First saw wine made at age 7, became a Master Gardner and now my favorite plant is Vitis vinifera. Published wine reviewer, teach wine appreciation at the local school district. And at my old age completed some WSET levels just because I love all things wine. I pour wine for various distributors, have worked with chefs pairing wine and food at corporate events and do private home parties too. Between events, I meet with winemakers in various states and countries.
is sunlight, held together by water.” …Galileo Galilei
Indeed, there is so much more
involved in making wine, even back to Galileo’s time, but so what? It’s a pretty thought and suits me. “Wine is
bottled poetry” as was said later (in 1883) by Robert Lewis Stevenson, so I’m
inclined to agree and I will gladly accept Galileo’s viticultural description because
it’s romantic. Wine is, after all, romance. And September 3 this year, was Cabernet
Sauvignon Day. It reminded me of the first time I enjoyed the Cabernet
Sauvignon of Don Melchor; the most euphorically romantic Cab I enjoyed.
The winery hosted a luncheon
at “The Grill on the Alley” in Chicago in September of 2014 and winemaker
Enrique Tirado Santelices was present to discuss the 2010 release (24th vintage)
of Don Melchor. The blend is 3% Cabernet Franc, 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, all
estate grown from seven selected parcels of their estate in Chile’s Puente Alto
appellation. Enrique brought along
bottles of finished wine from each of the parcels and we tasted each
separately. I remember thinking parcel #1 was classic Cab, with ripe red fruit,
and somewhat high in alcohol (it was actually 14.5%). Parcel 2 was reserved
aromatically, a little thin, but with rounder tannin than Parcel 1; more black
fruit and a note of chocolate. Parcel 3
also had a light nose but with hint of blackberry, had exceptional balance though
with a slightly tannic but enjoyable and long finish. Parcel 4, much improved
with air in the glass, was initially too concentrated with taste of forest
floor and leaf compote. Parcel 5 offered aromas of subtle cherry and
blackberry. And so on went my notes.
Getting Ready To Taste
The true artistry of wine
making was revealed in the blend. Enrique produced a measuring beaker, mixing 4% from here and 13% from parcel there and so on until the blend was completed for the 2010 release of Don Melchor. Long before this review, Wine Spectator awarded the wine 95
points, and from my own recent re-tasting, it has only gotten better with time
in the bottle. We enjoyed the blend
freshly created by Enrique and then the bottle itself of the 2010 release of
Don Melchor. Creamy. Cherry and plum.
Hints of paprika and hoisin sauce. All the cassis you expect in Cabernet
Sauvignon. Cocoa powder. The fruit was lively, but working seamlessly,
incorporating plum, blackberry, and blueberry. Notes of black pepper,
sandalwood and cedar,
Since then, and while pouring
a different wine at a retail outlet, I noticed the store had in stock a 2005
Don Melchor. Not being assured of their storage conditions, I purchased a
bottle as a sample. After tasting it, I went back and bought the four
remaining, then tasted another 2005 against the 2010. While the 2005 was more savory and with more
earth and black pepper in the nose and the 2010’s fruit more lively, both wines
were exceptionally polished, with smooth tannins and a long finish. The 2005
offered deep notes of dark fruit and cedar; the 2010 more blackberry, the 2005
had more texture. If I had to choose,
however, I would still chose both. Ends up that Don Melchor has had six
vintages, ranked by Wine Spectator,
as among their “Top 100” Wines of the Year.
2009 was awarded 94 points. 2010 was given 95.
The Wine Mizer with Enrique Tirado Santelices (R)
Blending is the art and the
craft that follows Galileo's sun and water. And Enrique Tirado explains this old world approach perfectly: "For me, Don Melchor is an ongoing quest to get
the truest possible expression from every
plant in the vineyard to attain beauty in the equilibrium from each Puente Salto terroir harvest. Though I use
technology as a tool to improve my knowledge, perhaps more importantly it is by observing and sensing what is happening
with each plant and every wine that gives me that perfect balance year after
year.” (Emphasis mine).
At My Own Re-taste, I Paired
With A Grilled Fillet.
parcel growing vines on alluvial soil, will yield different juice: some
producing wines more expressive in fruit characteristics; others lending
more tannin, and others more elegance. Tasting the finished wine of Enrique Tirado
demonstrated (to me) that while I may never stop learning about wine, I will
never be a wine maker. Don Melchor is polished. Elegant. A masterful blend of
many elements resulting in a natural composition that surpasses the
contribution of its individual parcels.
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The Puente Alto Vineyard is in
the Alto Maipo Valley at the foot of the Andes Mountains. It is located in the
Maipo River Basin on the northern bank of the river and at 2100 feet above sea
level. Vine stock comes from
pre-phylloxrera masal selection, dating back to the first vines brought to
Chile from Bordeaux in 1883 by Don Melchor Concha y Toro and his wife Emiliana
Subercaseaux. Vines average 30+ years.
Tech Specs: (Vintage 2010)
Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc
Soil: Alluvial (clay, silt, sand
& gravel with mineral deposits)