While Carménère is Chile’s signature grape, it is still grown in limited quantities in California and Washington, and used primarily as a blending grape adding hints of smoke, spice and herbs to its blending partner. Few area wineries produce a Carménère varietal wine. Among those are Anelare, Cooper Wine Company, Trio Vintners and Smasne Cellars, all of whom graciously donated wines for this unique event.
Four Washington wines were paired with 4 Chilean Carménères and served 2 at a time in a blind-tasting format. Members were able to experience young and more mature wines from each region as vintages included 2009, 2011 and 2012. Winemakers talked about differences in terroir and winemaking styles, and attendees were challenged to identify which was a Washington wine. Price-points, ranging from under $20 to more than $80 a bottle, were not revealed so as not to influence the taster’s perception. Ironically, although Carménère is Chile’s signature grape, only one of the Chilean wines was 100-percent Carménère while all 4 from Washington were 100-percent varietal wines. The effect, for example, that 8% Petit Verdot had on one Chilean wine was easily discernable.
Although the flavor profiles varied from wine to wine – red fruits, and cranberry to blackberry pie and boysenberry – Carménère’s trademark hints of herbs, sweet spices, crushed pepper and earth was consistently present. Modest tannins, and just enough acidity to carry the fruit and spice to a nice finish, were also common across the wines tasted.
The evening started with members enjoying the view from the patio of Anelare’s new tasting room and a glass of 2013 Nonna Viola white wine, compliments of our hosts, Forrest and Kahryn Alexander, managing partners at Anelare, and their tasting room manager, Kim Gravenslund.
Anelare’s chef and sommelier “Uncle Earl” Smart provided a nice mix of appetizers and heartier food, including grilled lamb kebabs with a homemade Chilean sauce crafted to represent the tasting profile of Carménère, and a gorgonzola soup, which according to the comment cards received, was an event highlight.
The comment cards also revealed that pairing differing wine styles in a blind-tasting format along with having experts speak made this a unique, interesting and highly educational evening. Further, Carménère will now be found on many more Mid-Columbia dinner tables!
Finally, it was a pleasure working with this event’s organizer and chairman, Scott Abernethy, committee member Randy Schreiner, and winemakers Neil Cooper and Robert Smasne.