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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chile Uncorked: Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir

Here's looking at you, Kid! 

This is the review that I've been jonesing to tell you about. But my honey-do list sadly beckoned. So suffice it to say I was busy-boy getting some much needed landscaping work done. Now that I'm caught up, it's time to get some reviews written. I've been excited to write this review for the longest time, about the wonderful Wines of Chile live Twitter Blogger tasting that I participated in about three weeks ago. I know many of my colleagues have already posted their reviews and I hope you will give their words a swirl as well.

I like to approach my reviews a little differently than most other wine-blogs, so I hope you will enjoy the ride today. Overall, the general consensus of everyone who participated in this extremely well done live multi-media presentation, was that wines tasted were good to excellent and that the winemaker interaction during the live twitter event was engaging and enthusiastic.

Today's review will revolve around the the four Pinot Noir's that I tasted during the Wines of Chile twitter live-tasting and the next review will revolve around the four Syrahs. So hop into the wine-wagon with me as we take a spin down the vino super-highway and head down to South America, to a place that I believe will become the "new" Pinot Noir hotspot in the New World. But more, specifically all the Pinot Noir's I will be reviewing today are from Casablanca [no, not Morocco] and like Bogey said to Bergman in a movie of the same title, "Here's looking at you kid" pinot-heaven awaits.

A few interesting facts about our destination, the wines of Chile are free from the "evils" of Phylloxera [small yellow vine-killing aphids] which has never infested Chilean vines, even though it's rampant in nearby Mendoza, only a few dozen miles over Chile's first line of defense the mighty Andes mountain range. 

This fact, together with Chile's Atacama Desert, the Pacific Ocean and flood irrigation, it's often claimed these natural barriers act as unofficial border guards and if you couple that with their stringent two year quarantine for imported plant material, you have what Spanish settlers knew over four hundred years ago a winemakers paradise in the making. This is an important, but little known fact in the ability to achieve what I believe are even higher quality wines, because each vine is grown on its own rootstock and does not need to be grafted.

The second, important fact about the rise of the Chilean Wine Scene as I like to call it, is that people of Chile in 1989 finally became a stable political entity, yep the folks in Chile reverted to democracy with a smattering of [evil] capitalism thrown in for good measure, which is in full bloom today. 

As a result, the wakening of a "quality" wine producing behemoth which is welcoming of foreign investment and has beckoned the wine swirling masses here in the US and elsewhere to consume well-made, great tasting wine that thankfully still lacks the Napa and Bordeaux sticker shocks.

Now those two facts alone are not the whole answer to Chile's recent success on the New World wine scene, but they are important building blocks of insight into the Chilean wine scene. If this small introduction has wet your appetite in some small way I would you encourage you to find our more at the very informative Wines of Chile website. 

So it looks like we've arrived at our destination, so hop out and grab yourself a splash of these wonderful wines. It's time to dig into the reviews and bust out a few of awful tasting notes. In today's wine review; a spotlight on four very different styles of Pinot Noir, one was the big-boy in the room in terms of its price and its overall heft on the palate.

1. 2009 Valdivieso Pinot Noir Reserva: In the glass a rich looking strawberry colored core and dancing wine-diamonds [tartaric acid] in the bottom of my glass. Meaning if you happen to grab some of this vino, you have bought flawless wine, just not an aesthetically flawless wine, which is no big deal. On the nose a wonderful perfume of dried strawberries, rich earth and raspberry. After the first splash down, this immediately appealing Pinot is soft but lush, presenting a raft of vanilla, cinnamon and sandalwood flavors, with a healthy splash of raspberry and strawberry pie filling leading to the plush finish.  

You can find this wines selling in most places for right around $17 or under. Older vintages are sold at Wine Zap and wine-searcher reveals it's sold in a number of British online wine stores. I gave it a score of 90 points, a superb Pinot Noir for the price, look-out RRV, Chile will have you on the run with these prices and high quality.

2. Vina Casablanca Nimbus Estate PN 2009: In the glass more of a garnet, leaning toward ruby colored core. The nose was mostly muted but there was wafts of forest floor and minerality. After the first big slurp, I found the acidity to be bright and crisp, but the flavor profile was somewhat underwhelming, cherries, raspberry and sandalwood wrapped around freshly plucked chunky mushrooms, leading to the dry, silky but mostly subdued finish. Not sure went wrong with this bottle, unless restrained was the style of wine they were attempting to produce. 

So, sorry to say this wine was not dressed to impress and I won't be asking it back for a second interview. I gave this wine a score of 82 points and is selling for a SRP of $20. With so much great juice out there, why bother with what with wine my wife likes to refer to as, "just okay" [a phrase I hear often, when I cook].

3. Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir 2009: Woo-hoo, this wine hit it out of the freaking park, this is seriously great juice for the price. After the first pour, a shimmering dark crimson colored core. Getting my fat half-Irish nose down into the glass [not an easy feat] a palette of aromas await, black cherry, raspberry, cola and baking spices all inviting the first sip. 

Some other reviewers were wine-ing about the 14% abv saying that it was most likely much higher, but after my first long slurp I found this wine is made in an immediately appealing and approachable style that will impress many with its power and finesse of flavors sporting a balanced ABV.  

A raft of flavors coming your way, cherries, raspberries, light touch of blue-berries sweet vanilla, tobacco, baking spices and fat-slap of bacon fat, wrapped around some mushroom risotto like nuances, the mouth feel is dry, silky and the finish is plump. 

What the hell are you waiting for? Get yourself a case of this wine, dressed to impress and will be asked on a second and third date. It sells for a SRP of $20 and can be found at a few online purveyors of fine wine and spirits here. You could also most like have Bevmo order for you as they carry all the other Veramonte wines except this bottle. I gave this wine a score of 92 flavor filled points, enjoy.

4. Cono Sur, Ocio Pinot Noir 2008: Whoa, like I said earlier this wine was the big-boy in the room, made in a take-no-prisoners style. This is the kind of Pinot Noir that says, "if you can't hang with the big dogs, you better get back on the porch" to any other poser that may want to jump in the ring. In the glass, a massive nearly opaque dark ruby colored core. The nose shouts at you with a massive wave of dark cherry, plum and Indian spices. After the first slurp, whoa I was slapped with a sledgehammer of rich, full bodied, plump Pinot Noir flavors, plum, dark-cherry, smoky sandalwood, rhubarb, mongo bacon fat and chunks of rich earth and sauteed-mushroom. 

A nice tannin-acid balance that would indicate, a few more years of bottle aging would only improve how it's tasting now. Regarding the finish, Mr. James Molesworth over at the Wine Speculator gave this wine 91 point and had this to say about the finish, "The lengthy finish is nicely focused". 

Dude really? Uh puh-lease nicely focused does not even come close to describing the sumptuously long and caressing finish I experienced. I gave this wine 94 points, but at its $65 price point of it won't be in most folks everyday drinker category, sad to say. Nonetheless it's a thrill-ride of pinot-proportions. This wine can be found at a few online purveyors and I would highly recommend giving it a swirl.

Full Disclosure: These wines were sent as press samples for the review process.

That's all I have for you in this review, but please stay tuned as next time we'll delve right into a review of four wonderful Syrahs from Chile. If your not a fan of Syrah, you will be after giving these wine a swirl. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!
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