South to North
Wrapping up this week of South American tastings, we underscore the increasingly global nature of fine wine as we turn to an exceptional, affordable Chilean red made by a top-notch wine maker based in ... California.
The wine is Terra Rosa ("Red Earth"), and the producer is Laurel Glen, one of my consistent favorite California wineries for both quality and value, ranging from its flagship Laurel Glen Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at the high end to its usually amiable REDS blend in the budget department, with the excellent Counterpoint Cabernet and other good things in between.
Terra Rosa, originally a modest California Cabernet designed for affordable enjoyment while you waited for your Laurel Glen Cabernet to mature, moved from North to South in 1995, if memory serves, when the rising price of first-rate California fruit made it difficult for wine maker Patrick Campbell to continue making a modest California wine of the quality he insisted upon at a consumer price he considered reasonable.
Starting in 1995, then, Laurel Glen's Terra Rosa became a Chilean wine, produced in South America under Campbell's supervision for sale in the U.S. Over ensuing years, depending on the availability of quality grapes, it was sometimes made in Chile, sometimes in Argentina, and often (as in 2001), separate bottlings came from both countries. With the coming 2002 vintage, I'm told, all Terra Rosa production will be from Mendoza in Argentina. Today's featured wine, the 2001 Terra Rosa from Chile's Valle Central, will be the last from that source.
Campbell plans to visit my home town next week, by the way, and if all goes as planned, I'll meet up with him, taste some wine, and bring you a detailed report on his latest efforts by the end of the week.
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Laurel Glen 2001 "Terra Rosa" Valle Central (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.99)
This dark-garnet wine shows classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromas, blackcurrant with subtle herbal notes and a discreet whiff of spice. Ripe and juicy fruit flavors follow the nose, properly balanced with crisp acidity and backed by a significant level of smooth but apparent tannins that suggest aging potential. U.S. importer: Laurel Glen Winery, Santa Rosa, Calif. (July 22, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Rare beef is the choice for tannic Cabernets, and a natural, grass-fed and dry-aged ribeye steak from a local producer turned a modest bottle of wine into a celebration.
VALUE: Exceptional quality for the $10 range, competitive with New World Cabernets at double the price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Abundant fruit well-balanced by fresh acidity, with serious tannins to back them up: This is the formula for a wine that should develop and improve in the cellar for up to a decade. Certainly enjoyable now, but the edgy tannins make it better suited for the table than casual sipping.
WEB LINK: Laurel Glen's page featuring Terra Rosa is here:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Check vendors and prices for Terra Rosa on Wine-Searcher.com,
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Friday, July 23, 2004