Wines of Chile supertasting
5 Comments Degan BeleyOctober 9, 2009
Last week Chilean winemakers descended on Vancouver en masse for the Wines of Chile tasting at the Sutton Hotel. The Wines of Chile event took place in three parts; the Trade Tasting in the afternoon, the Consumer Tasting Reception, and a stroke-of-genius winemakers’ dinner where guests were bussed to one of fourteen different restaurants to sit down with the winemakers to sample the wines paired with local food.
Winemakers and reps watched closely as people filled the huge room to swirl, sniff and sip some of the best wine that Chile has to offer. Faced with so much wine – there were 30 wineries represented! – I decided I needed a strategy. Notebook in hand, I checked in with some Twitter folk and started in on the Sauvignon Blancs, the primary white in Chile.
One of my favorite whites was the first one I sampled – Vina Ventisquero‘s Yali Sauvignon Blanc – a crisp and light wine with notes of grapefruit. And one I’ve had before and tried again anyways is the Morandé, a fruitier wine reminiscent of melon. I enjoyed everything I tried from this winery, but their House of Morandé Reserve (80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot) is particularly exquisite. Chocolatey and floral, it’s complex with a long finish.
I managed to make it through to the dark and decadent Nebbiolo and Syrah Nebbiolo from Botalcura (unfortunately not available in Canada) that I am still thinking of a week later. Ruby red, they both tasted similarly fruity, like fresh strawberries out of the garden with a bit of dirt still clinging to the leaves. Delicious. The nebbiolo has an intensity and spiciness to it that the mellower blend lacks, but I’m still not sure which one I like better.
After the trade tasting wrapped up, Karen and I were joined by her husband and our friend Annika and we circled around again, stopping in at the wineries I’d missed as well as a couple of the favorites.
One I’d overlooked was Cono Sur, the “bicycle” wine. I hadn’t tasted it at the trade tasting because I’ve had it so many times before, but here we tasted the whole range, including all three pinot noirs. I was enchanted by the explanation for the bicycles on the label; in Chile the workers at the vineyard come to work on bikes and the winemakers wanted to give them a tribute. Equally enchanting was the Vision Pinot Noir, a single vineyard wine with cherry and chocolate notes, which features a goose on the bottle, possibly also as a tribute.
Winemakers Dinner at Diva at the Met
Our dinner was at Diva at the Met, hosted by winemakers Emiliana and Cousino Macul. Introducing themselves, they joked that the old was paired with the young, Emiliana having been founded in the 80′s, whereas Cousino Macul has been in the wine business since 1856. I was interested to see how these two would work together and excited because I had tasted these wines earlier in the day and enjoyed them. I was also excited because it seems like a very long time since I’ve been to Diva or dined from a kitchen captained by Jeff van Geest. All makings of a fantastic evening.
We had spotted Executive Chef Dino Renaerts and Executive Sous Chef Jeff van Geest tasting some of Emiliana’s wines, but we already knew what was being paired with what:
- Stony Paradise Heirloom Tomato Salad, paired with Vinedos Emiliana S.A. Adobe Sauvignon Blanc 2009
- Halibut and Spot Prawn Ceviche, paired with Cousino Macul Sauvignon Gris 2008
- Spice Braised Chicken in Beer and Cilantro, paired with Vinedos Emiliana S.A. Coyam 2007 and Cousino Macul Antiguas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
- Dry Rubbed and Grilled Flank Steak, paired with Emiliana Novas Winemaker Series Syrah 2006 and Cousino Macul Finis Terrae Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2007
- Cinnamon Churros with fried pastry crème
First up, the heirloom tomato salad was resplendent in bright greens and oranges and the soft boiled egg perched on one of the tomatoes was a delectable touch. Broken, its creaminess balanced perfectly with the Adobe Sauvignon Blanc’s clean, clear citrus and apple notes.
Cousino Macul’s Sauvignon Gris had intrigued me at the trade tasting with its honeyed fullness. Tasting of tropical fruits and pineapple, the crispness cut through the oiliness of the halibut ceviche and was absorbed by the accompanying corn nuts and crackers.
Surprisingly, the braised chicken was probably my favorite dish of the evening. Surprising because I often don’t appreciate chicken and while I had liked Emiliana’s Coyam on its own, it hadn’t stood out as a favorite. Paired with spicy shredded meat, however, this gorgeous ruby wine shone. Black fruit and berries, followed by a hint of chocolate on the palate, it’s a blend of primarily syrah and carmenere and one I will keep an eye out for again. The chicken, sitting on top of a bed of polenta in a foamy beer sauce and topped with pale yucca chips, was simply fantastic and I wish I could get my hands on some more of it.
This dish had two wines paired with it, so we also sampled the Antiguas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon by Cousino Macul. This was a fuller-bodied wine with spicier notes than the Coyam and in reverse, I enjoyed it better on its own at the tasting.
The last course was also paired with a wine from each winery and so we sipped Syrah from Emiliana and the Finis Terrae blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Cousino Macul with bites of flank steak. The steak was thinly sliced with a salsa verde and veal reduction and the complex flavours balanced perfectly. I loved the Finis Terrae, rich in both colour and flavour. It tasted of plum, coffee and chocolate and matched the complexity of the meal bit for bit. The syrah was also delicious with more plum notes. It’s a cool-climate syrah, aged fifteen months in oak barrels and the body stood up well to the flavourful meat. I savoured both longingly into dessert.
Diva at the Met
645 Howe Street | Downtown