I recently enjoyed an interesting visit and tasting with Chilean winemaker Emily Faulconer of Arboleda Wines. Arboleda is the personal wine project of Eduardo Chadwick (one of Chile’s great wine ambassadors), who also runs his family’s well-known Viña Errázuriz, and another personal project Viña Seña, his “iconic” Bordeaux-style blend.
Arboleda embodies several of the most exciting themes in today’s Chilean wine scene: identifying exceptional and promising vineyard sites, focused and sustainable vineyard management, and an increasing emphasis on cool climate wines.
In the case of Arboleda, the interest in cooler climate expressions is embodied in their two vineyards, both located in the Aconcaqua Valley north of Santiago. The first is the Chilhué vineyard, just 12 km from the Pacific coast in the Costa zone. Chile’s coastal waters are extremely cold, dominated by the Humbolt current that brings water north from the Antarctic. This in turn cools the ocean breezes, generates daily fog and produces cold and rainy winters. Mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are planted here, taking advantage of the cooler environment to maintain acidity and freshness.
The second vineyard, Las Ventientes, is just inside the Entre Cordilera zone, about 40 miles from the coast. While this zone is generally much warmer, since it is inland between the coastal mountain range and the foothills of the Andes, the vineyard is close enough to the coast to receive some of the cool breezes that travel up the Aconcaqua valley from the coast. Here the later-ripening varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah and Cabernet Franc are planted.
Emily Faulconer took us through the six wines produced by the winery. All of these would be priced in the $20 to $22 range, and several will be released by Vintages in Ontario later in 2016.
- 2015 Arboleda Chardonnay. This wine is barrel fermented with all natural yeasts. Bright and fresh aromas of white flowers, lemon and green apple dominate the nose, with some riper melon and white peach notes, a hint of vanilla, and a clean, stony minerality. Bone dry, with fresh acidity, balanced alcohol, the palate takes on a creamy note that adds some richness, and provides a nice contrast to the stony/mineral finish. This is a fine cool climate expression of Chardonnay, and one of my favourites of the lineup. (89)
- 2015 Arboleda Sauvignon Blanc. Intense earthy, capsicum and grassy notes dominate lime, apple and grapefruit aromas, with just a hint of herbal-menthol. Nicely structured and with crisp acidity, the herbaceous notes recede on the palate, and apple, grapefruit and melon fruit carry through to a lightly mineral finish. (88)
- 2014 Arboleda Pinot Noir. This is a striking new world and cool climate expression of Pinot Noir. Pretty cherry, raspberry, cranberry and blackberry fruit are complemented by notes of violets and hints of vanilla and baking spice. The wine is dry, with brisk acidity, modest alcohol and fine, silky tannins. The palate is crisp and clean, and the wine finishes with bright crushed stone minerality. I can’t think of a Chilean Pinot Noir that has impressed me more in the past few years. (90)
- 2014 Arboleda Carmenere. Green herb, pepper, clove and vanilla aromas surround a core of blackberry, black currant and plum fruit. The wine is dry, alcohol is slightly elevated and tannins are firm. This is a very nice example of Carmenere that keeps its lightly herbal and slightly “green” character — which may not be appreciated by everyone. This wine will be released at Vintages in Ontario in October, 2016, and I look forward to retrying this after another five months in bottle. (87.5)
- 2014 Arboleda Syrah. I’ve been enjoying cooler climate Syrah from Chile, and there seems to be lots of potential with the variety. This example is deep ruby-violet, and shows violet on the rim. Smoky, peppery ripe cherry, blackberry and blueberry fruit fill the nose. Fresh acidity balances the slightly elevated alcohol and firm, textured tannins. The fruit is rich and ripe on the palate, with just a touch of menthol towards the finish. Very elegant and attractive. (89)
- 2014 Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a very approachable Cabernet Sauvignon, with blackberry, black cherry and plum fruit, light herbal, tapinade and menthol notes, along with a hint of baking spice. The wine is well-structured, as firm acidity balances grippy tannins, slightly elevated alcohol and a medium-full body. The wine is light enough on its feet to retain some elegance, although those who like bigger and bolder wines will find plenty to satisfy them. I believe that the 2013 vintage of this wine will be released at Vintages in Ontario, during September of 2016.