On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Errazuriz Zoom Tasting

24 Apr 2021

(November 2020) …

An Overview ... Errazuriz is a wine company that dates back to 1870 in Chile and founded by Don Maximiano - a name that still appears prominently on their wines and labels in one form or another – plus, fun fact, the Errazuriz family has been the source of four Chilean presidents. In 1873 they release their first wine. In the 1890's the winery has 700 hectares under vine and is the world's largest privately held vineyard.

The winery has not always been in operation, because of the socialist government regulations from 1933 into the 70's the winery closed its doors and was not fully resurrected until 1983, when Edouardo Chadwick joined his father who then handed him the keys to the winery. it is then that the winery really took off with new ideas and a new vision under this new leadership. At that time the winery was re-opened it was a small 10 hectare farm, today it's a 500 hectare winery based in the Aconcagua Valley.

Today’s tasting is with Francisco Baettig, and as luck would have it, Edouardo joins in - during the times of Co-Vid it's amazing the kind of time one has on one's hands that one would not have during busier (read: more normal). The tasting consists of three wines (two from 2018 and a 2017) plus an overview of the “extraordinary” 2018 vintage.

2018 in Chile...

Aconcagua Valley

Considering that Chile is one of the best places to grow grapes on the planet, it’s impressive to hear a winemaker to make the statement "2018 is one of the best vintages in a long time, all factors and variations aligned,” said Francisco. Usually, January is blisteringly hot and vines have a tendency to shut down (more than once) but in 2018 January proved to be “moderate” with no real heat spikes, while February, March and April were average.

Today's three wine tasting started with a MAX - the new look for the former Max Reserva - and it is a beauty; followed by a new wine to the lineup MAX VIII and the flagship Don Maximiano.

Max - former reservaMAX 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
Considered one of the “best vintages in a along time”, which is saying something for Chile, a country that has great vintages all the time – this truly might be the best Max I have tried (and not just because it is under a new name – changed from Max Reserve midway through the 2018 vintage).  Dominated by dark fruit with a little floral and some cocoa notes – nice complexity with a long finish.  Rating: ****+
LCBO 335174 ...

See the video review here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-FPn4xNY6g

MAX VIII 2018 Max Viii
Takes its name from the vineyards the grapes come from - the grapes are sourced from all eight of the Errazuriz vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley. The blend is 43% Syrah followed by 15% each of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Carmenere, 8% Grenache and 7% Mourvedre; aged 16 months in French oak (only 28% new). The wine itself comes across smooth with lots of red fruit - the acidity keeps it lively and fresh with some delicate floral notes on the nose; the palate is well rounded with white pepper contributing yet another verse in this cacophony of aromas of flavours. The tannins are present, but they seem to lie more on the silky side than on the gritty side ... It's a layered and lovely wine destined to get better over the next three to five years.  Rating: ****

Don Maximiano 2017
From the very hot 2017 vintage which was a concentrated and early vintage which Francesco called "extreme” ... The Maximiano used to be a Cabernet Sauvignon only wine, but has now transitioned into a Cabernet Sauvignon blend - this version contains 12% Malbec, 8% Carmenere, 7% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc, aged 22 months in French oak (72% new). Over the two days I tried this wine it never seemed to come together - starting out leathery, smokey and herbal ... The tannins come across as firm with lots of dark fruit backing, but there is a real grip to the wine with a real leathery finish; plus burnt coffee bean and cedar. It comes across harsh and my fear is that it never does fully realize itself to reach its full potential due to that extreme vintage (and that whack of new oak). Time will tell, but I reserve judgment and score at this time ... Maybe if I taste a bottle again in 5 years or so I'll have a better handle on things. But right now, I think the combination of both the extreme vintage and the maximal use of oak has hurt this wine for the long run.
No score at this time


Kingsman Port from Taylor Fladgate

13 Apr 2021

(February 2021) … The Kingsmen movie has been delayed and with it a special edition Port wine from Taylor Fladgate - the movie features the Port and since the movie is set in the 1920s Taylor felt it needed to reflect the time period in its tie-in beverage.Test Tube Wine

With more than 10,000 casks in their library it was not hard for Taylor to dig deep for what they were looking for. The average age of the Kingsman Edition Port is about 90 years ... The oldest casks they used were approximately 100 years old - using those for the richness they were looking for; the "youngest" casks held 70-year-old port wine - used to keep the "freshness and balance" (funny that 70-year-old port is considered "fresh", but when you are looking also at 100-year-old barrels and looking to produce an average age of 90 - 70 does seem fresh and new).

The release of the film is a moving target and trying to stay away from the juggernaut that will be the new 007 movie (set at time of tasting for spring 2021) - so Kingsman should hit some time in the fall (now December 2021). 1,000 bottles of this limited / special edition Port have been made for the worldwide market - approximately 100 will be directed to Canada, will retail for around $5,000 and come in special packaging - pictured below.

As for what a 90-year-old tawny port tastes like:

First, if you're looking for fruit, it's mostly non-existent, but there is plenty of fig, pecan pie and nutty character including hazelnuts and almonds. Palate is thick and rich with burnt caramel and even a hint of mocha latte notes. Interesting to also note is that the acidity is really tight and on-point.

More Port Reviews …

Taylor Fladgate 10-Year-Old Tawny
$35.95 - #121749
This thick and tasty popular port has the mouthfeel, taste and aroma of a 10-year-old port - which is to say the fruit is still alive and kicking with a mix of dried and fresh cherry, plus great backing acidity and a long sweet finish.  (****)

Taylor's 20-Year-Old Tawny
$69.95 - #149047
The 20-Year has consistently been my favorite of the Tawnies over the years, and once again it delivers: that dried cherry note comes roaring through and it's definitely less syrupy than the 10-Year; plus, those dried fruits turn a little towards the nutty (hazelnuts and almonds), there has even been some development towards fig and date notes for good measure. Acidity keeps this from going over the top sweet.  (****+)

Taylor's 2015 LBV (Late Bottled Vintage)
$18.90 - #46946
My first love in the Port world was late bottled vintage port and when made well they can also age a pretty long time. A good LBV has all the great lush fruit, some cool secondary characteristics and finishes with balancing acidity ... The 2015 delivers on the black cherry, cassis, blackberry and plum - it's a fresh, lively and dark fruited affair plus there are some smokey and licorice nuances all leading to a long finish that bursts the fruit bubble with a good acid punch.  (****+)

Croft 2017 Vintage Port
$128.00 - #12082
It always breaks my heart to open a Vintage Port before it's time - it feels like I'm committing infanticide ... This beauty Vintage is rough and rugged around the outside (read: tannins), but has a great fruit core that will have this delivering in 10 / 20 or even 30 years, depending on your patience level. Coffee, mocha and licorice start the palate and nose off before layering in blackberry, black plum, black cherry and even a touch of vanilla - it drinks well now but will really reward time on its side, as it definitely has time on its side.  (****+)


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