2006 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere

2008 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo CarmenerePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “Notes of dark plums and spice, generously framed by toasty American oak with a soft and well structured mouthfilling texture. Excellent with fresh light dishes based in meats, vegetables and fresh herbs. Also a good accompaniment to ripe cheeses such as Gouda, Gruyere or a dry goat cheese.”

What I Think:

Quaffability has a nice write up here and I likewise enjoyed the 2005 version and considered it a work of perfection at the price point. So as you can expect with a new vintage in stores I approached a new bottle with a healthy dose of skepticism.

In a nutshell? A notch below the ’05. That said it had a lot of room to work with. You still get chocolate, mint and spice on the nose. The tongue greets you with the smokiness and fruit that you may remember well before finishing on a spicy, cocoa backbone that lives on in the mouth. It may be splitting hairs but the ’06 version seems less integrated, less fruit on the nose and throughout, a hint of green/farmyard on the nose and palate. This may sound like a downer so let me lift it back up, this is still a winner. I’ll be buying bottles at a time all year long until the ’07 arrives and we repeat this exercise.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere

2008 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo CarmenerePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “Looking for an amazing value, delicious and new wine? This wine was what Bordeaux was originally primarily made from, now its found almost exclusively in Chile. This is a delicious example of this incredible variety, which combines the best of Cabernet and Merlot – Concha y Toro makes the best examples of this unique variety in the world.

Dark and deep red. Attractive aromas of dark plums, blackcurrant and chocolate, with hints of coffee and toasted American oak. Notes of dark plums and spice, with a generous touch of toasted American oak and a soft and well structured mouthfilling texture.

Enjoy with fresh light dishes based on meat and vegetables. Also a good accompaniment to ripe cheese.”

What I Think:

Scary, where to start? I have 36 wines waiting for posting. I thought this Carmenere might be a good place to start. This bottle took a ride with me to Tahoe some months back. Given that I came straight home from the office and hopped in the car to drive 3 hours straight through I certainly needed a glass when I was on the other end. It certainly disappoint. Nor the next night when it went up a rather impressive set of palates and wines.

As always, this wine was smoky on the nose with dark fruits and a hint of chocolate. In the mouth it was bold, full bodied and spicy with a nice woody/vanilla lingering finish with. All this time and it’s still the one. It’s like being at the top of the best seller list for a year. There’s no wine at Trader Joe’s that I would rather buy. You should too…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2005 Panilonco Carmenere

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Evaki

What They Said:

Per quaffability “Carmenere is more obscure than the fifth Beatle. The sixth grape of the famed five Bordeaux varietals, usually compared to Petit Verdot for the sturdy qualities it adds to Cabernet blends, Carmenere is not even grown in Bordeaux anymore. It does have a new home in Chile, where it’s blended into Cabernet and also bottled solo on occasion and noted for its smoky/earthy flavor profiles.

Carmenere makes for some interesting wines in Chile — but this is not one of them. The Panilonco starts of with aromas of dirt and cherries. It’s not unpleasant but a little plonky… some green aromas come along with some cooked, and there’s a whiff of something vaguely chemical as well. The good news is that the off aromas mostly dissipate after a couple hours.

In the mouth the wine is more clean, with soft tannins and nice texture . The finish is short – more like a memory than real flavors.

While it’s not bad for the price, and I’ve no regrets about pulling the cork on this one, I won’t be running out for another bottle anytime soon.”

What I Think:

I grabbed a bottle of this when I was out shopping to get some more Rocking Horse. Giving the price tag on those I was focusing on some low cost alternatives to round out the case and this caught my eye. Given my infatuation with the Casillero del Diablo and my disappointing experience with the Calina I was somewhat curious to see where this one would fall in. By the way the name of this wine translated appears to be “Chief of Lions”.

The first thing I noticed is that all three were from different regions within Chile. The Casillero del Diablo had loads of fruit which I was expecting to be the norm where as the Calina didn’t show me much of anything. I could see the terroir angle in my head. Opening this one you immediately realize that it wouldn’t align perfectly with either of the other 2. On the nose this bottle was earthy, there were aromas of cherries but they were a bit muted. On the palate these were a little clearer and held before the earthiness, dust and dirt, came back into the picture. The finish seemed heavily barrel influenced. This wine is certainly worth the price of admission and if it didn’t have to go head to head with the reigning champ it may have been worthy of some accolades. Given the $4 price tag I did ponder whether the extra $3 spent on a bottle of the Casillero del Diablo was worth it. The answer was a resounding yes. Dig in the couch for loose change if you have to.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere

2008 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo CarmenerePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “Looking for an amazing value, delicious and new wine? This wine was what Bordeaux was originally primarily made from, now its found almost exclusively in Chile. This is a delicious example of this incredible variety, which combines the best of Cabernet and Merlot – Concha y Toro makes the best examples of this unique variety in the world.

Dark and deep red. Attractive aromas of dark plums, blackcurrant and chocolate, with hints of coffee and toasted American oak. Notes of dark plums and spice, with a generous touch of toasted American oak and a soft and well structured mouthfilling texture.

Enjoy with fresh light dishes based on meat and vegetables. Also a good accompaniment to ripe cheese.”

What I Think:

Given that I recently learned that I don’t like all Carmenere I have been anxious to get back to this old favorite. So when the doorbell rang last night and the pizza had arrived it was the obvious choice. I was as pleased as ever. The fruit flavors seemed even bolder than I had remembered. Other than that I have nothing to add beyond what I have said here in the past. I might need to grab a case of this one to put in reserve because I sure will be said when the day comes that TJ’s has no more…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2005 Calina Carmenere Reserva

Price: $6.99 @ The Wine Club imported by Sovereign Wine Imports

What They Said:

Per The Wine Club monthly newsletter, “Perhaps Waterloo was not the only catastrophe that France had to suffer. There are some who say that the loss of Carmenere, due to the first phylloxera epidemic in Bordeaux, changed the make-up of those wines in a negative way. That may be true for if they had replanted Carmenere perhaps they could have made a wine of this caliber. Chile is a string of agricultural valleys each with unique soils and micro climates. The Maule Valley where this wine hails is quickly becoming the go-to area for big, opulent red wines. This one is no exception. Loaded with blackberry, and cassis flavors it has persistent flavors of coca, cedar, and walnuts. A very approachable palate not unlike Merlot, which it has often been mistaken for. A real treat and clearly a go-to wine for the more relaxed afternoons ahead”. – David Goodwin, San Francisco

What I Think:

I grabbed this bottle the same evening I had a disappointing experience with the Chianti. Given my only experience with Carmenere, my expectations were certainly high. For a while, I had been meaning to invest in a more expensive bottle to see how good it can get. In the meantime I grabbed this one a week or so back at the wine club and opened it expecting good things.

Survey says…No. Not that this was a bad wine. It had to deal with my expectations which it had no interest in. I was expecting dark, pure fruit flavors but there was nary a note of this in the bouquet. On the nose you got heavy doses of toasted oak with a hint of cinnamon. My initial impression on the palate was that of vegetal flavors I couldn’t pinpoint them and wasn’t even so sure I wanted to try. I gave up on this wine pretty quickly wondering me what convinced me to buy it. It was Carmenere but I think it had a flashy in store write-up as well, if I make it back I’ll have to check. Given the lackluster effort I thought maybe it could be a vintage issue but nope; same as the Casillero del Diablo. The good news is that at least now I know that I don’t like all Carmenere.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere

2008 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo CarmenerePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “Looking for an amazing value, delicious and new wine? This wine was what Bordeaux was originally primarily made from, now its found almost exclusively in Chile. This is a delicious example of this incredible variety, which combines the best of Cabernet and Merlot – Concha y Toro makes the best examples of this unique variety in the world.

Dark and deep red. Attractive aromas of dark plums, blackcurrant and chocolate, with hints of coffee and toasted American oak. Notes of dark plums and spice, with a generous touch of toasted American oak and a soft and well structured mouthfilling texture.

Enjoy with fresh light dishes based on meat and vegetables. Also a good accompaniment to ripe cheese.”

What I Think:

Well lets get his one started by saying there is no doubt that I think this is the best value priced red wine at TJ’s. It is a blend of 85% Carménère, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah. At one point I thought Carmenere was a Chilean grape but later learned it hails from Bordeaux though it is seldom found there nowadays. The first few works that come to mind are “dark and deep”. In more detail, smoky tobacco, loads of dark fruit and hints of coffee with some spice to boot. Nice from the first sip all the way through the long lingering finish. If you haven’t had it yet go get yourself some and if you have go get more. Just don’t tell too many people, I don’t want this one to go away.

Rating: Bulk Buy