The modest country stylings at Vina von Siebenthal in Panquehue
Chile’s wine business is dominated by producers that could charitably be described as “corporate.” Its movements are almost exclusively set by a small number of very, very large production houses.
In that environment, 30 hectares of vineyards – which comprises the entire holdings of Viña von Siebenthal – is basically a rounding error.
I was first exposed to the benevolently pernicious undercurrent of Chile’s micro-production wine brands (and to von Siebenthal itself) when I first visited the country in 2011, and was able to spend some time tasting the wares the independent vintners of MOVI. So I was piqued (and thirsty) when I saw that von Siebenthal was on the list of producers I was to visit for my return media jaunt to Chile late last year.
The brand began as a passion project of its eponymous Swiss founder, über-wine-consumer Mauro von Siebenthal, who at the age of forty decided to retire from his “adult” carrier (in law) and give the wine business a go (hey, this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). In 1998, he planted ten hectares in Panquehue in Chile’s Aconcagua Valley, building a modest winery building (which is easy to miss, as it looks exactly like a number of Chilean country houses in the area) two years later.
Mauro von Siebenthal has described his winemaking philosophy (assisted by Doña Paula and Santa Rita alumnus Stefano Gandolini) in similarly modest terms, as “interpreting each meter of land.” I loved that description, because it both betrays Swiss cultural fastidious while promising the potential for uniqueness across the portfolio. Fortunately, that’s precisely what you find – precision and uniqueness – when you taste through his wines…
When you’re the “wine guy,” the one that everyone kind of expects to hit it out of the park when you bring wine to a party, what’s the vinous game plan when you’re invited to holiday dinner parties to ring in the new year?
In a word, ringers.
You grab items from the sample pool that you know (or, at least, are reasonably certain) are going to be high quality, and likely will go over well with everyone.
You bring the good juice.
Which is, unsurprisingly, precisely what I did.
There’s more to this little story than gee-whiz-the-wines-were-pricey-but-really-great, however. The reason I picked these – and in one case, it was an inaugural release – is that the brands themselves are proven quantities. So, get your saliva glands geared up, and let’s dive into the high-end of the sample pool, shall we?…
Celebrating the Beaujolais Nouveau release, Burgundy style, in NYC
The term “vintage of the century” has been tossed around like confetti by the French lately (though we can forgive them, I suppose, given the hella-bad weather some of their regions have been suffering in the last couple of vintages). It’s become more of an eye-roll-inducing a phrase than “private email server.”
And so it’s with a bit of uncharacteristic understatement that I use the term in reference to 2015 in the humble hamlet of Beaujolais. Yeah, that place that churns out the Nouveau stuff. The fact of the matter is, 2015 was probably an actual vintage of the century for Beaujolais.
Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé
I got a quick crash course in this when I was invited last month to NYC, to a dinner celebrating the release of Georges Duboeuf’s 2016 Nouveau (ok, quit the eye-rolling, it’s tasty, quaffable stuff when in the hands of folks who know what they’re doing with it… their 2016 Nouveau is fruity, fresh, clean, and delicious enough that you could mistake it for Beaujolais Villages blind).
Anyway, it was during that trip (thankfully before the dinner and after-parties) that I got to sit down with Franck Duboeuf, who walked me through several of their more substantial 2015 Cru area wines. Frank is well-steeped in the vino of the family business; he and his father taste with two oenologists, twice a day. The volume? “50 samples, minimum,” he told me; “after 40 years, we don’t have to talk.”
While Franck is a bit on the mild-mannered side, his family’s 2015 Cru releases did a crap ton of talking, and those who love good Cru Beauj ought to be listening. Closely. Because this vintage is putting the game in Gamay, and the beau in Beaujolais…
It’s been a little while since I was a guest on the eminently entertaining and perennially NSFW We Like Drinking podcast, so I was all-in when they asked me to join a cadre of Jeffs (show hosts Jeff Eckles and Jeff Solomon, and former-Philly-wine-guy Jeff Kralik) for their 98th episode.
Now, since this was a virtual drinking session, we of course all brought some libations. And given my recent deep dive into the world of Port, I thought it only fitting to sip (ok, maybe a bit more than sip) some Portuguese elixir during the WLD podcast…
One thing’s for sure about Quinta de la Rosa, they like their wines bold, but fresh, fruity, and decidedly un-cloying, even in the realm of their dessert wines. Such is the case with their 20 Year Tawny Port, aged in both 550L old oak pipes and tonels, which (true to form with their other Port offerings) is vividly brighter in color than most other Tawnies, and decidedly fresh in its palate vibrancy. Don’ get me wrong, we’re still talking about a pecan pie pairing wine, but even in its dried-fig-iness there are fresher fig and plum aromas and flavors peeking out.
Other than a slightly less oxidized profile, you get everything that you’d expect from an aged Tawny: palate richness, powerful alcoholic presence, baking spices, toasted almonds, liqueur and caramel notes. It’s just all delivered in a mouthfeel that has a lot more lift than one might expect, and, I’d bet, would be dangerously easy to imbibe for anyone within arm’s length distance of an open bottle.
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