Before talking about the wine, here is a quick overview / refresher on the history of Carménère:
History of Carménère
The history of the Carménère varietal is as fascinating as it is happenstance! It was once one of the grapes in the Médoc region of Bordeaux. It served a similar purpose as Petit Verdot does today – producing a deep red ink on wines. It was one of the original six red grapes of Bordeaux. Carménère originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) which refers to the crimson color of the autumn foliage.
When the Phylloxera plague hit in 1867 destroying most of the vineyards in Europe, many thought the Carménère grape was extinct. It wasn’t until 150 years later that when it was discovered that Chile had preserved the Carménère grape thinking it was Merlot (from clippings planted from France). DNA confirmed that it was the missing 6th varietal of Bordeaux.
Carménère grows mainly in Chile, specifically the Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley and in the Maipo Province. It is also grown in the Veneto region of Italy, and recently several wineries in Mendocino, Livermore, Lodi, Napa and Calaveras are producing it, albeit in small quantities. Walla Walla also has some root stock growing in Carménère. Here is a picture of Yorkville Cellars Carménère vineyard the third week of October last year.
Uniqueness of Carménère
As a varietal, it has the deep ruby coloring and aromas of red fruits. Tannins are softer and milder than Cabernet Sauvignon, thus its use in blending to soften a strong Cabernet. The use is similar to the use of Merlot . Chile produces a 100% Carménère which has a cherry and fruity flavor but has traces of smoke and earthy notes with the inky coloration.
2016 Yorkville Cellars Carménère
This wine lived up to and exceeded some of the key characteristics of Carménère. On the eyes, a medium viscosity wine with a unique deep purple coloration. On the nose, ripe Bing cherries greeted the senses. The palate is where this wine excelled. First the bright cherry taste was intense and concentrated. Plums and dark fruits then came forth with a hint of soft dry and wet earthen tones with black tea in the background. The earthen notes are generally found in Chilean Carménère but not found too often in California. The finish was long lasting with mocha and pepper finishing off the enjoyment. The wine is aged in French oak barrels (15% new) for 19 months. About 150 cases were produced.
Edward Wallo, owner and winemaker for Yorkville Cellars, has planted all six of the Noble Bordeaux red varietals. He makes stand-alone varietals as well as a traditional Bordeaux style blend incorporating all six varietals which are organically grown. To read more on Yorkville Cellars see a previous published story at:
His Carménère has won many awards over the years. He has received 94 points from Tasting.com and 93 points from the San Diego International Wine Competition, including a Gold Medal. The wine lists for $40. Truly a remarkable price given the uniqueness and scarcity of Carménère plantings in the California.
The Food Pairing
The 2016 Yorkville Cellars Carménère was paired with a seared and BBQ’ed Filet Mignon and topped with a homemade blue cheese, chive and butter compote, served medium rare. Accompanied were pan seared Bok Choy in garlic, olive oil and chili pepper flakes. Also, sliced shiitake mushrooms were lightly grilled on the BBQ with a Chaka sauce and a Yukon Gold potato (not shown).
A wonderful meal this evening along with an extraordinary wine was the ultimate way to end the week!