Last night I got a chance to re-taste the Cono Sur Viento Mar Block 21 Pinot Noir 2011 mentioned below. I’m sorry, I don’t care how casual and ‘friendly’ they are, these kinds of glasses just don’t cut it for me…
This time it was poured into decent bowls and the transformation was quite spectacular. The aromas blossomed with violet notes and the wine showed its full potential, with silky tannins and a truly elegant structure. So, for that reason, I’m going to change my rating to 92 points. I reckon it’s about the best deal going for a serious Pinot for under $20 you can possibly hope for. And tastes like a whole lot more. Fantastic! Grab it while you can!
When I was offered the chance to meet with Matias Rios last week, I jumped at it. I’ve met Matias a few times, often as not in Chile as here in Vancouver. He’s one of the most down to earth, truly knowledgable and delightful people—in an industry that’s not short on such folks.
I’m a big fan of Matias in his role as head winemaker for Chilean giant Cono Sur, as you’ll see.
Our destination was Vancouver’s Nuba, which was packed with people enjoying lunch. It was an interesting choice: tasty for sure, but also a tad frustrating because we were tasting from the house tumblers, which may be ‘no nonsense’ but in my mind don’t allow wine to be fully appreciated. I’m about the farthest you can get from a wine snob. But I know that Matias’ reds in particular would have showed way better in a decent bowl. Never mind, the food was truly good.
We tasted quite a few wines and enjoyed some excellent pairings—all of which once again reminded me of just what a good job these guys do in balancing the demand for well made, affordable—and food friendly—wines with a serious hand on the tiller of sustainability. Overall, Nuba and Cono Sur were the perfect fit…
(Here’s what I wrote for this weekend’s North Shore News…)
For a man who’s responsible for making a whole lot of wine, Matias Rios is one of the most relaxed guys you could hope to meet. Rios is the Winemaking Manager for Chile’s Cono Sur—which under his direction has emerged as one of the country’s more familiar and most consumer friendly labels.
Beyond its ability to deliver remarkable value, also notable about Cono Sur is the winery’s firm commitment to sustainability. Its popular ‘bicycle labels’ are among the most affordable organic wines you’ll find anywhere. At the fore of the early sustainable movement in Chile for many years, Cono Sur continues to pursue an aggressive program that sees organic practices now applied in all its vineyards, certified or otherwise.
Matias’ latest project has been to develop a new single vineyard range for Cono Sur. It sources from what the winemaker considers to be the most ideal block for a given variety.
Matias first identified the choice vineyards that produce the best statement for a given variety, before zeroing in on the the absolute ideal specific site, taking into account soils, micro-climate, exposure, altitude and so on.
The wines range from a Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, to a Bio Bio Riesling (which we would love to see here!) to Pinot Noir from widely hailed San Antonio, and a (knockout) Syrah, also from San Antonio but this time grown on a warm eastern slope—to mention just a few.
Even though this range represents a definite step up, it’s still very competitively priced and reinforces the pattern that Chilean winemakers are following: looking much more closely at specific regions and terroirs from north to south in this large and varied land.
Nose around BC Liquor Stores and (so far) you can get your hands on these:
• Viento Mar (literally ‘Ocean Winds’) Block 21 Pinot Noir 2011. A maritime influenced San Antonio Pinot, again, epitomizes the value that Cono Sur delivers, with plush strawberry and coffee notes wrapped in easy tannins with a slight savoury edge. BCLS $19.99 | 90 pts.
• La Palma Block 25 Syrah 2011 delivers some classic varietal meaty aromas followed by generous red and black fruit, well structured with a broad but balanced plate and a lengthy end. (The name refers to nearby native palm trees.) Good value, again, at BCLS $19.99 | 90 pts.
Hopefully we will be seeing more of these wines soon. Look out for them also at private wine stores—they’re worth the search.
Belly’s Budget Best
• Cono Sur Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (San Antonio). Brimming with bright citrus and lively acidity, this juicy drop sports a crisp and clean personality with a distinctive mineral streak. Excellent organic value at BCLS $14.99 | 89 pts. Enjoy it with baba ghanouj or hummus.
Here’s a quick clip of Matias talking about the single vineyard range: