Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vino del Corazón Merlot

When it comes to wine, there is always a lot of talk about "terroir."   Generally speaking, terroir refers to the special characteristics of an area or region.  For oenophiles and sommeliers, terroir involves climate, as well as soil type and topography.  For me, I never really understood what the fascination is with terroir.  They say that the climate, soil and topography affects the taste of the wine.  However, I have never experienced the weather of the Bordeaux region, I have never ran my fingers through the soil of the Garnacha region nor have I studied the shapes of Chile's valleys.  For me, terroir could have a more personal aspect, one that ties a person to where the particular wine comes from.  An excellent example of this personal aspect of "terroir," is the Vino del Corazón Merlot.

Vino del Corazón is a vineyard and winery in, of all places, New Mexico.  It is the dream of the founders and owners, Erica and Richard Hart.  After having worked for other vineyards, the Harts planted their own vines, grew the own grapes, and began to produce their own wines.  I first encountered the Vino del Corazón wines when I traveled to Santa Fe for work.  After a long day, I decided to walk around the town.  As I walked throughout the historic downtown, I came across the Vino del Corazón wine tasting room. Intrigued by the thought of wine in New Mexico, I checked it out.  Every time I came to Santa Fe, I would check out the wines at the tasting room.  I never took any wine home with me, for fear that it would shatter in my suitcase.  Instead, I always returned home with pounds of the iconic New Mexican ingredient ... ground hatch chile peppers.  And, while followers of this blog know that I love chile peppers, I always regretted not taking home some wine.  That was, until, I realized that I could have it shipped to me.  

One of the bottles that I had shipped to me is the Vino del Corazón Merlot.  While wine professionals may view "terroir" as something involving the climate of northern New Mexico, the composition of its soils, and/or the shape of the hills (all of which may be very important), this wine drives home what I think could be the personal aspect of terroir. 

The Vino del Corazón Merlot pours a crimson red, although the red is a few shades lighter than a Cabernet Sauvignon.  The winemakers, that is the Harts, describe the aroma of their Merlot to include violets, cherry and spice.  For me, I have always had problems identifying particular floral aromas, as opposed a more general sense of flowers.  I did readily detect the aroma of cherries, which are the centerpiece of the aromatic feature of this wine.  There are also whiffs of earth or spice lingering in the background, but the cherry aroma is first and foremost with this wine.

And, as for the taste, that is where the personal aspect of the terroir comes into play.  I do not know if it is the climate, soil type or terroir, but this wine clearly speaks of New Mexico.  The Harts describe the wine as having flavors of vanilla, plums and black cherry.  I could see the plums and black cherry, but the vanilla was a little too far in the background. 

However, what truly caught my attention is the spice flavors.  Not just any spice, but a suggestive hint of  that quintessential New Mexican spice ... hatch chiles.  The spice is not heat, but flavor.  The hatch chile flavor lingers around the edges of the wine, particularly in the finish.  It was as if someone sprinkled a little green or red hatch chile powder on those plums and black cherries. I really enjoyed that hatch chile flavor, which got me to thinking about the jars of ground hatch chiles sitting in our cabinets.  The chile flavor is most noticeable in the first several sips of the wine, but, as the wine sits, the spice flavor fades a little into the background, with the fruit taking over.  

I had this wine delivered to my home.  I checked Vino del Corazón's website, and it does not look like it is available. However, the Harts have other wines available, such as their Cabernet Sauvignon, which I have previously reviewed and which I also recommend.   


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