Montes Alpha M ’05, Folly ’05, and Purple Angel ’05

I went to a Montes tasting the other day at the Bluebird Wineshop. Montes is one of the iconic wines of Chile, having been written up extensively in various publications as well as getting rave reviews in the Wine Spectator and winning numerous industry awards. I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Montes started out in 1988 and was one of the few Chilean wineries to focus entirely on import production. 90% of their production was for export and England was one of the first markets to benefit from this policy. Today they produce over 5 million bottles and export to over 92 countries, not bad for only being in business 20 years. Montes is seeking to make the varietal Syrah the flagship grape of Chile. To this end, they presented their showcase wine, the Montes Folly, so named because the general consensus at the time they planted the vines was that they were crazy to try and produce a premium wine made from Syrah. We sampled the 100% syrah ’05 Montes Folly. It opened with a full-on black fruit nose, juicy blackcurrants and blackberries predominating, with a tantalizing earthy minerality lingering in the air. It was fresh and lively, bright black cherries, morello cherries and again that earthy minerality shining through on a nicely balanced, clean, crisp wine. It didn’t have the big fruity jamminess that many people associate with new world shiraz. And to differenciate themselves a bit more from the pack, they call the grape syrah (as they do in France) as opposed to shiraz (as they do in the new world i.e., Australia, US, etc). The wine that everyone knows is the iconic Montes Alpha M. We tasted the ’05 M. Composed of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 5%petite verdot, this lovely is produced from a single vineyard at low yields and aged for one year in new french oak barrels. It had a deeply fruity, intense nose, blackcurrant leaping out of the glass with new...

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Anakena ’06 S. Blanc and Tempus Two Botrytis Semillon

I’d like to thank the academy…(me and the Tempus Two) So, continuing on with my dinner with Ana and Nigel. By now, we were done with the food and moved onto a straightforward Chilean sauvignon blanc because somebody had brought it and we couldn’t really leave it there all by itself in the bag, now, could we? The Anakena 06 Sauvignon Blanc from the San Antonio Valley was a typical offering from that part of the world. Tropical fruit nose, a slight grassy-ness mingled with asparagus and the aromas of stewed gooseberries. On the palate, loads of starfruit and pineapple with notes of bell peppers and a softness in the mouth that you just don’t get from those sometimes bracing NZ sauvignon blancs. It was much more subtle with a pleasingly long lemon-lime finish. We thought it would go down well with seafood like fresh oysters or poached salmon. But that wasn’t the end, nooooo, somebody (ok, me) had the bright idea of popping next door while Ana, the voice of reason, was in the ladies room (this is where The Wine Rack comes into play) for a dessert wine to finish off a wonderful vinous evening. I didn’t have high hopes but The Wine Rack has a much better selection then the old Threshers it replaced. And, lo and behold, they had a Tempus Two Botrytis Semillon dessert wine from the Hunter Valley. Nigel gave us a bit of history on the winery since he had visited it last year. The winery is owned by Lisa McGuigan, one of the few Australian wineries conceived and run by a woman. The Tempus Two winery is famous for their annual concert season where big names such as Elton John and Rod Stewart perform for the entertainment of the grapes (and the 10,000 people in the winery amphitheater paying big bucks to hear them sing). They’re also known for their unusually shaped bottles, an example of which is at the top of this blog. El Dorado...

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No Burgundy Clones here – Viña Leyda P. Noir ’07

Last week we tried a new Pinot that arrived in the shop – Viña Leyda Pinot Noir, Las Brisas Vineyard, 2007. I like a good Burgundy any day but I keep an open mind to the New World, especially when it comes to Pinot Noir. I’ve had some great stuff from New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest. There is a difference, no doubt, but I think that good producers of pinot noir in the New World do their best to stamp their own identity on the  wine rather then try and make a Burgundy clone. The Leyda pinot noir is made with fruit sourced from a single vineyard, Las Brisas. Brisas means breeze in Spanish and this vineyard is situated on the southwest slope of the estate, where there is less direct sunlight and more exposure to the ocean breeze, which keeps the grapes cool and allows them to develop slowly. When I opened this one, the first thing that hit me was a rather fruity attack to my nose and I hadn’t even poured it yet! This wine had a full-on nose of red cherries, ripe strawberries and raspberries. After a minute or so, we began to detect spicy notes and hints of bramble,wild herbs and a subtle smokiness. The wine spent 8 months in used French oak barrels, which was apparent but not overbearing. On tasting it, I thought it had a juicy, mouthwatering palate of ripe red berries, cherry and bramble with a bit of smokiness. A silky, medium bodied number with a hint of minerality on the finish. Despite the fact that the alcohol level was 14%, the alcohol didn’t assault my palate or nostrils. This wine had jumping acidity and was great on it’s own but I’m not sure if it was necessarily food friendly. I had some chicken with it and it didn’t really add anything to my enjoyment of dinner. This is a very fruity wine but it’s not subtle. And that’s the difference between Old and...

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