The 2015 New World Winery of the Year from Wine Enthusiast magazine is Santa Carolina Winery from Chile. To say they are New World though is quite interesting as the winery has been in existence since 1875. But of course, we are discussing more of New World style in wines.
Chile is blessed with the perfect climate for wine production and has no phylloxera, so that the grape vines are rooted using their own rootstock, which some people say gives you the most authentic flavours and aromas from grapes. Maybe it is no wonder that, with such good grapes, that wonderfully expressive wines can be produced, and grabs the attention of the wine magazines. Chilean wineries do also care about their land, and with the dry, sunny climate, can be as organic and pesticide/herbicide free as possible. When I visited Chile several years ago, I was really impressed with the vineyards I saw and the wine makers I met.
This leads me now to a lunch I attended in Vancouver with Andres Caballero, wine maker director, from Santa Carolina winery. He has been at the helm of wine making at Santa Carolina for the past 10 years and told us about how they spent time examining their vineyards, and historical maps to figure out what grapes there are planted, as vines in the distant past were not planted as we now do, with rows and rows of a single grape variety. In the past you would have more mixed fields, that could have several different grape varieties. Finding out what grapes were there helped Andres in the development of the wines we tasted.
- Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($12.29)
- Santa Carolina Specialties Sauvignon Blanc Ocean Side 2015 ($25.29)
- Santa Carolina Specialties Mourvedre 2013 ($23.89)
- Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($22.99)
- Santa Carolina Carignan 2012 – (TBD)
- Santa Carolina Herencia Carmenere 2010 – ($109.99)
- Santa Carolina Luis Pereira Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – ($200)
All the wines were very fruity and slowed characteristic aromas and flavours for each variety. Oak, if used, was in support of the wines, and did not overpower. Andres vineyards in Casablanca, Leyda, Maipo, Rapel, Cachapoal, Colchagua, and Maule Valleys for him to select the grapes that best show their varietal character for his wines. In Chile you are never too far from the ocean or the Andes mountains, so moving from one to the other you get cool maritime climate, then warm/hot interior, and back to a cooler alpine climate again. So from north to south, and east to west, Andres has many options for his wines.
I really enjoyed all of Santa Carolina’s wines, but for the sake of keeping this article to a reasonable length I will cover a few of my favourite wines.
My Wine Picks
Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015 – This wine had a medium intensity nose with lots of jalapeno pepper, green herbal, and a hint of orange aromas. Dry, medium body with some roundness. More jalapeno pepper and herbaceousness on the palate, together with green fruit. Mouth watering acidity with some minerality on the finish. Fresh and vibrant. Rating:
Santa Carolina Carignan 2012 – Lots of purple fruit, ripe cassis and plums, together with light vanilla and oak on the nose. A pleasure to smell. Medium plus body, but quite silky and mouth filling. Ripe purple fruit, vanilla, milk chocolate, followed by nutmeg. This wine is also quite peppery and has a mineral streak. Rating:
Santa Carolina Herencia Carmenere 2010 – Carmenere is the signature red grape of Chile, and this wine looks towards its heritage, or “Herencia”. This wine is primarily Carmenere, but has 6% of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec blended into it. Dark fruit, tar, leather and cedar notes on the nose. Medium plus body with lighter mouth feel. It is peppery, flowery, and has sweet purple fruit flavours. Light vanilla and sweet spice accents. I also picked up some salty minerality in this wine. A very well-rounded wine. Rating:
Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – Deep ruby and garnet colours in the glass. Light intensity, dark fruit nose together with a whiff of capsicum. Full body, dry, with a hint of minerality. Flavours of ripe raspberries, plums, and dark cherries. A very smooth wine. Fine, restrained tannins. Dancing minerality on your tongue. Rating:
Santa Carolina Luis Pereira Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – There is quite a long story related to how this wine came about, from finding out about the history of the vineyards, to unearthing wine bottles hidden behind cellar walls, that were exposed after an earthquake in Chile. The result is a wine made using historical techniques from Chile’s past. The grapes came from 3 different vineyards and 4-5 different Cabernet Sauvignon clones per vineyard. This wine underwent a “long, cool fermentation” before spending a year in old barrels, followed by a further year in larger casks. He made the wine lighter, fresher and with less alcohol. This philosophy can also be found in the other wines Andres is making. This wine in particular had a medium intensity nose with cassis, red cherries and spice on the nose. Dry, medium body, with lighter mouth feel. Very peppery, purple fruit, cassis, and raspberry flavours, together with a streak of minerality and a hint of chocolate. Rating:
We had this wine tasting at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar at the Sutton Place hotel, where the restaurant crafted some superb dishes to try with the wines. I tried the following dishes:
Mixed Greens salad, with shaved vegetable “crudites”,and sherry vinagrette
- Marinated hanger steak, with roasted fingerling potato, cipollini onion, and mustard jus
The Mixed Greens salad, I paired with the two Sauvignon Blancs. I thought the lemony flavour in the salad paired nicely with the herbal, jalapeno and green fruit flavours of this wine. A nice, complementary pairing.
The Marinated Hanger Steak was so soft, and had a wonderful savoury and salty components. I had not had hanger steak before and did some research to find out that it is the portion of the cow just below the brisket. Now that I know about this wonderful cut of meat, I will definitely look for it in the future. The Reserva de Family Cabernet Sauvignon and the Luis Pereira Cabernet Sauvignon were excellent pairings with this steak. The fruit flavours from both wines really matched nicely to the grilled hanger steak.
While the Luis Pereira Cabernet Sauvignon and the Herencia Carmenere may not be a wine you can afford to buy very often, you could pick them for a very special occasion, but the other wines from Santa Carolina range in price from $12.29 to $23.89, which is exceptional for the quality of wines you get. The Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015 could be a very nice house wine for the summer. Enjoy!