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Don Melchor sampling brings back lovely memories

November 28, 2016

I hope all my wino pals and palettes enjoyed a Mahvelous Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for in the USA. 

When RP reviewed the $25 Cab Obsidian Ridge, from a Lake County vineyard high up in the Mayacamas in the Red Hills AVA, with 93 points, I knew I should take a look. RP rarely anoints a $25 Cab, let alone from Lake County, with so many points. In this case he was on the money. Cali Cab oenophiles are well aware of the gems of the Mayacamas Mountains in Napa such as Diamond Creek, Ladera, Barnett Pride, Mt. Veeder and Lokoya, but most are unaware the range extends into Lake County, where the Cabernets grown at higher elevations are excellent.

The 2013 are very dark ruby colored; they open to black fruit, licorice, and barrel-driven pie spice and vanillin. The nose resolves on the palate to black and blue berries, with more oak (they spent 36 months in oak), and licorice barrel flavors plus a touch of smoke. The whole rides a well-balanced frame with soft tannins through a several-minute finish. Although the 2013 is approachable, it will continue to improve on your shelf until at least 2023. My friends, if Obsidian Ridge Cab was “Rudy Kurniawan-ed,” the scribes would be raving and the price would be in the $100s; 95 McD with 2 QPR points. Don’t look for huge price appreciation but just an excellent drinking wine at a very fair price point.

My friends at Creative Palate, Kate and Jane were able to convince Concha y Toro to provide a lovely bottle of Don Melchor 2012. Don Melchor may be the top Chilean Cab to review. I was reluctant to send the wine to an untimely demise by sampling it at such a tender age. However, the story ends well. Along with the wine came an impressive 3-page press package, where I learned that Don Melchor is a blend of wine from many diverse plots on the property.

They are vinified separately. After a maceration period, the best of them are blended to be sent for barrel aging in French oak. I was sorely tempted to plagiarize their copy, cellaring the wine to its suggested maturity before savoring it. As you know, Concha is one of my favs. I placed a case of the initial 1987 release of Don Melchor in the cellar in 1990 on son Daniel’s birthday. Sadly they are gone ... but unforgotten. Barbara and I were initiated into Concha y Toro at the WS extravaganza wine show in NYC in the ‘80s. The exact date escapes me. Eventually the Garden Gourmet list collected an eight-bottle vertical of their lovely wine. 2012 was hot and, although this was a delightful 92-point wine, it was not representative of their best.

The nose had raisin notes, along with plums, coffee and oak. They are ripe on the full, round palate, with black cherry, more plum, oak-driven vanilla, licorice and hints of dark chocolate. Drink through 2023. If you wish to try a more typical Don Melchor, take a look at the 2011. These are a better QPR and will also cellar much longer, 2030 IMO. Jancis said 18/20. While these will add to hearty red meat dishes, I prefer to drink them without the disruption of food flavors.

Agly Brothers Cotes du Roussilon 2010 are produced by the Laughtons of Jasper Hill, Australia fame and Michael Chapoutier; both are experts with Grenache and Syrah. It appears they “ain’t too bad” at finding old vine vineyards to score grapes, either. A very dark crimson, purple-colored, earthy wine, with ripe cherries, lavender, licorice, black raspberry and barrel spice nose; the palate repeats the cherries and spice but subtly adds in some blackberry and roast meat undertones.

The long, tannin-laden finish continues the blackberry, cherry, licorice flavors augmented with unsalted beef jerky. Drink now but should hold up for at least six more years.

These are a touch alcoholic at 15.5 percent, which also enhances the aromas and flavors. These will go especially well with venison, especially our big, fat, corn- and soybean-fed deer. If you drive at night, as I do, keep your eyes peeled. Some of these critters make Bambi’s dad look like Rudolph.