Monday, July 1, 2013

Anderson Valley Vineyards New Mexico Red Chile Wine

Over the past couple of years, I have tried to be adventurous when it comes to wine.  I have sought out little known grape varietals or wines produced from unexpected regions.  In the latter regard, one such unexpected region can be found in New Mexico.  One ordinarily associates New Mexico with deserts and grasslands.  However, New Mexico has mountain ranges and, with mountains, comes elevation, cooler climates and the possibility of cultivating wines.

I have previously wrote about the history of winemaking in New Mexico, which has a surprisingly long tradition.  I suppose it would only be time before this winemaking tradition would merge with what puts New Mexico on the "map" ... Hatch chiles.   Now, the name -- "Hatch Chile" -- does not actually refer to a specific variety of chile peppers.  Instead, it is a reference to where the chiles are grown, which is the Hatch Valley, stretching from the town of Arrey to the town of Hatch, New Mexico.  The specific peppers are different variants of the Anaheim chiles ... a much more aromatic and spicier version of the Anaheim chiles that are found in most supermarkets.  Given the abundance of Hatch chiles, combined with the creativity of winemakers, a chile wine was destined to be made.
With my love for the Hatch chile, it was inevitable that a bottle of chile wine would grace the table of the Savage Boleks.  This particular bottle of Red Chile wine was produced by Anderson Valley Vineyards.  I came across this bottle at the tasting room of another winemaker, Vino del Corazón.  At the time, I was more focused on the Corazón wines.  I have previously reviewed two of their wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The winemakers also had Anderson Valley Vineyard bottles for sale because they gained their practical experience with that vineyard.  When I saw they had a chile wine, I bought a bottle.  

The backbone of this wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon.  At first, I thought that this grape was a risky choice.  There is a range of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, from fruit forward and easy drinking wines to some big and earthy wines.  Many of the Cabernet Sauvignon wines (especially those tending to the big and earthy wines) have varying amounts of tannins, which do not play well with spices like chiles.  Tannins intensify the heat and piquancy of chiles, making the dish much spicier than it would otherwise be.  That is fine for someone like me, because I love spicy foods, but it can put off other people. 

Fortunately, the Cabernet Sauvignon used to make this chile wine tends toward the fruity and easy drinking end of the wines.  This really allows the chiles to shine through.  The wine poured like any other Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a dark red or burgundy color.  The aromatic elements present what one would expect from a Cabernet Sauvignon, such as red cherries and raspberries.  However, the Hatch chiles are definitely present in the aroma.  They are also present in the taste of the wine, providing a kick to the ripe cherries, strawberry and raspberry flavors that are found in a Cabernet Sauvignon wine.  The wine is particularly balanced between the berry fruit and the pepper spice.  

I do not know if this wine is still being made, because I could not find anything about Anderson Valley Vineyards.  However, I did see that Vino del Corazón has its own red chile wine.  I intend to buy a bottle (or a few) and, based upon the other Vino del Corazón wines, I have no doubt that it will be just as good if not better than this wine.  


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