, you can get grapes produced a few years sooner than planting from scratch. There is quite a variety of terrain in Montes’ Apalta land, with lots of potential to experiment with varietals.

After we toured the winery, we moved on to tasting some of Montes’ wines. A white wine I tried and enjoyed was the Montes Sauvignon Blanc Limited Selection 2009 from the Leyda Valley (FYI, I’m starting to really enjoy Leyda Sauvignon Blancs more than from other parts of Chile). This one had citrus, nettles, herbal and green chile aromas. On the palate the wine had citrus, and green chile pepper flavours. Light in body but long length. Pair with some seafood. I tried 7 red wines, but the one I will talk about here is the Montes Alpha Carmenere 2007. This wine was deep purple in the glass. Capsicum, back fruit and vanilla aromas. On the palate I taste red and black cherries, vanilla and a slight hint of capsicum. This wine had a soft, round mouth feel and a long length. Pair carmenere with spicy Thai, Mexican or Indian food. (As an aside, through past tastings with South African wine makers, they tell me that Pinotage also is a good pairing for spicy foods.)

Aurelio was kind enough to let me record some of our discussions around the winery and during our tasting. I’ve edited the recording and have the link below for you to enjoy:

MyWinePal interviews Aurelio Montes

On a different day here in the Colchagua Valley, I visited the Casa Lapostolle and the Viu Manent wineries. My first stop in the morning was with Casa Lapostolle in their Clos Apalta winery. This winery was specially designed for their flagship wine “Clos Apalta”. This is a Bordeaux blend with Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. The winery is dedicated to organic and biodynamic vineyard practices (which I enjoy and can note that it really does make a difference in your glass), and produces some very nice wines. Casa Lapostolle was founded by the Marnier Lapostolle family from France and the Rabat family from Chile in 1994, through Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, her husband Cyril de Bournet and Don José Rabat Gorchs. Today, Casa Lapostolle is 100% owned by the Marnier-Lapostolle group. The Marnier Lapostolle family are the founders and owners of the world-renowned liqueur, Grand Marnier.

A white wine I enjoyed was the Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from the Rapel Valley. It had varied aromas of citrus, pineapple and apple. On the palate there was good acidity with pineapple flavour and medium length. This is the FIRST year that Casa Lapostolle has used a screw cap on this wine or any of their other wines. An elegant wine which would pair nicely with seafood. For the reds, I must talk about their Clos Apalta Limited Release 2007. I am the FIRST person in media for North America to try this vintage of Clos Apalta and feel very privileged. This wine spends it’s first year aging in all new French oak barrels with each varietal in it’s own barrel. In year 2, the varietals (Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot) are blended and put back in the same barrels and aged for another year. After 2 years in barrel, the wine is bottled and then the bottle is kept in storage for a year before release. The 2007 vintage was very deep purple coloured in the glass. It had vanilla and sweet black fruit on the nose. On the palate there was vanilla, sweet black fruit, red cherries, cloves, and cinnamon flavours. The flavours came out more as I swirled the wine in my glass exposing the wine to oxygen. It would be interesting if time permitted to try this wine after one hour, four hours and 24 hours to see how the wine’s aromas and flavours change. To get the full effect of the wine please decant it. The wine had a nice round mouth feel with a balance of medium tannins. It finished dry with cherry and vanilla flavours lingering on the palate for a long time.

After visiting Casa Lapostolle, my next stop for the day was the Viu Manent winery, just a short drive away. I was given a short tour of the winery, with an opportunity for a barrel sample of a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by a horse drawn carriage ride through the vineyard. Malbec plays a very big part of the wines at Viu Manent with more being planted around their winery. I have enjoyed their Reserva Malbec in the past at tastings I have held with the South World Wine Society in Vancouver. It is interesting to see how they are producing Malbec very successfully, while this is the signature grape of Argentina. I sampled their Viu Manent Reserva Chardonnay 2008 which comes from the Casablanca Valley. The wine has been released for almost a year. I was told that through the year in the bottle the wine has changed with the level of acidity decreasing, leaving the wine with an off-dry level of sweetness. This wine spent 6 months in oak barrels and was deep yellow in colour. It had a vanilla, apple, sweet and creamy nose. On the palate there was more of the vanilla, apple and creaminess. It was very soft and round in my mouth but also had a slight spiciness. A red wine I enjoyed was the Viu Manent Reserva Carmenere 2008 from the Colchagua Valley. Deep purple colour in the glass. Vanilla, black fruits and a slight hint of capsicum on the nose. It was quite round in the mouth, with vanilla and ripe black fruit flavours, and a peppery finish.

I highly recommend taking a trip to Chile in their spring (September-October) before it gets too hot, plus you get the fresh spring fruits, like strawberries (which they call “fruitilla” by the way), and of course more time by the wineries to meet with you. Saludos!

If you missed reading Part 1 of my trip to Chile, you can read the trip report here.

Links to all the wineries websites I visited in Chile:
Casas del Bosque
Vina Santa Rita
Vina Undurraga
Vina Tarapaca ex Zavala

Vina Errazuriz
Vina Montgras
Vina Montes
Casa Lapostolle
Viu Manent

Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Some people prefer red wines. Some only like Cabernet Sauvignon. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I met many great wine makers. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

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