2 Great Wines for Winter

Time to take a look at Carmenere and Petit Sirah


One of my New Year’s resolutions has been to clean up the cellar a bit. A big project but one we should all undertake, To that end I rooted around a bit, admittedly not making much progress, but none the less finding a few bottles that i had been waiting to taste. Waiting for other peer examples to taste them with. Examples that have not materialized, so remaining resolute I figure now is the time to go through these.

They are examples of Carmenere and Petite Sirah. two underappreciated varieties and ones that I very much enjoy. Carmenere, coming almost exclusively from Chile these days, is a lighter bodied, herbaceous cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are typically wonderfully complex and bright; a fine partner for simply prepared steaks and lamb dishes. Petit Sirah on the other hand is a variety produced almost exclusively in California. Big, bold wines with great ageability, pairing well with BBQ and rich stews. Because of their food pairing affinities I tend to enjoy them both in the summer, when I have the grill fired up. But, following up on another of my resolutions, to take a different path than I’ve done in the past I’m trying them now and suggest that you do as well. These are great wines any time of the year, and can be perfect for your cold winter’s nights!

2011 Apaltagua Carmenere Envero Gran Reserva Apalta Vineyard Selection Colchagua Valley 14% $15

7% Cabernet Sauvignon

Aromas of black currants, fire roasted chilies and spicy green herbs greet the nose along with some very well integrated wood accents. Rather nicely focused in the mouth with a core of gentle fruit that hints at strawberry and blackberry flavors, carrying with it a haunting suggestion of sweetness, wrapped in gentle tea tones.  The oak pops on the back end, adding nuanced mocha and cocoa accents to the palate. There is a faint dried herbal edge across the palate and some firm tannins emerge on the backend and through the moderately long, clean and precise finish.  Delicious and eminently drinkable. 89pts

2008 Montes Alpha Carmenere Marchigue Vineyards Colchagua Valley 14.5% $22

Damson plums, dried flowers, dried herbs, old leather and medicinal tinged aromas of mint and licorice fill the glass along with a touch of VA. Decidedly supple if still bright in the mouth, the tannins have really integrated very well here leaving lots of plummy fruit, coffee and spice toned oak flavors to saturate the palate. This still remains a rather taut wine, though with plenty of buffering material so it’s nothing but caressing in the mouth. The flavors are deep if subtle, showing lots of black spice and cherry fruit on the finish before finishing with some spicy wood tannins. Lovely but a bit too polished. 88pts

2011 Cono Sur Carmenere Bicicleta Valle de Colchagua 13% $9

Sweet and toasty on the nose with fine vanilla scented powdered sugar base notes and lovely crushed currant, floral and cardamom aromatics. Moderately rich with nicely integrated acids and some firm if small tannins supporting plummy black fruit that is simple and a little jellied tasting.  The finish is a touch short, though there remains enough fruit to cover the soft wood tannins through the finale. A little bit of a black berry fruit bom,b though on the easier to drink side. 84pts

2011 Hacienda Araucano Carmenere Reserva Valle de Colchagua 14% $12

A little sweet oak greets the nose followed by some dark herbal and African violet aromas all layered over forest berry wild fruits, wild strawberries and blackberries. Rather light bodied and acid driven with just a suggestion of tannin supporting a nice core of blackberry and black currant fruit, this shows a little oaky bitterness on the backend. Fresh, clean and easy drinking with more fruit than herb on the palate, and some drying wood tannin emerging on the modest finish. 83pts

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4 great Wines for Winter

Apaltagua Apaltua Rose of Carmenere (2011)
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Montes Red Bordeaux Blend Colchagua Valley Alpha M (2008)
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Summers Petite Sirah (2009)
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Darcie Kent Petite Sirah Madden Ranch (2008)
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