On Febuaray 27th, 2015 I had the opportunity to have lunch with Grand Reserve head wine maker Marcio Ramirez. Marcio explained the reasons why the Grand Reserve a riverbank series of wines were so special. Marcio explain that the wines come from 3 very unique rivers beds Rapel, Cachapoal, and Tinguiririca which provides very distinct and different qualities to each wine. All the Gran Reserva series wines start with the triple Marine Mediterranean advantage.
* Areas which have a cool breeze close to the coast,
* Areas with a temperature between cold ocean air and warm air current from the valley combine to produce cooling winds.
* Ancient river banks or oil, mineral rich free draining and unfertile.
Marcio has been the wine maker at Concha Y Toro since he graduated from Universidad de Chile in 1997 degree in Oenology, he is a well-traveled and a well educated winemaker spending time in Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Mendoza, Spain St Emilion Pomerol District. We Tasted through several of the Gran Reserva series.
The Gran Reserva series Sauvignon Blanc 2014, was well rounded on the palate with a long lingering finish.
The Gran Reserva 2013 Chardonnay was golden in color, ripe pineapple fruit, balanced acidity and just a lovely wine.
Gran Reserva 2011 Carmenere displayed a deep ruby color blackberry/ blueberry fruit with a hint of chocolate on the palate, a well structured complex wine. Also in my opinion the best wine of the luncheon .
The Gran Reserva Malbec 2012 and 13 were deep ruby in color, the fruit comes from the river bed area Tinguiririca which is layered in red clay, I thought it was a very good expression of a very good Malbec.
Last was the Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and 14 these wines were very young but the 2014 has signs of being a star because of its complexity and structure, finished with well rounded firm tannin.
My journey began on August 10 flying into Seattle’s airport spending the night and a relatively comfortable Marriott Courtyard hotel, and getting up Monday morning August 11 and driving with a bunch of wine lovers down to Walla Walla Washington. As we were looking for the city of Yakima Washington and was not able to locate the downtown area, we stumbled upon two wineries Bernard Griffin and J Bookwalter these were two fabulous wineries.
We tasted approximately 15 wines at these two wineries and they are very good wineries within Washington state. Our first stop in Walla Walla was long shadow winery and two of the highlights were The Pedestal one of the finer Merlot made in Washington state and 2011 Feathers.
Sleight of Hand Cellars, owner is Trey Bush this is a fun and exciting winery taking after their owner and the best way I can describe it is that he makes serious good juice. If you can find it you should buy it.
Va Piano vineyards established in 1999 and the owner is Justin they make a few different wines at this winery but his reserve Rhone blends are phenomenal. And worthy of exception praise.
The second day began with L’Ecole 41 a winery that has been extremely consistent in wine making for a very long time in Walla Walla and has recently received an award for their 2011 Ferguson Cabernet as Washington states wine of the year.
ABEJA, first of all I would like to thank Molly and John for their unbelievable hospitality during our visit. Their Chardonnay was the finest Chardonnay I’ve tasted in a Washington state, and their consistency in making a wonderful Cabernet is unmatched in Walla Walla.
Corliss estate, owner Michael Corliss is one of the great winemakers of Washington state and has consistently made great wines from Red Mountain and his 2008 Cabernet Franc is just one example.
Seven Hills Vineyard, Casey is the winemaker and owner he’s what you might call an experimental guy that likes to grow several different grape varietals and believe it or not he grows them all very well. His top wines are from Red Mountain in Washington state. Ciel Du Cheval is a Bordeaux blend and Pentad 2012 red wine blend was an incredible complex wine and the best wine that we tasted at the winery that day.
Charles Smith winery, and we were hosted by the owner Charles Smith, he does not make anything small his wines are big lots of fruit, complex and built to give you great joy.
On Wednesday morning our first stopped on Red Mountain was Kiona the oldest winery on Red Mountain first planting grapes in 1982 a very good winery with some serious complex wines being made there. These wines are being made by the son of the owner, who calls himself “The one eye winemaker”
And finally Hedges winery these people have been making wine on Red Mountain for quite a long time and have been doing an exceptional job of not only making great wines but wines that are very affordable with excellent quality.
Today, the wines of Don Miguel Gascón are crafted in the City of Mendoza at the same winery that was built in 1884 and by the Spanish visionary whose name bears it. The winery is also the home to1884, an award-winning restaurant operated by world renowned Chef Francis Mallman.
In 1993, another family became stewards of the winery, the Catena family. Dr. Nicolas Catena, known as a modern pioneer in the development of Argentine Malbec, gathered a group of investors and bought the winery in order to carry the legacy of Don Miguel into a new millennium.
During the 1940’s, the Gascón family bottled Argentina’s first 100 percent varietal Malbec. Now, Ernesto Catena, a fourth generation winemaker, has brought the wines of Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón to high status in Argentina, and to prominence with critics and connoisseurs throughout the world.
Bodega Gascón is a winery that makes several different varieties of wines from which I tasted through the following wines with the assistance of their very talented Sommelier: Extra Burt Sparkling, Viognier, Pinot Noir, and Malbec.
These are well made wines that were complex in structure and balance, and they have the expertise in making a world class Malbec for the past 100 years.
Nicolás Catena, sailed from Italy to Argentina in 1898 and planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. Malbec had been a blending grape in Bordeaux. But Nicola suspected it would find its hidden splendour in the Argentine Andes. Domingo, his son, inherited that dream and took the family winery to the next level, becoming one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza.
By the 1960s, however, Familia Catena was struggling. The Argentine economy was in shambles and inflation rates were soaring. One year, Domingo realized that it would cost him more to harvest than to leave the fruit on the vines. He asked his twenty-two year old son Nicolás, a recent PhD graduate in economics, what to do about such a dilemma. Nicolás advised him not to harvest. Domingo could not follow his son’s advice with a clear conscience and picked anyway. Nicolás still remembers the sadness he felt for his father that year.
But in the early 1980s, Nicolás left Argentina to become a visiting professor of economics at the University of California, on the world-renowned campus at Berkeley.
Nicolás Catena returned to Mendoza with a vision in mind. From one day to the other, he sold his table wine producing company, keeping only Bodegas Esmeralda, the fine wine branch of the family business. At that time Argentina was perceived as a bulk wine producer and Nicolás was told by many of his colleagues in Argentina that he was “completamente loco” (completely crazy).
But Nicolás Catena is not someone to be easily discouraged. During the 1980s, Nicolás set out to discover the best places to plant vineyards in Mendoza. When recently asked why he decided to plant Chardonnay and Malbec in Gualtallary, at almost 5,000 feet elevation, Nicolás answered, “I felt that the only way we would make a leap in quality would be by pushing the limits of vine cultivation, by taking risks”. His own vineyard manager had told him that Malbec would never ripen there, but it did, and beautifully. Nicolás found that Mendoza was exceptional for vine growing, with each high altitude valley providing a unique flavor and aroma profile of the same varietal. He found that the poor soils near the Andes, discarded by the original European immigrants due to their low fertility, were actually ideal for quality viticulture. And that the desert climate was an asset because it allowed him to control quality and hang time through strict irrigation control.
Then came the challenge of what to do with Malbec. Nicolás did not have his father’s confidence in Malbec. Domingo Catena fiercely believed that Argentine Malbec could make a wine as worthy as any first growth Bordeaux. Nicolás was not sure that Malbec would be able to age. In 1989, after his father Domingo died, Nicolás put all his sorrow into trying to see if his father’s intuition was right. It took 5 years of working on the 60 year old Angélica vineyard before Nicolás was satisfied enough to make a Catena Malbec in 1994. Then came the question of which clones to plant in the new vineyards. Since there was no existing Argentine Malbec clonal selection, Nicolás decided to bring clones from Cahors, France. The French Chardonnay clones had given him his best white. But results for French Malbec clones were disappointing. They grew large berries and bunches with rustic aromas and flavors.
Nicolás set out to develop his own selection of Argentine Malbec clones planting 145 clones in the La Pirámide vineyard. Of these, he selected the best five and began to plant them in different terroirs and altitudes.
By 1994, Nicolás and his team felt that they had identified their best vineyard lots for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. First with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1994, Nicolás bottled a small cuvée from the oldest and most uniform lots in the La Pirámide vineyard. Three hundred cases of Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon were made. In 1995, Nicolás bottled his first Chardonnay from cool climate Tupungato region, sourcing the fruit from Lot 4 of the Domingo vineyard for the Catena Alta Chardonnay. The next year, in 1996, two acres of lot 18 of the Angélica vineyard produced the best Malbec, and Nicolás made his first Catena Alta Malbec.
1997 was a phenomenal Cabernet Sauvignon vintage, and Nicolás Catena started plans to make another top cuvée, a wine that would fulfill those dreams that had started in the early 1980s. The wine, named Nicolás Catena Zapata (Zapata is Nicolás’ mother’s maiden name), was a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. It was released in 2001 through a series of blind tastings held in the USA and Europe where it was compared blind to Château Latour, Haut Brion, Solaia, Caymus and Opus One. The Nicolás Catena Zapata 1997 came in either first or second in every tasting.
This winery makes serious wines for all levels of wine enthusiasts. The 2012 Catena Alta Chardonnay made in a classic Burgundy style floral, lemon and citrus on the palate, 12 to 16 months aged in new french oak. The acidity is perfectly balance throughout the finish.
2010 Catena Alta Malbec and Cabernet, wines that are rich in blackberry fruit, spices and luscious tannins structure on the finish.
2009 Nicolás Catena Zapata, is probably the best wine made in Argentina, 75% Cabernet and 25% Malbec. Black cherry, blackberry, spices and violets, 24 months in new French oak. A great wine for the serious wine drinkers.