Friday, July 31, 2015

Report from ... Looking Back at Don Melchor - April 29, 2015


A lot can be said about Concha y Toro ... they were first established in 1883 and the first winery to become public in 1933.  They were the first on the New York Stock Exchange (1994), bought Trivento in Argentina in 1996, partnered with Baron Philippe de Rothschild in 1997 to form Almaviva.  They acquired Fetzer / Bonterra (in California) in 2011 and they partnered up with Manchester United in 2010 ...

Their wines are in 147 markets, 70% of their production gets exported; they have 30% of their domestic market and make up 35% of Chilean exports.  They have 10,750 acres planted, which is second largest and between the years 2011-2013 Drink International named them the #1 most admired wine brand in the world.

Chile is the perfect place to grow grapes and is one of only 2 countries free of phylloxera ... So why is Chile so perfect? Because of 4 natural barriers: the desert in the north, the Pacific to the west, Antarctic to the south and the Andes Mountains in the east. 

So what brings them to Toronto on this fine April day? The anniversary of their iconic Don Melchor wine, the wine named after their founder that was started in 1987. This single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is known as the "King of the Company" - taken from a 127 hectare planting whose range ages between very young to 100 years old in the Puente Alto Vineyard which represents the best Cabernet Sauvignon in their vineyard.  Within this vineyard are 7 parcels, 6 are Cabernet Sauvignon and one (which came as quite a surprise), is Cabernet Franc ... in 1998 they discovered there was a little Cab Franc in the blend.

Today we got a chance to taste five wines from Don Melchor ... wines range in age from 1991 to the current as 2010 - hence a look back at Don Melchor.  And the results are:

2010 Don Melchor
15 months in French oak: 76% new
Blend: 97% Cabernet Sauvignon / 3% Cabernet Franc
Nose: deep dark, black cherry and cassis
Taste: savoury with spicy-pencil shavings and rich dark fruit
(**** 1/2+)
1996 Don Melchor
12 months in French oak
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Nose: earthy, sandlewood even a tad vegetal with leathery-gamey notes
Taste: hints of white pepper, sandlewood, and dried currants
Quite lovely but showing its age.
1995 Don Melchor
12 months in French oak: 65% new
Blend: 97% Cabernet Sauvignon / 3% Cabernet Franc
Shows more youth than the '96: better acidity, better spice
more fruit - lively and delightful
This is a fabulous 20 year old wine showing surprising youthfulness
1993 Don Melchor
12 months in French oak: 65% new
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Nose is earthy and mushroomy with hints of coffee, but the palate
shows an elegant smoothness and hint of red fruit with earthy
character returning on the finish.

1991 Don Melchor
12 months in French oak
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Shows licorice, leather and game meat - old but definitely still
drinkable ... on the plus side it does have nice soft tannins.
Lunch at Cafe Boulud ...

Alas, I don't think the lunch went very well - it just didn't go with the wines - the food was good but the meal was not a good pairing ... many around the table said they were "interesting" matches ... but let's be honest they were just being nice.

Tasting of Charcuterie
Artichoke Salad
Spring Lamb
Tasting of Cheese
 

Report from ... The Evolution of Argentina - July 29, 2015

It seems like it has been awhile since the Argentinian's have been to town and talked about their wines instead of just letting us taste them ... sure there was a tasting afterward, but first they had to inform us that much has changed in the land on the other side of the Andes: They have broken down the country into many appellations and three major regions - North, Cuyo and Patagonia. The whole of the country grows grapes between 1000 and 10,000 feet above sea level (300m - 3000m) - making it some of the most high altitude vineyards growing in the world.

Most of Argentina's grapes grow in the Cuyo region, where Mendoza is situated, this region is home to 95.52% of cultivates vines in the country.

Grapes (vitis vinifera) first came to Argentina in 1551, brought by Spanish colonists ... today it is the 5th largest producer, 9th largest exporter, 8th in cultivated surface and 7th in largest wine consumption.  They also have some 1301 wineries within their borders.  Mendoza grows 80% of the grapes, San Juan 16%, La Rioja 3% with at least 7 others growing less than 2% each.  Wine is big business in Argentina, the Uco Valley alone has seen vineyards double since 2012.

As one would suspect Malbec is the #1 grape of the country, followed by Bonarda ... it is interesting to note that Malbec was brought to Argentina in 1853 by Michel Pouget (as far as records indicate).

The Wines of the Seminar ...

The wines were presented in a number of flights: Sparkling, Torrontes, Chardonnay, Bonarda, Malbec, "Malbec & Friends" and a Tannat.

Sparkling ... neither of the two wines presented were impressive, both had a slight oxidative note that was mostly off-putting - until we see more of these wines here in Ontario it is hard for me to make a blanket judgement as to quality.

Torrontes ... two wines were presented, the best of which was a Dominio del Plata 2014 Susana Balbo version that had some barrel notes to it, yet it was delicate, with tropical fruit and melon rind along with subtle grapefruit and nice acidity. (*** 1/2+)

Chardonnay ... neither Chardonnay was of interest the first had too much oak while the other suffered the same fate but had a note of something spicy - which made it slightly more intriguing.  Having tasted another 5 during the walk around I would say Chardonnay is a not yet a strong suit of Argentina, nor do I think it will be.

Bonarda ... I have long been a fan of this grape, but some of the wines can be so boring, but a good one can be very juicy and a real delight. The winner here was the Sin Fin Guardia 2013 Bonarda with its sweet plum, cherry, and leather, with hints of spice and a real juiciness. (****)

Malbec ... this is Argentina's calling card to the world and there are some doing it real justice like the Colome 2013 Authentico Malbec with its concentrated fruit of cassis and blackberry backed by white pepper, spice and mocha with a blueberry skin finish. (****) ... While the Casa Bianchi 2013 Leo Malbec Premium is a wine that is very consumer friendly with its up front cherry, blackberry, plum, violets and spice. (****) 

& Friends ... this was the cutesy name they gave the blends of Malbec and other grapes, these were the best wines of the seminar: Monteviejo Lindaflor 2010 Malbec / Syrah Blend - an 80/20 blend favouring Malbec with mocha, white pepper, blackberry, vanilla, smoke and plum with a good long finish. (****+)  The other is the Catena Zapata Nicolas 2010 Cabernet / Malbec - this is an iconic wine for Argentina and is a 75/25 blend that shows beautiful red and black fruit, chocolate, fine tannins, a juicy core and real elegance. (**** 1/2)

Tannat ... I would say this is an upcoming grape with good potential in Argentina's future, there is not a lot planted at the moment but it is one they should consider putting more in ground.

The Walk Around Tasting ...

We all know Argentina is a juggernaut for Malbec - but are there other grapes they do well? Let's take a look at some other wines:


Alta Vista Estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.95)
a juicy chocolate-cherry number with hints of white pepper
(*** 1/2+)
Catena 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95)
another juicy Cabernet with raspberry, cherry, white pepper
and mocha ... very well balanced - ready to drink or for cellaring
(****)

Desierto 2013 '25' Cabernet Franc ($18.95)
touch of herbal with smokey-raspberry and gentle pepper
(*** 1/2+)
Dominio del Plata 2013 Crios de Susana Balbo Red Blend ($14.95)
Malbec / Bonarda / Tannat / Syrah make up this blend
that's rich in pepper and black fruit - ripe and ready
(*** 1/2)

Dominio del Plate 2013 BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.95)
red fruit, licorice, vanilla and smoke
(*** 1/2)
Zuccardi 2012 Finca Piedra Infinita Malbec ($120.00)
silky smooth with blackberry jam, mocha and coffee taking center stage
(****)
Finca Las Moras 2012 Gran Syrah ($26.95)
quite simply put this is a delicious Syrah with lovely black fruit,
mocha, white pepper and raspberry notes - plenty more to come with age
(****+)
Fincas Las Moras 2014 Alma Mora Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.80)
well-priced little Cab that shows chocolate and strawberry-rhubarb
(*** 1/2+)
Graffigna 2013 Elevation Red Blend ($14.95)
Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon / Tannat / Syrah
dominated by black fruit, white pepper; easy drinking, BBQ ready
(*** 1/2+)

Kaiken 2012 Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95)
the Malbec has long been a staple of Vintages, and Kaiken proves
that they can do Cabernet Sauvignon just as well or even better
(****)
Luigi Bosca 2012 Malbec DOC ($30.95)
lush with a soft and silky mouthfeel: vanilla, smoky, raspberry,
mocha, along with elegant yet firm tannins on the finish
(****+)
Luigi Bosca 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.95)
spicy mocha-cherry with raspberry, blackberry and chocolate
(****)
Mascota Vineyards 2014 OPI Chardonnay ($12.95)
while not a great Chardonnay it is one that delivers a delightful
fruitiness (pear, peach, grapefruit) but lacks the acidity to give it punch
(*** 1/2)
Masi Tupungato 2010 Corbec ($24.95)
a wine made in an Amarone style using the Italian Corvina and Malbec
smooth and supple with lovely chocolatey-cherry character on the silky
palate and a great spiced cherry finish.
(****+)

Pascual Toso 2013 Barranca Toso ($16.95)
Malbec / Cabernet Sauvignon juicy fruit of red berry along
with blackberry and an element of floral
(*** 1/2+)