We love when our space bustles with the sounds of intrigued guests chatting with talented wine producers. When it happens, you practically feel the knowledge and passion pumping through the air.
Friday was one of those times.
From 11am until 8:38pm (give or take), some of Chile’s most forward thinking, adventurous, and hardest working winemakers made Grand Cata their homebase for the release of Descordachos. For those of you unfamiliar, Descorchados is the preeminent guide to understanding South American wines. First published in 1999 with 600 wine’s reviewed (all from Chile), the 2018 edition highlights over 4,500 wines from Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and, of course, Chile.
To celebrate the US release of the book, we broke the day into two events. In the morning, from 11am until 3pm, we allowed members of the wine industry and press in the DC area to come discover some of the best wines and producers the book covers. Then for a few hours, we were open as normal, until 5pm, when we reshuffled the producers and opened the event to the public.
Before we get into our highlights, we want to thank everyone who came to the event for two reasons. First, for trusting in Grand Cata to introduce you to the types of South American wines that will change even the most skeptical drinker’s mind about the continent’s ability to produce world-class wines. And second, for creating such an inviting and engaging atmosphere for the winemakers that made the trip to our shop. They had been all around the globe, and all around the country, and each one of them told us afterwards that Grand Cata brought out the most interested and open-minded crowd they experienced on the entire tour. After nearly a month of jet-setting and trying to get people to drop their biases about Chilean wines, it was a welcome surprise to them to have the opportunity to pour their wines for people who needed no such convincing. Thank you!
Here are (some) of our highlights. We could easily wax poetic about each and every wine that was poured last Friday. If you had a favorite we didn’t cover here, don’t think it’s because we didn’t also love it!
Apaltagua Carmenere-Syrah Rose - We chose their rose because a) it was the only one there and b) it stole the show. Made up of almost entirely carmenere, with a touch of syrah, the wine exuded a freshness and zip that made it irresistible. Think grapefruit, tangerine and a touch of strawberry all steeped in fresh mountain spring water.
Meli Riesling - This has been a favorite of ours at the shop for a while now. Lovers of Alsacian riesling will love this bone dry beaut. It has just the right level of the classic “old pickup truck” aroma counterbalanced by apricot and lemon zest.
Meli Dueño de la Luna - This wine is great, but it’s the story behind it that got everyone talking. It’s one you couldn’t make up if you tried!
After the first moon landing, a Chilean man petitioned the Chilean government to claim that he owned the moon. At the time, legally, the government had to visit the land to determine whether or not any claim of ownership was valid. Needless to say, they couldn’t make it to the moon, so they had to legally recognize his claim! At least in the eyes of the Chilean government, he was literally “El Dueño de la Luna,” or “The Owner of the Moon.”
Garage Wine Co. in General - Picking one of Garage’s wines over another is a pretty futile activity. They are all so incredible, so expressive, and so unique, that to claim one is “better” than the other is kinda silly. So you know what? We won’t! Instead, we’ll shed some light on some secrets behind their killer wines.
Derek Mossman Knapp, the winemaker and the one who made the trip for the event, pointed out a very interesting approach they take. Instead of thinking in terms of percentages, they instead think in terms of barrels. As an example, if a batch of wine wine fills 15 barrels, they break that down into the different types of barrels used, what wine with what characteristics went into each, and so on. They also have a fascinating practice of removing any barrels they describe as “too loud in the crowd.” In other words, barrels that are just too different from the rest. This ensures the batch as a uniformity and balance to it.
Instead of wasting them, though, they take all these “loud” barrels from different batches and combine them into a solera-like system at the back of their winery they call “la perversidad.” Sadly, the wines they bottle from this system don’t make it to the US. Derek blames the American public for being too prude for a wine called “Perversity.”
P.S. Garcia (again, in general)
All three of the wines from these guys can best be summed up as “wow.” The Bravado is big, loud, intense and fun. In musical terms, it’s like raging at a rock concert. The Facundo, on the other hand, is cerebral, harmonious, and precise, like listening to Chopin performed by a transcendent concert pianist. And the Vigno? Almost too complex and ever-evolving for the venue of a tasting. Drinking a bottle would be like reading a great novel.
All of the wine made with País - No grape represents the “New Chile” wines better than país. After spending 150 years being shunned as a fine wine grape, producers over the last decade have discovered just how fresh, elegant, funky, fun, drinkable and down-right delicious wines made with país can be.
We couldn’t get enough of the Las Veletas País-Cinsault blend. The definition of elegant, this is not an outspoken wine. To truly appreciate it’s flavors, you need to serve it chilled and drink it by the pool with a good book.
Equally as delicious, though quite different wines, were the Las Escaleras País and País Viejo. The name “Escaleras” refers to the ladders necessary to harvest the grapes, which wrap around trees in the vineyards, rather than being trellised. This practice was once quite common in Europe, but today you see it almost nowhere. The resulting wines were wild, refreshing, slightly smokey and a touch spicy, with flavors of wild berries and crab apple.
Again, thank you to everyone that came out and made the Descorchados release party so incredibly fun and informative. If you have any questions about anything you tried that day, please reach out! Chao!