Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Report from ... Santa Rita “Memorable Every Time” Tasting – July 23, 2009

It’s time to “re-launch” a brand, and that can only mean doing it over a lunch. We met with winemaker Carlos Gatica Dlopp at Sharkey’s Village Café on Bloor West on this very rainy (so what else is new this summer) afternoon. The sad part of the “re-launch” is that I hadn’t noticed the brand missing from LCBO shelves, I thought it was still there – actually I think this was all about the need for a makeover. Santa Rita ‘120’ brand is a mystery to many – why is it called “120”? The brand is named after the historic events of 1814 when 120 soldiers took refuge in Santa Rita’s cellars during Chile’s Independence war against the Spanish. Rumour has it these soldiers were able to evade the Spanish army, get reinforcements and gain Chile’s independence. A brief synopsis is now on the label: “Honouring 120 patriots who helped lead Chile to Independence.”

The wines of the ‘120’ brand are stainless steel versions of their varietals (of which there are about 9 – with only the Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc available in Ontario) bottled under screwcap and released early to “preserve each variety’s fruitiness and natural aromas.” Truth is, I’m not sure I’m ready for a Cabernet that hasn’t seen oak (in some form or another) and neither is Santa Rita … the Cabernet, while made in stainless steel tanks, has wooden staves added to add some complexity. Today we tried a variety of wines from Santa Rita – including the two ‘120’ re-launches … below a review of both 120’s and some other favourites:

Santa Rita ‘120’ 2008 Sauvignon Blanc: pretty standard new world Sauvignon Blanc with the grassy, grapefruit, melon and tropical scents on the nose; palate has lots of grass, lemon-lime acidity and a lingering finish with hints of melon … it’s the $10.45 price tag that makes this one an easy buy and because of that it rates 4-stars (****)

Santa Rita ‘120’ 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: this wine sees four months of stave treatment to gain complexity. Pretty basic red with a nice spicy quality added to the blackberry, blueberry and currant finish. An easy sipper that won’t offend or break the bank, especially at $10.45. (***½)

Other Santa Rita treats

Santa Rita Floresta 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95) – from the Leyda Valley, this single vineyard Savvy B. is worth the jump in price from the above mentioned 120. This is a wine for those who want complexity in their Sauv Blanc. Big mineral notes, grassy, nice balancing acidity with spicy-mineral on the tongue. (****½)

Santa Rita 2005 Triple C ($49.95) – stands for the Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon along with Carmenere. Was first made in 1997 to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of a Danish importer. The nose is loaded with soft red and black fruit along with whiffs of chocolate – the flavours deal out big jammy new world fruitiness that’s pleasing to the palate. This is a “Bordeaux blend with a new world interpretation,” said Carlos. Aged 14 months in 100% new French oak. (****½)

Santa Rita 2005 Pahuen Carmenere ($54.95) – named after an indigenous pine tree (but has nothing to do with the flavours or smells). 85% Carmenere with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 20 months in barrel and made from 60-70 year old vines in the Apalta Valley. Chocolate smells fight it out with powerful blackberry aromas. This one needs time to settle as the black fruit fights with tannins for supremacy in the mouth. In 5 years or more this will be superb. (****½)

Santa Rita 2005 Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon ($59.95) – this label was established in 1989 and has been under the guidance of the same winemaker ever since. This is a single vineyard, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the La Poblacion vineyard (part of the Maipo Valley) which is part of the estate vineyard of Santa Rita, and can be viewed on the label. The vines are 50-60 years old and comprise an 8-hectare block from which they yield 6-8 tons per hectare. This wine is complex with mineral, chocolate, blackberry, cinnamon and vanilla on the nose; the palate is dry with cocoa powder notes along with spice, black fruits and gritty tannins. Delicious now and delicious later – lie down 5+ years and enjoy. (*****)

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