On a recent night, Caliterra Vineyards chief enologist Rodrigo Zamorano gave a wine tasting and seminar in the art of blending varietals.
The fact is that single varietal wine production and marketing is a relatively new and largely New World phenomenon. Traditionally, wines from the great winemaking lands were estate and vineyard driven and often were a blend of several different grape varieties grown on the estate or by that vineyard. People order a Château Lafite Rothschild or St. Emilion for their terroir and confidence in the vineyard’s history, not because they produce a dependable cab.
Blending wines can have many underlying justifications and a wide range of effects. In the worst cases, lesser grapes are added to the mix to increase production or boost yield, while diminishing the quality. However, conversely, a variety of grapes from a single season harvest can be blended to create a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. In addition to the wines of the great European traditions, U.S. wines like Opus One and Quintessa fall into this category.
Caliterra, which comes from a blending of Calidad, or quality, and Terra, or land, is dedicated to sustainable winemaking practices. Set in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, their top wine is a small batch unique annual blend of just 12,000 bottles dubbed Cenit. Each year’s blend is distinct, but all are complex yet eminently drinkable. A bottle of this baby will set you back around $95 in a Costa Rican wine shop.
Their next best options come from a series dubbed Tributo Edicion Limitada, or Tribute Limited Edition. These are lovely, complex blends retailing here in Costa Rica for about $36 per bottle. I was particularly impressed with their 2010 Cabernet Franc-Petit Verdot, which in full disclosure mode is actually 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Petit Verdot, 6% Carmenere, and 4% Syrah.
Beyond these, Caliterra has a wide range of single grape wines bottled under their Tributo and Reserva labels, with the Reserva line selling locally for around $14 per bottle.
The event was held in the beautiful, new space of Hotel Si Como No’s flagship restaurant, Claro Que Si. Following an introduction to Caliterra vineyard, its history and philosophy, Rodrigo discussed the history and theory of wine blending. The seminar included a hands-on competition, in which teams sought to create the best blend by mixing from bottles of 2010 Tribute pressings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes.
I’m proud to say that working with Lance Byron of Café Milagro, with moral support and quality control from El Gran Escape’s Marsha Bennett and Si Como No’s Jim Damalas, that our 45% Malbec-35% Cabernet-20% Petit Verdot blend took top honors.
The event was hosted by local wine distributor Grupo Pampa, in conjunction with Hotel Si Como No.