Gato Negro Merlot, Pinot Noir 2016, Chile
Cost: $4-6
S o you’ve just had Thanksgiving dinner or are about to have it, and your thoughts turn to Christmas.
For most of us Christmas is an expensive time of year, between buying gifts and decorations, possibly traveling and binging on food. It would be nice to find dependable wine that is not a splurge, wouldn’t it?
This week and next week I’ll show you some very nice wines that don’t break your budget and leave a few dollars left for other holiday extravagances.

First is Gato Negro merlot and pinot noir ($4-6). Gato Negro is a label from Chile, a country which has long been known for producing great values as well as world class wines. I love wines from Chile and have been drinking them for years, but just recently discovered Gato Negro.
It is produced by Viña San Pedro, which makes some terrific $20 wine. But the Gato Negro brand is exceptional at this price. When I buy a $5 wine I’m just happy when it tastes like wine. But these wines are full of flavor and nuance.
The merlot from 2017 is a smooth, easy-going wine. It has relatively complex flavors of plum and blackberry, with a hint of vanilla. It is a deep ruby red in the glass with pleasant aromas of blackberry and plum. The grapes are 85 percent merlot and 15 percent syrah from the Central Valley.
The tannins are muted, with a soft mouthfeel and a pleasant finish. Everything is in balance. The winery recommends serving it at 60-64 degrees. Just put it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before you open it and it will come out about right.
The pinot noir (from 2016) tastes like you’re eating a bowl of cherries, full of fruit flavor with good acidity. It is a clear ruby red in the glass with raspberry and cherry aromas. Again, the tannins are soft, but there is enough acidity to keep it interesting. The wine has a medium finish with a smooth mouthfeel. The grapes are 100 percent pinot noir from the Central Valley.
This wine also should be served cool, 60-64 degrees.
Gato Negro also makes a cabernet sauvignon at the same price. It is a smooth wine, with pleasant flavors of strawberry and chocolate. I had it with meatloaf, and it held up really well.

Winery: Gato Negro is one of the brands of Viña San Pedro, one of the oldest and most respected wine companies in Chile.
Viña San Pedro was founded in 1865 when the Correa Albano brothers brought grape vines from Europe and planted them in the Curicó Valley. It now sells its wine in more than 80 countries on five continents. Its other brands include Altaïr, Cape Horn, Sideral, Kankana del Elqui, Tierras Moradas, 1865, Epica, Castillo de Molina and 35 SUR.
The primary vineyards, the winery and cellar are in Molina, in the Curicó Valley about 125 miles south of Santiago. They have nearly 3,000 acres in the Curicó Valley and 3,700 acres in the Central Valley and in other major winegrowing valleys of Chile, such as Elqui, Casablanca, San Antonio-Leyda, Maipo, Cachapoal, Maule and Bío-Bío.
Viña San Pedro is part of the wine group called VSPT Wine Group, the third largest wine group in Chile and the second largest exporter of Chilean wine.
Gato Negro offers several varietals including cabernet/merlot, carmenere, chardonnay, malbec, rosé, sauvignon blanc and two spritzers, Gato Negro Breeze Tropical and Gato Negro Breeze Fresh Berries. It sells more than 50 million bottles of wine a year.
San Pedro has made a major commitment to the environment with sustainable farming practices. It also has made a commitment to support its workers and their families as well as making a long-term contribution to the communities where San Pedro farms.
We enjoyed the pinot noir with the marinated pork tenderloin.

Goes with: We had these wines on two occasions. For the merlot we ordered a thin-crust Marco’s pizza, which I like much more than their regular crust. The wine was great with the sauce and Italian sausage on the pizza. It also would pair well with beef, lamb, pork, duck, pasta and most cheeses.
For the pinot noir we served it with a dinner we had with friends who were helping select grant recipients for the Community Foundation. Our group has been doing this for several years, and we like to have a meal after we finish, where we talk about how rewarding it is to learn about the fantastic non-profits doing good work in our community. Every time we do this we learn new things about community groups.
This time I fixed grilled chicken and three kinds of marinated grilled pork tenderloin, baked potatoes, peas, a sour salad and bread. The tenderloins were bourbon-brown sugar, and ginger-soy-lime. The bourbon-brown sugar was the favorite, so I’ll give you the recipe.
The slightly sweet taste and the hints of ginger really matched the smooth fruit flavors of this pinot noir. I enjoyed sipping the wine by itself, but it was even better with the pork.
The pinot noir also would pair well with most cheeses, roast game, beef, pork and lamb.

[box] Bourbon-Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin
2 one-pound pork tenderloins
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup minced green onions
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground ginger
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Remove the silver skin from the tenderloins. Combine the other ingredients in a bowl, mixing thoroughly. Pour the marinade in a large zip lock plastic bag and add the pork. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for four hours or overnight.
Preheat a grill to 350-400 degrees. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Grill the pork for 8-10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees.
While the pork is cooking, put the remaining marinade in a sauce pan with 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir while cooking until the sauce starts to thicken, then remove from heat. Remove the pork from the grill and let stand for about 10 minutes, wrapped in foil. Cut thin slices and serve, drizzled with warm sauce.[/box]
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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