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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.
Saying that Chilean wine equals value wine is “like sticking fingers in a wound,” explained Rodrigo Soto, president of Veramonte, Ritual, Primus and Neyen Wines. “It is the passion that we want to show. It is the strong quality of wines that need to be shown.”
Chilean wines have often been labeled as inexpensive and simple, as wines that are fun to drink with their bold fruit flavors. But there are a growing number of winemakers who are focused on quality wines that represent the place they are from.
“We have not been very good ambassadors with regards to the aspect of regionality and specificity,” Soto said. “Historically what we created were brands that represented the country. These brands are stronger than the appellations they are from. But our real value is on the dramatic regional geography which is best communicated by seeing it.”
If you had asked me a week ago about Chilean wine, I would not have had much to say. It is not a region that I had explored and my familiarity with the wines was generally limited to the value wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. But after spending a week exploring Leyda Valley, Casablanca Valley and Limari Valley, three areas in the coastal region of Chile, I am enamored. Without a doubt the elegant Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from these regions are the Please The Palate pick of the week. Chile is a long and skinny country. From north to south, Chile is approximately 2600 miles long. On the west side is the Pacific Ocean and only 110 miles across the country are the Andes, with Argentina on the other side. There are vineyards near the Andes, there are vineyards in the Central Valley (between the Andes and the Coastal Mountain Range) and there is the Coastal Region where vineyards lie between the Coastal Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean.
When two renowned chefs from Monterey came down to Los Angeles and partnered with Neal Fraser at Redbird to create a pop-up menu using fresh Monterey ingredients and paired with the wines of Monterey, this taste of Monterey definitely whet my appetite. Chefs John Cox, Neal Fraser and Tim Walter Chef John Cox is the Executive Chef at Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn, one of the most celebrated restaurants and retreats in the world. Chef Ted Walter is a Classic French-trained chef who opened Pacific Grove’s Passionfish with his wife Cindy in 1997. He sources ingredients from Carmel Valley farms, local markets and the fishers of Monterey Bay and has earned a national reputation as an advocate for the Sustainable Seafood movement. Chef Neal Fraser, along with his wife and business partner, Amy Knoll Fraser, opened Redbird in one of the city’s most historic architectural gems, inside the former rectory building of Vibiana – the cathedral-turned-event-venue.
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