Still looking to help Chile after the Earthquake? Buy some Chilean Wine!!

Everyone has heard about the devastating earthquake that shook the foundations of Chile just a short while ago. While most wineries were left standing, they still took a hit. There were reports that after the quake you could smell wine in the streets from the distributing and shipping areas that got rocked by Mother Nature’s hand. So the best way to help support Chile, without donating of course, is to go out support their wine industry!!

Chilean wines overall are some of the best values around. A lot of people seem to be turned off by them because the really inexpensive ones tend to have an earthy, almost dirty, bouquet right off the bat. Even some of the really good ones tend to have this same characteristic. But in the better made wines, this scent eases up after the wine opens for a bit, and blends nicely with the spice and dark fruit that are common in the Chilean reds.

The best reds tend to come from the Maipo and Colchagua Valley. Even though most varietals are now grown in Chile, Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere are still the Big 3. The cooler climate in the Casablanca Valley lends itself more to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

There are some brands to look for that deliver quality in both red and whites that you can usually find for under $10. Some of them include Veramonte, Santa Rita, Los Vascos, Cono Sur and Concha Y Toro. Concha Y Toro is a monster in Chile and produces wines that can run anywhere from $5 to $100. The Casillero del Diablo for around $8 is probably the best value, but they are pretty solid across the board.

To make the next move up to the $10-20 a bottle range, Casa Lapostolle has some of the best selections out there. Their entry level wines run around $10-12 while their next level up, their Cuvee Alexandre, will run closer to $20. The Cabs and Merlots are very fruit forward, soft and just well made wines. The Chards and Sauvignon Blancs are not to be looked over, but as far as value the reds are really the way to go.

Veramonte makes a Bordeaux style blend called Primus that is just under $20 and is outstanding. It has that earthy nose at first, but if you decant it or just let it sit out for 20-30 minutes you can tell what a well crafted wine it is. I should also mention the Montes Alpha label, as their wines that run from $15-25 are also well worth a try. My favorite of their selections is the Syrah, not a typical grape grown in Chile but they do a hell of a job with it.

If you are looking for real value and can afford to spend a few bucks, there are a couple of wines from Chile that stand up to the best in the world. The Clos Apalta from Casa Lapostolle was the #1 wine according to Wine Spectator in 2008, and deservedly so. Year in and year out this Carmenere, Cab and Merlot blend just plain kicks ass…and at $60-70 a bottle it better! The other standout is the Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet. This is just pure pleasure and always gets ratings in the mid 90’s. Not cheap either (around $50-60), but I would take this one over most of the big California “Cult” Cabernets just on sheer value alone.

Most of the wines listed above are pretty widely available, but below are a few links to some local and online places to purchase.


Wine isn’t the only beverage you can pair with food…. The Beer Dinner hosted by the TapHouse proved it

Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending a Beer Pairing dinner at the TapHouse in Tuckahoe. Those of you who read my blog know it’s a favorite of mine. This event proved once again the quality and versatility of both the restaurant and the beers that were offered from the Latis Imports portfolio.

The first course paired the Rodenbach Grand Cru with a Fried Oyster dish. The Grand Cru was a bit vinegary up front. Not unpleasant but quite pungent and different than any other beer I have tasted. However, paired with the oysters and the sweetness of the tomato chutney, it worked out quite well and the creamy oak flavors enhanced the finish.

Next up was the unbelievable Seared Diver Scallops with a Banana Carpaccio paired with the Steen Brugge Wit Blanche. Lots of citrus, orange peel and coriander in this wheat beer….reminded me of a Hoegarden but with a lot more going on. The coolest part was that the Lemon Confit and Banana mix really brought out all the citrus and acidity in the beer.

The first meat dish was a Roasted Breast of Duck in a Caramel Soy Candied Orange Sauce….and yes it was as delicious as it sounds! This one was paired up with the most popular beer from Latis, the Palm Ale. It’s amazing that every course prepared by Chef Kevin Bertrand was more impressive than the one before. The caramel sauce brought out all the luscious caramel and nutty flavors in the Palm. Moreover, the duck was cooked to perfection… medium rare as to keep all its juicy flavors.

Although the duck was a tough act to follow, they managed to do so in style. The offering was Braised Short Ribs in a Pear Celeriac Puree matched up with the Steen Brugge Tripel. One word….WOW! The Tripel was a woody, hoppy selection with a mildly sweet and slight orange flavor. And at 8.7% alcohol this one has a real kick! But again, it worked so well with the beef and BBQ sauce that you were unable to tell it was that strong. The ribs and sauce cut right through the hops and the puree gave it a nice creamy finish. Definitely my favorite course of the night.

For dessert, the TapHouse served their famous Chocolate Molten Lava Cake. Latis broke out one of the coolest “dessert” beers I have ever tasted. The Kriek Boon is an effervescent, clean cherry flavored beer. But unlike other fruit flavored beers, they actually put cherries into the barrel during fermentation so there is no syrupy, sugar component. Just good, clean fruit….almost like a dark sparkling Rose wine. And at 4% alcohol you can drink this all night!

Both the TapHouse and Latis Imports had an extremely successful showing for this event. From top to bottom each pairing selection was really outstanding.  You can find the Palm Ale on tap everyday at the TapHouse. So the next time you’re there and are thinking about ordering a wine with one of the meat dishes… you may want to give one of these well crafted brews a shot.  Below are the web links for both the TapHouse and Latis Imports….Enjoy!

To Decant or not to Decant….that is the question.

So does pouring wine into a decanter really make a difference or is it just something people like to do because it looks cool? Well, a little bit of both! Below are the basics of decanters broken down into the 5W’s.

WHAT – A decanter is a glass container that you use to pour a bottle of wine into before serving. They vary in style and price. The more expensive ones tend to have more crystal and are finely crafted. However, there is nothing wrong with an inexpensive decanter. It will not ruin the wine as they all serve basically the same purpose. Think about buying a vase…the cheaper ones don’t ruin the flowers; they may just not be as impressive to look at.

WHO – Anyone that wants each bottle to live up to its full potential… or just wants to be known as the Decanting Dude or Dudette.

WHEN – You can use a decanter any time with any wine (Red, White and even Sparkling). However, it will really only make a difference with either very young wines that are not fully mature, or older wines that have been bottled up for so long that they need to breathe. Most average California wines come out of the bottle ready to drink, but the higher end wines will benefit from decanting. For the most part I find French and Italian wines improve the most after the decanting process.

WHERE – Wherever you like! But it is usually a crowd pleaser so you may want to do it in front an audience.

WHY – For the right wines, it will help the aeration process. When air hits the wine, it allows the flavors and aromas to come out that may otherwise stay hidden. The older the wine, typically the more time it needs in the decanter to fully open up.

HOW – The simplest way is just to pour the wine from the bottle directly into the decanter. You can also use a funnel which will help with the aeration and if the funnel has a screen, it will catch the sediment. Sediment is the funky solid stuff at the bottom of older bottles of wine. It is a sign of a good wine, but not something you want to be drinking (or chewing).

If you want to decant by the glass, then the Vinturi Aerator is a great option.  It works like a decanter for a single glass of wine. It may look like one of those gadgets that you would buy and doesn’t work, but it does….and REALLY well! If you go to the wine country in Cali almost all of the wineries have one in their tasting room so that their younger wines can open up quickly.

If you’re wondering where to get a decanter, my friends at Wine Enthusiast have the best selection and great prices. And if you have further questions, their knowledgeable Wine Storage Consultants will have all the answers! Check out the link below…