Wines of Chile: Casablanca Valley



By Kori ~ November 14th, 2012.

During my recent media trip to Chile, I had the pleasure to visit a number of its wineries and vineyards and meet many of the movers and shakers in the Chilean wine industry. Over the next few weeks, I will be individually highlighting some of the wine regions we visited including reviews of wines I tasted from those regions. Today, I am focusing on the Casablanca Valley, the northernmost region we visited.

The Casablanca Valley was Chile’s first cool-climate wine region. With its cool Mediterranean climate and pronounced maritime influence, the Casablanca Valley is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

We tasted a number of wines from various producers whose grapes came from the Casablanca Valley. Our winery visit in the Casablanca Valley was to Veramonte. Founded in 1990 by Agustin Huneeus, Veramonte is located northwest of Santiago about halfway between Santiago and Valparaiso. A vineyard-based winery, Veramonte wines are made from fruit sourced from their estate vineyards in the Casablanca Valley and Colchagua Valley. Founder Agustin Huneeus has extensive experience in the wine industry and also owns Quintessa estate in the Napa Valley. Veramonte boasts a large, modern winemaking facility and was the first winery in Chile to have a Napa Valley-style visitor center. The Veramonte brands include Veramonte, Ritual, and Primus.

Chief winemaker Rodrigo Soto gave us a tour of the winery and estate vineyard and talked at length about the Casablanca Valley and viticultural practices in Chile. A native of Chile, Soto has international winemaking experience having worked in Marlborough in New Zealand, Sonoma and Napa Valley in California, and several other regions in Chile. He recently returned to Chile after spending six years as winemaker for Benziger Winery in Sonoma.

Since his return, Soto has been championing a shift to more sustainable viticultural practices. At Veramonte, they are now avoiding herbicides in their vineyards and utilizing cover crops. Soto says that the owners of Veramonte “live in the future” and want to pass on “healthy” property to future generations.

“Chile is similar to California 20 years ago.” –Winemaker Rodrigo Soto, Veramonte

Wines I tasted from the Casablanca Valley during my recent media trip:

2009 Morandé Gran Reserva Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Pinot Noir. Deep red. Nice nose with floral, cherry, and spice aromas. Spice cherry, white pepper, and a touch of earth come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and smooth tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $17.99

2009 Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Deep ruby red. Very aromatic with strawberry, raspberry, spice, and floral notes on the nose. Red fruit, herbs, and spice come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and medium, smooth tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $20

2011 Veramonte Ritual Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Pale, greenish straw yellow. Aromatic with citrus fruit and melon on the nose. Lemon peel, lime, and minerality come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and good mouthfeel and a touch of creaminess. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $18

2011 Viu Manent Secreto Carmenere (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Deep purplish red. Good fruit with black cherry, spice, and a touch of black pepper on the nose and palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity, smooth tannins, and a long, fresh finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $10

2010 Santa Rita Reserva Chardonnay (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Pale to medium yellow. Nose is a bit tight at first and then apple and pineapple aromas come through and lead to pear and tropical notes on the palate. Dry and light-bodied with lively acidity, a touch of minerality, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $12.99

2011 Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Deep ruby red. Nice nose with earth and red fruit aromas. Bright red fruit, spice, and a touch of earth come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity, good mouthfeel, and a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $18

2010 Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Deep ruby red. Lovely nose with red cherry, spice, earth, and floral aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied with lively acidity, smooth tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $20

2011 Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Pale straw yellow. Very aromatic with lime, grapefruit, and fresh cut grass on the nose. More lime and grapefruit come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with screaming tart acidity and a very long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $12.99

2012 Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Very pale straw yellow. Beautiful nose with floral and citrus aromas. Lime and Granny Smith apple come through on the palate. Dry and light-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $12.99

2009 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Pinot Noir. Deep ruby red. Aromatic with candied cherry, raspberry, and plum on the nose. Fruit-forward with candied cherry and spice on the palate. Medium-bodied and lively with smooth tannins and a medium finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $32

2011 Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Deep ruby red. Aromatic with red fruit, earth, and spice on both the nose and palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long, slightly bitter, finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $10-$12

2012 Viu Manent Secreto Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Pale straw yellow. Beautiful nose with grapefruit, lime, and grassy aromas. More grapefruit, spice, and a touch of green pepper come through on the palate. Dry and a bit thin on the mid-palate with crisp acidity.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $10

2011 Viu Manent Secreto Malbec (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Deep, purplish red. Aromatic with berry and floral aromas. Black cherry, black raspberry, spice, and floral notes come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity and a medium to long, thin finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $10

2010 Emiliana Novas Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Pinot Noir. Deep ruby red. Nice nose with strawberry, raspberry, and spice aromas. Earth, spice, and red fruit come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity, smooth tannins, and a long, slightly bitter finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19

2009 Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Syrah (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Deep, dark purple. Moderately aromatic with smoke, cedar, and medicinal notes on the nose. Black cherry, smoke, and cedar come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity, high tannins, and a medium to long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $20

Be sure to come back as I individually highlight more Chilean wine regions in the coming weeks.

Salud!


Filed under: Carmenere, Chardonnay, Chilean Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz/Syrah, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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