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Wine of the Week: 2009 Viña Leyda, Las Brisas Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Leyda Valley, Chile

Thanksgiving might be over, but you might still need some more Pinot Noir for all of those turkey leftovers.

But, what really does the always flexible, light red grape not go with? A lot more than turkey that’s for sure.

Nowadays, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the Sonoma Coast, and Santa Barbara County grab the headlines for Pinot Noir in the New World, with their cooler, moist climates yielding grapes that produce elegant, well-rounded, smooth, and fruity Pinot Noirs that can make anybody fall in love with wine. Yes, as is obligatory when referring to Pinot Noir, the varietal can make you infatuated by wine like the characters in Sideways.

What about if you flip Oregon to the Southern Hemisphere and grow Pinot Noir in Chile? I visited Chile two years ago for wine tasting in the Colchagua Valley, only to be welcomed by a procession of exceptional Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux-style blends, and Chardonnay from grapes in the coastal Casablanca Valley. Not once did I sample Pinot Noir.

If this single vineyard effort by Leyda is any indication, Chile knows its Pinot Noir. Slightly darker in color and displaying more tannin structure than many other Pinot Noir efforts, the nose of spruce and ollalaberry shine first. Notes of raspberry, sage, and even cardamom pop in leading to the ultra suave finish, with none of the jammy nonsense sometimes found.

The Leyda Valley is slightly southwest of Chile’s principal growing region, the Maipo Valley, where the drier climate away from the ocean and closer to the Andes yields the exceptional Carmenère grapes. The valley is only five miles from the sea, fully exposed to long periods of fog. With no frost in the growing season, cooler summer temperatures, and higher humidity, the Leyda is perfect for Pinot Noir. The micro-region where the Las Brisas Vineyard resides boasts a granite based soil, helping lend an herbal sense to the Pinot Noir, the only grape grown in the vineyard. Las Brisas is the furthest west of Leyda’s Pinot Noir growing single vineyards.

Viviana Navarrete serves as winemaker for the young winery in a young wine growing region. The D.O. Leyda Valley was only created in 2001, with Viña Leyda leading the way beforehand in 1998.

As the 2009 Pinot Noir matures, expect even finer notes from this already invigorating, fresh wine. Chile certainly is in the Pinot Noir big leagues too, with Leyda out in front guiding the way.

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