Wednesday, February 17, 2010

3 Vineyards, No Sleep and One Nasty Stomach Ache

By vacation standards, we had an early departure this morning - 8:45am. Considering Argentinians don't eat dinner until around 9 or 10pm and we've been sticking to that schedule, it was that much tougher to get up. Then again, knowing that you'll be tasting wine at 9:30am makes it all worthwhile.

Before I go on, I should share a little "intel" on wine tasting in Argentina. As you might expect, it's not like wine tasting in the U.S. You need to have a reservation to visit a vineyard and you need to make these reservations at least a few weeks in advance. In addition, you are not just visiting tasting rooms as you would in the U.S. You will go on a tour at every vineyard before you taste. The tours are only about 20-30 minutes, but they do get repetitive. Between these rules and lunchtime/siesta, you can only schedule 3-4 vineyards each day. Our guide "stretched" and scheduled us for 4 today and 4 tomorrow. As you may have noted by the title, despite our best efforts and those of our driver, Eduardo, we might have shown up an hour late for our last appointment and missed it. Oh well. As far as we're concerned, it was Luigi Bosca's loss!

So without further ado, let me discuss the wine we actually tasted and the tours we actually took.
For those who are geographically challenged (and I count myself in this group), Mendoza is in the shadow of the Andes mountains which makes it an ideal place for growing wine and a breathtaking one at that. I've attached a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.
First stop: Dominio del Plata
Many of you may know of Dominio del Plata's Crios label, which is widely distributed in the U.S.
They make a very good Torrontes and though I'm not a fan of their Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon, many of my friends like their red varietals and for $12 - $15 per bottle, who am I to argue?!? Domino del Plata is also owned by Susanna Balbo, the first woman to get an enology degree in Argentina (according to the tour). I have an obvious bias towards wine chicks so I was pretty excited to hear this. I was also looking forward to trying some of the other labels they make. Unfortunately I was disappointed by Domino del Plata. The tour was quite good and Rudolpho was an excellent guide, but the tasting was lacking. We only tasted the Crios Torrontes, the Crios Malbec and the Crios Cabernet Sauvignon. The Torrontes was crisp and light with atropical nose and some tropical as well as citrus notes on the palette. The Malbec was a little too peppery for my taste while the Cabernet tasted a bit unbalanced (too much alcohol) to me. I was bummed I didn't get to try something I'd never tried from one of their other labels. If this were in a U.S. tasting room, I would have asked and/or offered to pay a supplemental fee, but this was the first time I've ever tasted in Argentina so I just went with it.

I was concerned that I would have a similar experience at the other vineyards, but this was not the case.

Round two: Finca Decero
I'd never heard of Finca Decero before we started planning this trip and when it came time to pick the vineyards we wanted to visit I chose it somewhat blindly based on some good online feedback. Thank you internet!!!! Rachel, Aimee and I all loved Finca Decero. Our guide, Anna, was only on her 5th day, but she was as charming and knowledgable as ever. The tour was standard, but it was very interesting to find out that they hand harvest their grapes twice - once out in the vineyards (like most Argentinian wine makers) and another time at the winery before the grapes are squeezed. But what really set Finca Decero apart was the product itself. They served us a Syrah, a Malbec and a 100% Petit Verdot (which is very rare since Petit Verdot is often used as a blending grape). All of the wines were wonderful. Initially the Syrah gave off a lot of alcohol on the nose, but after about 20 minutes, the fruit came through and I got a nice hit of some warm berries and spice. The Malbec had a surprisingly earthy, somewhat gamey nose with a hint of plum. It was well balanced, which I have had a hard time finding in Argentinian Malbecs (hot weather = higher alcohol and I'm particularly sensitive to alcohol notes). It was by far my favorite wine of the day and I thought the winemaker was really creative in his decisions - especially when it came to making a 100% Petit Verdot. Rachel and Aimee loved it. I really liked it as well with its dry, tannic jammy-ness (a good level of jam, not the jam of an overdone Pinot Noir). However, with the funky nose I have come to love, the Malbec legged it out for me.

Tres: Belasco de Baquedano
Again we started with a generic tour, but the one stand out was the Aroma Room. At the end of the tour, they let us into a room with over 50 stations, each giving off a different aroma when prompted. It was really fun to play and to figure out which notes I wanted to look for in wines. But as interesting as this was, the best part of Belasco de Baquedano was the lunch. As you read in my previous post, we've been a bit disappointed by the meals we've had here. That ended today when we had a phenomenal 4 course gourmet wine-paired lunch. We were very happy to dive into our well-seasoned, perfectly cooked, juicy and tender pieces of steak. There are not enough superlatives to describe the meal. I could not stop eating (hence the wicked stomach ache). AND, the steak was paired perfectly with Belasco de Baquedano's Swinto Malbec. It was a melt in your mouth pairing. Though we were very focused on the food, we did enjoy Belasco's Malbecs (it's the only grape they grow). Their Loan was a little too dry, alcohol-y and rustic for all of us, but their AR Guentota was smooth and spicey with some nice oak and their Rose was quite refreshing with a classic strawberry nose and palette.

Though we lingered over lunch and missed our last appointment, we were all a bit relieved as our stomachs needed a reprieve. However, we were able to rally and make it out for our customary 9:30pm dinner. This time, we finally hit it right with our restaurant choice and we all had fantastic meals - albeit alcohol free. Sometimes you just need a little Sprite to get you through the meal....
Tomorrow we're back on the van at 8:45am for our next round of tastings. Our lunch will be at a different vineyard, but we already know the chef of today's lunch will be cooking for us again. God (and Rolaids) help us.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.


elliej said...

Your descriptions are so vivid that I feel as if I am right there with you. And how many cartons of wine are you shipping back?

Grace said...

OMG, you missed the Luigi Bosca tour? That was my favorite while in town . . . did you try some? said...

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