- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Santa Rita, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Maipo Valley, 2005, $14

The more wines I have the opportunity to taste, the more convinced I become that Chile’s central valleys — especially Rapel, Colchagua, Cachapoal, and Maipo — rank among the top places anywhere in the world in which to grow cabernet sauvignon.

In terms of sheer quality, top Chilean cabernets rank alongside wines from Bordeaux and Northern California. In terms of value, the Chilean wines clearly are a step ahead.

Santa Rita’s reasonably priced reserve cabernet is neither the winery’s nor the country’s best. (The company’s Casa Real, costing about $70, is in Chile’s top echelon.) Yet, this is a superb wine for the money, far outpacing comparably priced French or American offerings.

First-rate Chilean cabernet tastes both sumptuous and exotic. This wine offers plenty of dark berry flavor, but it introduces its fruit with aromas and flavors that echo dried herbs, saddle leather and dark chocolate, and it finishes on a dusty, mocha note. It’s rare to encounter this sort of compelling complexity in wines that cost twice as much.

Drinking well now, Santa Rita’s reservas have a track record of aging well for five years or so. If buying this wine by the case, I would have no hesitation holding onto some bottles for a few years. When you do pop a cork, serve this deeply flavored wine with well-marbled roasts, chops or steaks.

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