Showing posts with label Argentina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Argentina. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tasting Argentine Wine

Tasting Argentina - Game of Grapes - was another great presentation from Learn About Wine.  Ian Blackburn’s group puts on the premier wine events in Southern California, and this one, on October 25, 2012, brought wines from South America to the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.

There are a number of aspects about the wine industry in Argentina which I find fascinating.  The speed at which the country turned the quality of their wine around 180 degrees was phenomenal.  Their branding of Malbec and Torrontes as "national grapes" has expanded to a global stage.  The limited use of oak in many of their wines would be cutting-edge if it weren't often due simply to the high cost of barrels.

There's a lot about Argentine wine to capture any wine lover's fancy.  Here are a few questions I found myself wondering about after Tasting Argentina.  Prices listed are suggested retail.

What's Up With Argentine Chardonnay?

Chardonnay produced in Argentina can taste wildly different from Californian or French styles, sometimes taking on a characteristic that leaves me wondering if it was, in fact, Chardonnay at all.

Urraca Chardonnay 2009 Mendoza - Organic and aged only 6 months in oak.  It’s unusual for an Argentine white to have any oak at all.  Dark and earthy, this wine has smoke to burn.  I tasted the 2008 vintage a couple of years ago, and it carried a nose like Champagne.  The '09 is so dark and smokey it might fool a lot of tasters into thinking it's something other than Chardonnay.  Extremely intriguing.

Secreto Patagónico Chardonnay 2011 Patagonia - The smokey, mineral-driven palate surprises, since the wine is unoaked.

Telteca Robles Chardonnay 2011 Maipú Mendoza - Beautiful fruit and just a hint of oak. $13

Telteca Anta Chardonnay/Viognier 2011 Maipú Mendoza - A half and half blend of the two grapes, and half of the Chardonay is barrel aged for six months.  Aromatic nose, great oak effect. $18

Why Doesn't Argentina Just Do Away With Oak Altogether?

Many Argentine red wines are treated with minimal - sometimes a complete lack of - oak.  I have been told many small family wineries can't afford barrels for all their varieties, so they save the wood for aging their Malbec.  But even larger production facilities in Argentina will go a little easier on the oak that we might expect in California.  I love this tendency, as the fruit can taste so much brighter and fresher with minimal or no oak effect.  That isn't always the case, though, with unoaked reds in Argentina.

Costaflores MTB Malbec/Petit Verdot Mendoza - Organic, unoaked, single vineyard, earthy minerals, dark fruit. $22  (Check out winemaker Mike Barrow’s underwater wine tasting.)

Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Barrancas, Maipú District, Mendoza - Only 8 months in oak, earthy notes rule.  $13

Michel Torino Don David Finca La Maravilla #6 Malbec 2010 Salta - A single plot in a single vineyard.  Unoaked, but dark and mineral-driven.  $20

Secreto Patagónico Pinot Noir 2011 Patagonia - Unoaked, showing earthy minerals and a raspberry candy note.

Secreto Patagónico Malbec 2011 Patagonia - No oak and bright red fruit.  Earthy, fresh and lively.

Secreto Patagónico Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Patagonia - Unoaked, with big bright fruit.  Secreto is seeking an importer, by the way.

Argentine Malbec

When Argentine wines are poured, Malbec is the star of the show.  The Bordeaux castoff has found a comfy home in Argentina, like many other human wine transplants from Europe.  Malbec is the pride of the Argentine wine world, and its leading exported variety.

Achavel Ferrer Malbec Mendoza 2011  Luján de Cuyo, Uco Valley - Lean and earthy, aged in oak nine months.  $25

Uma Coleccion Malbec 2011 Maipú Mendoza - Very smooth, with beautiful fruit and minerals.  Only three months in oak.  $10

Telteca Roble Malbec 2009 Maipú Mendoza - Minerals galore, only six months in oak.  $13

Pascual Toso Malbec Estate 2011 Mendoza - Dark fruit and a very earthy undercurrent.  $13

Dante Robino Gran Dante Malbec 2009 Mendoza - Smokey, earthy, spicy, great grip.  $39

Muñoz De Toro Valle Perdido Patagonia Malbec 2010 Neuquén Patagonia - Extremely dark, huge smoke and earth.  Nine months oak.  $12

Solsticio Malbec Rosé 2011 Uco Valley - The winemaker was throwing away the juice from the bleed off of Malbec production when somebody said, "Hold on a minute! Lets do a rosé!"  Great acidity.

Why isn't Bonarda The National Grape of Argentina?

Not to knock Malbec, but Argentina has another red wine grape that, for my money, is more flavorful and more interesting.  Bonarda is spicy, complex and loaded with character.  The examples on display at this event offered candy-coated complexity and fresh, fruity palates.

Algodon Bonarda 2010 San Rafael, Mendoza - Gorgeous red fruit with minerals, smoke and spice.  Organic.  $21

Dante Robino Bonarda 2010 Mendoza - Spicy raspberry, fresh and bright.  $13

Muñoz De Toro Terra Sacra Reserve Bonarda 2009 La Rioja, Andes Argentina - Beautiful spice and candy notes.  14 months oak.

Ricardo Santos Tercos Bonarda 2009 Mendoza - Beautiful, lean, red fruit.  $13

Don't Forget Torrontés

I was told that Torrontés from the northern part of Argentina had the best aromatics, but that was from someone who was pouring Torrontés from the northern part of Argentina.  I noticed plenty of aromatics in wines from the south as well.

Pascual Toso Torrontés 2010 Barrancas, Maipú District - Beautiful honeysuckle nose, fruity palate and an abundance of minerals.  $13

Uma Coleccion Torrontés 2011 Maipú Mendoza - Huge floral and fruit on the nose and palate.  $10

Familia Schroeder Deseado 2012 Patagonia - Torrontés, sweet with great acidity.  Pair with blue cheese.  $15

Michel Torino Don David Torrontés 2012 Salta - All about the minerals.  High elevation vineyards, three months oak.  $17

Muñoz De Toro 100 x 100 Argentina Vineyard Selection Torrontés 2012 La Rioja - Floral with a green element.  Nice citrus.  Strong finish

Recuerdo Torrontés 2011 Valle de Famatina, La Rioja - High elevation, sandy clay soil.  Sweet floral nose, mineral driven palate.  Only their second vintage.

Ricardo Santos Tercos Torrontés 2011 Salta - Honeysuckle and grapefruit bouquet, with flavors of flowers, nuts and citrus.  $13

Solsticio Torrontés 2011 La Rioja - Honeysuckle nose, mineral-driven, citrus palate.

Other notables

There are many other types of wine in Argentina, of course.  Italian varieties get some vineyard space, and the Patagonia region in southernmost part of the country is coming out with some intense Pinot Noir, although the region's overall quality is still rather varied.

Saurus Barrel Fermented Pinot Noir 2009 Patagonia - Candy and earth.  $25

Familia Schroeder Pinot Noir / Malbec 2007 Patagonia - Earthy, yet bright.  $60

Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2011 San Juan - Minerals and peaches.  $13

Michel Torino Cuma Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Salta - Really smokey, campfire aromas.  Six months in oak.

Muñoz De Toro Pampas Estate Barbera/Merlot 2011 Pampas Buenos Aires - Smokey and supple, with a cherry explosion.  50%Barbera, 50% Merlot.  Hard to believe only 3 months in oak.

Ricardo Santos Dry Semillon 2011 Mendoza - Honey and grapefruit.  $16

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Juana de Sol Reserva Malbec Mendoza 2010

In 2010, Argentina’s government named wine as the national liquor.  The list makes for some interesting reading.  Bourbon whiskey Is the national liquor of the US, while it’s vodka in Russia and Sherry in Spain.  Iceland’s national liquor is something called Black Death.  That makes the palm wine of the Phillippines sound absolutely wonderful.

Argentine wine is fascinating to me.  The wine industry there turned around completely in a decade or so to become a great source for quality wine.  Mendoza is the hottest tourist spot in Argentina now, thanks to wine.  The grape that made Argentina famous is the Bordeaux variety, Malbec.

The 2010 Juana de Sol Reserva Malbec was provided for review by Wine Chateau, a New Jersey based online wine outlet which carries wines from over 30 countries.  The lion's share of their offerings are from California and France.

A single-vineyard bottling, the Juana de Sol Reserva carries an alcohol number of 13.5% abv.  The wine is inky purple, no light gets through the glass.  It's richly aromatic, with floral notes giving way to luscious dark fruit, spices and cedar.  The palate bursts forth with plums and blackberries, a highly concentrated fruit attack.  Oak makes a play, but it knows its place.  The wine spends six months in oak, and the effect it makes is quite pleasing.  The spice and cedar - so prominent in the aromas - fall in line as flavors on the finish.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rutini Wines Trumpeter Chardonnay 2010

A gift of wine is always a good thing, right?  I was given a bottle by a very well-meaning individual who knows almost nothing about wine.  In fairness, it was a gift to her and she knows I like wine, so it was an “if you don’t want this, I’ll just throw it away” situation.  I figured I’d could write about it.  Maybe it would be good - I like Chardonnay from Argentina.

Rutini is headquartered in Maipú, a city in Mendoza.  Trumpeter is 100% Chardonnay from Tupungato in the Uco Valley.  The grapes grow at an altitude of 3,300 feet and are watered by melting snow in the Andes, which makes up for the rain shade created by the mountains.  The fruit is harvested by hand, and the wine is 30% barrel-fermented, with 30% malolactic fermentation for a bit of a fuller mouth.  The oak is only used for seven months, but half of it is new French oak.  The oak’s presence makes it seem like it spent longer in the barrel.  Trumpeter carries an alcohol level of 13.5% and sells for under $10 per bottle.

There’s a good deal of oak on the nose - not what I was hoping for, but not a surprise given the golden hue.  A wet straw component follows the oak.  It tastes of oak, too, with washed out tropical fruit and white peaches in the background.  The full mouthfeel and nice acidity is negated by the lackluster fruit, leaving a wine that’s fairly dull and wooden.  It does pair well with salad, olives and cheese, even though those are rather minimal tests of a white wine.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Angeles Wine Agency Spring Tasting Event, Los Angeles

Angeles Wine Agency is a wine distributor based in Southern California.  They specialize in importing wines from the Rhone Valley,  Burgundy, Alsace, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Australia.  They also represent wines "by interesting Artisan producers from Napa Valley, Sonoma, Anderson Valley, Monterey, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara," according to their website.

AWA put on a trade tasting in West Hollywood at Ago Restaurant on March 19, 2012, which I was invited to attend.  I found a great mix of new and old world styles which allowed guests to taste through the spectrum of the wine world.  It was a pretty great way for a wine lover to spend a Monday afternoon.  A lot of wine lovers thought so, as the jammed the patio area at Ago.

The event got off to a great start with a table devoted to rosé wines from Provence.  A half dozen bottles - any of which would be welcome on the deck this summer - were highlighted by the dry and floral Château Routas Coteaux Varois Rosé 2011 and the earthy Domaine de la Fouquette Côtes de Provence Rosé 2011.  Both are from Jeff Welburn Selections.

Welburn's main table also featured the lovely, dark, herbal Domaine Fabrice Gasnier Chinon Les Graves 2010. 

The table featuring AWA's California brands had several standouts.  The Anglim Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills 2009 is fruity and very smooth with a nice, tart finish.  Anglim's Grenache Vista Creek Paso Robles 2008 is a monster, showing big cherry flavor, strong tannins and great acidity.  The Palazzo Cabernet Franc 2009 has a nice display of fruit and herbs.  The Sunstone Merlot Lot 118 Santa Barbara County 2009 is smoky, dark and earthy.  I really enjoyed the ripe, red and spicy Peter Franus Zinfandel Napa Valley 2009. 

Montecastelli Selections had a table full of Italian wines which remained so crowded throughout the event I could only elbow in once for a taste of the Monteflor Velio Pinot Grigio 2010.  The Friuli wine shows some really nice mineral aromas and a nice acidity.  It's the sort of Pinot Grigio that makes me want to drink more Pinot Grigio.

The Wines of France table drew a crowd for their Châteauneuf-du-Pape offerings.  The Cuvée du Vatican "Reserve Sixtine" Rouge is tall, dark and spicy, while the Domaine De La Charbonniere "Hautes Brusquieres" digs deep for some extreme earthiness.  The Mas De Boislauzon Tintot is 100% Mourvédre, dark and moody.

placardOle Spanish Selections poured some noteworthy wines.  The Bodegas Hermanos del Villar Oro de Castilla Verdejo brings grapefruit acidity from Rueda.  Three rugby fans founded Bodegas Rugvino - their Big Bang de Expoto Rioja 2008 is a bright and lively cherry flavor framed by wonderful acidity.  Bodegas La Cartuja Priorat 2010 is bold, tannic and toothy.

The Grapes of Spain table had a couple of great Ribera del Duero wines.  The Bodegas Arrocal 2009 was brimming with dusty roses and cherries with a nice tannic structure.  The Finca Torremilanos Montecastrillo Red 2009 smells and tastes of raspberries.  Bodegas y Vinedos Maurodos San Ramon Prima 2006 out of Toro brings an enormous showing of smoky blackberry.  The campfire sensation persists into the finish. 

The Argentine wines of Maipe presented by Kysela Selections really impressed me.  Their '10 Malbec sees four months in oak and has a fresh fruitiness that's almost grapey in its purity.  The '09 Reserve Malbec gets 12 months in barrels and delivers more spiciness as a result.  The '11 Torrontes sports a nose that leaps right out of the glass. Its acidity comes from the high, cool-climate vineyards of Saltas.  The Maipe 2010 Bonarda shows an intriguing, dark minerality and almost bracing acidity.

Last, but - as the cliche goes - certainly not least, were the Bordeaux selections.  I tried the Chateau de France Pessac Leognan 2009 and found a nice tannic grip and healthy acidity.  Château Laurensanne Côtes de Bourg 2009 is full of flinty, old world earth.  Château du Perier Medoc Cru Bourgeois is loaded with minerality and Marquis de Bellefont Bordeaux St. Emilion Grand Cru 2008 shows a fragrant bouquet.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Julia Zuccardi & Chef Ana

The wine of Argentina is a fascinating study. There are so many small producers there who make incredible wines, not only with mainstay Argentine grapes like Torrontes and Malbec, but also with grapes which are already household names to American wine lovers.   Argentina does wonderful things with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, too.

I recently had the pleasure of a wine lunch featuring the wines of Santa Julia Winery and the cuisine of the country, presented by Santa Julia's own Ana Rodriguez Armisen, chef of Casa Del Visitante, the winery's restaurant in Argentina.  This media event was held at the esteemed Rivera restaurant, in downtown Los Angeles.  The food was a collaborative effort between the Rivera staff and Chef Ana.

Santa Julia is not one of those small producers of Argentina.  They are quite a large producer in Mendoza, actually. They are helping lead the way in Argentina's effort to get their wines known globally.  It wasn't too long ago that 90% of Argentina's wine was consumed in Argentina.  One doesn't need an MBA to realize that a marketing plan was needed.  Argentina started aggressively exporting their wine in the 1990s and are now the largest wine producing country in South America - fifth largest in the world.

Santa Julia has not yet achieved the name recognition in the US of  brands like Alamos and Trapiche, which you can probably find on your supermarket’s shelves.  They are, however, producing good quality wine that’s priced to sell - the Santa Julia line of wines is priced in the $10 to $15 range.  I have seen their label popping up from time to time over the past couple of years on a number of restaurant wine lists, and I expect to see it even more in the future.

Santa Julia was represented at this lunch by the lady whose name graces the label. Julia Zuccardi's grandfather, Alberto, founded the family's wine estate in 1963, and the Santa Julia line bears her name.

The Zuccardi family takes the family concept seriously.  They appear to be a big winery with a big heart.  Their 700 employees all have year-long jobs with the winery, not just at harvest time.  The Zuccardi family supports the people who make the wine in more than a monetary way.  They have created a community for their employees.

They also treat the land and its fruit with respect, evidenced by their commitment to sustainable, organic farming.  Santa Julia’s line of organic wines - [+] - is what brought Julia and Chef Ana to Los Angeles for this lunch.  

Their new line of sustainable wines are made with grapes taken from low-yielding, sustainably-farmed vineyards.  Organica (100% organic) and their top-end Reserva collections were served in addition to the [+] wines.  

Santa Julia is located in Mendoza - Argentina’s Napa Valley.  They have Malbec, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon on the list, as well as varieties not so commonly found in Argentina, like Viognier, Pinot Grigio and Tempranillo.  One of my tablemates called Santa Julia the United Nations of grapes.

The Organica line features Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Bonarda, Tempranillo, Malbec rosé, Torrontes and Chardonnay.  Their Reserva wines inculde Tempranillo, Malbec, Bonarda, Syrah, Chardonnay and Tardio - a late-harvest Torrontes.

The Menu

Appetizers - homemade empanadas and bread topped with beef slices and Chimichurri - were paired with a quartet of wines.   Santa Julia’s Brut Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir and shows earthy, toasty strawberries.  The Organica Chardonnay is unoaked and tropical.  The [+] Malbec sees only 4 months of French oak for 30% of the wine, while the and Organica Cabernet Sauvignon is vinified in stainless steel.  Both reds have rich aromas and finish long.

The first course of shrimp and watermelon mojito salad with cucumber and mint was a hit with the [+] Torrontes.  The fruit salad nose and peachy pear palate paired perfectly with the shrimp and fruit.

Grilled lamb with crispy smashed potatoes arrived as the main course.  The Santa Julia Reserva Malbec - young and fruity with earth and smoke - paired best with this dish.  Their Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon offered plenty of earthy notes, too, as well as firm tannic structure.

dessertAs good as the preceding culinary delights were, the hit of the lunch had to be the dessert - a beautiful presentation of chocolate torte with drunken pineapple.  The pairing with Santa Julia’s Tardio was a no-brainer.  The Torrontes and Viognier grapes used in this dessert wine are late-harvest selections, so there are no honey notes you might find in a wine made from grapes affected by botrytis.  This sweet wine is all fruit and very clean on the palate.

As a gift to the attendees, Chef Ana whipped up a little Chimichurri to show how easy it is to make.  Here’s her recipe:

Chef Ana’s Chimichurri

Spices, herbs, pepper, olive oil. 

Mix together chopped garlic, parsley, thyme rosemary, oregano, black pepper and paprika.  Chili pepper may be added to taste, but be careful not to make it too spicy.  Add 1 part wine vinegar and 1 part olive oil with a splash of torrontes and stir.  It’s great for dipping with bread, and also as a topping for grilled meats.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Humberto Canale Estate Malbec

The wines of Argentina make for a fascinating study, particularly those from Patagonia.  A distinctive earthiness has been the calling card of the Patagonian wines I have sampled.  Humberto Canale is in the High Valley of the Rio Negro province, located in the northern portion of Patagonia, an area comprising the southernmost part of South America.

Malbec, an Argentine restaurant in Toluca Lake, CA, has a wine list that is heavy in Argentine brands.  A lunchtime visit there offered me the opportunity to try Canale's '09 Patagonian Malbec.

This 100% Malbec wine is fermented in concrete vats for 20 days, then undergoes malolactic fermentation and aging of about 20% of the volume in American and French oak for a year with another 6 months in the bottle before its release.  My waiter suggested it is on the lighter side, but I find it to have a very full body.  The alcohol content is 13.7% abv.

It's very dark, both in color and aroma.  The wine is inky with a nose of dark fruit and earth, with some tar characteristics thrown into the mix.  There is an almost a minty edge on the palate, which is dominated by the same traits found on the nose plus some spice.  The finish is quite long and entirely satisfying.  Very concentrated flavors taste great in the mouth and for minutes afterward.  Minerals play a large part in this wine, and the acidity is just about perfect.

This Malbec paired so well with wood-fired salmon that it seemed to be made for that purpose, although the winery suggests barbeque is its intended mate.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Celebrate Argentina

The wines of Argentina are not my strong suit of knowledge.  Happily, I was able to add to my personal database with Celebrate Argentina 2010, another great Learn About Wine tasting event, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on October 21st.


There were some things which surprised me about Argentine wine.  

The predominance of unoaked or “underoaked” red wines took me by surprise.  Red wines - even Cabernet Sauvignon - that are not aged in oak barrels are somewhat a rarity in California and France.  In Argentina, “Hold the oak!” is not an uncommon call to hear.

Kent Smith, Western Regional Manager for wine importers Vino Del Sol, speculated that one reason for the lack of oak might be, “oak barrels are expensive.”  Waving his hand around the room, Smith explained, “A lot of these wineries are small, family operations.  Buying new oak barrels every year simply isn’t an option for them."

Smith offered another potential explanation for Argentina’s fondness of unoaked reds - good fruit.  “Many of the Argentine vineyards are hand-picked.  That means they can go through a vineyard multiple times to select the grape clusters when they are at the exact best ripeness for picking.  With all that great fruit, you don’t need oak’s enhancements.  You’ve got it all in the grapes.”

Maybe that's pride talking, maybe he’s right.  All I know is that the quality of the wines at Celebrate Argentina 2010 was quite high.  Cabs seemed to be the grape variety that most often got the no-oak treatment, and it really gave the fruit a chance to shine in ways I don’t normally get to experience in California wine.  

I was told there are only a couple dozen wineries in Argentina which are organic.  Winemaker Gustavo Caligiore gave me that tidbit while pouring his organic wines.  When I complemented him on his youthful appearance, he replied, "Maybe it's the organic wine."  He's obviously a winemaker and a pitchman.

I noticed great acidity levels in all the wines I tasted - there wasn’t a flabby one in the bunch.  The high elevation of the vineyards along the Andes Mountains is credited by some for the nice acid found in many Argentine wines.

The Pinot Noirs were all very strange to my palate.  They were mostly very dark in aroma and flavor with high acidity and big tannins.  It’s good juice, just not the delicate touch I'm used to in a Pinot Noir

A producer from Patagonia poured Malbecs which all smelled like Band-Aids or plastic, even though his other wines were not similarly affected.  The Pinot Noir he poured seemed absolutely rugged.  I was told there is a lot of mineral in the soil of Patagonia and it changes the flavor profile.  A young, tattooed fellow explained that Patagonian Pinot Noir was usually very good, if quite different from California Pinots.  He said at one tasting event he attended, the representatives from New Zealand tasted the Patagonian Pinot and swore it must have been something else.  During the construction of the Patagonian winery, a 75-million-year-old dinosaur was unearthed.  Now that's terroir.

I had seen an interview with an Argentine wine producer just days before the event, and she pointed out that Argentina never needed to export wine because in-country demand was so high.  At the event, one rep told me wine sales are dropping now in Argentina, largely because younger people are leaving wine and drinking more beer and cocktails.

Tasting NotesTasting Notes From Celebrate Argentina 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon

Interesting Cabs from Orfila, including an unoaked '08 with floral elements on the nose and an herbal touch on the palate.  Their '08 Roble Cabernet Sauvignon shows minerals and smoke on the nose with plums on the palate and good grip.  The '08 Solar De Orfila Cab has ten months in American oak and shows plenty of earthy, dark fruit.

Familia Zuccardi brought a Cab which, according to my pourer, was named a Wine Enthusiast Best Value Wine Of The Year.  The '08 Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon has a lilting nose and an earthy berry palate for $12.

Las Moras brought the '08 Alma Mora Cab.  San Juan fruit and no oak at all make a great tasting red.  This stainless steel Cab has a subtle nose and cherry notes on the palate.  I might have mistaken it for a Pinot Noir.

Santa Ana '09 Eco Cabernet Sauvignon only does six months time in oak, but turns in an earthy performance.  It's very dry, but not too grippy.

Atamisque '08 Cantalpa Malbec is 40% oaked in French wood for twelve months and is bright and earthy.  Their '07 Atamisque Malbec is from 90-year-old vines in Vista Flores, Mendoza.  It sees wood for fourteen months and is smooth and complex.

Orfila, unrepresented in the U.S., had several Malbecs to pour.  The '08 is unoaked with a soft cherry nose and bright, red fruit with good acidity.  Their '08 Roble Malbec offers big red fruit on the nose and palate, the '08 Solar De Orfila Malbec is a dry wine with a dark nose and a hint of rocks, and dark fruit on the palate.

Caligiore, from Lujan de Cuyo, poured an organic '09 Malbec, 20% of which is in oak for twelve months.  The fruit comes from 80-year-old vines, and the wine is bright and extremely dry.

Carelli uses Ugo Valley fruit for their '06 Malbec.  This wine has to earn its $78 price tag with a light-as-a-feather nose showing rose petals and cinnamon.  Black plums and clove dance on the palate while the finish brings a flash of vanilla.

Cielo Y Tierra is owned by composer Gustavo Santaolalla, a two-time Oscar winner for the scores of Brokeback Mountain and Babel.  His wine certainly hits the right notes.  2005 was his first vintage as owner, and the '05 Don Juan Hahuel Reserva Malbec must have made him quite pleased.  It's a multi-vineyard effort that's oaked for 24 months and carries 14% alcohol.  It shows a plummy and earthy palate, very dry with great grip.

The Familia Zuccardi '08 Malbec is very dry, with raspberry in a smoky setting.

Las Moras '08 Alma Mora Malbec shows a very cheery cherry palate and considerable earthy notes.  The wine spent only three months in oak.

De Los Clop poured their '09 Malbec made in Steel.  The nose is full of rich, bright red fruit while the palate shows a freshness and earthiness at once.

Pascual Toso '08 Reserve Malbec is a very dark and intense wine.  The raspberry notes on the palate are broodingly dry.

Santa Ana '09 Eco Malbec - from the winery's new organic line - spends six months in oak and rames red fruit in some dark and earthy notes.  Very dry.

Zorzal broke out the '08 Climax Malbec, which recieved a 91-point score from a famous wine critic.  The 20 months in oak impart a smoky, earthy framework for all that dark fruit.


Atamisque '07 Assemblage blends Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 15 months in new French oak makes this an unusual effort for Argentina, and it spent two years in the bottle. It's got rich flavor and is extremely dry with great grip.

Familia Schroeder's blend of Pinot Noir and Malbec was an experience.  I thought I'd love it, but I didn't.  My pourer suggested that maybe the "Burgundians and the Bordeaux don't get along so well," but the other Malbecs from this producer hit me the wrong way, too.  A rather pungent smell and taste of plastic, or band aids, was present in all their Malbecs I tried.

Caligiore poured their '10 Staccato blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine sees no oak.  Its nose is like fresh cherries with a taste that's bright and dry.

Clos de los Siete poured two fantastic blends.  The '08 namesake wine is a combination of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot.  It has a great nose. and a luscious mouthfeel.  The '07 Diamandes is a 70/30 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.  80-year-old vines produce an extremely dark and extremely dry wine that definitely muscles up.  Tons of minerals in this one really deliver the complexity.

Sophenia's '07 Synthesis Blend has 40% Malbec, 35% Cab and 25% Merlot.  A rich smoky nose leads to minerals and earth on the palate.  It spends 14 months in French oak.

The '08 Henry Lagarde Guarda Blend mixes Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah in a spicy and fruity treat that sells for $50 or so.

Urraca brought some '07 Familia Langley Reserva, a blend of 50% Malbec, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Dark fruit and a beefy aroma fill up the nose, while the palate is dark and mouth-puckering.

Zorzal's '09 Cabernet-Malbec Reserve is 60% Malbec.  Twelve months in oak, but I would not have guessed it.  The nose is so fresh and ripe and red.  Big minerals on the palate and a dry finish.

White Wines

I've had the Alamos Malbec a number of times in Los Angeles restaurants and I like it.  I tried their Chardonnay and Torrontes this time.  The '09 Chardonnay shows a nose that strikes me as fairly oaky for a wine that only had six months in French and American barrels.  The palate, surprisingly, doesn't show much oak.  Minerals and fruit play evenly.  The Alamos '09 Torrontes smells of honeysuckle and grapefruit with a sweetness right up front on the palate and nice acidity.

Atamisque's '09 Cantalpa Chardonnay is unoaked, has a light nose and a rich taste with really great acidity.

Familia Zuccardi has a Torrontes - '09 Serie A Salta - which smells and tastes very much like Champagne!

Sophenia is located in Tupungato, 4,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains.  Their '09 Synthesis Sauvignon Blanc has a grassy, herbal nose and a big grapefruit taste.

De Los Clop's '10 Chardonnay is all steel, all Chardonnay with malolactic fermentation.  There's a hefty load of minerals with good acidity in this austere wine.

Luigi Bosca's '09 Finca La Linda Torrontes shows a floral nose with a layer of sweetness, like honey.  I taste grapefruit notes with tropical and floral elements.

Santa Ana '09 Eco Torrontes, made with organic grapes, is 100% Torrontes.  It's quite floral with good acidity and honeysuckle and tropical flavor profile.

Tapiz poured a Torrontes that's very fruity and has a huge honeysuckle element on the nose and palate.

Trapiche is Argentina's biggest producer, and I'm well versed on their Torrontes, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon because they are served at a restaurant I frequent.  This my first opportunity to try the Trapiche Extra Brut, and interesting sparkler which is 60% Chardonnay, 30% Semillon and 10% Malbec!  There's a slight funk on the nose - just right - and a toasty twist of citrus on the palate.

Urraca poured the Chardonnay I had tasted at a Los Angeles wine store tasting a few weeks earlier.  Still smells and tastes like Champagne without the bubbles.  Amazing Chardonnay.

Other Varieties

Caligiore's winemaker, Gustavo Caligiore, told me that the Bonarda grape is the second most planted grape in Argentina.  Only 20% of his '09 Caligiore Bonarda sees oak and the fruit is from 40-year-old vines on his family's estate.  It's very fruity with lip-smacking acidity.

Familia Schroeder poured two Pinot Noirs.  The '07 Saurus has a lovely rose petal nose - which reminded me of a white wine - and bright strawberries on the palate.  The '07 Saurus Patagonia Select also has a lovely nose with cherry and strawberry on the palate and a nice acidity.

Luigi Bosca '08 Reserva Pinot Noir has rose petal on the nose with raspberry and beef on the palate.  It's very earthy with a good finish and nice acidity.  Eight months in oak.

Zolo Bonarda is dark and earthy on the nose with more of same on the palate.  Dry and a bit grippy.  Recommended with barbecue.


Atamisque poured an '09 Malbec rose that shows a rich color and a beautiful cherry and strawberry taste.  It is quite dry and has good acidity.

Caligiore has an organic Malbec rose, the '09 Pianissimo.  It lives up to its name with a lovely and delicate texture.  The color is rich and the taste is laden with strawberry and melon.

Familia Schroeder, of Patagonia, brought a rose sparkling wine.  The Rosa de los Vientos is 100% Pinot Noir and is as delightfully full of minerals as it is of bubbles.

De Los Clop's rosé is 100% Malbec with a gigantic strawberry nose and cherry and strawberry fruit to taste.  Beautiful.

Seeking Representation

A number of wineries at the show were looking for U.S. representation, among them:

Orfila (Martin Tamburelli at
Cielo Y Tierra (Ignacio Velasco at
Don Cristobal (Cristobal Lapania at
Don Manuel Villafane (Luis Suriana at
Eclipse (Jose Saravia-Brun at
Finca Quara (Ricardo Puebla at
De Los Clop (Sebastian Sicilia at
Los Toneles (Cristian Williams at
Poesia (Adriana Montenegro at
Quattrocchi (Debora Franco Quattrocchi at
Tierras Altas (Juan Pablo Rodriguez Reta at

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Urraca Chardonnay (2007)

I tasted a fantastic wine at Wally's tent sale Friday.  It's from the Mendoza region in Argentina, Urraca Chardonnay 2008.  It might not have even been made if the grower had sold the grapes, as was planned.  At the last minute, he decided to make wine with them instead.  He said to his General Manager, "the worst that can happen is we drink the wine."  From my standpoint, the best thing that can happen is we drink the wine.

It smells and tastes like Champagne without the bubbles.  Toasty nose, toast and citrus on the palate, the wine saw oak for 6 months.  It's a thing of beauty.

Wally's Wine and Spirits in Los Angeles can special order it, according to Urraca's General Manager, Jean-Pierre Bieri.  He poured the wine for me to taste.  Bieri will be at the Wally's event throughout the weekend with his Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, but ask him if he has any of that great Chardonnay hidden away.

If you'd like to contact Wally's about a special order, the store is at 2107 Westwood Boulevard in Los Angeles.  Call them at 310.475.0606.  Maybe if they get enough calls, they'll put it on their shelves, where it belongs!

Ed. - Please excuse the incorrect vintage depicted in the image.  I rushed off to something else without getting a shot of the 2008 bottle.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Finca El Portilla Malbec Rose

It's always a pleasure to discover a fantastic restaurant, particularly one with a great wine list.  Mrs. Now And Zin and I are putting Malbec Argentinean Bistro on our go-to list.

This Toluca Lake restaurant, just a stone's throw from Burbank, has one of the most authentic wine lists I've seen.  An Italian Sauvignon Blanc and Veuve Clicquot were the only non-Argentine entries I spotted on the list, which offers about fifty wines - a dozen or so by the glass, none of which costs more than $10 per glass.

Mrs. Now And Zin, also known as Denise Fondo, has a more complete description of the food at I Cook The World.  She does a much better job than I do when describing food.  For now, suffice it to say we fell in love with the place.

As for the wine, it felt like a rosé day, so I chose the Finca El Portillo Malbec Rose.  It's a 100% Malbec wine which is stainless steel fermented and brings 14% abv to the table.  The grapes are estate-farmed in Mendoza's Uco Valley.  It cost $7.50 per glass.

The color is great - a rich, ruby red that's very appealing in the glass.  Fresh aromas of cherries and strawberries growing in the garden dominate the nose, while the palate offers flavors - just as fresh - of watermelon and strawberry.  The mouthfeel is of medium weight and very clean.  There's a sense of citrus on the finish which left me with the memory of a spring day.  Oh, and it's bone-dry.  It was great with the grilled chicken and the skirt steak.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Luis Felipe Edwards Rosa Blanco

The food is great at South Point Argentine Grill on Sunset Boulevard, and Mrs. Now And Zin loves it, so we dine there quite often.  The half chicken with rice is fabulous, the Patagonia salad is great and their sausage is to die for.  I have issues, however, with the way they serve red wine.  In the glass, it's often almost warm to the touch, and that's too warm.  To quote my friend, Art, "When you serve wine at room temperature, the room should be a cave, not the kitchen."  I'm sure you agree.
So c’mon South Point, get the wine right!  And while you're at it, straighten out the music.  South American folk one time, classic rock the next, blaring ranchera on this visit - I'd like to know what to expect when I come to your restaurant.
On our most recent visit, once again I was served a wine that seemed on its way to mulled status.  It was Luis Felipe Edwards Rosa Blanca Organic.  Fortunately, this Chilean wine from the Colchagua Valley did not suffer as much as some others I have had there.  It's essentially a Cabernet Sauvignon, with a bit Carmenere added.  Both grapes come from the same vineyard, one that sits next to a bed of white roses.  That's the origin of the name.
In the glass, a dark purple core only lightens a bit at the edge.  The nose gave away a lot of alcohol early, but that settled down after ten minutes or so.  The fruit rides in the front seat and waves at you when it passes by.  Aromas of dark berries and plums are foremost in the bouquet, while the plums come through strongly on the palate, along with a leathery flavor.  There isn't a lot of graphite or smoke discernable to me, which I found mildly surprising.  The somewhat short finish is the only drawback.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Trapiche Malbec

Los Angeles Argentine grill South Point, on Sunset Boulevard, has a history of serving their red wines at a temperature seemingly warmer than that of the room.  The wine on this trip was served at room temp but, as usual here, could have benefitted from a little breathing time.
The Trapiche Malbec is a wine I've had before at South Point, and liked.  I still do, despite the lack of time to open itself.  From Argentina's Mendoza region, Trapiche gets good marks from many as a quality producer.  I must admit, they serve several different varieties of their grape at South Point, and I have found them all delightful.  They are also all very inexpensive by restaurant standards.   The Malbec is $6 per glass.
The deep purple color and dark fruit on the nose of the Malbec are enticing attractions, and the taste features a spicy cherry component along with dark berries.  As is my custom, I paired it with the chorizo sausage, the sandwich this time instead of the appetizer.  The wine pairs well with this wonderful meat.  Sandwich or appetizer, the chorizo is a highlight of South Point's menu.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Lagarde Malbec (after)

One spot where I like to have a glass of wine every now and then is an Argentine restaurant on Sunset in Los Angeles, South Point.  I liked it a lot better when it was called Gaucho Grill, even though the same people still own it.  The food's the same, the decor's the same, the view of the Laugh Factory is the same.  I don't know why businesses do what they do sometimes.

Usually I take the opportunity to have a Trapiche wine there, of which they have several.  This time I decided I'd try the Lagarde Malbec.  Our dinner guest, Jones, said he'd go along with my choice.

The Lagarde Malbec shows no vintage on the menu, and the conversation took my mind from asking the waiter a lot of wine questions.  One of those questions would have been, “Why do you serve red wine warm?”  Not just at room temperature, mind you, unless the room in question is the kitchen.  Which I figured it probably was.

The hot wine was also hot in the tannic sense.  Despite rather wonderful aroma and flavor qualities, the wine was hot and harsh as we drank.  It could have benefitted from decanting, although I lingered over my glass for nearly an hour waiting for improvement.  None came.  It may be that the wine is simply unbalanced, although I gather others have had much better experience with the brand.  Anyway, next time at South Point, I'll make it a white wine.  They serve them nice and cold.

On the Malbec, the nose is rather powerful and full of blackberry, earth, and spices.  The taste is intense, with the blackberries leading the way and a very dark sensibility following close behind.  I gather the wine is 100% Malbec, but I don't know if this is the winery's single vineyard varietal or not.  I neglected to find that out from the waiter, too.  I didn't even remember to take a photo until the wine was gone!

This is a $9 glass of wine wine in a strip-mall restaurant where one would expect $6 glasses.  It was also served warm with no apparent breathing time.  That being said, there were qualities there which made me wish the wine had been served under better circumstances.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Melipal Malbec Rosé

Dinner with a couple of good friends at Il Forno Caldo in Beverly Hills brought that ugly bias against rosé into the light of the waning day. She said we could get a bottle and share and he agreed, quickly passing the wine book to me in honor of my interest in wine. When I mentioned that I was interested in the Malbec rosé, he didn't quite let go of the menu, pulling it back while explaining that they were red wine people. Oh well, drink what you like and like what you drink, I say. They ordered red by the glass while I sampled the pink one from Argentina.
A Mendoza rosé of Malbec, the Bodega Melipal  is nine dollars. It shows a deep, rich red color - but not deep enough to pass for a red wine. The restaurant serves it at cellar temperature, not completely refrigerated, so the fruity aromas of cherry and raspberry are easily accessible. The taste is very fresh with a bright acidity and a nice, dry finish.
It has a medium-full mouthfeel and is silky on the palate, with flavors of cherry and a hint of lemon zest I found pleasing and rather unusual. The freshness of both the nose and palate is delightful, even somewhat surprising. I didn't feel it was a terribly good match with my chopped salad, but it fit well with the tomato sauce on the eggplant appetizer. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010


St Lucas Torrontes

Fridays were made for treats.  After a full week of doing what we do to try and stay two steps ahead of the bill collectors, we deserve a treat now and then.  I like wine treats - a glass of good wine in a spot that's perfect for the experience.

My most recent Friday wine was enjoyed at a relatively new addition to the stretch of Culver City's Washington Boulevard, just a bit west of La Cienega.  Sublime Food Lounge hasn't been open too long, but what a nice little spot!  The walls are actually sliding doors which open all the way, so the beautiful day spills right inside.  There are a couple of tables right on the sidewalk, too, but sitting indoors is very much like being on the sidewalk.  When traffic is heavy, sidewalking it isn't all that great, but during the afternoon, the great outdoors is a great place for lunch or a well-deserved Friday wine treat.  Even if it is the great urban outdoors.

Sublime's wine list is interesting. It's got whites on one side and reds on the flipside, with subdivisions to make it easy to choose a wine for the mood in which you find yourself.  On this day, I felt "crisp."  The list features plenty of boutique wines from all over the world.  On the white side of the page, I had a tough time finding a wine from California.  So I went with Argentina

St. Lucas wines come from the Barrancas region of Argentina's Mendoza Valley.  They appear to be imported by a company in the southern California town of Santa Fe Springs.

Their Torrontes is a 100% varietal wine fermented in stainless steel and registering 13% abv.

On the nose I get a floral component I like to call "honeysuckle," with a fairly intense pear juice aroma.  I'm tasting pears, too, with a nice zesty citrus component.  There are minerals and a very nice acidity in this wine, but it's not zesty enough to alter the full, round mouthfeel.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2009

Spring has already made its presence known in Southern California.  Really, it seems at times that summer is trying to crash the party.  There's no need to rush things along.  At my place, we have already begun the spring planting routine.  I use the word "we" loosely.  Denise has actually been doing most of the heavy lifting in that area while I take care of other springtime activities.  Taking a nap on the couch, for instance.  Taking a nap in the lawn chair on the deck.  There are lots of places that need to get napped in before spring gets away from us, and I'm working diligently to cover those places while Mrs. Green Jeans sees to it that we can get yellow corn this summer.  It sure is hard to find it anywhere else.

I expect my work load to get a little heavier after she reads this, so let's quickly find a nice white wine to refresh us after toting a hundred pounds of mulch up the hill.

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes will do nicely.  Balbo makes wine in the Mendoza region of Argentina. I'm told the word "crios" means "offspring," so she's letting us know right up front that she considers her wine to be more than a product.  But, just between you and me, it's a really good product.  And Torrontes is a favorite grape for me in the warmer months.

The wine is a pale golden color in the glass, with a nose of ripe apricots, peaches and pears bathed in honey.  There is a sort of oleander aroma, too.  It's such a lovely smell, it almost made me think I had opened a late harvest wine by mistake.

Sipping it at room temperature, a lively acidity is the first thing I notice.  Bracing and fresh, the flavor of peaches with orange peel takes over.  There is no oak in this wine, so the fruit is there in all its glory.  It fills the mouth well and has a rather creamy texture, especially when chilled.  That's how I'm going to have it - after I tote that mulch up the hill.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wine at South Point on Sunset, Los Angeles

It was raining in Los Angeles, which is never good news for the drive home from work. Added to that problem was word of a power outage in Laurel Canyon. Turning west on Hollywood Boulevard from Fairfax confirmed our worst fears. Slow moving traffic up the hill. We quickly decided to jog over to Greenblatt's. That quickly began to look like a bad idea, as the parking lot was jammed and service is never that good when we're the only people in the place. A five minute wait with no attention from the servers had us up and out the door. Let's try South Point, right across the street. The crowd was much more manageable at South Point and we sat near the window with plenty of elbow room. After quite a spell without wine, South Point Argentine Grill - formerly Gaucho Grill - has finally gotten the legalities squared away. It's a nice wine list, with a good variety of Argentine wines to go along with the meaty Argentine menu items. I had the Trapiche Malbec, from Mendoza. Trapiche is widely known as a good producer, growing grapes in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. I liked the look of it, deep purple as it was. The nose brought blueberries and cherries, with a little smack of vanilla as a result of the oak. The mouthfeel was quite full and complete. Black cherry and some spiciness were the stars of the show. I had it with the chorizo appetizer - which is enough for a meal, if you ask me - and the match was quite nice. The drive home was just fine after our little stopover, by the way.