The Mill City Oenophiles Club made its spring debut earlier this month, sampling an impressive array of five summer wines from Argentina, Chile and Italy's Venezia Giulia region.
Four of the wines -- two rosés, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon -- are discussed in this article. The fifth wine tasted, a Sauvignon Blanc, proved to be such an outlier with this grouping that it will be discussed in a later column dealing with the varietal.
Everyone's palate is different. We all have unique preferences, so just because one person might be cool to a certain bottling doesn't mean the wine is lacking in quality.
As tasters -- or consumers -- gain experience and knowledge, they discover and appreciate the "markers" that make up a well-crafted wine. Price point makes no difference when you discover a wine that is enjoyable. In a nutshell, that is the group's simple philosophy and should be yours, too.
The following wines range from $10 to $16 and are available at most wine outlets.
Montes Cherub Rosé 2016, Chile: This Syrah-Grenache blend topped the tasting with an average score of 21.4 points. The color was fascinating -- "coral" was the popular choice -- and set the tone for a relaxing image of sitting by the seashore with a chilled glass of Cherub in your hand. "Perfect for a summer day," gushed Chris Lisinski, who raved about the apple, strawberry flavors and "sweet to tart" dry finish. Kori Tuitt "loved" the peach flavor, tartness and floral scent.
I found the Syrah-Grenache blend to be vibrant, clean and elegant. The grapes are from prized vineyards in Montes' "El Arcangel" estate in the Marchique Valley. The winemaker suggests pairing Cherub with sushi, salmon with mushroom sauce, paella, and pasta with shrimp salad.
Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato 2015, Venezia Giulia: "Ramato" means coppery in Italian, and this Pinot Grigio picks up its distinctive hue from a longer maceration process in which juice from the pressed grapes sits on the skins for 24 hours. It enhances color and fruit extract while lending a weightier mouthfeel than normal for grape. This is an IGT category wine, meaning winemakers are given more flexibility in creating innovative wines outside of the more restrictive DOCG/DOC regulations. "Ramato" is fermented in steel tanks and sees just a touch of oak. It received an average score of 17 points. Amaris Castillo liked it best, awarding it 24 points for its balanced acidity, "tangy" sensation and "citrus-coated" flavors.
I picked up on its mild floral aromas, melon flavors and crisp, clean dry finish. The marked acidity makes this a good food wine, even with pasta and red sauce.
Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2015, Chile: This bright cherry-colored Pinot Noir was smooth, supple and filled with ripe strawberry and cherry flavors. Its average score was 21.3 points, and three panelists made it their top choice. "Feels nice on the tongue. It grew on me after not enjoying the first sip," said Rick Sobey. It certainly did. This is a nicely layered red with simple yet intriguing nuances that mount in the mouth. "Hazelnut aromas, tangy flavors with a creamy texture," was Alana Melanson's take. Lisinski hit on the "tart cherry" profile, "silkier body" and "dry spice" finish.
According to the winemaker, the best grapes are selected in two stages for this Pinot Noir. There is a pre-fermentation of whole berries that produces a light juice, followed by seven days of yeast-inspired fermentation. The wine is removed from steel tanks and the berries, left behind, are lightly pressed. The resulting juice, higher in extract, is judiciously added to the original wine where it undergoes final fermentation. In my book, it's well crafted and was my top pick overall.
Kaiken Terroir Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina: This was the most powerful wine tasted and generated the most discussion. The tannins are firm -- one taster remarked that they felt like "sandpaper on my tongue" -- and probably this wine needs a bit more time in the bottle to smooth out. However, others saw the "grip-grabbing" component as a sign of muscle, which Kaiken's Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits. It finished with an average score of 20 points, but two tasters -- Melanson and myself -- really enjoyed it and awarded it 24 points. She said, "Full-bodied, big blackberry notes, savory with a velvety finish." I said, "Rich core of black fruit with hints of plum and chocolate. Good intensity." The grapes are from a single vineyard, Vistaflores, located over 3,000 feet above sea level where sunny exposures ripen the fruit to their full potential. The winemaker adds Malbec (12 percent) and Petit Verdot (8 percent) to the blend, boosting structure and spicy expressions.
This wine actually softened in the glass, so I would suggest a 20-minute decanting before letting it rip with a grilled ribeye steak or barbecued ribs.
The Oeniphiles Club consists of Sun staff members with an affinity for wine. The tasters for this session -- the fourth since early 2016 -- were reporters Amaris Castillo, Alana Melanson, Kori Tuitt, Chris Lisinski and Rick Sobey. I served as moderator/taster.
Tasters review the wines on a 1-to-5 scale (5 being highest) in five categories (25 total points) -- appearance (color), aroma (nose), body (texture), taste and finish.
They also make personal notes on each wine. These comments -- more than numbers -- reveal what the taster truly experiences. They are contained in the accompanying article.