2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon

Last weekend I went on a quest for 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Montes Alpha was a specific focus of that search. The latest edition of Wine Spectator piqued my interest in its coverage of Cab, and 2012s in particular. This Chilean red  (which includes 10% Merlot in its composition) lived up to all expectations, a luscious and fragrant beauty that was packed with scents of black fruit, herbs, and even a light metallic tang of some kind.

2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauivignon, Colchagua, Chile.

2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, Chile.

This AVA in Colchagua, Chile, has a terroir that produces Cabernets that a bit of research tells me are similar to those from Pauillac in Haut-Medoc. This bottle was just under $20, though, and I suspect the French version would be at least three times that figure. Even cooler, in my mind, is that the vineyard’s grapes (from Apalta and Marchigue) are all sustainably dry farmed–they consume far less water than the norm, and produce a noteworthy outcome in the 2012 vintage.

We ate Swiss cheese and mushroom burgers and some ‘crispy crowns’ potatoes alongside this red. Tasting highlights from the Wine Spectator summary read, “Blackberry, graphite, and violet on a structural core of bright acid and plentiful tannin with a long molasses-scented finish.” All that being true, the 2012 Montes Alpha is a very worthwhile drink.

2014 Dona Dominga Merlot

Courtesy of U.S. Airlines is the 2014 Dona Dominga Merlot, and when you’re trapped in midair for a few hours you don’t get too picky about your vino options. And this particular bottle was served to me after escaping a snowy NYC airport and four hours of delays. The flakes were falling fast and furious, and I had had my fingers crossed the whole time hoping to get out. Delays and cancellations were happening all around me and my fellow passengers, so by the time we actually took flight the Dominga was perfect.

2014 Dona Dominga Merlot, Chile.

2014 Dona Dominga Merlot, Colchagua Valley, Chile.

Having said that, this one was less about a flavor profile or specific taste. Was it a bit too cold when served? Yes. But was it one of the best glasses of wine I’ve had in some time? Given the occasion, let me say absolutely.

2011 Casillero del Diablo Reserva White

A rare white wine entry among all the reds here on Notes–this is the 2011 Casillero del Diablo Reserva White. The Diablo originates from the Limarí Valley of Chile (does that make this northern Chilean area the root of all evil? or just great wine?), where the local climate imparts great tropical fruit notes to its white wines. The springtime temperatures, which can range from about 53 degrees at night to 77 by day, reminds me of Southern California and is just about ideal for growing tropical fruit. Or grapes, as it turns out.

2011 Casillero del Diablo Reserva White, Limarí Valley, Chile.

2011 Casillero del Diablo Reserva White, Limarí Valley, Chile.

We opened the Diablo midweek, just a little dinner beverage that we sipped for a meal or two before finishing it off tonight with some light but delicious sushi and sashimi. The 2011 Casillero del Diablo Reserva White is a blend of whites, folding together Chardonnay (65%) and Moscato (35%) that is plucked from vineyards along Chile’s coast. In this guy’s mind, the mix works well and especially for wine drinkers like me who are looking for more than a Pinot Grigio but often less than a Chardonnay in a white. Give it a go–you’ll probably get an immediate whiff of citrus when you uncork it.

The winemaker says it has scents of “…pineapple, citrus, peaches, and hints of honey…” I’m not sure about the honey but you can definitely appreciate the others both on the nose and on your palate. We’ve done Diablo wines in the past, and you can read about them here or here. I hope you give this one a shot yourself. It’s readily available, inexpensive, and pretty decent as a working man’s white wine.


2012 Mawida Merlot

This one is a special recommendation and selection courtesy of my wife, who was herself first exposed to the 2012 Mawida Merlot at a recent neighborhood tasting event (wish I could have joined her for THAT!). It was a surprise for this wine lover and a great treat for a Friday evening. We actually cracked open the Mawida last night and first enjoyed this deep purple beauty with pork chops slathered in a fantastic mustard/caramelized onion sauce, sided by a killer blue cheese salad with walnuts, apple, and onions (which could have been a great meal all by itself). I rushed it a bit on that initial sampling, and the finish seemed a bit tannin heavy on that first tasting.

2012 Mawida Merlot Central Valley Chile

2012 Mawida Merlot, Central Valley, Chile.

Tonight, though, we unsealed the 2012 Mawida and its encore performance earned top billing. This time the merlot accompanied some delicious tortellini (including both spinach and cheese as well as chicken and prosciutto) that I hit with only salt and pepper; my bride opted for a pesto topping. This Central Valley Chilean wine was better, pooling happily in my eager glass, and sharing blackberry and perhaps some plum notes.

The Mawida Merlot (a term meaning “Mountain in Mapudungun” in the language of the Mapuches natives of Chile) was rich and tasty, with a much gentler finish. I get the sense that the 2012 is intended for drinking right now, and gladly I did, comforted too by the knowledge that we have still another bottle to enjoy on a future occasion.

2012 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon

Sometimes your bottle of wine is a near-spiritual experience, an adventure on the palate that raises your eyebrows and engenders your smile. On other occasions it’s a more functional experience, one that slakes your thirst, keeps your heart healthy, or mellows your nerves after a busy day–slowing racing thoughts to a more manageable pace. Both have a role in your wine rack, and the trick is to know which is which.

This Cabernet Sauvignon falls into the latter category. My first tasting of the Diablo was nearly a year ago at my cousin’s wedding, and this second sampling occurred under much less grand circumstances. The 2012 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon was opened on a busy September weekend, one where we hosted a dear friend who was in town visiting from our old NJ neighborhood. She’s a vodka drinker, which meant this Chilean red was readily on hand for yours truly. It ultimately accompanied one of my favorite pre-travel meals–a simple dinner bowl of pasta with butter and salt.

It’s obviously less than ideal to drink Cab from a simple juice glass, but I’m afraid that’s how things unfolded on this particular Sunday. Regardless, the 2012 del Diablo has an easy, smooth profile. There is definitely an ample black cherry vibe about the wine, with a couple undertones that the winemaker claims are “hits of mocha and dark chocolate.” Now, I love both mocha AND dark chocolate, but those subtleties I couldn’t quite identify in the del Diablo–you’ll have to take their word for it. I am, however, going to grab a few more of the 2012 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon just to have on hand.