Determined to find an interesting Chilean wine under $20 in order to participate in this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday, this afternoon I trudged to the Ventura Wine Company once again. They had three choices in the $15-20 range; two cabs and a cab blend. A hand drawn, store produced shelf talker raved about the 2006 Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon “Alexandre” from the Apalta Vineyard (15 alc%) in the Colchuaga Valley; of course it was the bottle closest to $20.
Adding to the mix was dinner. I had put lima beans on to soak the night before and planned to cook them with a ham bone, bacon, mushrooms, and anduille sausages–pretty rich and spicy. What I really wanted with it was a syrah or even better, a GSM like the Twisted Oak one I’d had the previous week with David’s homemade spicy red sauce with spicy Italian sausage. Ventura Wine Company owner Nick reassured me this Casa Lapostolle would work fine with the lively bean, sausage and bacon soup so I went for it.
Since we had to go to Trader Joe’s anyway for the sausage, I checked out their selection once again and decided to make the tasting more interesting for myself by getting a 2006 Santa Rita Reserve Cabernet Sauvigon from Maipo Valley (14.1% alc) at half the price so I could compare the two.
I opened both and started tasting toward the end of cooking dinner, while the cornbread was in the oven. Right off the bat, I preferred the Lapostolle–there was more depth and richness. But was it $10 better? I wondered, because the Santa Rita was nice enough. The kitchen was full of bacon smell which made the nose a bit of a challenge but clearly there was more to the Lapostolle. I poured more in the glasses to let it breathe while we set up for dinner.
I’m typically not a huge fan of cabs full of bell pepper and herbs, and a cab like that I suspect would have been awful with the meal. As it was, the wines didn’t take anything away but didn’t add much. The Santa Rita didn’t stand a chance with the spicy sausage soup. Surprisingly, the Lapostolle had plenty of body and fruit to work with the soup and enough acid to cut through the richness of the bacon infused meal.
During clean-up, I continued to test and taste. The Santa Rita softened nicely when allowed to rest awhile. I left some wine in the glasses and went to a poetry reading. When I returned, yep, I still preferred the Lapostolle which is made from 60 year old non-irrigated vines by the family which makes Grand Marnier; the Santa Rita continued to be quite pleasurable.
SCORING: 1-5 points per category; 20 points total
SEE: Both had nice bright garnet color in the glass, with a tinge of brown to the Santa Rita.
SWIRL: Both are pretty, the Casa Lapostolle with better legs (and with higher alcohol).
SNIFF: I’m recovering from a cold so my sniffer is not in top notch shape. However, the Lapostelle certainly came off with more fruit– cherry in particular while the Santa Rita…well I almost got light headed trying to find and figure out the fruit. The fruit was actually a little more like a cherry/berry Hawaiian punch, and a little too sickly sweet. I did find tar, cloves, and anise easily in the Santa Rita, especially after I switched glasses from the everyday dinner wine glasses to crystal tasting glasses, careful to prime them with some SR wine first.
The nose in the Casa Lapostolle “Cuvee Alexandre” was more complex. Instead of the sweet Hawaiian punch of the Santa Rita, I found the floral and spicy notes of the clove and cinnamon of Cecil Bruner roses and white carnations. Also, some savoriness–a creamy meatiness–as well as tobacco leaf.
CL–4; SR– 3
SIP: SR Light, friendly; could use a bit more time in the bottle or leave open for a while to tone down the tannins some. CL ‘ is fuller and the tannins are better balanced, red licorice, red raspberry. The CL has a long, pleasant finish with some anise.
CL–4; SR 3
Next time for Wine Blogging Wednesday, I may try to get away with getting a glass or two at a wine bar rather than spending that much on wines midweek when recovering from a cold! While I liked them both, for the money there are other wines I prefer. I didn’t find these wines as great of a bargain as I’d anticipated or as some great for the money as many local California wines or Australian wines I’ve had recently. For my almost $20, I think I’d rather spend it on a different Lapostolle family specialty–Grand Marnier.
Not to mention that there’s plenty left for me to continue tasting throughout the week to see what happens next!
Casa Lapostelle: 16 out of 20–Worth Finding
Santa Rita: 14 out of 20–Worth Drinking
WINE PREDATOR’s 20 POINT SCALE:
4 areas worth 5 points each to add up to a point score totaling 20
WINE PREDATOR’s SCORE:
5-8………. Terrible; Lose the Trail
9-11…….. Emergency Rations
12-14……. Worth Drinking
15-17 ……..Worth Finding
18-20 ……TRACK IT DOWN!
(BTW, my scoring system is under construction…I hate grading which is one reason I left teaching but scores can be useful I realize).
Read about a visit to Casa Lapostolle here.
A more or less generic video of Casa Lapostolle, beautiful all the same with Andean flute and views of the snowy mountains in the background :