Guest Review: 2017 Le Petit Clos by Clos Apalta, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile

South American wines are perhaps the best Bang for your Buck deals in the world, especially from Argentina, Chile, and now Uruguay. It seems to be expected that a $20 bottle of wine will drink like a $30-40 bottle.

However it is rare to find a $50 bottle (42.99 on Vivino right now!!) that drinks like a $100 bottle.

Folks, meet the Clos Apalta Les Petit Clos.

Perhaps the best quality winery in all of Chile, their flagship wine is approximately $150 and has scored 100 points twice from James Sucking (if that matters to you).

This 2nd wine they make is just as unique and amazing as their flagship. Les Petit Clos is always a Bordeaux blend that includes the infamous Chilean Carmenere – this 2017 blend was the following:

68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Carmenere, 9% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot.

👁️: dark Ruby red, bordering on purple.
👃: blueberry compote and herbs
👅: again, big time blueberry black currants, and herbs. Huge tannins out of the bottle – needed a good hour+ to mellow out. But boy, did this wine deliver well above its price point. Tannins mellowed out a bit, but they were somewhere short of being grippy. The finish is just flat out insane and smooth for being a wine under $100.

Overall this is a stunning wine. The fact that it was mostly Cabernet with a bit of Carmenere is crazy, given how well the herbs showed through on the backend of the fruit.

It also amazes me, because this might easily be the best Chilean wine under $100…. With its big brother being the best Chilean wine period (competes with the Almaviva, imho).

As much as I love the Purple Angel, I think i prefer the structure and Bordeaux-Esque complexity of this wine more.

About our guest

I’m Eric the guy behind @aboveavgbro wine page. Based in Texas, originally from New England, I became a winesnob over the years as I found myself consuming less for quantity, and more for quality. I can appreciate a good $20 bottle of wine so long as it is memorable and creates an experience for those tasting it.

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2012 Rhapsody by Roger Roessler Wines, Sonoma

Tonight’s Occasion: 2012 Rhapsody by Roger Roessler Wines, Sonoma

Grenache (42%) Carignane (38%) Mourvedre (20%) Santa Ynez Valley.

Subtle red cherry, blackberry, subtle raspberries, hint of cocoa, subtle moist earthy wood, mushroom so faint you’d likely miss it. The bouquet is definitely floral in expression. As it breathes, cherries intensify, along with red vines licorice and touch of cedarwood. Red cherry turns to ripe dark cherries.

Body is balanced from front to back. Bright sweet cherries, raspberries are further enhanced by crisp refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak. A slightly viscous mouth feel. A touch of sweet citrus develops towards the back reminiscent of Meyer lemon with a drop of honey. By this point the body dissipates completely leaving the palate and lips slightly moist.

I have been following this vintners collection for well over a decade. I think of their tasting room as a library. Always and exercise in wine education. While I mostly obsess over their age worthy Pinot Noirs, it’s always nice to indulge in his vision with other varietals. I highly recommend stopping by our 2020 Winemaker of the Year next time you’re in Sonoma. You won’t be disappointed.

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2018 Farmhouse Red by Amador Cellars, Plymouth CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Farmhouse Red by Amador Cellars , Plymouth CA

Almost opaque color. Out of the bottle, slightly under-ripe dark plum, star anise (very typical of this region), prominent berries (it is 43%Zin after all). In the back a subtle granite. The notes conspire to create a bubble-gum essence. Subtle floral notes of sweet rose petals, easily overshadowed by the star anise.

Balanced body is balanced, slightly restrained. Ripe dark plum up front quickly turns to fine dissolved and fully integrated tannins that stay suspended. A hint of oak vanilla accentuates the fruit in an otherwise fairly dry wine. The discerning palate would appreciate this. A smooth mouth feel gives way to an unceremonious finish leaving the lips slightly moist with a touch dusty tannic grit.

No secret here. I love this Winemaker’s work. Truly a family affair. This winery is family owned and operated. While Mike may have many more prized vintages under his belt, it’s always nice to take a look at his interpretation of the porch pounder and every day sipper. I love what he’s done here. It shows his versatility as a winemaker. If you read between the lines, you’ll find this is the type of wine that introduces the beginner palate to what great wines are all about. I believe among many-a-purpose, wine should also serve as an opportunity for enlightenment and education. This wine does just that.

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2017 Mariner (Meritage / Bordeaux Blend) by Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Mariner (Meritage / Bordeaux Blend) by Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County CA

Dark opaque color. Nose is thick, slight intensity. Dark plums, blackberries, none too ripe, non too tart. A pleasant woody leather lingers in the background, along with a very subtle bee’s wax. Swirling vigorously adds a touch of cola to the mix as well as a ripeness to the berries.

Body greets with a touch of acidity. This has the effect of drawing a very gentle tension across the palate. Thin, firm, dry, chiseled tannins add clean, crisp structure while a refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak gently cloaks an otherwise fairy dry body while softening the mouth feel. This quickly evaporates leaving behind a firm dry tannic underlayment, bitter cola, and a smattering of spice as the palate slowly drifts between moist and dry grip.

Very interesting. When I think Bordeaux Blend from this region I immediately expect big peppery, jammy tannin bomb. However this wine is anything but that. Very clean, crisp well executed. It feels like a fair amount of care, thought and consideration went into it. It is subtly unique in its expression. I think this winemaker has made a great Meritage in the Mariner. Nicely done folks!

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2019 Giocoso (Red Blend, Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Giocoso (Red Blend, Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra (Luxury of the Land), Fiddletown, Amador County CA

Equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Dark semi opaque color. Out of the bottle, thick nose with lots of black plum and ripe blackberry. Secondary notes of cola and crisp vanilla caramel. Tertiary notes of thin crisp anise and wet wood leather linger in the back.

Body is nicely balanced from front to back. A slightly silky, viscous body greets the palate. Unobtrusive tannins provide good structure and counterweight to crisp caramel and anise, both framing ripe plums. The more temperate climate of this region shines here as the fruit is well expressed while remaining fairly dry. Restrained acidity goes almost unnoticed. No one characteristic is off balance. The finish is characterized by subtle dry tannic grip ripe fruit, caramel. This big blend channels the Paso Robles region and its characteristic restraint quite nicely while also remaining very approachable for a broad spectrum of palate.

I caught up with Edward, owner, winemaker and Assistant Winemaker Clare, earlier this winter and had a unique opportunity to explore an eye watering lineup of their creations. He recently relocated his operations and established his estate in Fiddletown, just outside Plymouth CA. I very much look forward to following his interpretation of the terroir out here in the Sierra Foothills. Welcome to the foothills Edward and Lusso Della Terra!

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2013 La Mancha by Wofford Acres Vineyards, El Dorado, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 La Mancha (estate field blend) by Wofford Acres Vineyards, El Dorado, CA

Out of the bottle nose is a little shy with an unmistakable tart black cherry, plum, and a touch of buttery vanilla on the back.

Body is smooth, crisp, balanced from front to back. Dark tart plums pull forward. This wine is bone dry and a Nebbiolo based field blend. There is good fruit but overall this is unmistakably Nebbiolo, unapologetically brute and brash. Bold tannins and bold acidity maintain firm tension across the palate. It drinks like a Barolo or big Barbaresco. Breathing only emboldens it’s expression, tannins develop a vise grip, mouth feel broadens, a hint of banana peel emerges so faint you’d likely miss it. This is likely a play between the fruit and granitic minerality typical of this region. Finish is massive, long, lingering, punctuated by faint pops of star anise, ahhhhh El Dorado and the Sierra Foothills.

This wine isn’t for everybody but it certainly is for me! I love a Nebbiolo! I love how understated it’s expression is. I love its unpretentious, unapologetic, even brutish disposition. La Mancha is a field blend typically of Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah and a little Merlot. The proportions vary with each vintage and harvest. This makes every vintage unique in its own way. I think it takes some courage to commit to a field blend. This means the varietals were blended right at harvest with no room to walk back the ratios. It is a massive, dry wine built for the long haul. 2013 needs at least 15yrs. I will likely add some to my very long-term reserve.

2017 Le Grand-Pere by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Le Grand-Pere (The Grandfather, Rhone Blend) by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, CA.

Warm nose, with ripe dark cherries, plum and berries. Together with a secondary anise this ripeness creates a red vines licorice essence. Good sense of place. This expression is typical of a faithful wine from this region. Subtle oak vanilla blends in and accentuates nicely.

Body greets with a touch of acidity lending some good tension. This is quickly smothered by ripe plum and cherry. A punch of oak vanilla further elevates the fruit, morphing into a crisp, refined caramel. Thick, bold tannins provide a slightly restrained structure but as it opens up they pull forward and dominate the experience from front to back, giving this wine’s youth away. Definitely recommend decanting. Transition to finish is seamless, characterized by blackberries, black currants, and a fine grained dusty but firm tannic grip.

Fall Sunrise over Naggiar Vineyards

This region is known for its longer ripening season. This extended hang time results in more intense fruit flavors and a bigger bolder wine overall. This is its identity. It’s sense of place. Slightly fruit forward, shows good balance. I think with more cellar time this wine should further integrate very nicely. Recommend at least 5 to 10 more years. Get yours now and lay them down.

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2017 GSM by Passaggio Wines, San Francisco

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 GSM by Passaggio Wines, San Francisco CA

Deep ruby color. Bright aromatic nose with lots of red berries, raspberry, ripe strawberry and a touch of sweet mellon. A backdrop of sweet cedarwood leather, hint of eucalyptus, and red vines licorice. Yummy!

Bright body greets with a touch of acidity. This quickly gives way to a smooth silky, viscous body with hints of citrus, pomegranate and crisp caramel. Dark cherry skins provide a thin firm structure that permeates the experience. A slightly creamy mouth feel fades away leaving behind crisp tannins, a hint of cola and mild spice.

What a vibrant melodic interpretation of the iconic GSM blend. I love every single one of Cindy’s wines. Words that come to mind are: precise, crisp, subtle, rich, balanced, humble, unassuming. This blend embodies all of those. It reminds me of the Fiona GSM by Bumgarner I have previously reviewed on here.

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2017 Texas GSM Melange by Pedernales Callars

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Texas GSM Melange by Pedernales Callars, Stonewall, TX.

43% Maurvedre, 25% Grenache, 14% Cinsault, 10% Carignan, 4% Syrah, 4% Petite Sirah.

Intense clear color. Aromatic nose, out of the bottle with bright, sweet cherries, plums. A noticeable damp wood leather permeates the nose. It’s dominant Maurvedre underpinnings are well represented. A subtle licorice lingers in the back.

Oh the body is beautifully composed. A buttery and viscous attack greets the palate. That crisp Grenache influence makes an appearance. Cinsault and Carignan bring great woody notes and bright fruit while Maurvedre, Syrah and Petite Sirah fill out the base with good structure and cassis. As it opens up a subtle bitter cola emerges towards the back. Transition to finish is seamless as the various layers interplay harmoniously. Warm spice emerges midway though and lingers long after, warming the lips and back of the palate. The entire experience fades gracefully leaving the palate dancing between dry and moist, with a bitter cola after taste. As it opens a soft creamy caramel lingers in the back.

Okay. This is a very nice GSM. I’ve had my fair share of amazing GSM but I don’t think I’ve had one with such delineation between its constituent varietals – each very clear in their expression. This tells me each of them were very well made and would easily stand on their own. Now I’m curious. I think the folks at Pedernales are up to something.

Nicely done!

Check out other wines from Texas!

2018 Triptych (Dry Red Table Wine) by Saint Tryphon

Tonight’s occasion: 2018 Triptych (Dry Red Table Wine) by Saint Tryphon, Boerne, Texas.

Big bright cherries and damp forest floor dominate the nose. Are we in Texas? Hints of oak, honeysuckle and other floral notes intermingle.

Body is nicely balanced. Cherries carry through, adding a touch of plum as it opens up. Thin tannins provide a touch of structure. Berries and subtle oak create a full mouth feel, reminiscent of a Zinfandel. As it progresses, fruit notes become more prominent. Subtle spice notes become more intense as they turn into a warm ever present heat. Finish is fairly dry with a subtle tannic grip.

This is my first time tasting a wine from Texas. It is a simple wine, well made, not overly abstract, a pleaser with broad appeal. Somewhat fruit forward overall. I can see this particular wine as a chill-able red porch pounder. It is fairly dry for as expressive as its fruit characteristics are. If this is any indication, I think I should get my boots on the ground in TX and dig deeper.

Nice work Saint Tryphon. Thank you Angela for sharing your favorite wines with us.