Friday, May 22, 2009


Palm Bay International is a growing importer of wine and spirits from around the world, and it was never more apparent than when I attended their Winemaker Portfolio tasting in Chicago this week. I had already made mention of their brand new Austrian line from the Pfaffl family, and this in this post, I will touch upon their increasing number of wines from South America.

Currently, Palm Bay represents Argentine wineries Salentein and their second label El Portillo, as well as new addition Cailla. They also currently represent Chilean producers Mont Gras, Amaral, Intriga and of course, Santa Rita.

Over the past few months, I have renewed my interest in MontGras, as their Reserve Carmenere has become a staple best seller in our stores, yet I did not retaste their wines, having tasted through the majority of them quite recently. I chose to taste through the fairly new wines of Amaral and Intriga, as well as try the upper-tiers of Santa Rita, including all the Medalla Real line, as well as the Floresta, Triple C, the new Pehuen, and the Casa Real Cab.

Amaral has just two wines – the Chardonnay 2007 and Sauvignon Blanc 2008 – both from the emerging Leyda region in Chile. Founded by the Gras family (of MontGras fame), these two nicely-priced wines offer delicious examples of this up-and-coming region. The Chardonnay is a New World style, with lively pineapple and citrus, intermingling with creamy butterscotch and vanilla textures. The Sauvignon Blanc is zesty, with bright citrus tones and well-balanced acidity. These wines will probably be here in the next few months.

Intriga is strictly Cabernet Sauvignon, and is another new venture for the Gras family. Coming from the Maipo Valley in Chile, this exceptional Cab holds its own against its Napa peers, showing off elements of cocoa, cassis, currant, mint and vanilla, all with substantial body and power, yet demonstrating elegance and firm grip on the palate.

The Santa Rita Medalla Real line consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz. The winery has been working to elevate all of the varietals up to the level of quality they have consistently achieved with their Cab. And with the coming vintages, they have really succeeded with the Carmenere, while the others boast equally good characteristics. The Medalla Real Carmenere 2007 is a beautifully-crafted, full-bodied red with rich, dark aromas and flavors of black and blue fruit. A remarkable example of what this grape variety can do in capable hands.

The Pehuen 2005 is a new blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon that shows both power and grace on the palate. It’s a silky, smooth red with supple tannins, loads of dense black fruit in both the nose and on the tongue, and has a long, lengthy finish. Look for this wine in our stores soon.

The Triple C 2005 is a blend of Cab, Carmenere and Cabernet Franc – which really got me going with the Cab Franc addition (most wine geeks are big Cab Franc fans). Again, lots of power and lots of elegance are accounted for here in this dynamic, but unfortunately small-produced wine.
The Casa Real 2005 showed amazing depth and character. Well-built, with layers of dark fruits, spices and vanillin oak, with smooth, supple tannins, and a multi-dimensional finish.

I was truly impressed with the Chilean wines from Palm Bay. I am currently putting together an order and hope to have these wines in very soon. Tomorrow, I’ll touch on some of their German selections from winemaker S.A. Prum, and wrap things up with my favorite wine producing region, Italy.

No comments: