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Archive for February, 2011

Saludos From Chile

During a very special Winemaker’s Lunch at New York’s Lambs Club, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Marcelo Gallardo, Chief Winemaker at Chile’s Los Vascos, on his very first trip to the United States. 

Beaming with an infectious smile and a gregarious personality as big as the Big Apple, Marcelo seemed right at home as he shared his exquisite wines and his approach to wine-making with the large, diverse crowd that was on hand for this special event. 

Over the course of our lunch together and in between presentations, Marcelo and I chatted a bit about food, music, sports and most certainly, wine.  What a worthwhile afternoon it was:  the food and wines were quite good, but having an opportunity to meet someone with such a zeal for his life’s work was an inspiration!  With that said, I’m so happy to share with you some of the things I learned about Marcelo Gallardo.  

WL365:  Will you please tell WL365 readers a little something about yourself? 

MG:  I was born in San Felipe, a city in the fifth region on Chile about 90 Km from Santiago.  I’ve been planning to make wine since I was a boy. I used to help my grandfather and then later my father to make sweet wine every year.

Nick Wass - AP Photo

WL365:  A lot of well-known public figures become passionate about wine and have made their way into the wine industry.  If someone were to Google search, “Marcelo Gallardo, the first page displays results for the outstanding Argentine midfielder soccer star.  Just to be clear, are you in fact – El Muñeco (the doll)?  Are you related in any way to El Muñeco? 

MG: No I’m not the Muñeco and I’m not related to him either. It’s just a coincidence, although sometimes I’m a sweet doll. :)  

WL365:  What was it that made you want to become a winemaker?  How did you get the winemaking “bug” in your blood? 

MG: I first wanted to become a winemaker because of my father’s influence. After tasting the wine the doors opened. Once the doors of wine are open, it is only to enter. 

WL365:  How much wine and what types of wine does Los Vascos produce? 

MG: Los Vascos is the largest vineyard in the Caneten Valley of Colchagua.  We produce six different wines: Le Dix, Grand Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Rose.  

WL365:  There is definitely a style and respectful approach to all of your wines.  What do you attempt to showcase or bring out in each wine? 

MG: We want to represent the terroir of the country but at same time we have a French influence. 

WL365:  Is there a grape or grapes that you especially like to work with? 

MG: Yes.  There are two grapes- Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. 

 

WL365:  With so much competition in the under $20 wine market, do you feel your wines would appeal more to individuals that prefer an Old World Style or New World Style of wine?  And how would you describe your wines to someone unfamiliar with Los Vascos? 

MG: I think that people who buy Chilean wine want wine that is ready to drink, fruity with soft tannins and well balanced. Los Vascos has these characteristics plus elegance. 

WL365:  Many WL365 readers may not be familiar with the Chilean Los Vascos brand and its connection to the famous French Rothschild name.  Will you explain that connection for readers? 

MG: Los Vascos is a very old winery, but it was bought by the Rothschild (Chateau Lafite) family in 1988, after that came a modernization of the winery that made us who we are today. 

WL365:  When you are not drinking your own wines, what other wine(s) do you enjoy drinking? 

MG: I like to drink mainly garage wines and small projects. 

WL365:  How are things overall in Chile today since the February 27, 2010 earthquake, and what effects did the earthquake have on your operations at Los Vascos? 

MG: In Chile we are in the rebuilding process, and in Los Vascos the production is still doing well and we are almost normal for the next vintage. 

WL365:  It’s my understanding that outside of wine you have a great love for music.  Do you play any musical instruments?  Do you have a type of music that you most enjoy listening to either a home or while making wine? 

MG: I like many artistic expressions especially music and I love Jazz. 

WL365:  Who is your favorite musical artist and which of their CDs is your all-time favorite? 

MG: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue

WL365:  I’ve heard that you and your wife love to cook at home for family and friends.  Will you share a few of your favorite Chilean recipes that are out–of-this-world delicious, and what Los Vascos wine would you pair each dish with? 

MG: Ceviche with Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc. 

 

CEVICHE 

1 cup of (sushi-grade) salmon sliced in small squares
1 cup of (sushi-grade) sea bass sliced in small squares
2 cups of purple onions sliced in Julienne
Green chili pepper
Salt
Pepper
1 cup of fresh lime juice
Fresh Cilantro
1 red pepper sliced in Brunoise   

Put the green chili pepper, purple onion, a little touch of sugar, red peppers, lime juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Let it macerate for a while, then drain the juice and save the juice. With the stored juice, scrape a green chili pepper to impregnate the taste and add cilantro and the fish. Let it settle for a while and then mix the fish with rest of the ingredients. Add more salt and pepper and serve in cold cup. 

Editorial notes:  

  • I wasn’t able to get sea bass, so I substituted red snapper.

MG: Lamb chumps and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes with Los Vascos “Grand Reserve.” 

 

You take young lamb chumps and marinate them with a little bit of fresh squeezed oranges [Juice], pepper, sea salt, and a small garlic piece for 2 hours, then you take an oven dish and put olive oil in it and fill it with ring shaped chopped onions, then you put the chumps over this layer with the marinating juices, and cook it on a low fire [325°F] for about 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes you slightly season the lamb with red wine and drops soy sauce and cook it for 10 to 15 minutes on a higher temperature [425°F]. Then you take it out of the over when you feel with a fork that the meat is crunchy. 

Potatoes: 

Boil the young skinned potatoes and when they are almost cooked take them out of the water and let them drain. Then take a skillet and add olive oil, butter, rosemary and the potatoes and cook it for about 3 minutes. Then you put the skillet into the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes. Then you put the lamb chump in a plate with the onions and juices and you put the potatoes on the side. 

Editorial notes:  

  • I used a lot of minced garlic in my marinade.
  • I kept the skins on and skipped the skillet step for the potatoes.  I just mixed the potatoes with olive oil and rosemary before the final roasting.

The food and wine pairings provided by Mr. Gallardo and his wife were out-of-this-world DELICIOSO!!  A Must Try!! 

WL365:  Ok, last question Marcelo:  If you could have a conversation with any living celebrity or well-known public figure while sipping on one of your wines, who would it be and which wine would you share? 

Kevin Parry/WireImage.com

MG:  I would like share bottle of Le Dix with Quentin Tarantino, because I like his special language in his movies.  Le Dix is like an explosion but at the same time is very subtle… same time in color and same time in black and white.

A Midwinter Night’s Dream

Summer.

That’s all I can think about as I’ve shoveled through this season’s snow piles, while lifting 50lb bags of rock salt, spending hours outside in the frigid cold trying to avoid lawsuits from icy walkways and a driveway that might as well be a downhill ski slope.

After putting the kids to bed, we took our usual spot in the comfy and snuggly confines of our basement (don’t worry – it’s not a scary place), where we usually go to relax, reflect on the day’s events, and sip on some wine together.  On this particular night in our cozy little home cave, I grabbed a white wine that I’d hoped would transport us to a warmer, happier place far, far away from our harsh winter reality.  I envisioned the warmth of the summer sun, the sound of ocean waves, the beach blanketed with bronzing bodies, and a crisp wine to make this vision whole. 

“Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take ya.  Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama…”

While the positive Chi of this vision began to defrost my ashy fingers, toes and other extremities, I filled our glasses with the 2010 Peñalolen Sauvignon Blanc from Chile’s Casablanca Valley (Sample, MSRP:$12).

The 2010 Peñalolen Sauvignon Blanc is a vibrant and lively Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, possessing a tropical mountain of tangy grapefruit and lime flavors.  The huge acidic flavors are somewhat sharp and a bit tart, but nonetheless, it did a great job of nourishing my thoughts of summer!

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2010 Peñalolen Sauvignon Blanc.  If you’re suffering from the cold winter blues, this fresh and vibrant Chilean Sauvignon Blanc will help you to think warm-happy thoughts of summer!

My Chemical Romance

You’ve made your list and think you’ve got all your bases covered for a romantic evening.

Romantic essentials:

  • Flowers – Check
  • Romantic table dressed with long, flickering candles – Check
  • A romantic dinner for two- Check
  • Perfect bottle of wine – Check
  • Romantic Music – Check
  • Bubble Bath, massage oils or whatever else you’ve got stashed that’ll light your Sweetheart’s fire. – Check

Dissolve to:  Wine Shopping Day.

So let’s talk about the wine:  I selected the 2009 Apothic Red ($12).  It seemed to be an easy choice; an older vintage of the Apothic Red came highly recommended by the most influential wine critic on the planet.  Not to mention, the wine store that I purchased this at had a shelf-talker prominently displayed, that read:  “Top 50 Wine Values.”  So I thought to myself, “Oh, yeah- SCORE!

Apothic Red reveals intense fruit aromas and flavors of rhubarb and black cherry that are complemented by hints of mocha, chocolate, brown spice and vanilla. The plush, velvety mouthfeel and smooth finish round out this intriguing, full-bodied red blend.

Cut to:  The Romantic Evening.

Everything is going exactly as planned until…I opened the wine.  My honey and I start to drink it.  We both quickly notice that there’s no trace of intense fruit aromas nor any sexy, velvety fruit or spice component that makes either one of us long for another sip.  Instead, the moment is lost as our minds began to drift off to thoughts of eating Tootsie Rolls at Grandma’s house, while sipping on an ice cream soda (minus the bubbles).  A fond memory (maybe), but not what I’m looking for in my wine; and I certainly don’t want thoughts of Grandma creeping into my head at this point.  I digress…  We found this wine to be so overpowering with the mocha, chocolate and vanilla sweetness that we promptly put the cork back in it, and my wife turned to me and said, “Please baby, can you get another bottle of red – I don’t want our night to end like this!”  Luckily, I was prepared… :)

In all fairness, if you like a dry style red wine with a heavy hand of sweetness to it, you might love it.  If you prefer your reds with lower levels of sugar, the 2009 Apothic Red will not be right for you.  With that said…

2 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Apothic Red.  Somewhere inside this very attractive bottle was a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Merlot.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get past the sweet chocolate and vanilla taste to distinguish anything else.

Behold, a Son!

Photo: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

It’s not very often that a Bulgarian wine finds its way onto our dinner table.  A Bulgarian wine has never made its way onto our dinner table.  It’s not because of any god-awful experiences that we’ve encountered in the past, or even disturbing images conjured up in my brain of the Bulgarian Sumo superstar, Kotoōshū Katsunori, stomping grapes only in his mawashi.  It’s nothing like that in the least.  Frankly, Bulgarian wines are just a rare find in most of the wine shops in my neck of the woods.

Recently a friend of mine brought over a bottle of the 2007 Domain Menada ‘Tcherga’ Merlot & Rubin for me to try.  I immediately noticed on the label that it’s a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Rubin(?).  It’s a man, baby!?  No, I’m not talking about Rick Rubin, Max Rubin or even the Russian Football club Rubin Kazan.  I’m talking about Rubin Bolgarskii, or simply Rubin as it’s called in the wine world. Grown extensively in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia, Rubin was born by crossing the Nebbiolo and Syrah grapes.  Interesting, but how did it taste?

The 2007 Domain Menada ‘Tcherga’ Merlot & Rubin ($10) definitely hit the mark in the sniffer department with a magnificent, aromatic bouquet of fresh blackberries and herbs.  With a mouthwatering tannic grip on the palate, not to mention a grip on the inside of your glass, the blackberry theme continued with layers of vanilla, hints of lavender and a dusting of chocolate.

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2007 Domain Menada ‘Tcherga’ Merlot & Rubin.  A slightly bigger, longer finish would have sent this velvety-smooth Bulgarian baby boy off into WineLife365 4–Star manhood.

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