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Argentine Adventures: Touring the land of Malbec

Lunch at La Azul in the Valle de Uco.
Lunch at La Azul in the Valle de Uco.Cori Solomon

World Malbec Day is April 17, 2014. As the day celebrating this fine varietal approaches I reminisce about my adventures in Argentina, the trip made possible by Uncorking Argentina.

Domaine St. Diego is a small family vineyard in Maipu.
Domaine St. Diego is a small family vineyard in Maipu.Cori Solomon

Although I imbibed Torrentes, Cabernet and Bonarda, it is Malbec that brings back my memories of visiting both small and large wineries, enjoying the meals and sights throughout the countryside. Malbec is synonymous with Argentina and Mendoza.

Beginning with the small family run winery, Domaine St. Diego in Maipú where we walked the picturesque terraced vineyards viewing some very old vines and learned that to revitalize the older vines, shoots are pulled down into the ground to start a new vine. Like osmosis the new vine rejuvenates the old thus letting the older vine flourish. These vines are connected for many years before being separating. The older vines are known as the mother vine.

The Domaine St. Diego vineyards are planted amongst olive trees and the vines shaded by these trees are used for their sparkling Rosé. Lack of sunshine makes the grapes grow slowly. The grapes are picked at 20 brixs. The Rosé called Elea is refreshing with a creamy texture.

Domaine St. Diego makes a wonderful rich Malbec known as Paradigma. The 2010 is composed of a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This wine is lusciously jammy and fruit forward with flavors of plums and violets. With its deep purple color it is a true expression of the land.

My winery tour of Mendoza continued with Renacer. Renacer means to be reborn, which for this winery symbolizes the rebirth of the vines each year. Renacer has a nice portfolio of wines from their Punto Final lower end label to those of Renacer to my ultimate favorite the Enamore, a wine that is a joint venture between the Italian producer Allegrini and Renacer. Enamore means to fall in love and you will do just that with this wine. A blend of Malbec, Syrah, Bonarda and Cabernet Franc it is Renacer’s version of an Amarone. Created in the style of Amarone using a unique drying method known as appassimento where the grapes are dried on racks, I found the wine to be rich yet smooth with a wonderful sweetness displaying flavors of raisins and plums. The wine is complex and full bodied. The label has its own symbolism. The M of Enamore stands for Mendoza while the red color represents the Italian side of this joint venture and the orange color signifies Argentina. This is a superb wine that stands true to its name.

Other memorable wines from Renacer are the Punta Final Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc with its intense grapefruit aroma and green apple flavors as well as the 2009 Renacer, a complex Malbec blending from vineyards in Uco Valley and Luján de Cuyo.

I will always remember my luncheon Mun@Casarena the fabulous Asian Argentine fusion restaurant at Casarena Bodega. I was so impressed with this portion of my trip that I wrote a separate article. Note the link to that article section below, “Suggested by the author.”

I can remember sipping Malbec in the afternoon during an Asada luncheon after taking a horseback ride with Quebrada del Condor through the Silver Andes. The experience is one for your bucket list. Sauntering through the Andes Mountains, knowing you are away from the hustle bustle of the city is an adventure you will never forget.

Having an old Porsche Carrerra, one could not miss out on Pulenta Estates. Winery. The owners of this winery also represent the Porsche dealership in Argentina. Strolling through the winery I spotted a Porsche engine on display. It turns Pulenta makes wine specially designated wine for Porsche.

At Pulenta we enjoyed a chocolate and wine pairing. It was the white chocolate mixed with the Malbec that was especially yummy. There were three wines from Pulenta that were my favorites, the La Flor 2012 Malbec Rosé with its dry crisp and fresh tastes, the 2011 Pulenta Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, a balanced wine displaying fruity aromas with hints of cherries with some pepper on the finish and the Late Harvest non-vintage Cabernet Franc, which is harvested when the grapes look like raisins. There is a yin/yang quality to this dessert wine as you savor the sweetness juxtaposed to peppery spiciness that is also apparent.

It was delightful having lunch in the Valle de Uco at La Azul, which means the blue. The outdoor environment of this charming restaurant is reminiscent of the outdoor cafés one might find in a hillside village in the south of France while enjoying a leisurely and delightful lunch and sipping local wines. In this case it was the views of the Andes in the horizon and the cuisine in the boutique winery that made you feel satiated. I would describe the food as country Argentine. The wines were fabulous from the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, aged in stainless steel with its herbal mountain qualities and subtle aromas of pineapple and grapefruit brought together with a creamy acidity, the 2012 Malbec with its deep purple color hinting of raspberries and raisins while being fruit forward yet soft and velvety or the no oak Cabernet Sauvignon with its spicy aromas that made each course of our meal superb.

Gimenez Riili is a family owned winery in the Valle de Uco. The wines are branded with blue and brown colors on each label and features silhouettes of the family as each varietal is dedicated to a group of family members. We sampled the 2012 Torrentes a crisp nice wine with tropical fruit flavors and is dedicated to the good brothers. The 2011 Malbec is dedicated to the parents. My favorite was the Syrah, a smoothly balanced wine with hints of raspberries and a touch of pepper.

While in the Valle de Uco I stayed at the Alpasión Lodge that features five guest suites. Each room is decorated with a theme based on the elements. I stayed in the metal themed room. Your stay includes dinner and breakfast. The food is excellent especially the pastries for breakfast. The Alpasión Lodge is the perfect way to relax after a day of wine tasting.

My tour with Uncorking Argentina spanned over four days. I chose to continue my visit in Mendoza and stayed on at the Park Hyatt, which I found to be very comfortable with impeccable service and an ideal location to walk around the city of Mendoza.

I was able to experience quite a selection of restaurants that I would highly recommend. They include Azafran, which has an excellent selection of wines with a Sommelier who goes out of his way to assist you with your selection of wine. We tried the 2008 Bressia Profundo, a blend comprised of are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. It paired nicely with my risotto and my friend’s steak. Siete Cocinas was by far my favorite restaurant. The presentation was outstanding. I chose for my entrée the local fish that was superbly done. It was the poached pears for dessert that blew me away. My server even treated me to Familia Zuccardi’s Malamado, a Malbec that is fortified. This is a rich complex sweet yet dry wine I thought I was in heaven with that wine. It is the perfect dessert wine.

My memories will always be in my heart and although I will not be in Argentina on World Malbec Day, I hope you will join me in honoring this day by pouring a glass of your favorite Malbec and making a toast to this wonderful varietal in celebration of Argentina’s favorite wine.

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