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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jewels & Gems of Chile & Argentina

Choosing my favorite wines from our recent Wine-Knows trip to Chile & Argentina is akin to having to pick my favorite child.   Suffice to say our group had some mind-blowing, world class wines in both countries.  Here are the ones that caused the earth to move for me (listed in alpha order):

Altair 2009 Sideral ($26):

This producer makes only two wines of which Sideral is the least expensive (their main label is $70).    I’ve done a comparative tasting of both Altairs (both are Bordeaux blends dominated by Cabernet Sauv) on three different occasions and have always preferred their main label, however, this year it was Sideral that was the run-away winner!   I can’t think of any other more voluptuous red for $26 (or that matter for $36, $46, or $56).   Note:  the ’09 won’t be released until this summer…you can bet that we’ll be ordering cases.  (Production is small, so recommend seeking it out online at

Catena Zapata  2010 Alta Chardonnay:  ($40 retail, but $25 now @ Costco)

I’m a red girl, however, this white was crazy good.  I was so impressed that I couldn’t wait to buy it until we returned and ordered a case of it on the internet from my hotel room in Argentina.  (Only to find out when we arrived home that Costco carries it for $25…no problema, picked up another case!)  Note that Catena produces a couple of different Chardonnays…this one is their most expensive “Alta” line.

Los Maquis 2010 “Franco”  ($90)

Made from 100% Cabernet Franc, this stunning wine is a new one in the portfolio of one of my most adored boutique Chilean producers.   Crafted in concert with a famous Bordeaux consultant (who has worked at Lafite-Rothschild and Margaux), this one should be placed in a blind tasting against  Cheval Blanc (also 100% Cab Franc)…folks may be surprised at which one wins.   Importer:  Global Imports in Berekley, Ca.

Montes 2010 “Purple Angel” ($60)

This was by far the finest example of the Carmenere varietal that we tasted.  (Brought to Chile in the 19th century prior to phylloxera, it was not replanted in Bordeaux post infestation due to its late ripening tendencies.  In the warmer climate of Chile, however, Carmenere has achieved rock-star status).  Made from 93% Carmenere (7 % Petite Verdot), this one is a knock-out.   (Montes has excellent penetration in the U.S. market and Costco often carries many of their offering, including Purple Angel.)

Viu Manent 2011 Carmenere Secreto ($13)

This has to be the best bargain wine of the trip.  “Secreto” means “secret” and this shouldn’t be one.  Those of you who don’t know Carmenere should try this producer’s spicy little bomb filled with lush red fruits and soft tannins.  If they were charging twice the price, it would still be a steal.

Viu Manent 2010 Syrah, El Olivar Alto Vineyard  ($25)

OMG…all I can say is it you have find it, buy it!  This one is layers of complexity, on top of more layers of complexity.  Superbly made.
          Importers & distributors:

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