I t was a night of some very nice wines. It was a journey that started in Italy and took us through France before heading to Argentina and Chile. Bill Harrison of Pasternak Wine Imports was our guide. Pasternak is owned by Domaine Baron de Rothschild and was founded in 1988 to import the Los Vascos label (Chile) into the US and steadily grew with wines from these regions, all estate or family-owned labels that are not created simply for the American market.
Often the question came up to what was the varietal or blends each wine had. Harrison pointed out that most labels in France have no varietals listed. “The French have no clue as to what grapes are in the wine.” But they do know what a wine from a specific region will taste like. Wines in France, he added, are all about the location the grapes or a wine was produced (appellation d’origine contrôlée or AOC). The soil determines the nuisances that distinguish the wine. Many producers avoid using oak because it detracts or masks the flavors the soil provides. If they do they use oak it’s often second or third use oak to minimize its influence.
This is In contrast to California where there is “so much sunshine, so much sugar and it’s not about the soil. It’s all about the fruit.” You seldom taste the local nuisances in California wine, he said, because of the use of oak and their production methods.
Before his presentation I asked Harrison what people are saying about the wines he was presenting tonight. I didn’t quite phrase it the way I wanted and he took it to mean “what’s your favorite wine” which of course he couldn’t answer since that would be akin to asking “which is your favorite child.” But when rephrased he said they were excited about a new addition to their lineup, the Guy Saget Marie de Beauregard Vouvray.
Later when we tasted this wine I would make the comment that it is probably the best white wine I’ve tried in a long time. Very nice fruit balanced by a nice acidity. A very rich wine that is is great with seafood or simply for sipping. Here is a great example of a French wine that uses second and third-use oak. He added that this wine is made by the largest family owned producer in the Loire Valley.
We started the evening with Valdo Prosecco DOC. A nice slightly sweet starter. Prosecco he said, has changed over the years in that originally the name indicated the grape used to produce the wine. Eventually it was assigned to describe a DOC (similar to Frances AOC) or a specific region and this Prosecco is a true DOC. Prosecco, he adds ,can not have a second fermentation or in bottle fermentation. If you do then you can’t call it Prosecco. He said that the Valdo Prosecco is new to the US but is one of the best selling in Europe. Most Prosecco sold in the US, he added, is produced specifically for the US market and is not available in Europe. The Valdo Prosecco is the same wine you would find in Europe.
When we jumped to South America we tried three reds from Bodegas Caro, including their flagship Caro the first label they produced. It is a Malbec/Cabernet blend. Harrison added that at a recent corporate get-together the winery shipped them some 1999 Caro and it was spectacular. You can keep this one in the cellar for some time. But Caro has very limited availability. Normally $59, the tasters were able to order the Caro for a special price of $43. One of the great benefits of attending these seminars.
After moving from the French wines to South America we started tasting wines that do use oak to influence the flavor. Harrison said that in the 1890’s Lafite, a label that Domaine Baron de Rothschild purchased, bought its own forest in France to provide a steady, consistent source of oak for their barrels. When Lafite expanded into South America, their wineries automatically had access to those oak forests. Much of the oak used by their wineries in Argentina and Chile is French and when used it is often new oak.
The Los Vascos Le Dix, the last wine of the evening, definitely shows that oak influence. Not as dense as you would expect but some very nice balanced tannins. You definitely want this one to breathe just a bit.
Unfortunately I had to sneak out near the end. I didn’t get to sample the Los Vascos Grande Reserve but was lucky enough to get a quick taste of the Dix (which is french for 10). Now I’m wishing I could have stayed. My thanks to the staff at Wine World and Bill Harrison.
[UDPATE: I just read from Wine World‘s newsletter that the most popular wines based on purchases was the Caves de Lugny Cotes Blanche Macon-Villages, Guy Saget Marie de Beauregard Vouvray, Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the Caro Malbec / Cabernet. I guess these wines speak for themselves.]
When: Friday, November 15, 2013. 7 pm.
Cost: $20 prepaid. $25 at the door if space is available. Reservations suggested as space will be limited.
Here are the wines presented (click on a wine to see the detailed tasting notes below):
- Valdo Prosecco DOC
- Caves de Lugny Cotes Blanche Macon-Villages 2012
- Guy Saget Marie de Beauregard Vouvray
- Domaine Baron de Rothschild Bordeaux Blanc Reserve Speciale 2011
- Domaine Baron de Rothschild Bordeaux Rouge Reserve Speciale 2011
- Caro Aruma Malbec 2011
- Caro Amancaya Malbec/ Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
- Caro Malbec / Cabernet
- Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
- Los Vascos Le Dix 2009
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Here are the detailed wine notes:
Valdo Prosecco DOC | Italy
Straw yellow color, joined with a fine perlage and a fruity taste are the distinguishing features of Valdo’s Brut Prosecco DOC. Well-balanced structure, matched with its flavorful and aromatic fruity fragrance make it the perfect pairing with starters and particulary with delicately flavoured dishes and especially seafood. Excellent as aperitif due to its distinctive characteristic of being “easy to drink”, best served in a flute glass at a temperature of between 6-8°C to bring out its perfumes and flavours. Versatility and freshness are its strengths. –From their Website
Caves de Lugny Cotes Blanche Macon-Villages 2012| Burgandy, France
Cave de Lugny is a cooperative of over 250 wine-growing estates and 1,500 hectares all AOC Burgundy- Mâconnais. Controlling approxiately 1/3 of production of Southern Burgundy and approximately 50% of the total production of the Mâconnais. This Mâcon-Villages is produced from Cave de Lugny vineyards, all based around the village of Lugny. The soil is predominantly made of limestone, with South-South East facing slopes. The average vine age is around 30 years.
This is 100% Chardonnay.
The aromatic specificity of the 2011 vintage was quite complex: citrus flavors are developing along with peach, apricot and white flowers aromas. This vintage is a perfect balance of the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Wines are soft, ample, elegant, and the aromas freshness naturally balances a low acidity. We are very proud of this 2011 vintage and its quality, and today after a 10 month ageing, wines are still packed with fruits and freshness, with very little evolution. We can’t wait to try tonight’s 2012.
Guy Saget Marie de Beauregard Vouvray | Loire Valley, France
This is 100% Chenin Blanc. Marie de Beauregard Vouvray has a nice balance between sweetness and freshness with a silky texture simply bursting with flavor of fruity aromas such as white peach and honeysuckle.
Vouvray Marie de Beauregard comes from an estate located in a village called “La Roche Corbon” near the city of Vouvray with whom we have had a partnership with for over 10 years. Bruno Mineur, our winemaker, then selects the best of the estate grown grapes for blending and maturing. The name “Marie de Beauregard” is a homage to the first owner’s wife of the water mill where we age the wines.
In 1790, the Saget family embarked upon a long history dedicated to vines and wine, firmly placing Saget among just a handful of estates that can enjoy their third successive century of business. Today and for more than 30 years, the Saget family brings together crus and terroirs, vintages and cuvees, industry professionals and food and wine enthusiasts with the best wines from the Loire. With 360 hectares of vines located in the finest appellations, six estates and long-term relations with families of vine growers Saget La Perrière, not only has extensive vineyards, but also creates and blends a wide range of wines from the Loire Valley.
Grapes are mechanically harvested between the end of September and the beginning of October. The grape pressing is made very slowly into a pneumatic press with special attention to avoid the juices. The must is clarified thanks to a static cold settling for 2 days before being fermented. This fermentation starts by a naturally without any added yeast. This wine is then aged in 2nd and 3rd use barrels so as to maintain the varietal characteristics instead of a too pronounced wooded taste.–From their Website
Domaine Baron de Rothschild Bordeaux Blanc Reserve Speciale 2011 | Bordeaux, France
60 % Sémillon, 40 % Sauvignon. Pale straw with hints of gold. Fresh and elegant, mixing citrus aromas (grapefruit, lime) with mineral notes. After a pleasant sweetness on the attack, this is a full-bodied wine with lots of flavour and a long, cool, aromatic finish. Its generous character makes it an excellent accompaniment for fish and white meat.
As a result of atypical weather conditions, 2011 was an exceptional vintage with flowering finishing three weeks earlier than usual and a very early harvest. After a cool, wet July and August, that helped to preserve the aromas of the Sauvignon Blanc (in particular the cool nights), a splendid Indian summer began on 12 September, enabling the red grapes to reach good levels of ripeness. 2011 is what is called a winegrower’s year: a year in which technical control is especially important.–From their Website
Domaine Baron de Rothschild Bordeaux Rouge Reserve Speciale 2011 | Bordeaux, France
Purple with good intensity. Powerful and seductive, with aromas of ripe fruit (blackcurrants, Morello cherries) and hints of candied violet and liquorice. Generous, rich and full-flavoured on the palate, long finish with hints of pepper and liquorice. –From their Website
Caro Aruma Malbec 2011 | North Catena, Mendoza, Argentina
100% Malbec. Explosive nose of red fruits, strawberries, raspberries, and plums, hints of violet and liquor. Very Subtle vanilla and chocolate come to complete the bouquet. Round and soft palate, with very nice concentration. Can be drunk now or kept 2-3 years.
The winter was very dry in 2010 and the spring started with dry and nice condition until November 9th, when a hard frost struck. Fortunately, the damage was limited to some exposed spots. December and January had been hot with limited rainfalls. The rain arrived in March and cooled down the vineyards. In fact temperatures during March and April were lower than usual. That was good for the maturity of the Malbec which was harvested with high aromatic intensity and well-balanced acidity.
Caro Amancaya Malbec/ Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 | Mendoza, Argentina
70% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep crimson colour. The nose presents aromas of red and black fruit, with redcurrants and plums, and a little mint and cedar. The bouquet fills out with notes of vanilla, spices and mocha from the French oak. On the palate, the tannic texture is pleasant and well balanced. The tannins are refined and gentle. There is a pleasant sensation of softness in the mouth. This is a deep, flavourful wine which can be drunk now but which will reveal more of its character in three to five years.
The mild, dry spring was particularly favourable for the bud break; there was, however, some damage in the vineyard from a late frost at the beginning of November. December and January were hot, with normal temperatures for the season and not much rain. February began with very dry weather but then some rain in early March provided relief from the high temperatures and parched conditions.
From then onwards, until the harvest in April, temperatures were fairly cool with very occasional rain. This favoured the ripening of the grapes which developed great aromatic intensity and a fine balance between acidity, tannic maturity and sugar content.–From their Website
Caro Malbec / Cabernet | Mendoza, Argentina
Weather conditions in the spring and summer of 2007 were ideal: warm but not too hot, producing exceptional fruit. Closer to the harvest season, there was some rain, but this did not pose a threat to the grapes, which were still very healthy. The vineyards were well prepared, with the removal of excess shoots, green harvests and careful irrigation. Reddish purple colour. Intense nose of red and black ripe fruit, with notes of spice bread, liquorice and vanilla. Fleshy and complex on the palate; rounded and well-structured with nice, elegant tannins. Good length; a pleasant and, enjoyable wine. Drink now or keep for a few years.–From their Website
Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 | Colchagua, Chile
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carménère, 10% Syrah, 5 % Malbec. Grande Réserve 2010 has a beautiful ruby red robe and terra cotta hues. Plum, cherry and ripe blackberry aromas combine with licorice, black pepper, cocoa, chestnuts, and graphite notes. A complex, elegant and captivating wine. The harvest took place under optimal conditions one week later than the preceding year and one month after the earthquake. Despite the aftermath of the quake, the vintage was excellent as harvest dates and physiological ripeness were standardized through multispectral vineyard zonation.–From their Website
Los Vascos Le Dix 2009 | Colchagua, Chile
This is a Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Le Dix shows a deeply red robe with purple shades. The nose displays ripe and intense red and black fruit aromas with lasting freshness. Ageing in barrels made at Lafite’s cooperage grants the wine nice toasty, vanilla, and cinnamon notes that perfectly combine with blackcurrant, blueberry, cherry, and blackberry, with caramel, licorice, black chocolate and assorted peppers. Powerful and complex in the mouth. Strong, full-bodied yet delicate and elegant tannins. An unmistakable invitation to enjoy a round, consistent and prolonged finish.
Le Dix, meaning 10 in French, was introduced in 1996 to celebrate Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)’s first ten years in Chile. It is only produced in extraordinary vintage years. Le Dix de Los Vascos is grown in the exceptional vineyard, called El Fraile, which means “the monk”, the oldest planted vineyard at Los Vascos and the original vineyard on the estate. The vineyard is 100% planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and many parcels of the vineyard have vines reaching 80 years in age. The vineyard is fairly large, covering some 200 acres, Le Dix is produced f rom severely reduced yields from El Fraile (the best) combined with the most rigorous cuvee selection – the resulting wine is of world class stature.–From their Website
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