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Lafond Winery & Vineyards, Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County, California) Chardonnay "SRH" 2017 ($24)
 Big props to Lafond for consistently great wines like this crisp Chardonnay.  Judiciously oaked so as to accent the lemon and pear with easy toast and spice without overwhelming the fruit.  A bright acid kiss on the end freshens the palate and sets you up for the next bite of fresh baked halibut.  Oops -- dreaming out loud again.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2019 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.   
94 Rich Cook


Posted by Robert Whitley on February 17, 2019 at 11:05 AM

Winery to Watch: TerraPura

In 2016, Chile's Matetic Wine Group purchased an obscure but modern winery in the Colchagua Valley, one of the country's most renowned wine regions.  Matetic, true believers in organic and biodynamic farming, did two things to move the needle for the TerraPura winery: hired a new winemaker, Felipe Vial, and enlisted the services of Napa Valley winemaker Bob Pepi as winemaking consultant.

Pepi brought a trove of experience in South America to the task, having served Argentina's Valentin Bianchi as a consultant for more than a decade.  The TerraPura project is aimed at value consumers.  The wines are "line" priced at $11.99 each, and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Pepi and taste four of the 2018 releases: a Sauvignon Blanc, a Carmenere, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

What struck me most was the clean, fresh delivery and fruit purity.  None of the wines were barrel-fermented, though nuances of wood spice emerged because of the use of barrel staves during the winemaking process.

Pepi, who has his own label, Eponymous, that sources grapes from a number of top vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, favorably compares the terroir of Chile to California.

"I consider Argentina somewhere between Bordeaux and California, but with a little more fruit than Bordeaux," Pepi said. "Chile is more like California with its diversity of soils and climate, and the wines have plenty of fruit."

The Sauvignon Blanc, from the Valle de Curico, was bright and fresh with notes of grapefruit.

The Pinot Noir, from the cooler Valle Itata, offered notes of cherry and spice and impressive persistence on the finish.  Pepi is especially proud of the Pinot.

"I'm pretty excited about this," he said. "I don't think you can touch it for the price."  Indeed, tasty Pinot Noir for $12 is a rare and beautiful thing.

The Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, both from the warmer Colchagua Valley, are fresh and pure, with the Carmenere delivering slightly more weight and richness than the Cabernet, though each is distinctive in its own way.

Chile has long been known for tasty wines at value prices, and TerraPura does nothing to change that equation.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @WineGuru.

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Bordeaux 2016: Excellent Vintage with Potential to Age
Robert Whitley

BORDEAUX, France - The 2016 vintage in Bordeaux got off to a rocky start, with heavy rains in the spring. The summer months began to sow optimism, with warm, dry weather that continued through harvest. Throughout the region, Right Bank and Left Bank, the vines were healthy and the crop bountiful. The result is an excellent vintage that should please collectors with wines that show tremendous upside potential to age.
The Amazing Wine World Transformers: Southern Hemisphere Wines
Wayne Belding

Although most of Earth's landmass, and thus its vineyard land, is in the Northern Hemisphere, there is much of interest to wine lovers in the Southern Hemisphere. In the last three decades, winegrowing areas in Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have all demonstrated great potential for fine wine production. Most of these now commonly seen wines were rarely available at all in the US market of the early 1980's. Their aggregate rise in consumer recognition has transformed the international wine market.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Salmon Filet and Cucumbers

The tendency on a cold winter's evening is to hunker down and enjoy a warm and sturdy dinner--beef stew, perhaps, or lasagna, or some-such stick-to-the-ribs dish. One recent frosty night, however, we found ourselves perversely yearning for food that might bring us a whiff of summer. We're not talking about truly warm weather food such as Salade Niçoise, gazpacho or egg salad sandwiches; what we wanted was a warm and nutrient dense meal to help support our immune systems during this icy season, but also something suggestive of summers past and future. The dish we came up with was an oven-roasted filet of salmon garnished with cucumbers. The super nutritious salmon was warm, rich and spicy, while the contrasting cool, sliced cucs contributed evocative summery aromas as well as textural crunch. And as a reminder that it was still cold outside, we served hot-from-the-oven baked potatoes as an accompaniment to this lovely dish.
On My Table
Big Can Be Beautiful
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Wine drinkers seem to have very specific style preferences for Chardonnay wines. My husband likes them sleek, crisp and unoaked, a la Chablis. I like them rich but not very rich, and not too oaky -- and I like them expressive. Many fine Burgundy-like Chardonnays from California need age before I find them sufficiently expressive for my enjoyment. When I tasted this fine Sea Smoke Chardonnay, my first impression was that it is just too big. As soon as the second taste, however, I became seduced by the wine's complexity and expressiveness. It's a huge mouthful of Chardonnay but it's delicious and very well-balanced.