I just got back from a 2 week vacation in Chile that included one day in the Casablanca Valley wine region. Casablanca looks like nothing so much as the Northern California wine region with fewer trees (though there were some big, old eucalyptus trees here and there), and it gets cool ocean breezes due to gaps in the hills leading to the Pacific Ocean. Casablanca's proximity to Santiago makes it a good attraction for locals, and some wineries are working to cater to that.
Our first visit was to Kingston Family, which is owned by a family originally from California. In fact they have a wine club which operates out of California. We had a lovely tour and tasting of this relatively new winery (first vintage was I believe 2003). While the focus of the Casablanca Valley is white wine (lots of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay planted - I did taste the Kingston Sauvignon, and found it overwhelmingly herbal/green pepper), the best wines at Kingston were the Syrahs, with one of the Pinot Noirs close behind. I did detect more than a trace of green, as well as white pepper notes in the some of the reds. The vines are quite young, and perhaps the yields are a touch high (though they were stated at 2.5-4 tons per acre depending on the variety). I would happily drink their Tobiano Pinot Noir (good red fruits and that white pepper nuance - very interesting wine), and their 2008 Bayo Oscuro Syrah was very enjoyable (best wine I tasted at Kingston - not a trace of green in this one, the pepper was more black than white). The Lucero Syrah was also well made, but more than a little too oaky for my taste. There's good promise here for the future in my opinion, and prices for even their top wines are quite reasonable. They also happen to be imported to the USA by Michael Skurnik wines, so their stuff should be accessible at least in the NY/NJ area.
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