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 once more. Dredged back up from seven years in the archives. Now that I'm caught up with work duties, it's time to get some reviews from the past republished. Here we go. I've been excited to write this review for the longest time, about the tremendous Wines of Chile. I like to approach my reviews a little differently than most other wine-blogs [yes slapping myself on the back], so I hope you will enjoy today's infotainment.

Today's review will revolve around 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 separate them, but with Chile's first line of defense the mighty Andes mountain range.

This fact, coupled together with Chile's Atacama Desert, the Pacific Ocean and flood irrigation, it's often claimed these natural barriers act as unofficial viticultural border guards. 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 important, but a little-known fact in the ability to achieve what I believe are even higher quality wines, selling at 'value' prices is partly because each vine is grown on its own rootstock and does not need to be grafted. In contrast, just about every other major wine producing area around the world needs to be grafted onto North American rootstock.

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. Yup, the folks in Chile reverted to a representative republic form of democracy with a smattering of [evil] capitalism thrown in for good measure, as a result of new found freedoms and autonomy, their economy is now 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 Valley sticker shock.

Now these facts alone are not the whole answer to Chile's recent success on the New World wine scene, but they are essential building blocks of insight into 'how' Chilean wine became the major player it's today. If this small introduction has to whet your appetite in some small way, I would you encourage you to find out 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 beautiful wines. It's time to dig into the reviews and bust out a few of the 'dreaded' tasting note. In today's wine review, a spotlight on four very different styles of Pinot Noir, one of them quickly stood out with regard its price and its overall finesse on the palate.

1. 2009 Valdivieso Pinot Noir Reserva: In the glass, a vibrant 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 purchased a flawless wine, just not an aesthetically perfect wine, which is no big deal. On the nose a pleasant 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 luxurious 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 many 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 the ruby colored core. The nose was mostly muted, but there were 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.

Unfortunate to say, but 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 an SRP of $20. With so much great juice out there, why bother with wine my wife likes to refer to as, "just okay" [a phrase I often hear when I prepare the evening meal].

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 blueberries sweet vanilla, tobacco, baking spices and fat-slap of bacon fat, wrapped around some mushroom risotto like nuances, the mouthfeel 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 an 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 flavors 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 appearance, dark ruby colored core. The nose shouts at you with an enormous 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 tastes now.

Regarding the finish, Mr. James Molesworth at the Wine Speculator gave this wine 91 points and had this to say about the finish, "The lengthy finish is nicely focused."  but I'll give him a break, this may have been the one hundredth bottle he tasted that day. Palate fatigue, the struggle is real. 

I thought, "dude, are you kidding?" Please, "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 the discussion of four beautiful 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!


Athalia said…
WOW! This is really an amazing and attractive post about Wine. I appreciate your posted wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing such an interesting post.

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