Wine Time: Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2012, Chile

COST: $19-21


WHAT: With summer grilling season kicking in as we approach Memorial Day, I thought it would be appropriate to try something we can drink with all kinds of grilled food.

I love to cook over charcoal, and we’re lucky in our region because we can do that all year long. But the grill definitely gets its biggest workout in the summer.

When grilling, a cold beer always works well, as does iced tea. But I love a big, bold red wine when grilling beef, or a crisp white when grilling fish.

Santa Carolina has a couple of great Sauvignon Blancs for those fish days, and this Carmenére is perfect for just about any red meat on the grill.

It is a gorgeous deep red in the glass, with complex aromas of black fruit, spice and minerals. The first sip fills your mouth with ripe blackberry and plum flavors, along with chocolate and coffee. The flavors are layered, unfolding one after another, with a lush mouthfeel and soft tannins. The finish is long and smooth.

When you drink this wine, don’t let it get too warm. I would serve it about 65 degrees, and open it at least 30 minutes before drinking.

Santa Carolina is one of the oldest and most respected wineries in Chile. It gets the grapes for this wine from two of its estates in the Rapel Valey. Los Lingues, close to the Andes Mountains, is influenced by cool air descending from the mountain peaks and provides structure and fruit concentration.

Pichidegua, closer to the Coastal Range, is influenced by rivers flowing through the region, resulting in big differences between day and night temperatures. These grapes provide elegance and complexity to the blend.

The grapes are hand picked and double sorted (by clusters and by berries). They go through five days of cold soaking and up to 30 days of total maceration to obtain balance and complexity.

After a traditional fermentation with selected yeasts, the wine spends 15 months in barrels and six months of bottle aging before release.

This is a beautiful wine, typical of the great wine produced in Chile. Though long known for bargain wines, Chile is now turning out fantastic wine in all price ranges and challenging some of the best wines in the world in the upper range.

Though originally a French grape, Carmenére is regarded as Chile’s national grape.

For decades Chilean growers thought it was Merlot, until tests in 1994 showed it to be Carmenére. More Carmenére is grown in Chile than anywhere else.

The tannins are gentler and softer than those in Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carmenére now often is blended with Cabernet, much as it was in Bordeaux 150 years ago, before it virtually disappeared there.

If you like a full, rich red wine without the sharp tannins of a young Cab, you’ll love Carmenére, especially this Carmenére.

WINERY: Viña Santa Carolina (pronounced car-o-LEEN-uh) is one of the oldest and most prestigious wine companies in Chile, tracing its ancestry to 1875. That’s when Luis Pereira Cotapos had the dream of producing a Bordeaux wine in the New World.

He brought vines from France and lured three French winemakers to Chile to help him. Their first international gold medal came in 1889 from an exposition in Paris. Since then the winery has won worldwide acclaim for its wines.

The founder named his company after his beloved wife, Carolina Iñiguez Vicuña.

The first grapevines brought from France were Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. From the first vineyards in the Central Valley, Santa Carolina has spread to all of the best wine regions of Chile.

When the company was getting established it hired French architect Emile Doyeré to design and build a warehouse to keep the wines at optimal conditions. He did such a good job the cellar is still used today and was declared a National Monument in 1973 for its architectural beauty and excellent state of conservation.

In 1975, Viña Santa Carolina was purchased by the prestigious Larrain family; by 1986 Viña Santa Carolina was one of the top Chilean brands exported to the U.S. and has remained among the top Chilean brands ever since. Today, Viña Santa Carolina is the fourth largest exporter of wines from Chile.

The company exports 80 percent of its total production to 85 countries.

The parent company owns nine brands, including Santa Carolina, Casablanca, Finca el Origen, Vistaña and Ochagavía brands sold in the United States.

Under Santa Carolina, the Estrellas range looks for the typical expression of a varietal. Reserva Estate wines explore terroirs in various regions of Chile. Reserva de Familia wines feature concentration of fruit with complex flavors.

GOES WITH: This Carmenére was a great match for grilled hamburgers.

My wife, Teri, and I enjoyed a meal on our deck during one of the many pleasant days this spring. The warm, lush fruit tastes worked really well with the ground beef.

I love making my own burgers; they are great the first day, and there usually are enough leftovers for another snack or meal.

My recipe is to mix about one pound of good quality ground beef with half a sweet onion, diced. Add seasonings (I like Morton’s Nature’s Seasons) and one egg. Mix it all up and form thick patties to place on the grill over direct heat.

Cook about 10 minutes per side, watching for flareups on the grill. I usually squirt some water on the coals if dripping grease causes flames. I like the burgers with a little pink inside, but if they end up well done, they still taste good.

If you want a cheeseburger, put a slice of cheese on top for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.

This wine also pairs well with Indian lamb curry, rack of lamb with rosemary and garlic, pasta with tomato sauce and mild cheeses.



Wine and tapas tasting, 5 p.m. until closing, La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $25; (706) 722-4805

MAY 15-16

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, 2-6 p.m Saturday, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463


Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites, three reds and cheeses; $5 with rebate on a featured wine; (803) 279-9522



Pop Rocks: Augusta, my Christmas wish list has one thing

My family often accuses me of being a difficult person to Christmas shop for. While it is true that my tastes run toward the particular and tend to lean heavily on easy-to-wrap standards such as books and records, I believe that as I get older, I’m less concerned with the item than the idea. Give me something I believe you have thought about and carefully considered, and I’m happy. The present clearly purchased at the drug store the day before is met with considerably less enthusiasm.

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