Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)

“Thank the heavens, for we have Cabernet Franc!”

To me, Chile’s Santa Rita (which I visited in Alto Jahuel as part of a media jaunt last year) can best be summed up in one long, run-on sentence.

Established in the late 1800s on a former farm that at one point sheltered 120 soldiers and has its own chapel; olive, almond, and fruit tress on forty hectares of land that also houses an old mansion-turned-hotel; Santa Rita is one of Chile’s three largest wineries, producing eighty million liters of wine per year and employing about six hundred workers.

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)

And, well, there you go. The place is gorgeous, and almost unduly impressive in terms of size and history. Of course, that doesn’t mean diddly to most of us if the wines aren’t any good.

After a short tour of the grounds, I tasted through the mostly-high-end portion of the Santa Rita lineup, so I can tell you that within that range, the reds in most certainly do not suck…

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)2012 Santa Rita Floresta Cabernet Franc (Pumanque, $30)

This is the first release of the Floresta label, and as a self-admitted Cab Franc whore (there’s about 7% Merlot in there, too), I found this an auspicious start. It opens with nice minty, herbal notes, followed by juicy red and black fruits, spices, and tobacco. Modern and silky, there are a surprising amount of aggressive tannins here, and overall the acidity feels a touch on the low side. But those are minor cavils for something that would just be soooooo f-cking goooooood with bison burges.

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)2011 Santa Rita Triple C Red Blend (Maipo Valley, $40)

A perennial performer, the Triple C label is so named because it’s a blend of Carmenere (5%), Cabernet Franc (65%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%). The Cab Franc vines average age is fifty years, and that element brings a depth to the notes of spices, dried herbs, and currants. It’s sexy and floral, too, and the elements of graphite, a dark-fruited soul, and a serious amount of tannic power make this a focused, concentrated, and complex little beast.

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)2013 Santa Rita Pehuén Carmenère (Apalta Valley, $55)

Fruit from seventy year old vines go into the making of this 100% Carm, so you Carm haters will definitely hate it. And you’d be wrong to do so, because there’s a lot to like here, if yo like your reds on the big side: minerals and chalk, spice, red fruits. The palate is robust, and dark in its full-throttle plummy fruitiness. Dense as a rock, and as deep as a canyon.

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)2012 Santa Rita Bougainville Petite Sirah (Valle del Maipo, $60)

$60 for a PS? I can feel your eyes rolling. For the record, there’s 10% Syrah in there, too (more on that in a minute). This is only the second release of the label, and while the finish could be a hair longer, overall it’s excellent, sexy stuff. Violets and graphite, blackberries and black raspberries, big structure while also being fleshed out in the mid-palate (see, that Syrah addition was a good move).

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)

Mi cases no es tu casa

Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)2012 Santa Rita Casa Real Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon ( Maipo Alto, $75)

Probably Santa Rita’s best-known wine, this is 1-00% Cabernet Sauvignon and has employed the same winemaker since 1989. The vines average 60 years in age. There’s a good amount going on here, so much that you might need to break out the notebook to track and remember it all. Toasty oak, coffee, leather, dried herbs, cigar, graphite, plums, and cassis on the nose; plums on the palate, with prevalent structural elements of tannin and acid that are presented elegantly rather than forcefully. The bottom line is that it’s a gorgeous Cab, but wont’ fully blossom for another eight years or so. Not that you will be able to wait…

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Friends Of The Devil (Concha y Toro Premium Recent Releases)

Ostensibly, vinous Chilean powerhouse Concha y Toro is a budget-minded wine lover’s dream. With five major facilities across the county, and twenty million cases produced annually, they have pretty much nailed the tasty-and-clean-and-varietally-correct-juice-for-very-low-prices thing.

But this is me, so of course we’re not going to talk about that, right?

Nope. What we’re going to talk about are a couple of top-tier Cabernet wines from their premium lines, the less than 200K case, winery-within-a-winery concepts focusing on single vineyards, which I tasted at in Maule when I visited Chile on a media tour late last year.

Because, well, yeah, I am that guy who does that sort of thing…

We are going to jump right into these wines, because the majority of the story that needs to be told here lives decidedly within one of them.

Friends Of The Devil (Concha y Toro Premium Recent Releases)

Friends Of The Devil (Concha y Toro Premium Recent Releases)2015 Concha y Toro Gravas Rojas Cabernet Sauvignon (Puente Alto, $50)

This is a new-ish brand for CyT, and a promising one, in which they also are experimenting with Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. The grapes come from the vineyards that also supply our next wine (Don Melchor… more on that in a minute…), but from the younger vines, planted around 2004. 2015 marks the first Cab-only release under this label, with only 500 cases produced.

I highlight this wine because it’s excellent in and of itself; it also happens to be an excellent primer (dare we say 2nd Wine?) for the mightier Don Melchor. Aromatically, this is complex stuff: clay, spices, minerals, graphite, red and black currants. The palate is both elegantly smooth and vibrantly fresh, with notes of plums, dried herbs, earth, and leather coming late, along with toast and grip. If you want to balk at the $50 price tag for a CyT wine, I’d tell you to calm down; this would fetch $80 if it had Napa Valley written on the label.

Friends Of The Devil (Concha y Toro Premium Recent Releases)

Friends Of The Devil (Concha y Toro Premium Recent Releases)2013 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon (Puente Alto, $125)

The exposition here is gonna be… well, not short.

In 1883, Don Melchor brought Bordeaux varieties to Chile, and the grapes that produce this wine (which has had only three primary winemakers since it was introduced in 1987) come from Maipo River-area plantings near the Andes, and consists of pre-phylloxera clones on original rootstocks (with the newer plantings being grafted). The vineyards sit at about 650 meters above sea level, enjoy about a 40F diurnal temperature swing, and are planted in a complex mix of clay, sand, and gravel.

An average of seventy percent new French oak is used, and the Pirque cellar – home to the original Casillero del Diablo legend that the Don dreamed up to keep people from stealing his wine – is now where the Don Melchor wines are aged in barrel. Interestingly, that cellar is made of a Spanish egg-whites mortar that has withstood Chile’s frequent seismic activity since the 1850s.

CyT blend about 150 different runs of Cabernet for Don Melchor, which they told me is about as crazy and difficult as it sounds. All told, there are about twenty people who work on Don Melchor, from vineyard management through final packaging.

2013 was, by their measurements, the coldest vintage ever recorded, on average, for Don Melchor (and this vintage marks one of the highest percentages of Cabernet Franc ever included in the blend, as well). The cooler vintage might account for a more subdued fruitiness in the 2013, which in turn might be the reason that the secondary aromas shine so spectacularly on the nose. There’s so much going on here in the herbs and spices alone that it practically justifies the price tag: fresh and dried cloves, thyme, sage, pepper, anise, graphite, cedar… And then clay, earth, chocolate, cigar, leather, and cassis.

The entry is smooth, silky, and seductive, but multiple layers of texture come in waves after the soft introduction: minerality, vivacity, grip, and power. The finish is chalky, with dark chocolate, and despite the wine’s youth and mild reticence, the finish is spectacularly long.

Consider me a friend of the devil in this case.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Friends Of The Devil (Concha y Toro Premium Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!