Fall is definitely on the horizon. There is a discernible dip in temperature and, pretty soon, leaves will begin to fall from the trees like snowflakes and pumpkins will pop up on porches throughout the neighborhood.
There is just something about the onset of Autumn that resets my palate, sliding the meter on my taste buds oh-so-gently from white wines to red wines.
However, I want to acclimate my tongue and ease into the red wine season with something that is charming-yet-sturdy, commanding-yet-elegant.
Pinot Noir is the perfect wine for the job.
Many winemakers will agree that the Pinot Noir grape is one of the most difficult varieties to grow and vinify, due in part to its thin skin and persnickety nature. While true, the trouble is worth the reward, because when Pinot Noir is good, it’s great. And when it’s great — well, it just doesn’t get any better.
I have to admit, when I think of Pinot Noir, Chile was not the first country that came to mind as a powerhouse producer of the finicky grape. However, over the last two decades, the South American country has exploded onto the Pinot stage with delicious wines at affordable prices.
With 3,000 miles of coastline to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, and the Antarctic to the south, Chile’s long, narrow geography has created a natural barrier that has resulted in one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world. Free from most pests, including Phylloxera (which has ravaged vines throughout the world), most producers have no need to spray any pesticides, making it quite easy to farm organically.
A significant amount of production is located within the central valley, which stretches from the Maipo Valley, the closest wine region to Santiago, south 155 miles to the Maule Valley. Areas in the far north, as well as the two coastal regions of Casablanca and San Antonio, are carving out their niche for cool climate varieties that include Pinot Noir, and the Cono Sur Vineyards and Winery is leading the way.
Cono Sur was developed around the first Pinot Noir vines planted in the Colchagua Valley where the cool climate and fertile soil were a perfect match for the variety. It soon became the flagship grape for the winery.
During a recent virtual tasting of three pinot noirs, led by winemaker Matias Rios, it became clear that Cono Sur’s goal of producing some of the finest wines in Chile is right on track.
2019 Cono Sur Bicicleta Reserva
The fragrant nose features a bouquet of mushroom and forest floor while the palate exhibits savory flavors of plum and dark cherry. There is just a hint of mineral on the plush finish that really brings all of the flavors into balance. Enjoy with aged cheeses. $8
2019 Cono Sur Organic Pinot Noir
This bright and lively Pinot Noir made from organic grown grapes from the Santa Elisa Estate (60%) and Campo Lindo Estate (40%). It has good aromatic intensity with notes of berries such as cherry and raspberry with well-incorporated hints of wood. On the palate it has a medium concentration and is round, well-balanced, juicy and persistent. Pairs well with salmon, poultry, and mature cheeses. $11
2018 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir Valle de Casablanca
This bright lively ruby red Pinot Noir is noted for its elegance and great intensity, displaying notes of sour cherries, raspberries, plum and hints of toast. On the palate it is fresh and juicy with the perfect amount of acidity. With smooth, long voluptuous tannins, this wine pairs well with fresh tuna, duck and pasta. $25
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