Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just keeps getting better....

Another 8:45am pick-up for another day of tours and drinking. I was honestly a little concerned that I wouldn't make it, but I got my rally on and somehow saw my way through today's tastings. See how I suffer to deliver information and opinions to you?!?

Batter Up: Achaval Ferrer
Achaval Ferrer is a large Malbec producer, exporting several thousand cases of their Malbec Mendoza as well as a few thousand cases of their Quimera (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc blend) each year. They also make small batches of single vineyard Malbecs - Finca Bella Vista (from Mendoza), Finca Mirador (from the East, which is a warmer climate) and Finca Altamira (from Yuca, which is a colder climate). I've had their Malbec Mendoza and hated it. For those of you who have actually been following this blog since last spring, you might recall I wrote about this Malbec this past July. Well, when in gotta give it another shot, right?!? Unfortunately they weren't pouring the Malbec, but we were able to taste a 2007 Quimera, Finca Mirador and a Dolce that they decided to make just for fun. The wines were much better than what we had this past summer and I'm hoping that we just happened upon a ruined bottle and didn't realize it. The Quimera was earthy, a bit too tannic for my taste and very dry. The Finca Mirador was beautiful - acidic with a strong nose and palette of green pepper. It also had some nice black pepper notes thanks to the year it spends aging in new oak. As much as I liked it, I couldn't justify spending $110 US for a bottle. It was very good, but not great. The Dolce was also quite good - sweet and jammy, but not syrupy. Since it was only available at the vineyard, I decided to pick up a bottle. Plus, it was a lot less than $110 US!!!

Bodega 2: Lagarde
Lagarde is the oldest vineyard that is still operating in Mendoza. They make several different varietals, including sparkling. For their high end sparkling, they use the traditional Champagne method. Learning about the "Methode Champenoise" and seeing the bottles they're currently fermenting was the highlight of the tour. It is painstaking process and it takes a long time which may explain why GOOD sparkling wine can be very expensive. Unfortunately, we did not get to taste any of Lagarde's high end anything, let alone their sparkling. It was actually a bit of a letdown, but somehow we found a way to get over it as we enjoyed their classically crisp and citrus-y Lagarde Sauvignon Blanc as well as their light, dry and refreshing Altas Cumbres Extra Brut. We then moved on to their Lagarde Malbec 2008, which was pretty good. Ruby colored, cherry on the nose with some smoke and oak notes. One thing I really liked about Lagarde is that with the wines we tasted they seemed to tailor their wines to the local climate. It gets very, very hot and dry here and as expected the Sauvignon Blanc and Extra Brut were refreshing, but even the red had a lighter touch and would be quenching on a hot day. It would be a red I'd give a friend who refuses to drink white, even when it's 95 degrees and they're eating salad.

Lunchtime: Ruca Malen
When we were planning this trip, our agency gave us a list of about 20 vineyards to pick from. We had to make sure that two of the vineyards offered lunch - one for Wednesday and one for Thursday. When I started researching where we should go, I read several favorable online reviews where people were raving about the wine pairing lunch at Ruca Malen so I made sure this was one of our choices. Little did we know that Lucas Bustos, the chef at Ruca Malen would also be the chef who cooked our lunch at Belasca de Baquedano (yesterday's incredible mid-day gastronomic experience). As you can imagine, we were even more excited heading into today's lunch. Once again, Lucas did not disappoint. From the pork empanas to the pumpkin terrine to the perfectly cooked filet, it all delicious and perfectly paired. We also had the pleasure of meeting Lucas and found out that he studied in Hyde Park, NY and apprenticed with Daniel Boulud at Boulud. The foodie gods have smiled upon us. And the wine? Well, it was good. Their high end label, Kinien, was particularly tasty and the 2007 Malbec with it's medium body and fresh plum and oak notes paired beautifully with the steak we had for lunch. It also had nice tannins and a medium to long finish. It's something I'd want to lay down and revisit in a few years.
The Finale (for today): Dolium
During lunch, our guide, Rolly, gave us the history behind Dolium. Dolium was started 10 years ago by an ex-engineer named Mario Giadorou. To save on cooling costs, he built the tank and barrel rooms several meters underground. Mario passed away a few years back, but his son, Ricardo, now runs the vineyard. Dolium is one of the bigger family owned vineyards in Mendoza. We were a little tired after lunch, but once Rolly gave us the back story, we were pretty excited to see the facility. The tank room looks like any other tank room, but it's definitely cool to look down over the tank room from the window in the ground level tasting room. However, the architecture was nowhere near the best part of the visit. In the tank room we had three tastings directly from the tank - a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (typically crisp, citrus-y, refreshing), a 2009 Chardonnay (pineapple, tropical, slight oak - not at all typical) and a 2009 Malbec (bright cherry fruit with some oak on the finish). Then, Ricardo joined us for another 4 wines in the tasting. We first tried the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from the bottle. It had the slight petrol nose that I often get from New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but the body was light and not too acidic. Admittedly, Sauvignon Blanc is not one of my favorite varietals, but I can always appreciate a well made wine. From there, we moved on to the 2008 Classic Tempranillo. Several of the vineyards in Argentina seem to have Tempranillo - mostly for blending purposes. Tempranillo is another varietal that's not on my favorites list, but this was pretty good. It was light to medium bodied with a lot of red fruit and some pepper on the finish. It was also a bit astringent, which is my general feeling about Tempranillo. But the love was back with the 2007 Classic Malbec. It had the nose and palette that I love - gamey, earthy and a nice hit of red fruit - in this case raspberry. Medium to long finish. Unfortunately, the 2007 is no longer available so I picked up a bottle of the 2008. For $9 US, it was a no brainer. If I weren't so ridiculous about shoving everything into small suitcases, I'd have picked up two bottles. But it kept getting better.....Our final tasting was the 2004 Grand Riserva Malbec. It smelled like cooked plum and raisin and was very smooth with plum and oak on the palette. It also had good tannic structure and when speaking with Ricardo, he confirmed that this is something you could drink now or lay down for another 4-5 years. I had left my wallet with my credit cards back at the hotel and didn't have enough cash to buy a bottle, but I'm pretty sure I'll find one of their reserves in the U.S. Despite my klutzing out on one of the water canals in the tank room, this was my favorite visit of the day. Viva Dolium!

Tomorrow we have our final tasting at Vina Cobos. As some of you know, I love Paul Hobbs' wines (well, the few that I've tasted - many are well out of my price range). Vina Cobos is his vineyard in Mendoza and I've been looking forward to this visit ever since we booked this trip.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.


Joanna said...

Sounds like you guys are having a fabulous time. So jealous!

elliej said...

This is the ideal trip for you and we, of course, are enjoying it right along with you -- well, not exactly as much, but sort of.

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