Browsing the archives for the Central Valley tag

Varietal Voyage No.19 – 2005 J.L. Giguiere Matchbook Syrah

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Varietal Voyage

The first syrah and the nineteenth wine on the Varietal Voyage is the 2005 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Syrah ($19) made by John Giguiere and the crew at CREW Wines.

You might not recognize the Giguiere name but you’ll probably recognize many of the wines this family has made.  Before starting the CREW Wine Company in 2004, John Giguiere, his wife Lane, and brother Karl owned and operated the R.H. Phillips Winery (sold in 2000 and closed it’s doors last year) and produced well-known brands like Toasted Head and EXP.  With the addition of Dan Cederquist as partner and winemaker, CREW Wine Company produces several brands including: Chasing Venus, Mossback, Sawbuck, and of course, Matchbook.  From New Zealand to California, each brand focuses on the best wines that each region has to offer.

The Matchbook vineyard was planted in 2002 in the Dunnigan Hills region of northwest Yolo County.  Located about 35 miles northeast of Napa County in the foothills of the Coast Range Mountains, this area encompasses about 90,000 acres and is warmer and dryer than most grape growing regions. Fertile alluvial soils combined with well-managed pruning and irrigation help make this a suitable region for syrah.  Unlike R.H. Phillips which produced upwards of 750,000 cases per vintage, John and Dan are focused on reducing yields and increasing the overall quality of their wines.  As an example, the Matchbook vineyard yielded a little over 4,700 cases of syrah in 2005.  The Matchbook vineyard is young and still maturing, so it will be interesting to see how the fruit and wines develop with future vintages.

This was a very enjoyable wine and at $19 you can’t go wrong.  The Matchbook Syrah has a pleasant medium body with intense aromas of spicy ripe blackberries with maybe just a little vanilla and tobacco mixed in for good measure.  Normally syrah is a little on the tannic side and requires some aging, but the addition of some cabernet sauvignon (11%) adds some complexity and helps soften the wine making it quite delicious and approachable now.

2005 J.L. Giguiere Matchbook Syrah ($19)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Varietal Voyage No.18 – 2007 Terra Andina Merlot

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Varietal Voyage

Wow!  It’s been a long time since I posted something new on the Varietal Voyage.  Things have been crazy at home and work making it difficult to find time to write.  Rest assured, we are back on our journey.

The last wine we tasted on the Varietal Voyage was Château Grand Destieu, a merlot from St. Emilion.  This week’s wine is the last merlot on our list: Terra Andina’s  2007 Merlot.

Terra Andina, a subsidiary of the Claro Group, is one of Chile’s largest wine producers making a wide variety of wines from vineyards across Chile’s diverse geography and climates.  Chief winemaker, Oscar Salas, took the reigns from his mentor Stefano Gandolini in 2008.  Trained in California and in some of Chile’s most famous wineries, Oscar is well versed in New World winemaking techniques and technologies. But his approach to winemaking is decidedly Old World with a focus on balance and finesse allowing natural flavors and aromas to shine through.

The 2007 Merlot is from Terra Andina’s Varietals collection, an affordable line of wines highlighting the character and expression of not only merlot, but other international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, carmenère, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

On the label you’ll notice the Denominación de Origen, or DO on the label says that this wine comes from Chile’s Central Valley, a large region containing the sub-regions of the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó, and Maule Valleys (Terra Andina has a handy map identifying these regions as well as many others).  This label means that the grapes in this wine can come from anywhere within the Central Valley.  This allows the winemakers to chose the best fruit from a wide selection of terroirs, which is fairly common with affordable wines like this one.   Normally this is done to keeps costs down, but it also helps the winemaker to keep a consistent flavor profile from vintage to vintage.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because this wine is affordable ($9) that it is somehow less than delicious.  Chile is known for making quality wines at very low prices and 2007 Merlot is no exception.  It’s dark ruby color is deep and rich.  Fragrant aromas of ripe blackberries and plums are enhanced by peppery spice.  The medium-bodies flavors of blackcurrant and cocoa are bold and straightforward with faint hints of creamy vanilla lurking in the background.  The finish is somewhat short and clean but pleasing nonetheless.

2007 Terra Andina Merlot ($9)

  • Approx. 85% merlot, 15% mystery grape (my guess is cabernet sauvignon or possibly carménère)
  • Central Valley, Chile
  • Producer’s Fact Sheet

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…