© by Sheral Schowe
It is always an easy task to find excellent varietal wines at high, bordering on ridiculous, prices. But the real challenge is to find high quality bargains. After several empirical experiences with $10 wines, I found a winning winery that clearly stands out above the rest.
Monterra Wines, from Monterey California, come from the San Bernabe Vineyards, next to the Salinas River. This is the largest contiguous vineyard site in the world with 14,000 acres, of which 8,500 are planted. This vineyard is truly special for more reasons than its sheer size. There are 22 distinct microclimates with 120 blocks of vines. Each of these blocks is farmed differently according to its average temperature, soil type, sun exposure, and drainage. With this much vineyard diversity, there are hundreds of options for individual wine grape varietals to meet their specific and unique requirements. Three of Monterra’s varietal wines are now available in the wine stores:
Monterra Chardonnay 1997, Monterey ($7.95). This is 89.5 percent chardonnay and 10.5 percent pinot blanc, which has been aged for 10 months in French and American oak barrels. The grapes were pressed within minutes of harvest in gentle bladder presses to preserve the flavors. This is a balanced, yet very complex wine, full of flavor and texture. Classic chardonnay flavors of apple, citrus, and melon with the influence of new, toasted oak fill the palate. Subtle tropical flavors such as pineapple and mango with a little butterscotch lingers on the finish. This wine is the recipient of several local and international awards as well as a four-star rating from the Restaurant Buying Guide.
Monterra Merlot 1996, Monterey ($7.95). A rich and flavorful Merlot which is soft and full on the palate with plenty of texture. The fruit flavors are black cherry, berry, blueberry, and cassis. There are berry, cedar, and spice on the finish. This is 80 percent merlot and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon which has been pressed in the vineyard and aged for 12 months in French and American oak.
Monterra Syrah 1996, Monterey ($7.95). This is softer yet bigger in texture and complexity than the merlot. It is velvety smooth, full, and chewy. The rich, deep color hints of the intense fruit flavors of blueberry and blackberry with a little black pepper and spice. It is a highly aromatic wine with supple tannins and a smooth, lingering finish.
Aug. 19, 1999