Wine-conscious Angelenos get excited when the harvest months of September and October roll around, and many plan trips to California’s wine regions–from Sonoma and Napa Valley down to Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, and Temecula. However, the anticipation of harvest doesn’t have to last an entire year because countries in the Southern Hemisphere are in the home stretch now for their grape harvest, which begins in March and carries into April.
From Chile and Argentina to South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, red and white grapes will soon be ready for picking, crushing, fermenting, and aging. So, in a sort of celebratory anticipation, we asked three L.A. wine experts to divulge their favorite Southern Hemisphere reds—one bargain and one premium bottle—ideal for sipping on a “cool winter” evening.
Amy Atthajaroon, wine specialist, Mission Wine & Spirits in South Glendale
Casa Lapostolle 2012 “Casa” Grand Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Rapel Valley, Chile, $11.99
The grapes: “A blend of 90 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest a bit of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.”
The story: “The winery was founded in 1994 by Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle. The name should sound familiar; she is the great granddaughter of Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, the creator of Grand Marnier. When the family wasn’t filling up bars across the world with their liqueur, they spent time on the vineyards being very involved in winemaking. Alexandra decided to carve out her own identity by traveling to Chile in search of a place she could implement the genius flowing through her veins, and bottle liquid goodness for the masses.”
Tastes like: “I’ve been on a fruit smoothie kick, and this wine is reminiscent of a frozen berry medley bag I use in one of my smoothies. There is a noticeable presence of red berries, but then blackberries just seem to appear at random. Just like how I feel after my smoothie, this wine is fresh, bright, and the tannins are ready to tackle whatever you have planned for the rest of the day.”
Capataz 2011 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $35.99
The grapes: “100 percent Malbec.”
The story: “Darioush Khaledi doesn’t just make wines, he makes a statement. It costs a pretty penny to hear it, but it’s well worth it. He is well known in Napa Valley for his ‘Signature’ styles. He is so proud of those wines, rightfully so I may add, that he puts his name on the wines– literally. His proud spirit led him to Argentina to partner with Aria Mehrabi, and together they sought to make a formidable wine. They named their wine ‘Capataz,’ another nod to Darioush as their leader in assisting with Argentina making their own statement with their wines.”
Tastes like: “All the flavors of a cup of black forest coffee can be found in this wine, and then some. There are some dark cherries followed by mocha and undertones of molé spices. For those not familiar with molé, think cinnamon and paprika with cacao. If it were a brew, it would be on the bold spectrum with a smooth tannic quality. It’s savory with a complementary smooth texture.”
If Amy is not helping out a customer on the floor, she’s reading up on the newest finds in the industry in her wine bar office. Feel free to ask for her because she is always up for a conversation.
David Othenin-Girard, buyer, K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood
Clos Ouvert 2012 “Primavera,” Maule Valley, Chile, $15.99
The grapes: “Blend of 40 percent Carignan, 30 percent Paìs, 20 percent Cinsault, and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon—all organically harvested from old dry-farmed vineyards (the Pais grape is one of Chile’s oldest varieties and is experiencing somewhat of a resurgence right now).”
The story: “Louis-Antoine Luyt has championed a different kind of winemaking in a country whose vines are controlled primarily by industrial producers. Having honed his craft with the legendary Marcel Lapierre, Luyt is committed to producing exceptional wines with the absolute minimum amount of manipulation—he sources grapes from organic non-irrigated vineyards in Chile’s diverse Maule Valley region and still uses a horse-drawn plow.”
Tastes like: “Ripe red and black berries squeezed into freshly tilled soil. Tons of earthy spice and pepper aromas, but always with a great freshness behind to keep it balanced. On the palate, the acid hasn’t taken over and there’s a nice medium weight to it. Tannins are soft and subtle. There’s a fabulous interplay between the funky earth and spice and the brambly juicy fruit. Works for winter, but reminds you of spring.”
Sadie Family 2013 Old Vine Series Treinspoor, Tinta Barroca, Swartland, South Africa, $49.99
The grapes: “Tinta Barroca is not a grape of great legend or stature. One of the Douro’s common blending varieties, it is the equivalent of Portugal’s Cabernet Franc. It grows particularly well in cooler climates—especially at high altitudes.”
The story: “Unquestionably South Africa’s most exciting winemaker, Eben Sadie, who founded Sadie Family in 1999, could very well be making the best quality wines in the Southern Hemisphere—a direct reflection of his biodynamic farming of extremely old vines at high altitude vineyards in the Paarl district of Swartland.
Tastes like: “I just have to say it: This is one of the world’s most sought-after wines and deserves to be compared to wines significantly more expensive. We carry it in tiny quantities and my best description is this: It is like a quantum physical anomaly—it will catapult you through time and space. This wine is an existential crisis, perfect for escaping cold weather. Only reason not to drink it is that there’s no going back once you do.”
You can usually find David cutting boxes in the spirits section at K&L in Hollywood or talking about wines with soul and other things that can evoke tears of joy.
Monica Marin, DWS and head of education, The Wine House in Sawtelle
Momo (Seresin) 2012 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $15.99
The grapes: “100 percent Pinot Noir.”
The story: “You might not know owner Michael Seresin’s wines, but you might know some of the movies he’s worked on (as director of photography): Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, City Hall, Angela’s Ashes, and Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban. The Momo is really an entry-level offering from Seresin, so try this out, then look for his estate-grown, single-vineyard organic and biodynamic-farmed Pinots.”
Tastes like: “It’s crisp—almost lemony—on the finish, with red cherry, cranberry, and red berry flavors that are fresh and lively, showing details of cedar, mineral and spice. It will welcome a chilled serving temperature.”
Louis-Antoine Luyt 2013 Huasa de Pilen Alto, Maule Valley, Chile, $25
The grapes: “100 percent Paìs—an ancient variety that arrived in Chile thanks to Spanish conquistadors.”
The story: “Produced from vines that have been grafted and re-grafted every 20 to 30 years on rootstocks that are 180 years old and grown on a steep hill over 6,000 feet in altitude in soils that are composed of clay with a large amount of decomposed granite. Temperatures change radically at this height from the high 80s during the day to the low 50s at night.”
Tastes like: “With 100 percent carbonic maceration, and eight months of aging in old oak barrels, bright and tart red berry fruit mingles with an earthy character and spice notes.”
Monica is the head of WSET Education (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) at the Wine House and can often be seen shuffling between the Upstairs II restaurant and classroom space and the downstairs retail area. If you catch her, she’ll chat your ear off about wines from Spain.