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Calina Winery builds on success of Chile's Carmenère
Kendall-Jackson label will triple shipments of signature red this year

by Nick Anis

Santa Rosa California is abuzz with talk of how Carmenère has become the rage with wine lovers, who drank up all Calina Winery's 2000 vintage. This year the trendy winery responded the wine drinking public's fascination with the little-known grape by tripling Carmenère production.  That's right I said "tripling."

According to sources at kendal Jackson, the parent company, Calina plans to release 15,000 cases of the 2001 Carmenère on May 1 in major American markets, signaling a substantial, long-term commitment to the signature grape of Chile.

Calina marketed the first widely available Carmenère by an American company when it shipped 2,000 cases of the 1999 vintage nearly two years ago. Production doubled to 4,500 cases for the 2000 vintage.

"We sold out the 2000 vintage, and we're prepared to make sure there's enough wine for the 2001 vintage," said Carl Krawitt, marketing director for Calina. "People have sent a clear signal that they love this wine-and at $9, it remains a tremendous buy."

Calina took a calculated risk when it put money on Carmenère. The grape had nearly disappeared from the world wine map until recently. It made its way in the mid-19th century to Chile from Bordeaux, where it once played a large role. But its low yields forced it out of favor when the French replanted after the phylloxera outbreak of the 1870s and '80s.

Carmenère lived unrecognized in the remote vineyards of Chilean for more than a century. It began to re-emerge only in the early 1990s, when Chileans discovered that many of the vines they called Merlot were actually Carmenère.

Once they sorted out its pedigree, Chileans began to recognize what wine lovers have come to appreciate: the low tannins and big, bright blackberry fruit of Carmenère make it a delight to drink alone and an ideal match for a range of foods.

Carmenère has since come to symbolize Chile much like Shiraz calls to mind Australia, Malbec Argentina and Zinfandel California.

Calina's Carmenère has played a lead role in forging this new identity for the grape. Critics praised the 2000 vintage with a raft of accolades, including a Gold Medal at the Florida State Fair, 5 Stars in Restaurant Wine magazine, a score of 90 in Wine Enthusiast and a Best Buy in Wine Spectator.

The 2001 Calina Carmenère is sourced from the estate vineyard in the Maule Valley near Talca, Chile. It aged nine months in small French and American oak barrels. Low yields and careful harvesting mean intense color, exuberant red fruit and spicy aromas.

A kindred wine is Calina's Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère. It won high marks in Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits and Restaurant Wine, which called the 2000 vintage "excellent.

Calina has ensured many years of success for Carmenère. Its vineyards are maturing and delivering better fruit than ever, as viticulturists learn more about growing and harvesting the variety. Inside the winery, winemakers now devote more time to Carmenère as a distinct variety, drawing out the best in the ripened fruit.

"Carmenère has come into its own after a century's hibernation, and we're proud to have a hand in its rebirth," Krawitt said. "Just stand back and watch it grow."
  
Calina has a website were you can find out more about Carmenère and the wines of the Calina winary at calina.com

Calina is one of several wineries opend and operated by kendall-Jackson Wine Estates.  KJ produces an impressive assortment of quality remium wines crafted from hillside and coastal growing regions in California, Italy, Chile, Argentina and Australia. Along with Kendall-Jackson, which features Collage®, Vintner's Reserve®, Grand Reserve, Great Estates™ and Stature™ wines, KJWE offers Camelot and Pepi brands with California appellations, Sonoma County's La Crema Winery, Edmeades from Mendocino's Anderson Valley, Villa Arceno from Tuscany, Italy, Yangarra Park from Australia, and South American wineries Calina from Chile and Tapiz from Argentina. 

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Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with 24 books in print. Nick’s beats include snow and water sports, and vacation destinations. Nick can be reached by email at: nickanis@aol.com.

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