Tag Archives: Carmenere

Cultivate Wines: Socially Responsible Sipping

Sharing a bottle of wine has long been a social activity. The team at Cultivate Wines believes it should be a socially responsible activity as well.

Cultivate WinesCultivate’s founders Ali and Charles Banks believe that with this mission, for-profit companies have the potential to impact the world. For every dollar in sales, Cultivate gives ten cents back to local communities. Since its launch in 2011, Cultivate has donated more than $400,000 to charities that help fund opportunity and hope.

The Banks have decades of experience in find wine — as the former owners of Screaming Eagle and owners of Terroir Selections, whose profile includes Sandhi, Mayacamas, Mulderbosch and Leviathan.

While the wines for Cultivate come from all over the globe, they share qualities that make them approachable and easy to drink. Director of Winemaking Nat Gunter searches for vineyard sites and growers with unique stories or personalities. The winemaking team tastes thousands of juice samples to ensure quality and variety.

Cultivate WinesFor an introduction to Cultivate Wines, the Amateur Gastronomer suggests the Dream Walking 2010 Chardonnay or the Copa Cabana 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère.

The Dream Walking Chardonnay comes from Mendocino and Santa Rita Hills in California. It’s a classic California Chardonnay, with aromas of apple and tropical fruits introducing a palate of Meyer lemon, pineapple, golden apple, chamomile and marzipan. The wine is smooth and round in the mouth, with lingering notes of citrus and sweet almond.

The Copa Cabana is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenère and 10% Syrah from Curicó in Chile’s Central Valley. It’s a ripe and juicy red, with a crowd-pleasing mix of fruit and spice. Flavors of boysenberry, blackcurrant, plum and blackberry jam mingle with black pepper, clove and leather. Smooth tannins give the wine a nice texture and finish.

Cultivate Wines are wallet-friendly too. The Dream Walking Chardonnay costs $18, and the Copa Cabana costs $12.

For more information on Cultivate Wines visit www.cultivatewines.com.

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AG Pick: Grey Carmenere 2011

If you’re a regular reader of the Amateur Gastronomer, you know how much we love Chilean Carménère. The latest one we’re enjoying is the 2011 Grey Carménère from Viña Ventisquero.

Grey Carmenere 2011This wine was made from a small harvest of grapes from a specific section of a vineyard in the coastal Maipo Valley – Block 5, in the Trinidad Vineyard. This site was selected for its unique climate and soil; the grapes grown here are marked by their concentrated flavor. The wine spent 18 months in French oak barrels.

The wine is deep purple red, almost black in color, and has all those inviting aromas you want in a Carménère – pepper, leather, smoke and dark berries.

While spice and earthy notes dominate the nose, it is the berry notes that come through first on the palate. Flavors of blackberry, black cherry, boysenberry and cassis are layered with tobacco, black pepper, wood smoke, mocha and a hint of vanilla.

This Carménère is silky in the mouth with well-integrated tannins, and a satisfying finish with lingering warm spice.

Pair the Viña Ventisquero Grey Carménère with steak, roasted or grilled pork and game meats. Decant the wine or give it time in the glass to fully enjoy it.

$24, 14% alcohol by volume

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AG Pick: Sierra Batuco Carmenere 2011

With its spicy, peppery and intense dark fruit notes, Carmenere is the kind of wine that matches the feel of fall. And after just one sip, you’ll fall in love with the Sierra Batuco Carmenere Reserva 2011.

Sierra Batuco CarmenereCarmenere is a red wine grape that originated in Bordeaux, though today you’ll mainly find it in Chile. If you like Malbec or Syrah, you’ll be a fan.

Sierra Batuco’s vineyards are located in the hills of Chile’s coastal mountains in the Maule Valley. It’s a newly discovered viticultural zone, with cool daytime temperatures, long dry summers and deep clay soils.

This wine is made entirely from Carmenere that was hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine spent 8 months in a mix of new and used oak barrels.

Aromas of pepper, dried leaves and black fruit draw you in. The taste is intense yet elegant, with flavors of black and green pepper, baking spice and tobacco layered with blackberry, raspberry, black cherry and a hint of mocha. The wine is silky smooth in the mouth, with a long and satisfying finish.

Pair the Sierra Batuco Carmenere Reserva with pork, lamb, steak, burgers and other grilled red meats.

$17, 13.9% alcohol

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ARCS Atlanta Fall Cocktail Party


Winzer Krems Grüner Veltliner Sandgrube 2012

Kremstal, Austria

Grüner Veltliner is a white wine grape from Austria. Don’t let the name throw you off — the wine made from Grüner Veltliner is easy to drink and very food friendly. Crisp and dry, this light to medium-bodied wine has bright citrus fruit flavors and subtle white pepper, with gentle wet stone minerality and refreshing acidity. A touch of spice lingers on the finish. Extremely versatile, Grüner Veltliner can pair with food ranging from shellfish and salads, to spicy dishes and Asian cuisine.

El Supremo Torrontes 2012

Mendoza, Argentina

As Malbec is considered the red wine grape of Argentina, Torrontes may be considered the white wine grape of the South American country. This is an extremely aromatic wine, with floral and citrus notes. El Supremo Torrontes has aromas of jasmine, gardenia and Meyer lemon, with crisp flavors of white grapefruit, white peach and subtle honeydew. Give the wine some time to warm in the glass and the floral notes will grow more vibrant.

Colombier Ventoux Rouge 2012

Côtes du Ventoux, Rhone, France

In the area surrounding Mont Ventoux, the Ventoux AOC in France’s Rhone region is one of Provence’s most picturesque areas. Perched villages, local markets, sunflowers, lavender and acres of vineyards have inspired artists, authors and vacationers. The Colombier Ventoux Rouge is a blend of Rhone grapes Grenache and Syrah. Medium-bodied and richly textured, this wine has aromas of ripe black fruit and flavors of blackberries, plum, pepper, black olives, rosemary and a hint of mint.

Sierra Batuco Reserva Carmenere 2011

Maule Valley, Chile

Carmenere is a red wine grape that is originally from Bordeaux. Today you’ll find it primarily in Chile, where it has become the country’s signature grape. Pepper and spice characteristics are what make Carmenere a treat to sip, and make the wine an ideal pairing for steak and grilled meats. The Sierra Batuco Reserva Carmenere is full-bodied with concentrated flavors of blackberry, black cherry, black and green pepper, smoke and a touch of mocha on the long, velvety finish.

Winzer Krems Gruner VeltlinerEl Supremo TorrontesColombier Ventoux RougeSierra Batuco Carmenere


For more information on wine consulting by the Amateur Gastronomer email info@amateurgastronomer.com

De Martino Winery: Reinventing Chile

“Reinventing Chile” is more than just a tagline for De Martino. It’s both a mission statement and a vision – to produce wines that are not just exceptional for Chile, but truly world-class.

De Martino wines“We want to show people that Chile can produce exciting wines,” said export director Guy Hooper, who visited in Atlanta in March.

De Martino was founded in 1934 by Pietro De Martino Pascualone who came to Chile’s Maipo Valley from Italy. De Martino is still family owned and operated; today the third and fourth generations of the family work in the winery.

De Martino is committed to the environment. They began organic farming in 1998, and were certified organic in 2000. In 2009 they became the first carbon-neutral winery in Latin America.

Chile MapThe grapes for De Martino wines come from their 740 acres in the Maipo Valley as well as other locations in Chile. In their aim to produce the best wine, the winemaking team has sought out the best conditions for each grape. The Chardonnay comes from the Limarí Valley, a cool climate region approximately 12 to 14 miles from the Pacific that has similar soil to Chablis. The mild to warm climate of the Maipo Valley is best suited for Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Syrah comes from the rocky soil of the Choapa Valley, located at 2,500 feet above sea level. Click the map to enlarge.

De Martino Legado Reserva Chardonnay“Limarí is the future of Chilean Chardonnay,” said Guy, pouring a taste of the 2011 Legado Reserva Chardonnay. Clean, pure and authentic, the wine has elegant citrus and white flower notes. The use of older oak barrels softens out the acidic edges but does not overwhelm the crisp fruit flavors (half of the wine spent 8 to 9 months in used French oak barrels). This is an ideal Chardonnay for those who have gotten tired of the over-oaked trend.

De Martino achieves its goal to produce world-class wines with its Carmenere, as befitting the signature grape of Chile (De Martino was actually the first Chilean winery to export Carmenere).

Love Carmenere or never tasted it? These wines are for you.

The 2011 Estate Carmenere has spice and black pepper aromas, with flavors of ripe cherry, gentle tannins and a touch of sage and sweet oak on the smooth finish. The 2010 Legado Reserva Carmenere has notes of black cherry, boysenberry and black pepper. It’s velvety smooth in the mouth, with well-balanced acidity and restrained tannins that make it a great pairing with grilled meats.

De Martino’s Cabernet Sauvignon shows just how well this grape is suited for the Maipo Valley. The 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh and fruit-forward with flavors of boysenberry, black currant and a touch of bell pepper. Forty percent of the wine spent 4 to 5 months in used French oak barrels, which adds an extra layer of complexity.

De Martino Legado Reserva Cabernet SauvignonThe grapes for the 2010 Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon came from two vineyards – one with colluvial soil and one with alluvial soil. The first produces grapes that add intense flavors and aromas to the wine, while the second adds finesse and freshness. The Legado Reserva spent 12 months in used French barrels. This wine has flavors of black cherry, fig and mocha, with an elegant structure that makes it easy and pleasing to drink.

Great care was taken in the vineyards to ensure the grapes would not burn or over-ripen, to make sure that the wine would not have too high an alcohol content. The Chardonnay, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon are 13.5% alcohol by volume.

Guy ended the tasting with the impressive 2010 Legado Reserva Syrah. Reinvent Chile this wine does – whereas Syrah is generally grown in the warmer Colchagua Valley, the grapes for De Martino’s Syrah come from the Choapa Valley in northern Chile. Located in the Andes Mountains at Chile’s narrowest point, the Choapa Valley is dry and rocky. It gets an average of 4.5 inches of rain per year, versus the Colchagua Valley’s 23.2 inches. This results in a lower yield of high quality, high acidity grapes.

The Legado Reserva Syrah is supple and elegant, with flavors of plum, blackberry and cherry, and the faintest hint of vanilla from 14 months of aging in used French oak barrels. This wine exemplifies how world-class Chilean wine can be.

De Martino’s focus is not just on producing premium wines – it’s on producing wines that are a good value. Most of De Martino’s wines (including the wines in this article) are in the $10 to $20 range. All are intended to pair easily with food. Look for De Martino wines at grocery stores, wine shops and restaurants.

For more information on De Martino visit www.demartino.cl.

AG Pick: Kuyen 2008 Red Blend

The temperature outside is getting colder, meals are getting hardier and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper are the flavors of the season. It’s the ideal time for drinking bigger, more mouth-filling red wines.

Bold and spicy with a nice finesse, the Kuyen 2008 red blend from Chile is a wine to enjoy this fall. Winemaker Alvaro Espinoza and his wife Marina craft the wine from biodynamically grown grapes on their small estate in the Maipo Valley. Kuyen means “moon” in Mapuche, a Chilean native language.

The wine is 49% Syrah, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Carmenere. The wine was aged for six months in French oak barrels, then aged an additional six months in the bottle before it was released.

Full and intense, the Kuyen 2008 is a wine that will warm up your palate this November. Black cherry, plum and blackberry flavors mingle with black pepper, clove and a hint of dark chocolate. Velvety tannins, well-balanced acidity and a long finish make this a really pleasing sip.

Pair the Kuyen 2008 with lamb, steak, grilled or braised red meat or hearty stews.

A bottle of the Kuyen 2008 costs approximately $30.

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AG Pick Under $15: Morande Reserva Carmenere 2008

For its big taste at a little price, you can’t beat Carmenère from Chile.  It’s my go to grape when I’m in the mood for something bold and spicy but don’t want to drink one of the more expensive bottles in my collection.  It’s also great for get-togethers with friends.  I enjoy introducing people to this varietal and because of its low price you won’t mind opening up an extra bottle.

If you still have yet to taste Carmenère, pick up a bottle of the 2008 Morandé Reserva Carmenère.  Like most Carmenère it costs less than $15 but tastes like it should cost more, with its rich mix of earth and black fruit.

This deep purple-red, almost black wine comes from Chile’s Maipo Valley.  Right away you’ll notice an enticing smoky aroma that will make your mouth water as you imagine sweet barbecued meats.  Black fruits, violet and pepper round out the nose and continue to develop on the palate.  A taste reveals a full-bodied mix of blackberry, black cherry, cassis, black pepper, sandalwood and smoke, with a hint of a pleasant musty-earthy flavor reminiscent of an Old World wine.  Good tannins and acidity give the wine structure, and the smooth finish lingers in your mouth.

The 2008 Morandé Reserva Carmenère is one of those wines where you say “yum” out loud after your first sip.

This wine pairs nicely with steak, lamb and other grilled or barbecued red meats.

A bottle of the 2008 Morandé Reserva Carmenère costs around $10.

AG Pick Under $15: 2006 Palo Alto Reserve

Looking for a good value red wine with lots of smoke and earth?  Try a bottle of the 2006 Palo Alto Reserve, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Syrah from Chile.

Palo Alto ReserveThe three grapes work in perfect harmony, with their dark fruit and spice notes mingling in your mouth for an intense and satisfying sip.

The wine looks like a Syrah with its deep purple-red color.  A sniff reveals aromas of spicy blackberries and black pepper.  The taste is big and bold with flavors of blackberries, blackcurrant, plum, crushed black pepper, leather, tobacco and cloves that come together in a lush, smoky finish.  Good acidity gives the wine lift so it doesn’t feel too heavy in your mouth.

All the smoke and spice in the Palo Alto Reserve makes you crave a juicy piece of grilled red meat to enjoy along with a glass.  Serve this wine with steak, lamb chops, venison or wild boar.

The 2006 Palo Alto Reserve is a great value at $12 a bottle.

AG Pick Under $15: 2005 El Toqui Carmenere Reserva

For a great tasting red wine at a great price, you can’t beat Carmenère from Chile.  With many delicious bottles that cost less than $15, Carmenère is one of the best values in wine right now.

El Toqui Carmenere ReservaIf you love big and juicy red wines with a kick of pepper and spice, you’ll want to try the 2005 El Toqui Carmenère Reserva.  It’s so full of flavor that you won’t believe it only costs around $11.

Carmenère was originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, though today it’s rare to find it in France.  The varietal was brought over to Chile, which now produces the majority of Carmenère wine in the world.

El Toqui Carmenère Reserva comes from the Rapel Valley in central Chile.  It’s deep brilliant purple in color, with aromas of red berries and black pepper.  The taste is an exciting mix of earth and fruit.  Ripened red cherries and plum are supported by zesty flavors of black pepper and tobacco.  A fleshy tannic structure gives way to a long, fruit-filled finish.  Serve this with grilled meat, game or pasta.

Click here to see my other articles on Carmenère or click on “Carmenère” under Tags in the column to the right.  Looking for other great value wines?  Click on your desired price point (under $20under $15under $10) under Tags.

What is Meritage?

If you drink wine from California you’ve probably heard of “Meritage.” But do you know what the word actually means?

Meritage may sound fancy-schmancy but it’s basically a made up word for a Bordeaux-style blend made by a winemaker who has paid a fee to use the word.

But first let’s start with the pronunciation of Meritage.  There’s no “ahh” sound.  Meritage rhymes with heritage.  That’s actually partly where the word comes from — in 1988 it was created during a contest by a man who combined the words “merit” and “heritage.”

For a wine to be called a specific varietal in the United States, it must contain at least 75% of that grape.  So that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon you last opened could have contained between 0% and 25% Merlot, Malbec, or a variety of other grapes.  If a winemaker creates a blend in the Bordeaux style that doesn’t have 75% of a particular grape it is labeled “Red Table Wine” or “White Table Wine” — not really a prestigious-sounding name for a wine with noble roots.

Enter a small group of Napa Valley vintners who in 1988 sought to create a recognizable name for high-quality blended wines.  A contest was held to come up with a name and Meritage and the Meritage Association were born.  Today there are more than 100 members of the Meritage Association, including international members.

For red wine, a Meritage must be made from at least two of the traditional Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  It may also contain Carmenere, St. Macaire, or Gros Verdot.   For white wine, a Meritage is a blend of two or more white Bordeaux varietals: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Vert.  For both red and white Meritage, no more than 90% can be a single varietal.

You can’t just stick the word “Meritage” on your label — it’s a registered trademark of The Meritage Association.  Only wineries that agree to the Meritage Association’s licensing agreement and pay a fee to the association can use the word.

A wine labeled as a Meritage doesn’t necessarily mean good quality; however the association strongly recommends its members label only their best blend as Meritage and limit the production to 25,000 cases.

For more information visit www.meritagewine.org.