Impressive Chilean red
I've become such a fan of Argentina and its excellent, affordable wines that I occasionally need a gentle reminder not to forget the other side of South America's Andes. Of course Chile makes fine and affordable wines, too, and the recent arrival here of an unusual Chilean red called Nomad puts an exclamation point on the end of that sentence.
Earthy and ripe, with nuances of smoke and meat that echo similar characteristics in fine Syrah-based wines from the Northern Rhone, it's an unusual and appealing red, with extracted fruit, perceptible oak and alcoholic power that evoke "internationalized" New World reds, but it's salvaged by subtle earth and nuance and complexity that make it a winner, and a real value at a mid-teens price.
Now for the bad news: Only 1,100 cases were made, most of them apparently destined for U.S. export. There's virtually no information about Nomad online, and I have no idea how a stash of it turned up in Louisville, Ky. Normally I try not to tantalize you with difficult-to-find rarities, but this one is just offbeat and appealing enough that I thought you'd pardon an exception. Even if you can't find the 2004 vintage now, it's worth filing the name "Nomad" away, in the happy event that you run into it in later vintages.
Putting together bits and pieces from extensive Google-searching, Nomad appears to be a Chilean venture by American wine makers T.J. Evans, who has made wine at Alderbrook and La Crema wineries, and Jeffrey Jarvis, who owns a small California vineyard. It's imported by Jessica Tomei, who also makes white wines at a Chilean winery called Porta, which appears to be a sibling of Nomad's within a larger Chilean parent corporation, Corpora.
If you can find it, it comes with my strong buy recommendation at this price. And if you know any more about the wine or its producers than I do, please drop me a note and let me know!
Nomad 2004 Chile Red Wine ($16)
This opaque wine is an inky, shiny patent-leather black color almost all the way to the dark-garnet edge. Earthy black-fruit aromas blend ripe plums with smoke and raw beef. Mouth-filling plum and spice flavors are juicy and full, with crisp acidity providing good structure. Fresh fruit and a whiff of woodsmoke linger in the finish. Oak is evident, but it's handled well and doesn't dominate the fruit. This may sound like an international-style, "Mondovino" wine that would normally repel me, but it's not: Complexity and balance and subtle earthiness save it from mere "fruit bomb" status and make it an interesting, if offbeat, table wine. U.S. importer: Jessica Tomei, Camino, Calif. (July 3, 2006)
FOOD MATCH: Its rather exotic complexity made it a fine companion with a Chinese-style dish of stir-fried beef and onions with Asian spices. Structure and smoky-meaty notes would also make it as natural a choice as a hearty red Rhone with grilled red meat.
VALUE: It's a fine value in the middle teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: This sturdy blend of ageworthy grapes ought to hold up well for several years, and I wouldn't rule out its evolving into something a bit more delicate with cellar time.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006