WHAT: With grilling season in full swing, it is always nice to have a hearty red wine on hand for beef dishes. This cabernet sauvignon from Santa Carolina is ideal for grilling but versatile enough to work well with many foods.
Viña Santa Carolina (pronounce it car-o-LEEN-uh) was one of the first wineries in Chile to produce powerful, European-style wines in the New World, tracing its history back to 1875. This cab has all the Old World charm, but it is bursting with the fresh exuberance of New World fruit.
Grown in the Maipo Valley, the vines are in deep, sandy, alluvial soils that drain well. Cooling mountain breezes that blow down every night from the Andes peaks help create perfect growing conditions to produce elegant wines with silky tannins.
The grapes are hand-picked and double-sorted (by cluster and individual berries) before spending five days in cold fermentation and up to 40 days of total maceration. The juice then spends 15 months in French oak and six months in bottles before release.
This is an inky, dark wine with a black cherry color and classic cab aromas of cassis, fig and cedar with vanilla and floral notes. On the palate it is a complex and balanced wine with tastes of concentrated red fruits with good structure. It has a long and elegant finish. Once you start sipping this wine, you hate to put it down.
This wine should age for 8-10 years. I would open it at least 30 minutes before drinking.
Santa Carolina makes some excellent wines in its Reserva Estate line, but the Reserva de Familia brand has even higher quality. These wines tend to be elegant and complex with good fruit concentration and wines that are typical of the grape from which they are produced.
WINERY: Luis Pereira Cotapos founded Viña Santa Carolina in 1875 with the dream of producing a Bordeaux-style wine in the New World. After convincing three French winemakers to join him in Chile, he brought vines from France: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.
It didn’t take long for Cotapos and his winemakers to make an impact. The winery won its first international gold medal for its Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon at the Exposition Universelle of 1889, held in Paris. Since then the wines have won worldwide acclaim.
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. In 1973, it was declared a National Monument 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 it 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 Carolina Wine Brands 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 concentrated, complex flavors.
While staying true to its heritage, the company continues to invest in modern equipment. It also employs modern sustainable farming practices.
The winery was hit by a devastating earthquake of 2010 but was rebuilt and reopened in 2012.
Santa Carolina has a large portfolio of wines, including its iconic Luis Pereira, a Bordeaux-style blend; Herencia, a Carmenere blend; and VSC, a Bordeaux-style blend that changes with each vintage. The Reserva de Familia line includes pinot noir, carmenere, chardonnay and malbec.
The Specialties line offers limited-release wines such as Cool Mountain Field Blend, a red that included carignan; a 100 percent carignan; a sauvignon blanc; a malbec and a mourvedre.
The Gran Reserva line includes cab, carmenere, chardonnay, petit verdot and syrah. The Ekun label offers organic cab and a chardonnay/viognier blend. The Reserva label offers cab, carmenere, merlot, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, syrah and pinot noir.
Estrellas is the label for seven varieties of young wines made in the Rapel Valley. Santa Carolina also offers a late harvest sauvignon blanc and a sparkling wine made from chardonnay grapes.
GOES WITH: We drank this wine with meatball hoagies and french fries. I love meatball hoagies, and we fix them a number of ways. This time I just bought a package of meatballs in tomato sauce from the New York Butcher Shoppe and added extra Paul Newman sauce.
After heating the meatballs and sauce in the microwave I serve them on toasted pieces of baguette. You can add cheese and serve them as sandwiches or open-faced. It is an easy, hearty meal. The meatballs and french fries paired perfectly with this rich cab.
The wine also would pair well with a thick, juicy steak with sauteed onions, lamb chops, roasted lamb shanks, beef bourguignon or even hamburgers on the grill.