Sunday, January 2, 2011

Laura Hartwig.

The land for this winery right outside the city of Santa Cruz was bought by Laura Hartwig’s owner “for fun” in 1928. After having done very little with the land, he gave it to Laura in 1966. The land remained vacant while the family moved to Canada and Laura’s father traveled on business to the US and Germany. During these trips he learned about the potential of winemaking and made silent plans for the land in Colchagua.

Laura and Don Alejandro Hartwig

In 1978 Mr. Hartwig planted his first Chardonnay grapes on Laura’s land. His oldest son Christian (of MontGras) asked to join him in 1994, encouraging the production of the first Cabernet after discussing at length the “best varietals” with a friend from Bordeaux. The Hartwigs agreed that their desire for the winery was to remain a boutique-style affair, producing wines mainly for restaurants and to be sold at the winery.

The winery now exports 90% of their wines to China, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, the US, Germany, Denmark, England, and Japan, but remains a boutique producer with a maximum of only 12,000 liters made per year.

Our host at the winery was not only informative and helpful, but was a bottomless pit of knowledge about Santa Cruz’s origins and gave us most of the information I previously wrote about regarding Carlos Cardoen. The visit lasted much longer than expected, and more than a few glasses were consumed over tales of the infamous Cardoen’s dealings! Here are the wines we tasted:

2009 Reserva Chardonnay

Half of the Chardonnay in this wine is aged in new to 5 year old French oak for 6 months to give a hint of oak spice and vanilla. At first the aromatics were impressive: a minerally, herbal, peachy scent that was very complex. However after just a few minutes all these were gone leaving behind a bit of oakiness and not much else. It is full, rich, and reminiscent of canned stone fruits in the mouth, but the dissipation of the aromatics was rather disappointing.

2008 Reserva Merlot/Petit Verdot

Another disappointment. The nose of this wine was completely reserved and never opened up. I could get a faint touch of plums and baking spices, but that may even have been my imagination. This wine was ok.

2008 Reserva Carmenere

Spice, black pepper, and wood attempted to waft around in the glass, but failed once again. At this point I began to believe this was a winemaking issue, not an issue in the vineyards. When I asked about the overly and unpleasantly reserved nature of these first three wines, the response I got was something about the unique expression the winemaker is attempting. Hmm.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Sometimes a Cabernet offers me a strange wet clay smell. And I never like it. I feel it dulls the fruit and reduces my enjoyment greatly. I sensed some strawberries and black fruits under the lump of clay but did not bother to characterize it further.

2007 Gran Reserva

Finally! This wine allowed me to end the tasting on a good note. A blend of 39% Cabernet, 31% Carmenere, 29% Shiraz, and 1% Petit Verdot gave this wine an extremely complex aroma profile of blackberries, violets, vanilla, caramel, and a hint of bright strawberries. Its concentrated feel and perfectly velvety tannins were followed by a very long and luscious finish. Thank God one of them was good!

My overall impression of Laura Hartwig’s wines was not good. The Gran Reserva was the saving grace. As was the charming ride through the vineyards in a horse-drawn carriage crafted by a German man who lives next door to the winery. The experience was great; the wines were not. A fun place to visit nonetheless.

For more information, visit Laura Hartwig’s website here.

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