South American wines on a roll

Sensing an opening for their quality wines, Chile has been moving smartly in the American market to consolidate their wine sales gains and find new markets to present their Cabernet, Chardonnay and Syrah.

Their “home-town” grape, Carmenere, is getting a reputation as the national grape but has a way to go for quality, with a distinctly “bell or jalapeno pepper” taste.

It was February 2010 when the earth shook tragically in Chile just before the harvest (seasons are reversed in South America.)

Steel tanks were flattened and broken bottles were strewn all over the land as Chile lost some 20 percent of their wine. Leading wineries such as Concho Y Toro, Emiliana, Casa Lapostolle and Montes made sure their vineyards were restored and muscled their way to save the 2010 crop still on the vines.

Emiliana, located in the Colchagua Valley just south of Santiago the capital of Chile, is the foremost organic winery located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, similar to the Central Coast of California.

It produces rich, dark fruit from a lineup of Syrah, Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet, Petit Verdot and Mourvedre. Their Coyam 2010 Blend caught my attention ($24.50).

Winemaker Noela Orts emphasized the high standard for production and full expression of terrior. The Los Robles Estate is certified organic and biodynamic. See more at www.emiliana.

Alberto Siegel is a distinguished gentleman farmer from Santiago Chile and of Austrian descent. He started out selling fertilizer to Colchagua Valley wineries, before selling wine as a broker with his own brand, Vina Siegel. Varieties grown are: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet and the Gran Crucero blend 2010. “Our wines have rich minerality and we do well in America, our second largest market behind England,” he said. “Americans like to try different wines and this helps us with our lower prices than similar California wines.

This year’s harvest was a challenge for us as the weather was colder than most, so we lowered yields to keep up the quality of the wines.”

Chilean wines were spotlighted at a recent wine dinner at Twenty/20 at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort.

Food and Beverage Director Chris McNally was very excited to display the recently arrived Executive Sous Chef Andres Hinojosa, originally from Chile, who created a wine pairing dinner with the master winery Concho Y Toro.

It is considered Chile’s finest wine due to its popular Don Melchor brand, a 100 percent Cabernet.

McNally emphasized the importance of Chilean wines when he stated, “We see great growth from that region. We are creating menus with that influence, and Chef Andres is giving us fresh insight with his dishes like Pollo Arvejado, a Paprika Chicken, paired with the 2011 Chardonnay Marques Casa De Concho” ($16.99).

The most acclaimed wine in Chile is easily Concho Y Toro’s Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon (2008 — $90). This ripe, dense red shows mocha and toasty oak with a rich cassis flavored black cherry and plum character. Ripe tannins lead to a long, juicy finish. Concho Y Toro, based in Santiago, is the largest producer of wines from Latin America and a global leader. See

Wine Bytes

Bacchus Wine Market downtown San Diego has an Italian Sangiovese Tasting Dec. 14 from 2 to 8:30 p.m. Some of Italy’s finest wines are based on Sangiovese. Sample six wines for $20. Details at (619) 236-0005.

Tuscany Italian Restaurant & Lounge in Carlsbad presents Jazz & R&B Christmas Songs featuring The Tuscany All Stars House Band Dec. 15 at noon. In the Copa Room. Tickets are $30 in advance. Call (760) 929-8111.

RELM Wine Beer Bistro Carlsbad returns with events starting with a Holiday Wine Tasting Dec. 15, 5 to 8 p.m., with more than 70 wines to try for only $25. Appetizers served. Details at (760) 434-9463.

Wine Steals in Cardiff has a holiday dessert wine tasting Dec. 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Taste these wines for $5 each. No RSVP needed.

Vittorio’s Trattoria, off Interstate 56 in San Diego is planning a Robert Sinskey Sonoma/Napa Vineyards wine dinner Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. Cost is $49.50. The vineyard’s rep will speak about the wines. A Pinot Noir and the winery’s blends will be featured. RSVP at (858) 538-5884.



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