Palo Alto Reserve 2008

Price: $10
Maker: Vina Palo Alto Ltda., Santiago, Chile
Varietal: Red Blend – Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.8 out of 10

Palo Alto Reserve 2008 is a Chilean red blend. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah grapes are all grown in the Maule River valley region. The flavor of this wine featured unusually intense berry flavors, along with oak and black pepper. The finish was long and peppery. The rather strong tannins gave the wine a sharp edge at the outset, but letting it breathe for a while rounded things out. Surpisingly, a small quantity improperly stored in the original bottle for a couple of days didn’t suffer the expected deterioration, and if anything was slightly fruitier.

This wine has received some interesting recognition. According to the Palo Alto Wines website, the 2008 Vintage took gold at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2009. Palo Alto Reserve 2007 was scored at 89 points by Wine Spectator and named a “Best Value Red Wine.” It also earned a gold medal and “best value” designation while being scored at 91 points in the Wines of Chile Awards 2009.

Various wine bloggers have tasted Palo Alto Reserve, and have been favorable in their comments. Catchpeter scored it a 90 even though he found the wine confusing on his palate. In an unusual post that managed to discuss the credit crunch and Higgs Boson in addition to wine, Confessions of a Wino termed the wine, “Rich, full bodied and not for the feeble.” Drink What You Like found it to be the standout red at a local tasting. Vino Underground scored it an 89 despite finding it a bit tannic. Tim Dwight’s “Through the Grapevine” blog called it a “crowd pleasing bargain.” All in all, the blogosphere is in love with this wine – I don’t recall ever seeing such uniformly positive commentary on a wine in the $10 price range.

In case you wondered about the Palo Alto name, their site explains:

“Palo Alto” is the nickname for the thorny flowering trees that are dotted all over the rolling hillsides of the Maule Valley, the place where our wines are produced. These trees thrive in the dry, rocky, infertile soils. It’s no coincidence that where you see a “palo alto” you will often find vines. Vines planted in such soils tend to produce really high quality grapes, hence the name of our wines.

Overall, Palo Alto Reserve 2008 is a great value – I’m tempted to put a few bottles away to see what it’s like in a couple of years.