Monday, March 2, 2020

Los Vascos Wine Lunch @ Occidental

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Known as the "Napa Valley of Chile," the Colchagua Valley is one of South America's most promising wine regions. I got to try Chilean-born and French-inspired wine from this region today by Los Vascos Wines from Domaines Barons de Rothschild  (Lafite), a Taub Family Wine Selections brand.  Los Vascos is the largest single property in the region and known for its fine Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère varieties. We were invited to a lunch at Occidental with Los Vascos' General Manager Claudio Naranjo, who explained the history and variations offered by the Los Vascos label.

We were greeted with a taste of 2019 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc, which is made from grapes purchased on long term contracts with growers in the Casablanca Valley. The color was a very pale yellow and offered a bouquet of lemon and grapefruit giving a lively, refreshing palate.  It was a lovely start.

Image via Lafite
Claudio explained Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) took over the Los Vascos estate (Los Vascos meaning The Basques, in honor of its Basque origins) in 1988 because of its location near the ocean and its exceptional soil. Along with ideal weather conditions, Los Vascos benefits from intense exposure to the sun, adequate water sources, semi-arid soils and little risk of frost. For the wines, a period of transition followed, the grapes from the young vines abounded with adolescent vigor and during the early 2000s this wild "force of nature" had to be tamed in the winemaking process. Gradually the young Cabernet Sauvignon vines settled down as they matured and techniques evolved as their understanding of the Chilean terroir increased. In parallel, a detailed analysis of the terroirs with older vines enabled their potential to be identified and the Grand Vins to be developed.  We would be sampling each style of wine poured by Occidental's Beverage Director Josh McCabe paired with today's offerings from Executive Chef Rodeny Scruggs.

For our first course we ate an Hors d'Oeuvres Trio of a mini crab cake, buttermilk chicken tartlet, and a risotto croquette.  This was paired with the 2019 Los Vascos Rosé made from grapes which are pressed immediately after harvesting. This preserves the freshness, the fruity aromas and the bright color brought of the juice straight from the vineyard.  This wine was tart with a strong nose of melon and strawberry.

For our second course, we enjoyed the She Crab & Corn Bisque with jumbo lump crab meat, sherry gel, Old Bay croutons, and micro greens.  This soup was presented elegantly and was quite rich.  We paired this soup with the 2019 Los Vascos Chardonnay that had fresh acidity which really cut through the richness of the soup. The nose offers an explosion of aromas with notes of melon, banana, grapefruit and exotic fruit.

Next, I ate the Housemade Ravioli stuffed with Yukon Gold potato and parmesan, with Swiss Chard, Italian butter emulsion and shaved black truffles.  Keith enjoyed the Boneless Braised Beef Short Ribs with King Oyster mushrooms, buttered leeks, creamy polenta and marrow sauce.  He found the flavors to taste more like corned beef, but found the dish hearty and satisfying.  We paired this course with three reds:  2017 Los Vascos Carmenère Grande Reserve - this unique wine is aged for 12 months in French barrels and has strong notes of black pepper and smoked chili powder and an ink-like feel on the palate; the 2018 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon has ripe fruit, fresh aromas, and a supple, full-bodied structure. This wine has a sparkling ruby red color and a pleasantly fruity nose with aromas of black cherries, raspberries and plums, all with a hint of spice and chocolate; and the 2016 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve - a 91 point wine characterized by the complexity and persistence of its bouquet of cherries and blackcurrants with subtle notes of tobacco and hazelnut.  It had a bit more depth than the regular cab.

Finally, we tried the 2015 Le Dix de Los Vascos. In commemoration of 10 years of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)’s work in Chile, Le Dix was created as their first "grande cuvée". Originating from 70-year-old vines located in the terroir known as "El Fraile", this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (more than 85%), Syrah, and Carmenère is of exceptional complexity, balance and elegance, with powerful tannins and aromas of very ripe fruit accentuated by spicy notes of cedar, laurel and eucalyptus. Awarded 95 points and priced just under $75 a bottle, it was my favorite wine of the lunch!  We paired it with a beautiful dessert called Milk Chocolate Dome with a croquant center, white chocolate mirror glaze, and raspberry yuzu gel.

All in all, I certainly experienced the authentic passion of the Lafite label's Los Vascos wines.  They were all very aromatic with unique personalities, approachable price points (most $10-15 except for Le Dix), and it was an honor to enjoy them personally with the jovial and personable Claudio.  Cheers!

1 comment:

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