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By The Glass


Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Chilean winery
has fine reds

Beginning in the early 1990s, the message from south of the border was that Chile was going to be the next red-hot wine region. For 10 years, all we've been getting is chile verde (green chile) .... rustic green and stemmy red wines. Granted, this region has always offered great value wines, but value without quality is no value at all.

Just when you thought you'd say "No mas, no mas!" forever, along comes the winery leading a new Chilean red wine charge with a hearty "Hi ho Silva!" The winery is Casa Silva and I did feel a bit like the Lone Ranger discovering its wines in of all places, Vinitaly, the world's largest wine exposition held yearly in Verona, Italy.

While everyone was oohing and aahing over the barolo and barbaresco, I was freaking out over the Casa Silva portfolio. Nope, there was no trace of the dreaded chile verde in these wines. Just clean and fresh aromas, deep, pure fruit flavors and balanced finishes.

Casa Silva is a family-owned winery whose patriarch hails from Bordeaux, France. The fifth generation is producing beautiful reds that put elegance in everyday wines.

Reserve prices hover around the $10 mark, but tasted blind you would guess a price two to three times higher. Casa Silva has thrown down the gauntlet in the value wine category and we can't see many takers.

Casa Silva Reserve Merlot 2000 ($9.95): Dark fruit aromas of cherry and blackberry fused with cream, vanilla and smoke dominate the nose. Pure fruit flavors of plum, black cherry and blackberry without any herbaceousness is a pleasant surprise! Silky, sweet tannins conclude this flavor extravaganza. What a merlot!

Casa Silva Reserve Carmenere 2000 ($9.95): Hmmm? Have I tasted this varietal before? Quite a few Chilean reds labeled as merlot are actually carmenere. This Colchagua Valley varietal features a nose of cassis, rose, game, toast and vanilla. Sweet black cherry, cassis and vanilla form the palate, ending with a long finish and sweet, ripe tannins. Yum!

Casa Silva Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 ($9.95): Whoa! How can they make a wine like this for so cheap? Red fruit, graphite, smoke and condensed-milk aromas segue into a palate of black cherry, cassis and black olive. This wine has a fair amount of grippy tannins. We recommend decanting this brooding beauty or laying it down for a few years.

Lyle Fujioka owns Fujioka's Wine Merchants.

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