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Month October 2013

The Carnal, the Corporeal, the Somatic Indistinguishable from Each Other: Conversation w Abe Schoener

Interpreting Doctor Schoener: A Video by cdsavoia

Earlier this week I got an email from Miguel de la Torre. He helps generate the cdsavoia video project, which creates short films presenting the work and personality of creative individuals in five fields — music, fashion, fine art, wine, and design.

As many of you already know, winemaker Abe Schoener and I have kept a sort of on going conversation. Both of us originate as professors of philosophy that somehow left that world to enter the world of wine. The trouble and promise of philosophy, however, is that it never leaves you. The on going conversation, then, has been based partially in Schoener and I sharing the compulsion of purposefully choosing sensual (that is, bodily) life with thought, of educated pleasure, of unbridled but directed curiosity.

Because of previous write-ups I’ve done on Abe, Miguel wrote to share the new video cdsavoia has just produced on the work and world of Abe Schoener, and offered me the chance to release the video here on my site as well. I took a watch before accepting, but it’s worth the view — charming, smart, well made, and a bit irreverent (the combination I look for in anything I do).

Check out the video here:

Or, you can watch it directly over at cdsavoia here:

http://www.cdsavoia.com/#/artists/abe-schoener/play

If you’ve got time, take a look at their other video interviews too. They’ve got another recent one on winemaker Matt Dees of Jonata, the Hilt, and Goodland Wines too.

***

Thank you to Miguel de la Torre.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Zombie Walk Mendoza Argentina: Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Zombie Walk Mendoza Argentina

Walking through downtown Mendoza with a hot wind pouring over us, I turned back towards the hotel in a slight daze. Reaching Plaza Independencia in the center of town, I expected to cross without incident and return to the hotel. Within a few steps, however, I was greeted by laughing zombies. Then more of them. Very quickly I was confronted with two feelings simultaneously — a visceral need to leave the park urgently, and an intellectual curiosity to stay long enough to figure out why I was surrounded by people covered in rotting flesh.

It turns out I had walked into the pre-stages of Mendoza, Argentina’s annual Zombie Walk, a phenomenon that began in the year 2000 as a flash mob in Milwaukee, and was successful enough to launch worldwide events occurring annually since. Mendoza has carried now a four year annual tradition.

World records have been set repeatedly, with zombie numbers growing. The original largest started at 894 zombies walking in 2006 across Pittsburgh. The following year Toronto drew 1100 zombies. England hosted more than 1200 in 2008. The current World Record for largest Zombie gathering, as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records, gives the Twin Cities 8027 zombies in November 2012. Santiago, Chile has actually had a 12,000 person zombie walk, and Buenos Aires 25,000 but neither was officially recorded to allow for World Records.

Considering the simultaneous revulsion and fascination I felt at the early scene preparing for the walk, I’m glad I had to leave and meet living people before the festivities took off. Eventually I discovered in the midst of the park there was a woman putting makeup on people, covering them in blood, and disguising even young children brought to her by their parents.

It turned out I was the only one in our group to happen my way into the zombie festivities. Here are photos of people preparing for the affair.

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Happy Halloween, Everyone! I hope you enjoy!

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Walking through Downtown Mendoza, Argentina

Traveling from Chile to Argentina

We flew from Santiago to Mendoza over the Andes. Both countries told stories of the road poorly tended by the other neighbor. In the States, we’d heard the whole thing was hairy. So we flew.

Most of the people in the three rows surrounding me on the plane clearly would have starved refusing to eat human flesh. In the fourth row back there was one man I was certain would have quickly eaten us all. Looking down at the snow covered mountains, I was clear I’d be one of the people to hike out. I’m from Alaska. It would be required. People in the States emailed me to ask, what was your plan in case you crashed?

the Andes

crossing the Andes

There are many more wines from Chile to write about but I’ll come back to those with more time.

Walking Downtown Mendoza

We had an afternoon to explore Mendoza on our own. Any time alone on press trips is a god send, even when the group of people is easy to get along with it’s an experience to have time in silence. In the midst of a ten day trip, it feels even more rare. I decided to walk alone in silence looking for photos of people, and the streets in downtown.

Here are pictures of downtown Mendoza, Argentina, a town hugged up against the Andes, on the Western side of the country. Though most of our stay was comfortable, that afternoon a hot wind blew in making the city humid and sticky.

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

This photo is one of my favorites. There was such a connection of the mother and boy walking together through town bringing home their flowers at the end of the work day.

Mendoza

I’m grateful I caught this moment — a priest so focused on where ever it is he’s going. It was such a surprise to catch it, and yet so easy, just another moment of someone walking through town.

Mendoza

This photo is another favorite. This man was sitting in silence on his own in the middle of the city non-descript. He struck me as handsome and restful, so I asked if I could take his picture. In less than a moment he lit up bashful and pleased that I wanted to take his photo, asking if he could take mine instead–all communicated across few words and a language barrier. His composure went from almost invisible to lit up radiant, and all I could do was smile in return. It’s moments like this I treasure — something so simple that can shift the feeling of an entire day.

***

Cheers!

Missing Mendoza.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

Recognizing Consumers, Predicting the Future: A Conversation with Sergio Hormazabal, Vina Ventisquero

A Conversation with Sergio Hormazábal

Traveling in Chile we were able to share lunch with the President of the Chilean Association of Winemakers, Asociación de Ingenieros Agrónomos Enólogos de Chile, and winemaker for Viña Ventisquero, Sergio Hormazábal. Working for Viña Ventisquero, Hormazábal is responsible specifically for their Root: 1 brand. Hormazábal advocates for the quality of Chilean wine, noting that the goal rests in encouraging consumer desire as quality is there and continues to grow. We asked him to express his views on the idea of making wines for the consumer. Following are some of the thoughts Hormazábal had to share.

Sergio Hormazabal

Sergio Hormazabal, president, Asociación de Ingenieros Agrónomos Enólogos de Chile, and winemaker, Viña Ventisquero, climbing the steep slopes of Apalta in the back of a truck

“People talk about making the wine the consumer wants. To me talking about the consumer is like trying to capture the rainbow. Who are you talking about? If you want to talk about the consumer, show me faces and names.

“People like to look at statistics to predict the future. This is always a mistake. If you look at statistics you are always looking in the mirror to the past, to what is behind you.

“How to predict what will sell? What is the future? It is very complicated but I think the only way is not to look at the numbers but instead to be in places and talk with people. You do not experience the future through the numbers but by being in a place, by talking to people, by looking at the street to see what’s there. It is not scientific. It is a feeling. But you need time in the street, in a place to catch a hint of what is to come.

“We talk as if people know already what they want. People do not always know what they want. Instead, give them a taste of something. They like it? A moment before they had not had it. They did not know they would like it.”

***
Thank you to Sergio Hormazábal.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

The Cold Coastal Region of Leyda, Chile

Visiting Leyda on a Freezing Fog Day

We’d been warm earlier that same afternoon just 45 minutes drive inland in Casablanca but the coast surrounded us with afternoon fog. Arriving in the first vineyards planted in Leyda Valley, we were welcomed with intense cold and humidity, results of the Humboldt Current that stretches along the Chilean coast bringing cold up from Antarctica. Winegrowing is new to the region. The oldest vines less than 15 years old, and considered one of the important recent innovations of the country’s quality wine.

Leyda

Prior to 1998, no vines grew in the Leyda Valley, 80 minutes drive Northwest from Santiago. A small village surrounded by pasture land rested in the region that had once been a rest stop on a vacationers’ train ride. In 1998, the Viña Leyda team identified the area as home for potential cool climate viticulture and began extensive soil studies, followed by planting.

Leyda

In 2001, the same team filed paperwork for a new designation, the Leyda Valley zone of San Antonio Valley. The Leyda DO was born within the coastal region of Aconcagua. Since, the sector has proven home to quality wine production unique to the country and other producers have joined Viña Leyda. Though the majority of vines through the area are still young, the quality of wines showing proves already pleasing while also promising, offering some of the finest cool climate viticulture in Chile. As vines age, quality should deepen. Leyda is an area to seek wines from now, while also keeping an eye on.

Leyda

looking towards the indiscernible coast–on a clear day it’s visible

Viña Leyda has primarily established Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay through the region, with small plots of Riesling and Syrah also growing. What began as an 80 hectare project has expanded to 230 hectares today. The plantings stand at 180 m/590 ft in elevation, receiving cool night temperatures, heavy morning fog, and afternoon ocean breezes.

Leyda

Water concerns in growing regions are a common theme in Chile. To establish the Leyda project, petitions were filed to divert water from the Maipo River through an 8 kilometer pipeline. In bringing water for the vineyards, running water was also established for the nearby village of Leyda for the first time. The Viña Leyda team is in the process of working with the village on further development projects.

Leyda

Winemaker Viviana Navarrete explains that each small block of their 230 hectares are vinified separately. The commitment of the overall project is to learn a new region thoroughly, and in so doing generate the finest quality the place has to offer. Towards those ends, ferments are done in small lots tracked to vineyard sections. Such information is returned too to future vineyard planning. All vineyard work is hand done.

Leyda

Vineyard manager, Tomas Rivera, brought us far into the vineyard to showcase one of the regions gifts–the soil. As he explained, the team sees their Leyda site as offering three terroirs in one — the site is very close to the ocean, it contains a predominance of alluvial soils, and incorporates lots of rocks and stones. With the proximity to the ocean frost does not impact the area. With the intense fog, ripening occurs slowly allowing integration of characteristics in the fruit.

Looking into the hole, Tomas shows us three levels of soil — in the top 20 cm/7.8 in, the ground is predominately sandy loam; the mid-zone holds more rocks while also more clay and decomposed fertile soil; below 80 cm/31.5 in granitic soils, alluvial rocks appear. Limestone also bands through portions of the vineyard. The granite offers great tension to the core of the wine, the limestone intensifying length. The clay in the mid-zone means even during long periods without rain, roots are able to absorb water.

The wines of Viña Leyda, across a range of styles, share a stimulating mineral focus, with almost sinewy structure and vibrant flavors. The Pinots are nice quality, and enjoyable, but my favorite rested in the single vineyard Sauvignon Blancs, which show a complexity and interest rarely discussed in what can be an under appreciated grape.

More on the wines of Viña Leyda in a future post.

***

Thank you to Viviana Navarrete, Leandro Remedi, and Tomas Rivera.

Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, David Greenberg, and Alfredo Bartholomaus.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

A Life in Wine: Alfredo Bartholomaus, South American Wine Ambassador

Listening to Alfredo Bartholomaus

Alfredo Bartholomaus

Alfredo Bartholomaus, in Santiago’s Mercado Central

On our recent trip to Chile and Argentina, Alfredo Bartholomaus served as a guide and translator. His work bringing South American wines into the United States helped establish what was then a non-existent category of wine, and bring recognition to what would become not only value, but also quality wine in Chile and Argentina. Thanks to such work, Robert Parker awarded Bartholomaus “Wine Personality of the Year” in 2005, naming him “the premier importer and promoter of South American wine.”

His company, Billington Imports served as one of the primary vehicles for bringing South American wine into the United States, and launched such well respected labels as Catena Zapata into a new North American market.

Bartholomaus originates on a family farm in Southern Chile, at a time when interactions between Chile and its neighbor Argentina were minimal. His work, then, helping to establish not only Chilean, but also Argentine wine in the United States is significant.

Elena Catena, of Catena Zapata, described trusting Bartholomaus with their brand in the US market as a risk that paid off. As Elena explains it, asking a Chilean to showcase Argentine wine was unheard of at the time. However, she tells us, Nicolas Catena knew Bartholomaus was the best choice.

Throughout Argentina people greeted Bartholomaus with thanks, explaining to our group he had been their mentor. In working with brands in South America, Bartholomaus also worked to help them better understand the United States.

Operating as ambassador for South American wine in North America, however, placed Bartholomaus as a mentor for people in the US wine industry as well, with him serving as bridge to understanding wines from a then-new region to the global market.

After the closure of Billington, Bartholomaus moved with portions of his portfolio to WineBow, where he has continued to serve as a Brand Ambassador for South American wines.

At the end of this year, Bartholomaus retires. He intends to split time between his home on the coast in Northern Chile, and his home in Virginia near one of his two sons, and grandchildren.

The recent trip to South America was planned partially as a special finale for Bartholomaus. It was an honor to be selected as one of people to participate. Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, and David Greenberg for including me.

Asking Bartholomaus to share his story, following is some of what he had to say.

Alfredo Bartholomaus with Viviana Navarrete, Leyda Wine

on the coast of Chile, in the Leyda region, Alfredo Bartholomaus speaking with Leyda winemaker, Viviana Navarrete

“I knew at one time I wanted to leave Chile. I was curious. But I knew that I had to finish high school. So, I befriended the Chilotes [people in Southern Chile on the Chiloe Peninsula]. They would fish with a boat through the inside passage. That way I learned more about other people. But I wanted to learn more. So I started hitchhiking all over Chile. I was very young. In high school.

“I wanted to leave Chile, but I was one of five children, and knew my parents would not afford to send me to school, or away. I started hitchhiking when I was young to get myself used to it. Then one day I started hitchhiking North, and that’s how I got to the United States. It took six months.

“That was 50 years ago, 1 or 2 months before the march of Martin Luther King, Jr. If someday he would only know we would have a black president.

“My original plan was to travel the world for five years. But since I couldn’t hitchhike to Europe, I started washing dishes when I reached the United States, in DC. By the time I had enough money to go, I realized the incredible opportunities available in the States and decided to stay.

“For a while I was a taxi driver in DC. I was the only one that would pick up Black people and Hispanic people. There was a lot of prejudice. This was almost 50 years ago. But you must remember I didn’t know I was white until I got to the United States. It is different here [in Chile].

“I had a teacher of literature in high school who told us we should read because when someone has written a book it has taken them most of their life to write it. So, if you read a book, you will know almost as much as they do. I read as much as I can.

“When I got to the United States, I worked to raise money to go to Europe and hitchhike there. But I read Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund and had to ask myself who do I want to be? I realized I didn’t want to turn into Goldmund, looking in the mirror to ask, what have I done with my life?

“I had a girlfriend in Chile when I left, so after two years I had raised money and I came back [to Chile and brought her back to the States], and she is the mother of my children.

“Then I worked in hotels for a while, and in 1978 started my first of several businesses. Eventually I started selling wine from here person to person out of the trunk of my car. And, as Paul Harvey say, now you know the rest of the story.”

***
Thank you to Alfredo Bartholomaus.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Carmenere Characteristics: The Chilean Master Class

Carmenere Wine Characteristics

Carmenere Grape Characteristics

click on image to enlarge

The History of a Variety

Though originating as part of the Cabernet family in Bordeaux, France, Carmenere barely grows today in that region. After phylloxera decimated vineyards through Europe, a changing of the guard occurred with varieties taking ready home to grafted vines stepping to the fore. Carmenere was one of the hardest hit grape types when phylloxera landed in Europe, leading people to believe the variety had become extinct.

Enter Chile.

Prior to the phylloxera epidemic, cuttings were taken from top vineyards in Europe to establish wine in the immigrant settlements of South America. Among them was included a softer tannin, medium bodied crimson juiced grape treated as Merlot in the vineyards for its shared characteristics in the glass.

One hundred years after import to Chile, Carmenere was discovered interplanted to Merlot vineyards. Chile, then, became one of the few places on earth the grape had survived. Through the research on quality done by a few producers from the 1990s forward, Carmenere has become a flagship grape of Chile.

Today small plantings of Carmenere have also been discovered in Northeastern Italy, where it snuck in as misidentified Cabernet Franc thanks to their shared vegetal-herbal tendencies. Though not common in Italy, Carmenere has begun in small quantities to be labeled under its own name. Among the few regions to intentionally plant Carmenere from the beginning, Washington, and California also house the variety.

Vineyard Character of the Vine

On vine, Carmenere ripens at least one month later than Merlot, and gives a characteristic copper colored burst to its buds, plus copper striping on the shoots.

The grapes also differ in Carmenere’s tendency to produce distinctive vegetal characteristics depending on crop management and vintage duration. In hotter shorter vintages where clusters ripen faster, the fruit is more likely to show bell and hot pepper notes. Thanks to the varieties later ripening tendencies, crop management proves crucial to flavor development of the grape.

The larger the crop, the harder the vine has to work to ripen its fruit. The less ripe the grape, the more vegetal its profile. Thus, intentional crop size decisions can help determine the fruit to pepper notes in the final wine. How this balance is struck depends on producer, as some prefer a touch of pepper as part of the fruit’s character, while others wish to highlight the fruit elements.

Allowing for crop size decisions, Carmenere can do well in a range of climate conditions showing a greater structural focus with long juiciness when grown in cooler climates, and more fruit expression when grown warmer.

Thanks to the softer tannin of the grape, canopy management is less essential than on a variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon, where some sun exposure helps tannin to soften to the benefit of the final wine.

Wine Characteristics of Carmenere

Once brought to glass, the crop conditions of the fruit heavily influence the fruit and spice components of the wine. Warmer temperatures encourage more apparent fruit notes with a mix of dark berries and pert red fruit being typical. As the climate of the vineyard cools, the juiciness of the wine tends to increase, with a greater overall focus on structure and leanness brought to the wine. To take advantages of these differing characteristics, many producers blend fruit from multiple vineyard sites, offering structure and acid from cool spots to the fruit of warmer locations.

Carmenere’s fruit readily carries its own spice elements too, however, with vegetal aspects being influenced by crop conditions, as already mentioned, but red spice, smoke, and earth readily coming with the crop. The wine can also easily deepen into tobacco, cocoa, and leather depending on the handling of the fruit in the winery.

More on specific examples of Carmenere in future posts, and also in the previous post on Root: 1 wine.

Pairing Food with Carmenere

I’ve become obsessed with a Chilean dish, Pastel de Choclo, that the wine pairs beautifully with. It’s a corn and meat pie that would serve as the perfect means to talk me into almost anything. While you argue your case I’ll happily nod again and again trying to listen while actually losing myself in deep-deep choclo love. (Potato will always hold the deepest place in my heart (and gullet–I could accidentally die eating unbridled potato) but choclo comes next. Love me anyway, dear corn?)

Carmenere is classic paired with lamb, and does well with smokey notes of grilled lamb.

I can also imagine Carmenere’s spice and cocoa combo doing well with molé, though I haven’t gotten to try this yet.

***

Thank you to Sergio Hormazabal.

Thank you to Francisco Matte, Gonzalo Badilla, Juan Carlos Castro.

Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, David Greenberg, and Alfredo Bartholomaus.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

The Frost Effect in Casablanca: Visiting Terra Noble

Visiting the Casablanca Vineyards of Terra Noble

The region of Casablanca, Chile hosts the variables for quality cool climate viticulture, with Sauvignon Blanc in the region particularly celebrated. The area also grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and small plantings of Riesling, and Pinot Blanc.

Casablanca

The water situation of Casablanca limits vineyard growth through the area. As it was explained to us, purchasing land is not difficult, but getting water to service it is. Without its own river, Casablanca must rely on water brought in and stored in reservoir, then partitioned between producers. Casablanca also sits removed enough from the Andes to not benefit from snow melt. In any particular year, the area tends towards less than 230 mm rainfall, occurring entirely in Autumn and Winter. With the growth of Santiago, a little more than an hour south, water has become an even scarcer commodity.

 

Casablanca

Last month’s frost devastated the region with all vineyards affected. Frost burns exposed vine shoots, so that any early harvesting plants are more likely to be impacted than others. To address such concern, producers prune Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to encourage later bud break. However, September’s frost occurred late enough for the region’s Chardonnay and Pinot to be impacted. Sauvignon Blanc in the area budded after the frost and so appears okay, however, plants are a month behind their normal growth cycle. This means frost could become a concern again towards the end of the season if maturity comes slowly.

Casablanca

Traditionally frost impacts lower areas with cold air pooling in the bottom of ground swales. During these times vineyard managers can turn on large fans that mix warmer air from above with the cool ground coverage, or can utilize a water misting system that freezes a coating over the plant effectively sealing the inner plant from harm. The recent frost was devastating for two reasons. Firstly, the cold air bank was over 22 m/72 ft high, surpassing the height of the fans so that mixing air amounted to cold with cold. Secondly, the frost cycle lasted more than a week ensuring that those relying on the misting system ran out of water before the end of the cold.

Casablanca

That said, producers in Casablanca are hoping for quality fruit on the vines still able to produce. The region offers a unique dry granulated earth composite of granite and clay with red top soils banded through. The effect is lower vigor as well as a dusty mineral finish on the wines, especially pretty on Pinot Noir.

Casablanca

Terra Noble grows their cool climate vines in the coldest portion of Casablanca, Algarrobo. They also grow wine to the south in Colchagua Valley, with a unique Carmenere terroir project (more on that in a future post). Casablanca suits their cool climate varieties as the valley opens to morning fog, followed by midday shine, and an afternoon wind that drops temperatures quickly. The combination of daily light affect with the cooling climate lends a sinewy structure to the vibrant flavor of the wines. (More on the wines of Terra Noble in a future post.)

Casablanca

***

To read Grape Friend’s write up on the Terra Noble visit: http://grapefriend.com/2013/10/16/a-radiohead-kind-of-vineyard/

Thank you to Francisco Matte, Gonzalo Badilla, Juan Carlos Castro, and Oscar (my apologies for not having your last name).

Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, David Greenberg, and Alfredo Bartholomaus.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Quick political side note on Chile’s upcoming election

Chile’s Candidates

It turns out Dave Grohl and Lidia Bastianich have joined forces in Chile to run for Senator, and President respectively.

Strangely, they use different names in Chile. Lidia Bastianich sautes as Michelle Bachelet for President, while Dave Grohl croons as Senador Juan Pablo Letelier.

I do wish we could have snapped a photo of their side-by-side political posters while driving to Colchagua Valley. They really showed their both-American selves in those. In the meantimes these snapshots will have to do to prove the point.

Behold!

Letelier y Bachelet

from L: Michelle Bachelet and Juan Pablo Letelier

 

Now, a close up of Dave Grohl in both his incarnations:

Dave Grohl

And, Lidia Bastianich in both of hers:

Lidia Bastianich

Good luck to both of them in their campaigns!

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

Extreme Value on Varietal Wines: Chile’s Root: 1 Series

Traveling Chile

This trip through Chile’s wine countries has taught me something valuable. I could have learned it years ago from the melodic stylings of the early-90s rock band Extreme, but I was too young at the time to really *get* the notion.

Here is the simplest version of the point. Hopefully it is obvious once said. Whether you love a wine doesn’t show from saying again and again, you love a wine. It shows in whether or not you want to drink it. To put it another way, if a friend comes over for dinner with a bottle of wine, is it one you open right away?

(Full disclosure (and Kelly forgive me for confessing this publicly): having Kelly Magyarics bust out of no where with acapella stylings of Extreme lyrics at the end of a late night in Argentina forever changed my view of this song–it actually makes me tear up now in a way it never did when I still thought it was merely a romantic ballad.)

Root: 1 Wines

Root: 1 offers a small portfolio of varietally focused value wines that give three of the things I want in drinking wine: wonderful juiciness, clean fruit presentation, and good balance. They also give savory complexity, concentrated while light flavors….

The trick behind Root: 1 though is giving these characteristics at extreme value, without the Yellow Tail headache the next morning. Root: 1 retails around $12 in the United States. I enjoyed drinking each of these four wines and was blown away most especially by the quality of the Pinot Noir offered at such a low price.

On our trip through Chile we were able to spend time tasting with and interviewing Root: 1′s winemaker, Sergio Hormázabal.

Root: 1 Wines portfolioclick on image to enlarge

“The responsibility of Root: 1 for each bottle, each glass, is to express the soul and personality of the variety without any fireworks.” -Sergio Hormazábal

The Environment of Root: 1

The Root: 1 plantings occur in two major wine regions of the country. The Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grow North of Santiago in the cool climate area of Casablanca (more on the region in a future post), giving fruit tight focus, savory flavor, and a finish into tomorrow. Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon grow a few hours south of Santiago in the steep slope niche of the Colchagua Valley called Apalta.

Chile, as a country, has celebrated an absence of phylloxera to this day. Original cuttings were brought to the region prior to the phylloxera outbreak that devastated Europe, rooting many of its current day vines back in direct lineage to those earlier expressions of a variety. Additionally, today the country continues to plant primarily on own-root. Some wineries, however, plant portions grafted alongside ungrafted in order to track the quality differences.

The advantages of growing own-root varieties occurs in the direct route of transmission from soil to fruit for water, and nutrients. Without the thickening affect of grafting within the veins of the vine, fluids move more directly. According to Hormazábal, based on tracking the results from grafted versus ungrafted vines, “grafted vines always change the balance of the wine. Any planting done with grafting in Chile is to experiment and try changing the balance.”

One of advantages of having the technology to graft vines rests in being able to intentionally adapt a vineyard to its environment. Roots can be found to increase or decrease vigor and water usage, and to modify the relationship to soil, as examples.

The Winemaking and Growing of Root: 1

Asking Hormazábal to discuss his views on the growth of Chilean wine, he offers an example from his ideas of quality Pinot Noir. “One of the main problems at the beginning as a winemaker, or a country’s wine industry is to try and make a wine, a varietal wine, like another grape. To try and make a Pinot like a Cabernet.” Quality expression of the two grapes are not made in the same fashion. Hormazábal explains, “You must taste a lot of Pinot Noir” to understand how to make it.

Hormazábal, then, recommends the value of tasting a range of wines from all over the world. The tasting experience is like a winemaking class for the winemaker honing recognition of how best to express ones own fruit. “You need to be very careful with use of wood in Pinot Noir. We want to show the clean fruit side of Pinot Noir with a touch of spice.”

Tasting wines from around the world, however, also gives insight on where best to grow. Different varieties have different needs. Where some grape types give their best in impoverished conditions, according to Hormazábal, Carmenere acts differently. “Carmenere needs the deepest soils with more fertility and water retention versus Syrah, which can grow in shallow, very rocky soils.”

Within Chile, Carmenere holds a unique position. In one sense the grape stands as the Flagship of the country. Chile is the one place globally where the variety remains in any real quantity. At the same time, Cabernet Sauvignon arises as the country’s most important and widely planted variety, followed closely by Sauvignon Blanc. Both grapes do well in Chile, and sell well internationally too.

Carmenere, as a variety (more specifically on the character Carmenere in a future post), readily tends towards herbal, green, bell pepper and hot pepper expression. Such flavor components, however, are seen as unpopular for some consumers. Within the country, then, there is debate on whether or not allowing for or eradicating such personality is the best expression of the grape. That is, do the herbal-pepper notes occur as a fault of grape growing then shown through the wine, or as part of the fruit’s personality?

The Root: 1 expression of Carmenere is meant to showcase the best-at-value of the grape within the unique environs of the Colchagua Valley. It carries fresh dark and red fruit notes danced through with light jalapeno lift on the nose, and red bell pepper breadth on the palate.

We ask Hormazábal about the pepper accents on his Carmenere. He responds, “The spice is the soul of Carmenere. A Carmenere without it has no interest.”

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post update: MW Mary Gorman-McAdams was a fellow write also on my recent trip to Chile. To read her write-up of the Root: 1 wines head on over to The Kitchn here: http://www.thekitchn.com/root1-delicious-varietal-wines-from-chile-for-just-12-196404

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Thank you to Sergio Hormazábal.

To see photos of the incredible sub-zone of Apalta in the Colchagua Valley in which Hormazábal grows the Carmenere and Cabernet: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2013/10/18/the-steep-slopes-of-apalta-colchagua-valley/

Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, David Greenberg, and Alfredo Bartholomaus.

WIth love to Marilyn, David, Kelly, Mary, Mary, Alyssa, and Alfredo. Miss you.

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Extreme continues to make new music. According to their website, band member Pat Badger is currently recording a solo album in which he sings lead vocals for the first time. To read and hear more: http://extreme-band.com/site/pat-badger-is-recording-his-debut-solo-album/

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