Saturday, June 4, 2011

2008 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Cabernet, Chile Strikes Again!

I've reviewed Santa Carolina wines before, and came away with a good impression. Check out the Santa Carolina carmenere that I sampled last month. The winery has undergone a change over the past few years, and is focusing all it's attention on quality versus just pumping out vintage after vintage of generic juice.

This past April I was also part of a live blogger tasting of Chilean red wines, and discovered some amazing values of very high quality wines. Tasting these Chilean wines over the past few months has given me a better understanding and appreciating of just how far that country has come in it's wine production and export to the U.S.

Last night I felt the need to open a cabernet sauvignon, in part to get some breathing space after gorging on awesome Oregon pinot noirs last week. Also, while I may Tweet and talk about other varietals a lot, cabernet is a grape I love and appreciate in so many ways. I've been fortunate to start getting samples from Chilean wineries who want to expose their wines to a Milliennial audience. I tend to get giddy when those samples are cabernet sauvignon, especially good quality cab.

This Santa Carolina cabernet has been sitting in my samples fridge for a while, and it seemed like the perfect evening to tip a glass of big, intense, earthy cabernet to go with a home made (sort of) pasta sauce and some penne pasta. That might seem a bit unusual as pairings go, but I did jazz up the sauce with sauteed onions, garlic, Kumato tomatoes, and sun dried tomatoes.

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The 2008 Reserva de Familia smells great, I can pick up some herbs, dry earth, a compelling dark berry aroma, and some toasty oak on the finish. Just the kinds of things I enjoy in cabernet! As I let the wine open up in my glass, it started gaining complexity, which is to be expected, most red wines to need some time and air to show their full suite of aromas. The dark berries became black currants and cherries, herbs become a desert sage, and some bittersweet chocolate shows up to play in the sandbox. I would describe the bouquet as focused, ripe, and complex.

Waiting over an hour to taste wine is never easy for me, as I suspect it's never easy for many of you. Just seeing the beautiful dark purple liquid swirling in my glass is temptation enough. But I managed, dear reader, to hold out while the Santa Carolina cabernet opened up gently in my very-used wine glass. Anyone know if Riedel sends out samples? I could use some new glasses!

Time spent in my glass has done the Reserva de Familia caberent wonders, but I can see how this might still benefit from a few more years in your cellar. Right now it's showing some great tannic structure holding a core of spicy black cherries and currants. A bit of a lag on the mid palate creates the sensation of being hollow. Thankfully the finish comes on strong with notes of roasted coffee. I enjoyed the complexity that's already here and think that in another year the mid palate will flesh out, showing bright black fruit mixed with dark chocolate. The alcohol is 14.5%, higher than I prefer but the winemaker did a great job hiding it, there was hardly any heat present.

If a wine can beg for a food pairing, the Santa Carolina cabernet sauvignon begs for a ribeye steak. Hell, even a cheese burger would do wonders with this wine. As it stands, I can happily give the 2008 Reserva de Familia a B+ and a STRONG BUY recommendation. I found this wine at K & L Wine Merchants for $18, which to me is a great deal. Robert Parker's "The Wine Advocate" gave it a 91 points, which I feel is a bit high but speaks to the potential for aging. Locally here in San Diego, I recommend emailing Carolina Wine Brands USA and asking them who carries it. You'll see it retailing between $18-20 per bottle.

This wine was received as a media sample for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

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