Despite the (never ending) wintry weather – everyone showed up last evening to learn about some South American wines at Chef Kate Romane’s e2 Restaurant (www.e2pgh.com). Our go-to staffers (Adam and Will) were ready for us, but we got extra help from attendees Kate, Lee, and Susan who helped get the tables arranged and ready for the entire group (I thank them for their help!) – We had a community feel from the start, which is always nice!
To kick things off, we talked about the Chilean and Argentine wine industries which date back to the mid-1500s (a solid 300 years before we had much wine industry in California) while we tasted an Argentine Sparkling wine from Mendoza. In attendance was a retired bank executive who lived in Argentina in the 1960s and shared stories about bringing great Argentine wines back to the US every time he returned, and also a Peruvian couple who noted correctly that the original Chilean grapevines were brought through Peru centuries ago. Despite the incredibly long history of making wine in Chile and Argentina, winemaking as we think about it today made its transition to modern-style production in the mid 1800s after the introduction of French wine grapes. Since then the ups and downs of politics and economics have affected winemakers, but great improvement has taken place in the past 20-30 years.
Our goal last night was to taste the wines individually, then taste all the wines with food and assess the differences and note improvements or degradations in flavor/experience. Our dinner menu included: short ribs in a smoky tomato braise, a dirty risotto with pancetta, hot peppers and mushrooms, romaine and arugula salad, chocolate bread pudding for dessert with berry mess
A lively discussion followed and everyone seemed to enjoy the combination of foods and wines, especially the Lapostolle Clos Apalta, which by far was the most expensive wine on the table, but in my opinion is a special wine, and two people said it was the best wine they had ever had… so pleased we could include it in the event! Here are notes and prices for the wines:
Santa Julia Pinot Noir Rose Brut NV, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB 17019 $11.99) – 100% Pinot Noir, Maipú and Uco Valley vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina, Charmat method, second fermentation at 14°C, Creamy, fresh, red fruit delicate flavors.
Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Especial 2012, Casablanca Valley Chile (PLCB 46536 $12.99) – 100% Sauvignon Blanc (Grape used in Sancerre and BDX blends), Valle de Casablanca – Mineral Soils and red clay, Crisp and fresh, slight grassy nose with grapefruit and citrus flavors – clean finish. W&S90, A delightful wine part-way between the light crisp Euro SB and the face-puckering NZ or full figured CA SBs
Vina Cobos Felino Chardonnay 2011, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB 39322 $18.99 ) – 100% Chardonnay (White Burgundy Grape), From American winemaker Paul Hobbs, 95% aged in Stainless Steel, 5% Oak, Distinctly “new world” Rich tropical pineapple and peach flavors with medium weight . RP88. Hotter, arid desert = very different chardonnay compared to cool weather Burgundy, Score too low in my opinion, I would award solid 90pts.
Bodega Norton Malbec Reserve 2011, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB regular item 7019 $18.99) – 100 % Malbec , a blending Grape of Bordeaux, and main grape of Cahors France, #36 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2013 WS92 100% French Oak aged 12months (50% new), Deep dark purple color, black fruits, violets and tobacco, World Malbec Day = April 17th Jancis Robinson says Malbec = a more rustic Merlot. Bodega Norton founded 1885 by Englishman Sir Edmund James Norton who was in Chile/Arg to build railway bridges, but loved the region and founded Norton – Norton family owned Bodega until purchased by Swarovski in 1989, huge investments in quality and commercial success have followed.
Lapostolle Clos Apalta Colchagua Valley 2009, Colchagua Valley, Chile (PLCB 31420 $79.99) – 78% Carmenere, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, Bordeaux Grapes – until recent DNA tracing tests, much of Chile’s Carmenere was thought to be Merlot, 2005 vintage (same 96pts score) ranked #1 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2008. Inky dark color, polished and complex herbal, earthy dark fruit and spicy flavors, a special wine that shows sometimes money spent on a wine is rewarded by quality! Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle (founder of Lapostolle in 1994) in Chile is great granddaughter of Grand Marnier creator in France. World famous winemaker Michel Rolland has been winemaker for every vintage since 1994. Family still owns an estate in Sancerre.