Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

W Los Vascos 2015Cabernet Sauvignon from Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley, Central Valley Region, Chile

100% cabernet sauvignon

14.0% alcohol

Purchased: 6 March 2017 – $9.99

Opened: 16 Feb 2018

els: 9.0/10

James Suckling: 92

Falstaff Magazin: 91

Decanter: 90

Wine Spectator: 88

Cellar Tracker: 86

Colchagua Valley is in the southern and western portions of Rapel Valley, which itself is located in the middle of the 250 mile long Central Valley, all situated between the Andes to the east and the Coastal Ranges to the west. The northern edge of the Colchagua Valley is defined by the life-giving Rapel River and its main tributaries: the Tinguiririca and Cachapoal Rivers. The valley, sheltered from the cold Pacific winds by the Coastal Ranges, has a mild Mediterranean climate, warm but not too hot, or too cold, with rainfall that averages about 24″ per year, the majority coming in the winter. The main wine of the valley is Cabernet Sauvignon but in recent years Malbec has been added to the vineyards to capitalize on their Argentinian success on the eastern side of the Andes. The better wineries of Colchagua Valley have their vineyards located on the eastern slopes of the Coastal Ranges.

270 years ago the Echenique family, Basque immigrants to Chile, established their vineyards and winery in the Peralillo area of the Colchagua Valley, currently a small commune of less than 10,000 people.  The winery eventually acquired the name of Los Vascos meaning “The Basques” in Spanish. One hundred years later, in the 1850s, the family started to plant French derived vines and grapes which led to a large expansion of the vineyards and the wine industry in the area. In 1988 Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) acquired a 50% interest and management control of the Los Vascos property. The new management brought in new winery techniques and equipment; replanting many of the vineyards which presently and predominately, grow Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), but also Carmenere (5%), Syrah (4%), Malbec (1%), and Chardonnay (5%) grapes.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross, believed to have occurred naturally sometime in the 1600s in France, between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It is now the most widely planted grape in the world. Chile is second only to France in the number of acres planted of this grape. A thick-skinned grape that’s relatively easy to grow and maintain,  exhibiting high tannins and acidity, along with cool climate-grown aromas of peppers and currants.

The vineyards, encompassing a little less than 1600 acres, range in age from 15-70 years. The vineyards are at about 425′ above sea level with soils of volcanic loams and granitic sands. Although the vineyards are less than 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean they are protected from its cold winds by the Coastal Ranges and enjoy a distinct 4 seasons of Mediterranean climate. Growing season temperatures have a diurnal range of approximately 50-85ºF and rainfall amounts average a very dry 0.5″ per month or less. During the southern hemisphere winters rainfall can exceed, but a still dry, 2″ per month. Because of the arid climate the vineyards are drip irrigated.  The 2015 season saw unusually heavy spring rains which contributed to a late bud break.  The harvest was normal though.

The harvest, mainly by manual hand picking, took place between April 1st and May 13th. The grapes were de-stemmed and crushed immediately after picking and fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats between 77-81°F.  A maceration period ranging from 10-15 days was followed by a malolactic fermentation, also in stainless steel vats: unoaked, ostensibly, for the American palate.

A ruby-red color with a garnet rim. Aromas of red fruits and plums with a touch of herbs.  On the tongue it is bold but balanced. A wonderful wine with a medium, fresh finish.

An outstanding wine at an outstanding price.  A fine wine to pair with a fine, rich meal such as Osso Buco or a rib eye. Drink now, but should last until 2025.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$8.99 wine.com

 

Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec 2015

W Crios Malbec 2015Malbec from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

95% malbec

5% bonarda

14.5% alcohol

Opened 2 Feb 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Advocate: 90

James Suckling: 90

Susana Balbo’s winery, established in the stunning, idyllic eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, within the viticultural region of Uco Valley, is southwest of Mendoza, Argentina. The winery is surrounded by 52 acres of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vines; producing 4 brands of wines with distinct and complex personalities that appreciate long, secluded years in their bottles: Crios, Ben Marco, Nostros and Susana Balbo Signature. The Bonarda grapes are sourced from surrounding non-Balbo vineyards.

The vineyards are at an average elevation of about 3700-3800 feet above sea level where the steppe climate provides a large swing in growing season temperatures ranging from daytime highs in the mid 80s to night-time lows approaching 50°F. The climate is arid and vines receive a paltry 1-1.25″ of rain per month. To compensate for the semi-desert conditions and the well-drained alluvial soils of Uco Valley, the vineyards are drip irrigated using the Andes’ snow melted water to provide just the right of amount of essential moisture to produce these flavorful wines.  This vintage’s growing weather was cooler and wetter than normal.

W Balbo Winery

Susan Balbo Winery

The grapes are hand-harvested and spend 25 days in maceration vats.  After maceration the wine spends 9 months in new French oak barrels.

The wine has ruby-red to purple color with a garnet to peach rim. A bouquet of fresh cherries and blackberries. On the palate the wine is very well-balanced and medium bodied.  Very fresh and cooling.

An outstanding wine at a very good price. Serve with lamb or beef steak. Get adventurous and try with a grilled tuna steak. Drink now, but should last until 2022-2023.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$11.99 wine.com

Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Reserve Speciale Bordeaux

W Lafite 2015Bordeaux from Bordeaux, France

60% merlot

40% cabernet sauvignon

12.5% alcohol

Opened 30 Nov 2017

els 8.5/10

Decanter 86

Reserve Speciale Bordeaux is from a family of wines created by Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to provide, in their terms, “wines ideal for everyday drinking and more accessible than the Grands Crus” which they brand as “The Collection”, and includes the Legende, Saga, and Reserves brands; all three of which, bottle both Bordeaux reds and whites.

The family name of Lafite can be traced back to a Pauillac French monastery in the 13th century but the legendary winery took root with the planting of the vineyards by Jacques de Segur in the 1670s. Londoners, surprisingly enough, where the first to sing the praises of Lafite wines, which made their way to that city by way of British corsairs seizing the French merchant ships and confiscating their wine in the early 1700s. French nobility took notice of Chateau Lafite’s wine after Richelieu introduced it to King Louis XV; quickly becoming the “Kings Wine”; served at the tables of the 18th century French aristocratic rich and famous. After the French Revolution the Chateau changed owners several times until Baron James de Rothschild purchased it in 1868 and it has remained in the family ever since, with the minor exception of a German expropriation for a short time during WWII.  In 1995, the winery began selecting grapes for their “accessible” line of wines from  the region’s Bordeaux, Medoc, and Pauillac family, and non-family owned vineyards; to become part of the Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), “The Collection”.

The Reserve Speciale Bordeaux is sourced mainly from vineyards in the Entre-Deux-Mers (between two tides) wine region; situated between the tidal rivers Garonne and Dordogne. This is the largest sub-region of Bordeaux but less than half the acreage is planted in vines with the rest being generally forested.  This region produces only white wine that can carry the AOC Entre-Deux-Mers.  The reds are sold under various Bordeaux labels.

This wine has a clear ruby-red color, redolent of red berries and spice. Very smooth, not bold, with a quick finish.  A nice, inexpensive table wine that doesn’t overly impress but will pair well with cheese and friends.

A good wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$10.00-16.00  wine-searcher.com

Trivento Malbec Reserve 2015

W Trivento Malbec 2015Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina

100% malbec

13.5% alcohol

Opened 29 Oct 2017

els 8.9/10

Decanter 95

Guia Descorchados 90

Bodega Trivento, the Three Winds Winery, sources its Malbec grapes from the Andean alluvial and colluvium soils of Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley, south of Mendoza, Argentina. The vineyards are at an altitude of approximately 3400 feet, soaking up 250 days per year of intense sun, in the dry, thin air; temperatures ranging in the summer growing season from highs of 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the days to 55 degrees at night. The semi-arid climate sparingly doles out less than 1.5 inches of rain per month during the growing season, forcing the growers to add drip irrigation to  assuage the vines thirst.

This inexpensive wine has a wonderful, clear, ruby-red color begging you to further investigate its aromas of cherry and strawberries, its soft tannins, and velvety, favorable finish. Chocolates and pasta will pair well with this Malbec.  Remember to decant and aerate the wine for an hour or two, it will help immensely.

$8.99 wine.com.

Tercos Bonarda 2015

W Tercos BonardaBonarda from Mendoza, Argentina

100% bonarda

13.9% alcohol by volume

els 9.1/10

James Suckling 93

Ricardo Santos Winery produce two types of wines from their vineyards in the foothills of the Andes near Mendoza, Argentina: the eponymous Ricardo Santos and Tercos.

Tercos was developed by Ricardo Santos’ sons, Pedro and Patricio. The wine’s iconic, humorous and possibly triple entendre wine label of 4-donkeys in 3-piece suits is suggestive of a play on the word stubborn, the literal Spanish to English translation of Tercos, insinuating the difficulty of producing a superb wine from the local dry and poor volcanic soils, and finally, they may be donkeys, but they dress up rather nicely.

The bonarda grape, aka the Italian charbono, is grown on the Finca La Pitonisa, or in English, the Witch Estate, which is in the evening shadows of the inactive Andean stratovolcano Tupungato which towers another 5400-meters over the 1100-meters above sea level vineyards. The volcano contributes to the silica rich, sandy loams of vineyard soils containing various amounts of aluminum, calcium, sodium, magnesium, zinc and iron which augment the flavors and body of this wine. The vines were planted between 1977 and 1990 placing them mostly into the old vine category of lower yield but concentrated grapes.

This is a satisfying wine with a pleasing, dark ruby-red to violet color. The aroma is easy with berries, plums and raisins in the forefront with a hint of cloves and spice. The taste is very smooth all around and the balanced finish lasts well into your next sip.

$12.99 wine.com

Martin Ray Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2015

Martin Ray Pinot Noir 2015Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, California

els 9.1/10

James Suckling 95

Courtney Benham purchased the Martini and Prati winery and the Martin Ray brand in 2003 and set up shop in the cool marine climate of the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California, 50 miles northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge and notable for no earthly reason, is about 6 miles west of the Charles M. Schulz Museum. The winery has roughly 12 acres of rather newly planted, 2011 Pinot Noir vines.

The wine has a brilliant ruby red color with aromas of raspberry, plum and earthy mushroom. A smooth medium to full bodied, delicious tongue treatment leading to a satisfying balanced finish.  An outstanding wine which I would grade just a tiny notch below James Suckling’s rating but I quibble. Snoopy may have wanted a root beer but Linus would have preferred this Pinot along with some dried salmon and Jarlsberg cheese.

18.99 Wine.com

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