For well over a decade, I’ve been telling everyone who asks that I think the best value Cabernet in the world is the Concha y Toro “Marques de Casa Concha” Puente Alto Vineyard Cab, selling for right around $20. It’s not really even a close competition. The damned stuff should, if all were aligned in heaven and on earth, cost about $65. Really. In terms of what we look for in a great Cabernet, it simply has it all: gorgeous, stately fruit, unbelievably silken texture, perfect balance, ample acids, supple tannins…y’know, WOW! Fistfuls of black fruit, coffee, chocolate, figs, currants, black pepper, a judicious touch of barrel-derived vanilla and smoke. WOW! The current vintage is the 2012. GET IT. 94 Points
And it’s not even the best Cab that comes out of that near-legendary vineyard.
That title belongs to its big brother, Concha y Toro “Don Melchor” Puente Alto Vineyard. In all my epic wine tasting – literally somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 new wines or new vintages in the past 20 years – a relative handful leap to the forefront of my memory when I’m asked to name the best. Don Melchor, since I first tasted it in 1997, has been firmly in the Top Ten of that list. Again…really. “A Chilean Cabernet?” my Washington Francophile/Homer friends ask, “Aren’t all Chilean Cabs, like, $14 and taste like shoe leather?”
No, they are not.
Since its first vintage, in 1987, Don Melchor has been universally considered South America’s best premium Cab. As decades have passed, other wines have entered the picture and should have. Quality, especially from Argentina, has soared ever since the turn of the millennium. But Don Melchor has handled all comers and remains the pinnacle of what SA Cabernet is all about.
I received this bottle about six weeks ago and, honestly, it has taken me all this time to think of what to say. I confess that it’s been four years since I last tasted this wine, not because I didn’t want to. Time and circumstances just didn’t permit. So tasting this new 2010 was, just as it was in that first ’97 sampling, a freakin’ revelation. I had forgotten just how fine-grained, replete, aromatic, satiny, balanced, elegant, subtle, and complete this stuff is. IMHO, Don Melchor is as good a Cabernet as anybody is producing in the Western Hemisphere, right now. And the 2010 is approached only by the epic 2005 and 2001 vintages in terms of skillful execution, balance, and flat-out deliciousness.
Make no mistake about this: you do not need any wine acumen to enjoy Don Melchor. It sits in the glass as, first, a wonderfully enjoyable wine experience that requires zero explanation. It’s stuffed with flavors of blackberry liqueur, black currants, rosemary, dark chocolate, sweet minerals, a hint of leather, distinct barrel notes, figs, fat black cherries, dried cranberries, and grace notes galore. It is crazily but stealthily aromatic, redolent of everything you look for in the nose of a world-class Cabernet. The texture is like having your tongue massaged with a velvet swatch and the finish is just, well, perfect. There is absolutely nothing cloying or overwrought about this wine. It reminds me strongly of Dunn and Ferrari-Carano, with that Dry Creek/Russian River length and subtlety. It reminds me, too, of several of the great Walla Walla Cabs: Sleight of Hand’s “Illusionist”, Dunham’s Lewis Vineyard Reserve, and Leonetti Reserve Cab. It is adamantly NOT one of those hedonistic, deep-pile Napa bombs that deliver fruit in gobs of jellied opulence. It is the dictionary definition of the word “elegant“; a wine that any Cabernet house on Planet Earth would be proud to hang its label on.
I’ve now sampled fifteen vintages of this wine and it just keeps on keepin’ on, near-perfect every year, artfully made, sophisticated, refined, and absolutely sumptuous. Yeah, it’s gonna run ya about $75+ to snag a bottle (I recently saw a previous vintage of it for that price at my local CostCo), but you absolutely can – and probably will – spend $40 to $80 more for a comparable bottle from California and not have a wine that is any better at all. This is, simply put, a spectacular bottle of Cabernet and, with its ridiculously underpriced little brother, remains the best one-two Cab Tandem from any winery on Planet Earth. 99 Points