The first time I had a Chilean wine was about a decade ago and I have a friend who is a both a wine and sake aficionado and served as as consultant on both at Astor Wine and Spirits to thank for my introduction to this region. He was hosting one of his regular wine dinners at his home in Astoria — he was a good cook and liked to experiment — and on this night it was a medley of Pan Latin flavors with wines to match. ” Try this.” he said. He extended a bottle of wine in my direction. I glanced at the label. ” Casillero del Diablo.” My Spanish isn’t much to write home about but I knew enough to make the translation. ” The Devil’s Cellar.” My first thought: ” Well that’s easy to remember.” I was actually expecting another “Chateau”– or “Castillo” or “Casa” — something or other on the label.
This particular Casillero del Diablo was a Cabernet Sauvignon. My first taste of Chilean wine? Balanced and round, with ripe cherry, blackberry and raspberry notes, soft oak and silky tannins. It was full but not overpowering, and was equally adaptable to pulled pork empanadas as to grilled skirt steak. I had Casillero del Diablo several more times over the years and was never disappointed. However I had yet to try the whites. So when I received an invitation to check out an array of whites from Casillero del Diablo’s new Devil’s Collection reserva, I gladly accepted.
The intimate dinner was held at the Banfi Estate in Old Brookville, New York. Erected in the 1920s, the estate was originally owned by Sir Samuel Agar Salvage, ( who brought the fabric material known as rayon to The United States ), then acquired by Margaret Emerson, before finally falling into the hands of the Banfi family. Banfi Vineyards holds the distinction of being arguably one of the pioneers of Italian wine in the United States. Anyone who has ever seen the Reunite commercials knows that Banfi was a household name here long before many others ever made it onto The United States market. This stately venue ( it serves as the headquarters for Banfi’s administrative operations) was the ideal location to host what was an unconventional wine dinner pairing. Two chefs were invited to create a duo of tacos to complement whites and reds from the Casillero del Diablo collection.
A crisp and Casillero del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc with balanced acidity, and citrus and subtle mineral flavors, worked particularly well with a shrimp, mashed avocado, diced watermelon and crumbled feta tacos.
A Casillero del Diablo Devil’s Collection White blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer with ripe orchard fruit and soft honey notes, and a silky and soft finish, was an equally good candidate to drink alone preferably on spring days and to serve as a complement to a jerk chicken tacos with spiced peach salsa.
The reds came next along with a second course of considerably meatier and heartier taco combinations. A full bodied and rich Casillero del Diablo Reserva Carmenere with ripe raspberry, plum and blackberry notes, and a lingering even finish worked best with a flank steak carne asada, jicama and radish slaw, sliced avocado and chipotle sauce tacos. The bold flavors of both complemented each other. A robust and complex Casillero del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon with bold red fruit notes, medium oak and mature tannins accentuated the flavors of a crispy smoked paprika spiced beef shoulder, tomatillo, corn jalapeno and avocado lime crema. The wine and the dish presented with a harmonious interplay of flavors. Cilantro and black bean rice and fried yuca flavored with garlic cilantro butter accompanied the meal and made versatile wine pairing alternatives.
The result? Appealing and approachable wines that are adaptable to a range of flavor combinations ranging from the traditional to the unconventional and that, in this global culinary climate, is a very good thing to be.