This was only the second time we've had a formal tasting of these wines (the last was in December 2008), and overall they showed very well, with solid, dark flavors, and an abundance of value. Indeed, none were over $20, with the winner a single-vineyard offering originally selling for $20, but picked up for $15 on sale. In second place was the mid-level effort by Montes, whose more expensive "Purple Angel" designated Carménère won the last time. The third place wine was made by the same winery as our winner, but was their regular, non-vineyard designated bottling.
First Place: Casa Silva Carménère Los Lingues Vineyard 2012 (Colchagua Valley). Mark immediately noted that it smells "like dolce de leche", while others described tomato, burnt sugar, vanilla, and coffee scents. JC felt that it was "a little more sophisticated", with David agreeing and finding "some elegance". Mark felt it was "something you would serve in a Rolls Royce", and was reminded of "a Coach bag". Good acidic lift, really well balanced, and pretty. Dark fruit on the finish, primarily blackberry, turning toasty, long and elegant. Everyone except Ali voted for this as thier favorite. Received 31 points. Andy's bottle. About $15.
Second Place: Montes Alpha Carménère Marchigue Vineyard 2007. David felt that it smelled "pretty", but Ali found it "funky", with Andy noting "Doc Martin sole". JC detected "gravel", while Ali described "grape flavoring". Andy chimed in with "dry erase marker, but also violets", and David found "freshly paved road, and then it rained". Others noted scents of Sambuca, black cherry, and tar. Flavors of cherry, plums, raisins, and caramel on a medium-bodied frame. Sweet tobacco, then charcoal on the finish, with nice balance. Ali later found some "artificial sweetener" notes. Good for the winter. Ali's favorite of the night. Received 23 points. David's bottle. About $18.
Third Place: Casa Silva Carménère Cuvée Colchagua 2012 (Colchagua Valley). Offered scents of coffee grounds, figs, cassis, wet dark soil, butterscotch, and maple syrup. Mark noted "peaches and coffee", while Kristin detected "Good n' Plenty". Smells inviting. Mark found it "soothing", and David felt that it "has a creaminess to it" and "a slight pleasant bitterness". Dark coffee, licorice, and black currant flavors. 14 points. JC's bottle. About $19.
Carmen Carménère Apalta Vineyard Gran Reserva 2011 (Colchagua Valley). A bit sweeter on the nose, with notes of lemon zest, epoxy glue, blueberries, and flowers. Ali found "black olive juice from the can". Almost juicy, but also tart, with Mark noting that it was "like a sour patch kid". Coffee flavors that are youthful overall. Improved with air, with more smoothness. David described it as "medicinal", while Ali felt it was "a Barbie wine". 12 points. Kristin's bottle. About $20.
In Situ Carménère Winemaker's Selection 2010 (Aconcagua Valley). The nose was very reminiscent of an oil slick, with Mark feeling it was "like going to Jiffy Lube". Other scents of blueberries, rubber, red licorice, cinnamon, graphite, and anise. Tasters found a menthol/eucalyptus note in the mouth, with a little bit of alcohol heat, moving to flavors of licorice and charcoal. Brown sugar, molasses, and smoke on the finish. Ali really disliked it, saying that it "makes me cringe". 4 points. Mark's bottle. About $14.
Calina Carménère Reserva 2012 (Maule Valley). Smells sweeter, like bubble gum, plus popcorn, new car, and a hint of musk/wet wood. Mark was reminded of "a ball field . . . like a combo of sweat, dirt, and candy". Ali described the candy as "Smarties". Kristin found "buttered popcorn" on the palate, while Mark felt that it "tastes like a communion wine". Ali summed up with "kind of dark, and then angular". Lighter in body than most. No points. Ali's bottle. About $12.