Axel by Viña LaPlaya ~ A day on the beach with a Colchagua Valley Chilean wine…
To clarify… “La playa” is Spanish for beach, and anything with “beach” in its title is bound to get my immediate attention. Growing up and living near the Maine coastline, now living and working near the California coastline… This is where my heart lives. When Axel by Viña LaPlaya arrived at the office, it got my immediate attention… And, that’s what a wine brand has to do today… Immediately connect the dots with a potential consumer.
And, this is no easy task. Let’s take a step backwards for a second.
The wine industry is an amazing commodity offering. It’s not like peanut butter, let’s say, where there are a few brands on the shelf (Skippy, Jif, etc.). When you Google “peanut butter,” the first page only has these two brand named. Everything else is related, but not brand names. So, now you’re in the peanut butter isle. Your big decision here is, “Chunky or smooth? Hum…”
Okay, now go to your wine isle… Point taken?
According to Wines & Vines, California has 2,116 wineries, Washington has 365 (one for every day of the year, if you wanted to play that game), Oregon has 270, New York has 199, Virginia has 105, Colorado has 70, and all other states within the US have at least one winery… Yes, even Alaska and Hawaii… I’m thinking ice wine for Alaska. Maui has a wonderful winery that I’ve visited. Its name is Tedeschi, and its pineapple wine is delicious. Unlike what you might think, there’s no residual sugar. It’s fermented dry, and will pair really well with the other white meat, any fowl dishes, and is a simply refreshing sipper on an island holiday… or sunny day. Tedeschi Winery
So there you go… Domestic is well represented.
Now, we go global. Wine options are a staggering number, so this leads me to believe that we eventually will find what we like, and build some brand loyalty into that enjoyment of food and wine, sharing wine with friends, holiday celebrations et al.
LaPlaya certainly added to my enjoyment of wine, for several reasons, after my initially beyond being drawn in by the concept of “La Playa.” This is a new line introduced by the partners of this wine company:
- Axelsen family
- Sutil family
- Errázuriz family (My first introduction with this family was when I was working at Robert Mondavi winery, who had also partnered with Errázuriz. I learned then about this very prominent winemaking family)
The vineyards of Viña La Playa occupy some of the Colchagua Valley’s most desirable acreage, and are alongside the western shores of Chile’s Tinguiririca River. In close proximity to water (which has a wonderful way of creating interesting mesoclimates), this always produces nearly perfect growing conditions.
Axel LaPlaya is offering four wines in their portfolio.
- Primero ($30)
- Cabernet Sauvignon ($20)
- Syrah ($20)
- Carménère ($20) (Carménère was originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, and was used to produce deep red wines.)
These Axel LaPlaya wines are rich, and deeply flavorful. They have good tannic structure; the tannins are worthy, yet tamed. The wines are very drinkable right now, but I’d also feel very comfortable laying the wines down for seven to 10 years, knowing that I’d return to find a silky, flavorful experience.
For me, it’s always an adventure to taste a proprietary blend, as with Primero. When tasting a specific variety, one immediately looks for what’s expected of that grape’s established flavor profile. To taste a proprietary blend, however, is to taste what an alchemist has conjured up, and can’t be compared against anything else. No benchmark has been set, so that should allow your exploration of its flavor(s) to soar… It’s pure discovery.
The first wine that we opened was Axel LaPlaya’s 2004 Primero. It was the name that made that decision for me. How could one start anywhere else, semantics being all that it is? The 2004 LaPlaya Primero is listed as a Cabernet blend (with CS being 80 percent of it). The other components include Cabernet Franc (10 percent), Carménère (5 percent), and Syrah (5 percent). The Carménère and Syrah are what have created its unique flavor profile, making this a superbly blended wine with really pleasant flavors that explode, and then linger on your palate.
Cabernet Franc is a customary part of many Bordeaux blends, and it’s the final component of Primero. I’ve learned to love Cab Franc in my wine career. This happened when I was working with Ironstone Vineyards, located in the Sierra Foothills. Ironstone grows more Cabernet Franc than any other US wine company. They produced plenty of it; therefore, I was able to really become familiar with it as a stand-alone grape. Now my palate is quick to pick up the jammy juiciness that Cab Franc brings to any blend for additional flavor.
When visiting your favorite place to buy wine, or if you’re reading a wine list and your eyes fall on Axel’s LaPlaya, you’re in for a treat. Quality and value… That’s what’s being offered, beyond great flavors, and they deliver on their promise. ¿Donde está la playa?
To learn where the beach is, visit LaPlaya