When I traveled through Chile, I became a Carmenere fan. I tried some amazing ones in the Colchagua Valley near Santa Cruz. Therefore, I’m excited to celebrate Chilean Carmenere Day today, November 24th. Carmenere is one of the 6 classic grapes that is allowed in a red Bordeaux blend, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Though very little of it is found in France today.
In 1994, a French botanist discovered that what was believed to be a slower ripening, peppery merlot, was actually Carmenere, which was thought to be almost extinct. Chile leads the world in the volume of production these day.
Carmenere has a similar flavor profile to Cabernet Franc, one of its relatives. For my celebration I chose the 2012 the Kidia. This dry, unfiltered wine has 14% alcohol with cherry and blackberry aromas. It was aged for 14 months in New French Oak and has a medium body. Palate flavors included cherry, blueberry, blackberry, oak and tobacco with some spice.
The finish was disappointing coming in at around 18 seconds. This wine really needs time to open up. I’d recommend letting it breathe at least 45 minutes prior to drinking it. The price was around $13 and I’ve definitely had better Carmeneres in this price range.
I’m hoping to see more Carmenere in Arizona so that we can celebrate Arizona Carmenere Day!
Being in the wine touring business, it’s not always easy to catch up on all of the new wines and varietals that are being offered in the Verde Valley and Arizona. Therefore, I’m thrilled to be attending the Arizona Vignerons Alliance Symposium and Grand Tasting in Phoenix this weekend.
The first exciting event on Sunday will be the symposium on wild grapes. No, we’re not talking about those wild grapes known as Vitis Arizonica that grow along our riverbanks in the Verde Valley, but unique, indigenous varietals from around the world that we are growing in Arizona including Mourvedre, Vermentino, Petit Manseng, Aglianico, Graciano, Sagrantino, Tannat and Vranac. I’ve had the opportunity to try most of these, but am looking forward to learning more about each one.
Next on the panel is an Arizona wine competition, with our varietals being compared to the same wine varietals from other areas around the world. I’ve done some of these comparisons on my own, but I’m very interested to see which National and International wines will be placed against ours, and which Arizona wines will be chosen.
Finally, a beautiful Rose’ lunch catered by The Farm at South Mountain followed by a lively auction and a Grand Tasting of Arizona Wines and Wine Sale.
What could be better?
This week’s wine of the week is a 2015 bourbon barrel aged Chardonnay by Toasted Head. Around 70% of the grapes for this wine are sourced from their vineyards in Dunnigan Hill, AVA, in Yolo County, around 20 miles east of Napa with the rest from Mendocino County in California.
The color was a clear pale lemon. The nose had aromas of apple and bourbon. The palate tasted of oak, vanilla, spice, bourbon and a tad lemon. The mouthfeel was creamy and a little buttery with finish that lasted around 25 seconds.
I paired it with Asian style turkey lettuce wraps, but it competed instead of complemented the food. I know that bourbon barrel aging is all the rage these days, and I really enjoy it when done with coffee beans, however I’m not a fan of this barrel aged wine. The style makes the wine more challenging to pair with food. At the same time, I also opened a 2016 Cupcake Butterkissed Chardonnay from Livermore, California, and enjoyed the flavor and nose so much more. It also paired more easily with the food.
I was excited to try a new Pinotage for my wine of the week. Up to now the Nederburg Pinotage has been my go to Pinotage, but this week I tried the Spier 2015 Pinotage, which hales from Stellenbosch, South Africa. The Vineyard was established in 1692.
Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut or Hermitage which was developed in South Africa in 1925, yet the taste seems nothing like either wine and reminds me more of a Tannat. The juice was cold soaked for 2 days and fermented in stainless steel tanks. 20% was aged in French oak with the balance aged in stainless steel tanks.
The color was a beautiful inky ruby and the nose offered aromas of smoke, tobacco and cherry. It was quite tannic and the palate had similar notes with the addition of some earth. What was very surprising, was how the flavor and aroma really changed upon opening. After about an hour most of the smoke disappeared leaving a velvety wine with lovely flavors of blackberry and current. The wine has 14.5% alcohol and around a 22 second finish. I paired it with shredded beef and at under $12, this is a great buy.
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.