La-di-da in Apalta, Chile

By March 22, 2014Winemakers

Today was a la-di-da day in Colchagua. We started at the magnificent Clos Apalta, the flagship winery of Lapostalle. The French owned (Grand Marnier) company spared no expense in this extravagant winery. It is a Relais & Chateau with 6 chalets and a winery that seems to be transplanted from France. Our guide admitted that despite the price of $120 bottle, the winery loses money with their single wine, Clos Apalta (total production 60,000). As an example of their attention to detail and quality, 80 women hand select individual berries and reject those not up to their standard. But the reasoning is that the first class reputation (it received the Wine Spectator’s top wine of the world) will spill over to the other 2 million bottles they produce at their other Chilean facility.

At our tasting we had the ‘Casa’ line sauvignon blanc from the Rapel Valley with 8% semillon, a bargain at $10; the merlot 2012 Cuvée Alexandre with 15% merlot, aged 13 months in 40% new oak barrels and a terrific wine at $25; and their flagship Clos Apalta 2010, a complex, magnificent wine that comes at a cost: $120 in Chile, cheaper in the States ($90) because of the high taxes in Chile.

Clos Apalta is certified organic and biodynamic. We also learned that a varietal in Chile must contain at least 85% of the grape.

Then we went to lunch at Viu Manet. This is still another family owned winery with Cataluyan heritage. The winery moved from Santiago to Colchagua in the 60’s. Chilean wines at the time were so bad that many Chileans mixed it with Coke and some old-timers still maintain that practice today.

Viu Manent produces over 3 million bottles and export 87%, and malbec is their specialty. At our tasting, we started with Vibo 2011, a cabernet/malbec blend with a little petit verdot; San Carlos Single Vineyard malbec 2011 (my favorite); the El Olivar single vineyard syrah 2010; the La Cappella single vineyard cabernet 2012; and the Incidente 2010 carmenere.

At lunch, we had a delectable vegetable lasagna with the carmenere Estate Collection 2013, (Harvey Kaufmann loved it), and corvina- Chilean sea bass- accompanied by the Estate Collection chardonnay 2013.

We ended another magnificent day at Viña Las Niñas in Apalta, another French owned winery with a production of 1.2 million bottles and 99.9% exported. We tasted the sauvignon blanc 2012;  the rosé syrah with a  beautiful orange hue; and the Las Niñas carmenere 2012, with a typical peppery, spicey aroma and taste; the Las Niñas Riserva syrah 2012, a steal at $11; and their icon Las Niñas 2007 from Apalta, a blend of cabernet, carmenere and merlot. The only negative about the tasting was that it was held outside in 95F weather and full sun, although there was a little protection from a bamboo canopy.

Were we ever happy to get back to our hotel’s swimming pool!

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