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Chile Meets Bordeaux in Lapostolle

Friday - 3/23/2012, 7:01pm  ET

Wine of the Week

Scott Greenberg, wine columnist, the Washington Examiner

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Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

What if you could get the experience of a world-famous French winemaker and the deliciously ripe fruit from Chile in one bottle of wine? And get it at a great price, too? You’d have a winning combination. You’d have the wines of Lapostolle Vineyards. Lapostolle was founded in 1994 by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle (of Grand Marnier fame) who clearly recognized the potential Chile had for producing world class wines.

The region had grape vines originating from pre-phylloxera rootstock (phylloxera is a small insect that is deadly to grape vines) that had been brought to Chile from Bordeaux in the 1800’s. Alexandra’s goal was to incorporate high-end French winemaking practices with the ideal climate of Chile to produce high-end quality wines.

Her dream became a reality when she convinced world-renown French wine consultant, Michel Rolland, to join the inaugural winemaking team. This blending of talent, grapes and terroir led to the new mantra for the project; “French in Excellence. Chilean by Birth.” The “Casa” series are wines made from younger fruit sourced from the Rapel and Casablanca valleys and tend to emphasize a brighter and more vibrant expression. The 2009 Lapostolle Casa Cabernet Sauvignon is fermented in stainless steel and aged for just under a year in neutral French oak barrels. Scents of red currants and cedar wood waft on the bouquet and join flavors of plum and black cherries on the mid-palate. Subtle notes of vanilla mark the smooth finish. $10

The 2011 Lapostolle Casa Sauvignon Blanc is fermented and aged exclusively in stainless steel tanks, giving the wine a pure fruit core. Grapefruit and nectarine aromas dominate the nose while full-bodied flavors of green melon and tropical fruit – thanks to a touch of sémillon – coat the palate. Touches of lemon/lime citrus provide bright notes on the crisp finish. $10

The “Cuvée” series are wines that are produced from single vineyard estates under the organic/biodynamic program. The grapes are harvested by hand and then vinified using only wild yeast, with no filtration. The 2009 Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Carmenère is an excellent example of Chile’s “home town” grape varietal, showing off an elegant nose of red plums, black cherries and cardamom spice. In the mouth, the wine is well-balanced around a core of black fruit and tobacco flavors. There is a slight green leaf/herbaceous note on the structured finish that turns a touch smoky at the end. $19

The ultimate expression of Alexandra’s vision is expressed in the 2008 Lapostolle Clos Apalta, a blend of carmenère, merlot and cabernet sauvignon sourced from 60 to 100 year-old pre-phylloxera vines from the Apalta vineyard in the Colchagua Valley. All of the carmenère and cabernet sauvignon berries are all hand-picked and hand-sorted. The wine is made with minimal intervention so that the vivid and intense flavors of black cherry, black plum, red currants and roasted espresso shine through on the elegantly balanced palate. Buoyed by sweet tannins, the richly structured finish shows of hints of cocoa and coffee and persist for over a minute. $65