Remembering and savouring Santa Rita Reserva 2003

Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Valle del Maipo 2003
I recall the names Santa Rita and Santa Carolina from my early days of burgeoning wine-worship. These two were patron saints of great wine value. (Or at least they were at the time -- I haven't seen a Santa Carolina bottle in years and Santa Rita only makes occasional appearances around here these days.)

[UPDATE: Six Santa Carolinas and a Santa Rita have been spotted as part of the LCBO's "Latin Fever" promotion, on until the end of the month.]

It's interesting to think that that part of my wine education went the way of Chilean wines. I was a Niagara Peninsula boy who loved Cabernet Franc, not that other one, and who had inside of him a blog fairly devoted to the wines of the Old World. But at the time, Chilean wines were indeed great values, especially the reds, which made fantastic everyday bottles.

Here, I check in on the Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Valle del Maipo 2003, a wine I recall drinking as long as I've been drinking wine. Yes, all eight years of pounding.

Thorough decanting opens the up the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon substantially, which, even though it was three years old when I uncorked it, was at first quite tight.

It had a deep red velvet colour with a magenta rim. Vanilla and savoury spice with very lush berries were present on the nose -- delicious! Like a wonderful combination of grenadine and vegetable soup!

On the nose it is almost better than it is on the palate which shows licorice, medicine, dark carbonized fruit, and wood. Slightly too acidic but it is balanced and with a long finish. It has a full body and tannins that are not totally elegant but at least integrated enough to give the wine structure without being totally domineering. The whole package is well served by a nice dry edge.

At a glance, this is a wine that needs some time but it possesses a beautiful bouquet with eucalyptus flavour -- that medicinal quality that can be a bit off-putting at first. Don't have it on its own, serve it with dinner. When paired with the right food it is a 100 percent luxurious addition to your meal. Try a very rare steak with roasted root vegetables, hardy greens like Brussels sprouts are also a good match for this wine. There's a juiciness to the wine that perfectly echoes the iron and tender red meat of the steak.

To sum up: This is still wise value, done in a typically international style.

Alto Jahuel, Buin, Chile. 13.5%.


JD said...

Santa Rita and Los Vascos, same month or so, were my introductions to Chilean wines. I liked them very much, but have for some reason gotten away from them for 8 or 9 years. You've got me interested in revisiting them.

Marcus g58 said...

Hey JD,

I've definitely been revisiting Chile and Argentina a lot lately. Just tonight I came back to this post to go over it and put the Santa Rita "120" Cabernet on my shopping list (for the first time in a long time -- it's discounted across Quebec stores until Sunday). I don't recognize the Los Vascos name though. Another great value wine?

Anonymous said...

Those Chilean wines were my first attempts at learning about wines. I remember how much I love the 120's of 1988 and how affordable they were. Fast forward a few years and I find myself pleasantly surprised at the soft tannins in the 03 Reservas. My earlier tasting notes on many of the inexpensive Chileans including Santa Rita read: Like getting hit with a leather belt in the mouth then having a handful of dirt tossed in after (strong tannins) while over a few hours the wine mellowed (I didn't understand decanting then) leaving a rich full taste and long finish. I still haven't tried a 120 in 15 years, but the 2003 Reserva rocks! I found one for 7.99 at Trader Joe's and definately worth it. Buy a case, store it for a year or two and you have a fantastic wine for a party or event without having to serve some crap.

Enjoy now and next five years easy! I would give the 2003 a 88 rating which is a lot considering the price. Note: the old 120's were Maipo Valley and now Rapel Valley. The reservas are now Maipo.