Sunday, July 10, 2011

CalNaturale And Their Tetra Paks of Cabernet and Chardonnay

Over the past few years, alternatives to glass wine bottles have become more common. Once the domain of gag inducing wines like Franzia, today's wine in boxes and cartons are huge leaps in quality while still offering great price points. At least year's Wine Bloggers Conference I tasted some wines from Octavin Home Wine Bar, they were fairly good and at low prices. Also last year I tasted the Don and Sons "Big Green Box" wines, which did surprise me with good quality. Neither the Octavin or Don & Sons wines were mind-blowing but for a cost of around $10-15 per 750 ml, the quality was just fine.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago with I was approached with a query about my interest in trying the CalNaturale wines. I was sent a TetraPak of Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles and another of Chardonnay from Mendocino County. Both are in 500 ml cartons, which is 2/3 of a standard bottle of wine. It's roughly two full glasses of wine for you and I. The CalNaturale Cabernet is a 2008, the Chardonnay a 2009 vintage. Both are also available in 1 liter sizes, for those of you who have parties planned or are lushes.

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2009 CalNaturale Chardonnay Mendocino County
This is made with organically grown grapes and comes in at a low-for-these-days 13.0% alcohol. Nice pale yellow color, not at all like the almost buttery yellow that some chardonnays look like.  I couldn't find any information about how much time in oak this spent, though I suspect it was more likely a steel tank/oak chip combination than any time in barrels.

I like the light citrus and apple aromas I pick up right away, along with just the barest hint of oak, not at all distracting. Perhaps a credit to the TetraPak, the CalNaturale chardonnay smells fresh and vibrant, like a wine that would be fun to sit around and sip on a warm summer afternoon.

Well balanced with some sharp acidity up front immediately followed by a soft, creamy mid-palate, I suspect this sees at least partial malolactic fermentation. Ripe stone fruit, hints of grass and pear all wrapped up in a tight package. While not a very complex wine, the 2009 CalNaturale chardonnay is approachable, friendly, and lively. Hard to argue with a wine that costs $7 for a 500 ml package. B-, BUY recommendation.

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2008 CalNaturale Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
This wine has a very nice dark garnet color, lightening towards the edges of my glass just ever so slightly. Again I have no information about the treatment of the cabernet, but I suspect it's similarly a steel tank/oak chip type of wine. This is a great way to impart oak characteristics while keeping the cost down by avoiding the high cost of new barrels every few years.

I liked the nose, it smelled like a freshly made BLT. I could pick up savory meat notes along with a touch of green vegetal aromas, some oak, and a few hits of ripe red berry fruits. There was also a bit of a plastic-y smell too, something like one of those hospital oxygen masks, if you've ever worn one. All in all, pleasant smelling especially for a $7 cabernet sauvignon.

The wine's approach is a bit rough on the palate, sort of disjointed but perhaps something that could solved with some more open time. I'm unsure as to how the TetraPak helps the wine get some air after you open the tiny spout. CalNaturale's 2008 cabernet brings the acid and rough tannin but backs it up with some good earthy and smoky flavors, plum, and black cherry. I could even taste the wine softening up as I wrote this review. Easy B and a BUY recommendation.

What I liked most about the CalNaturale wines were their high levels of quality at a low price. The cabernet would pair beautifully with a location where glass is prohibited and some charcuteries, or maybe a round of burgers off the grill. The chardonnay I can see going with a grilled chicken cesar salad sprinkled with bacon bits, or some chips and carmelized onion dip. Keep the food simple, keep the wine simple, and just enjoy the moment.

Another awesome fact to help you enjoy the moment is the knowledge that the CalNaturale wines have carbon footprints that are far below that of a regular 750 ml bottle of vino. So you not only get to drink tasty wine, you get to help reduce carbon emissions to boot!

CalNaturale wines are available all across the country and the CalNaturale Location List is a great place to start your search.

These wines were media samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

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