Posts Tagged ‘malbec’

Cafayate’s Cabernet Sauvignon

February 3, 2011

Move on Malbec! just kidding. But hey, a jewish celebrity said two thousand years ago “not on bread alone”, and the wisdom of this phrase still holds today, especially when it comes to wine, where searching for new flavors, grapes, styles and appellations is the only way to learn and enjoy more. After the 2012´ish tsunami wave of Malbec sweeping all six continents (they drink it in the research stations in the Antarctic), one has to wonder what else may come from the land of the gaucho, cheap beef and omnipresent botox applications. Well, it turns out that the king of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is doing really well there, and thanks to the long ripening season the phenolic ripeness many a time coincides with the sugar ripeness. The latter is the one that makes the fruit taste like a grape and not like mouthwash. It breaks down the acids and increases  the sugar content. Phenolic ripening is related to tannins, and when picking happens while the tannins are not mature enough this can have an unpleasant effect on the wine, giving it a “green” character. In grapes with heavy loads of tannin, like Cabernet Sauvignon, this problem can be a nightmare for the grower and the winemaker. In Argentina, however, due to the high elevation of the vineyards and lack of autumn rains, this is less of a concern, resulting in “sweet” tannins, also called “redondos” (round) and some other names that are reminiscent of the phemale anatomy and that I will discuss in another post dealing with the sexuality of wine.

Anyhow, and going back to the subject of interest, no better place for Cabernet Sauvignon than Cafayate, a colonial city in the province of Salta, far up north toward Bolivia. Cabernets from the area are intense, big, unfathomably fruity and have those beautiful sweet round tannins that tickle your buds long after you swallow. The province is famous for the Calchaquies Valleys, which boast truly high elevation vineyards, up to 2000 meters above sea level, dwarfening the “high vineyard” monicker that many wineries from Mendoza love to stamp on their back labels. Cabernet Sauvignon does so well there that in fact, wines from Cafayate have won national challenges in Argentina, leaving behind not only wines from famed Mendoza but those made with the legendary Malbec grape. Names to look for include Etchart, Colome, San Pedro, Nanni, among many more.

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Sauvignon Blanc is In

July 6, 2010

When it comes to wine, nothing says summer like Sauvignon Blanc. Well, there is Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Tocai, Moschofilero, and all those delicious whites. But talking about Sauvignon Blanc, what a wonderful grape it is. Regardless where the wine is made, it always welcomes your nose with a brushtroke, an aromatic draft of vegetable nature, be it freshly cut grass, rue, lemongrass, gooseberry or a myriad other herbs. Properly made it delivers on that promise, lightning up your palate with shiny acidity and more or less fruit, again, depending on the origin. Some make your eyes tear with citric, limey quality; others are apt at imparting fully ripened apples, pears and peaches, while others offer subtle -or blunt- tropical flavors like guava, banana, passion or even dragon fruit.

More minerally versions, where terroir is highlighted and fruit -though firm- is more subdued, come from the Loire Valley, in the heart of France. Sancerre -right guess- but not the only apellation in the area where you will get delicious Sauv Blanc.  Try Chateau de Sancerre, Pascal Jolivet, Levin. A little less mineral and also riding an deliciously acidic wave, Northern Italy can be home to lovely Sauvignon Blanc. One bottle of Bastianich B will send you looking for more good renditions from the top of the boot-shaped country.

There’s no need to say much about New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, not much that haven’t been said already. Perhaps the most popular appellation for Sauvignon Blanc these days, the region’s wines are easy to drink, with a purity of fruit that is seldom found elsewhere. A Kiwi winemaker once told me that the high level of aseptique technique developed in the farm and dairy industries was behind this. Apparently, when New Zealand farmers lost some of their international markets due to competition, they redirected their skills at the wine industry. True or not, memorable whites come from the land of tongue-show-off warriors, unidentifiable national flag and bad soccer. Try the spark-studded  acidity of the Matua’s Paretai. Or the savory backdrop of the Wither Hills Rarangi. Or Jackson’s Stich. Not to mention the well known Kim Crawford, Scott or Villa Maria,plus all kind of  wines by names of critter and small mammals pissing on gooseberry bushes or monkeying around bays. Whoa, they sure  are taking after their Australian cousins when it comes to label originality.

Chile does a great job too. Their Sauvignon Blancs are second to none, except to Sancerre and Marlborough, and Pouilly Fume. And…just kidding.  Casas del Bosque is a gem of a finding at 17 dollars. Firm fruit, impeccable acidity (Impeccable. Im starting to sound like Bobby Parker) and 90 WE points make my point. Brilliant. Veramonte and Errazuriz make truly good stuff under 15 dollars. They will shine any night at any party.

Malbec comes next. Er, I meant to say, Argentina. Who would’ve thought they can make anything other than red? Well, think again. Mapema (the only thing going against this delicious wine is its name. And its price @ $21) is a big surprise. Ripe fruit weaved into the firm acidic frame, this Sauvingon Blanc is a sign of better whites to come from Mendoza. And from further north in the country. Paula is another solid Sauv Blanc, leaner on the fruit and with remarkable, kiwi-esque acidity. Trophee winner Pascual Toso, after delighting us with Cab Sauvs and Malbecs, makes a pretty decent SauvBlanc for 13 dollars. And a solid rose, although, that is another matter.

How to finish this without a mention of California? With a touch of oak, Grgich makes a simply beautiful Fumee Blanc. Beautiful, memorable, remarkable. The similarly lightly oaked Supery comes close. And for those with deeper pockets, don’t let the summer go by without trying the superb Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc. We’ll taste vicariously through you.

Salud!

Bonarda, the other Red Wine from Argentina

March 26, 2010

With the ever increasing popularity of the wines of Argentina in Vancouver, Malbec seems to be on everybody’s mind, not to say everybody’s palate. The grape’s name is as recognizably Argentinian as the Tango itself. Torrontes, Argentina’s white signature grape is slowly carving a space for itself on the city’s wine store shelves. Vancouverites are also becoming more familiar with other grapes –both black and white- coming alongside Malbec: Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, Chardonnay and Viognier. But there is another new arrival, a black grape that is received with curiosity. That is Bonarda, an Italian variety that is planted extensively in Argentina. In fact, until not long ago, it was the most planted vine variety.

As such, Bonarda has always been blended to make the table reds that the southamerican nation demanded to quench their thirst for wine. Never considered a “noble” blend, Bonarda was limited to the passenger seat due to its character as a wine and its wild vigor in the vineyard. Bonarda grows and produces fruit like it is nobody’s business. That was precisely the reason for its ubiquitous presence in Argentina’s vineyards: lots of grapes were needed to make lots of wine. Let’s not forget that until the 70’s consumption in Argentina reached a mind –guzzle- boggling 90 liters per head per year.

With the arrival of the nineties, the innovative approach of familias like Catena, technology and investment, winemakers quickly realized that Bonarda would not satisfy the demand for quality export wine. Malbec took that honor. The rest is history. For Malbec, that is. The curious Vancouver wine drinker may have noticed Bonarda on the back labels of their favorite Malbec, with which is blended to add  perfume, inky purple red color, moderate acidity and to lighten up the tannic load.  They get along so well that it is considered a signature Argentinian corte (blend). Some say that they tango with each other. Bonarda is also blended with Sangiovese to make agreeable table reds for early consumption and it also has an interesting synergy with Syrah.

In conversations with different Argentinian winemakers it seems that there are two bands: one claims that Bonarda will become the next Malbec phenomenon; the other –idea I share- think that the grape will have a less exalted role, given that keeping yields low will always be a viticultural challenge. A little bit like what we see today with vigorous grapes like Carignan in Languedoc. In blends it does really well; alone it makes a few good wines. The rest of the varietals are just….Carignan.

To sum up, Bonarda on its own is intense in color, frequently rich, inky. The nose is perfumed, with easily identifiable aromas like red fruit and mulberry. Spice in the background is not unusual, and when oaked it can exhibit pleasant tones of vanilla and tobacco. In the mouth it shows vinous intensity, ripe, sweet fruit and velvety tannins. It can also show –testament to its ferocious vegetal vigor- a “green” background, a bit like biting into a fresh arrugula leaf.

 There are several bottlings that are available in Vancouver. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Colonia Las Liebres $12.99

Maipe $14-16

Dante Robino $19-22

Don Domenico El Escondido $28-32

All of the above are quite nice sips. Without doubt the best of the lot is the Finca El Escondido (San Juan region), by Don Domenico, perhaps reflecting the increasing viticultural costs of keeping the vine’s growth in check. Dante Robino is also very competent although it lacks the ripe, sweet fruit of the former.

Maipe and Las Liebres are also pleasing varietals; the second one is great value. Anecdotically, I once tasted the Las Liebres aerated through a Vinturi. The gizmo really enhanced the texture and flavor of this baby, suggesting that other Bonarda may benefit from aeration. 

Blends

Among the blends to be found in Vancouver we have:

Los Crios Syrah Bonarda (50%-50%), Vina Antigua Sangiovese Bonarda and Benmarco Malbec (blended with 10% Bonarda). This latter one speaks for itself, with its plump texture and sweet tannins.  Vina Antigua is a simple pleasing table red like the ones Argentinians put on the table any week night; follow suit and wash down your daily dinner with a sip or two.

Pour Bonarda to accompany grilled meats and vegetables; roast beef, pasta and hard cheese.

Salud

 

Wines of Argentina WofA

March 13, 2010

Like in the past years, Argentina‘s wines will be the darling of the media in the coming month and a half, as the south american wine power shares the stage with New Zealand for the annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Because of that I will start covering some ground here and for the days to come, with wine reviews and notes on Argentina’s wine culture, regions, grapes, personalities and other etceteras. 

Let’s begin with a flashback, the Wines of ArgentinaWofA- show of last September, held at the Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Pablo Cuneo, winemaker for Ruca Malen, introduced nine wines representing the wide diversity of Argentinian terroirs as well as grape varieties. Among other interesting things he mentioned was that Argentina’s wine exports amount to only 2% of the global market. This was surprising to me and I’m sure, to many others. Before Mr. Cuneo’s presentation, I thought Argentina’s market share to be a lot bigger than that. But then, you need to understand that Argentina only became a global wine exporting power in the nineties.

In terms of surface cultivated, Malbec takes 50%, followed by Bonarda, in the mid 20’s and Syrah with about 13%. Of these, Bonarda may be the least familiar to Vancouver wine enthusiasts. Traditionally this grape was used exclusively for blending. There is a reason for this, as the variety is very vigorous, so much that some call it -jokingly- a weed. By saying this, they mean that grape production can be huge if the growth is left unchecked. As we all know, too many grapes per vine and the quality of your wine goes down the sink. However, some winemakers have placed their hopes on this variety, restricting berry production and launching some interesting varietal bottlings to the market. A few of these have reached Vancouver, but we will visit them some other time.

Syrah is another grape that not everyone will associate to Che Guevara’s motherland; such is the strong positioning of the Argentina-Malbec tandem in the mind of the global consumer. However, some good Syrah varietals are made there, with my favorite ones coming from the San Juan region. And we should not forget about Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentina, with a long ripening season virtually free of rainfall, has great potential for the king of black grapes, and some good examples have already reached the shelves of the Liquor Distribution Brand and private wine stores. 

In looking back, it would have been nice to have a Pinot Noir from Patagonia or a sparkling wine in the flight. I am sure there will plenty of those in the upcoming Playhouse International Wine Festival. Let’s now go to the nine wines tasted. 

Lurton Gran Lurton Corte Friulano 2008

Corte is Spanish wine jargon for blend. This is a Tocai Friulano, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Torrontés blend from the Uco Valley, near Mendoza. My notes mention floral citric quince*, good acidity, slightly bitter background, creamy texture and lingering finish. In spite of said bitterness or price ($27.99) I gave it a B and a ☺, which means I quite enjoyed it. 

Etchart Ayres de Cafayate Torrontes 2008

Cafayate is arguably the region that has the potential for the best Torrontés, although personally, the best varietal I have tasted is Andeluna‘s from Mendoza. The Etchart version has a pronounced, terpenic nose (chemical term for “floral.” Now go impress your friends). Sweet aromas, a bit rustic, grapey flavors, persistent finish, 15.99 Cdn.  

Las Moras Gran Shiraz 3 Valleys 2005

I discussed Las Moras winery in a previous posting and this one was a head turner during the show. I had to turn my head because the WofA staff forgot to fill my glass and not wanting to disturb Mr. Cuneo’s talk , I gave a convincing look to a staffer who promptly poured some for me. Sometimes I can look very menacing, you know. I found floral (lavender), dark fruit, coffee, rock, sweet tannin, integrated alcohol in a medium-bodied wine that warms up the mouth uniformly, very pleasant all in all. Syrah feels at home in San Juan and I am convinced this will be more evident in the future as more varietals are imported. $24.99. 

Norton Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

In my vinous ignorance I said once that Argentina was in debt for not producing good Cabernet Sauvignon. Time and time again I have been reminded of  my insolence, tasting very interesting vatietals, particularly from the Mendoza area. This Bodega Norton rendition showed a mellow nose with spice, very subtle green note in the biggish body, red fruit and sweet tannin and a long, warm finish with pepper spice. Good at 17.99. 

Andeluna Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc 2005

This is probably the weakest –or the only weak- link in the long chain of excellent wines by this award winning winery. And I am not saying it is not good. Only that at the price (54.99) I’d rather take the brutally good Limited Reserve Malbec 2004** or the elegant Bordeaux style Pasionado blend. This Cabernet Franc showed subdued red fruit, pepper leaft and tannins a bit angular, although the effect of these on the mouth was rather pleasant. Good, like I say, but not at that price.

Ruca Malen Kinien Malbec 2007

Another Malbec from the Uco Valley, which is a cool area within the Mendoza wine district. The nose was closed but the palate was smooth, sweet tannins with solid fruit and firm but gentle grip. The finish was long and soft, like the whispers of a slow stream. I quite liked this one. $34.99. 

Montes Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2007

Aurelio Montes is a bit of a wine King Midas. Every wine he touches, no matter the grape, seems to turn to gold. He is also a bit of a wine Marco Polo, not hesitating much before setting up wineries far from his native Chile, in places like Napa or as in this case, Luján, in Mendoza. The Kaiken Ultra is the bigger brother of the Kaiken Malbec Vancouver wine lovers know so well. The 10 extra dollars are fully justified. Dark purple with floral and plum, sweet scents. Montes’ hallmark smoothness in mouth is present, with pronounced dark fruit and lingering, spicy finish.  Rock solid at $28.99.

Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Federico Villafañe 2006

Sweet, gentle  fruit aromas. A jammy, soft, sweet-tannin full bodied palate make this one into one crowd pleaser Malbec. It was the show’s favorite, although myself would hesitate to fork out the 80 dollars required to taste this beauty. 

Flichman Paisaje de Tupungato 2006

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Merlot and Malbec woos the nose with ripe fruit followed by even riper fruit, smooth, sweet tannin body. The alcohol is very well integrated, warming up the mouth uniformly for the length of the finish. Lovely at 18.99.

 

*In 15 years in Vancouver I have never seen one quince. Does anybody know what it tastes like? Back in Peru, where it is very common (membrillo, mem-bree-yoe), as kids we loved to hate it. It looks like a small pale yellow-green apple. It has an interesting herbal –quincey– fragrance. On biting is crunchy, grainy, with zingy acidity and slightly sweet; after a few seconds en bouche it turns excruciatingly astringent, but then, you want more.

** The Andeluna Limited Reserve Malbec 2004 is now just over $60.

Saludos

Ivan Alfonso

Note. Photos courtesy of Andeluna Cellars

Argentina’s Las Moras: Great Quality Under 20 Dollars

March 11, 2010

With the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival looming in the distance, it is time to pay some attention to the land of Che Guevara, Evita and Maradona. That Argentina is producing wines of great value is news to nobody. We all are familiar with all those under 10, 10-15 and under 20 dollars Malbec bottlings that embellish our tables and bring joy to our parties. In this category, there is a winery that really is scoring goal after great tasting goal.

 
I am referring to Finca Las Moras, or “mulberry estate” as it would be in Spanish, which is the language spoken in the southamerican country. I make this point clear because, had you the chance to meet an Argentinian you may think he comes from somewhere in Europe. Argentinians gesture like Italians, have the self confidence of Spaniards and the pomp of Englishmen but they are just Argentinos. Never mind. Us, fellow southamericans love to make fun of them; we call them che’s (like in “Che” Guevara), but we all know well they are true masters at three things:
 
fútbol, football (soccer, as the unbelievers call it )
sound and fury
vino, mucho vino
 
They also have the best meat in the world, but I don’t intend to offend vegetarians, vegans and those practicing abstinence here…
 
Las Moras, unlike most che wineries known here in Vancouver, is not located in sunny, dry, hot, beautiful Mendoza but a little further North, in sunnier, drier, hotter, beautiful San Juan. Soils and climate there suit non-wimpy grapes, as in the case of Syrah. San Juan’s best wines today are produced in the Tulum Valley, which is where Las Moras has its viticultural headquarters. The winery’s vineyards lie at 630 metres above sea level and conditions are such that there is very little -or none- need for the use of pesticides, making the wines virtually organic.
 
In Vancouver you can find some of their varietals and blends. Best marks go to their exquisite Malbec, Tannat, Shiraz, Cabernet/Shiraz and Chardonnay, all priced between 15 an 17 dollars. In the higher price bracket, the Gran Shiraz 3 Valleys is one yummy sip at 25 Cnd. All these products are excellent value and have in common an onslaught of ripe, full-flavoured fruit coming off and out of the glass.
 
The first four products are really worth every penny you pay. Particularly impressive is the Malbec, juicy and plump, hard to beat in this price category. The Tannat, which is a more recent entry in the City of Glass, is surprising in its mouthfilling fruit but particularly in its tannins, abundant but very fine grained, smooth as no French Tannat will be. (Many Madiran Tannats are blended with Merlot to soften the otherwise excruciatingly raspy tannins). The Shiraz is also very competent at the price, mellow and with sweet tannins and the right dose of spice. The Chardonnay, the only white from this house to be found in YVR, is  lovely, balancing good appley acidity with popcorn butter, although those not fond of oak may not enjoy the latter characteristic. I don’t really care for such niceties. I drink wines all across the board; from the anorexically lean to the Boteroesquely curvaceous. As long as they offer quality, I love them. The same approach goes for my mating preferences. This Zen of Drinking requires time, patience, self-discipline and $$$. Reasons for which I am growing older, hermit-like and broke.
 
To finish this entry, all in all, top marks for Las Moras. Even the packaging is attractive, with front and back labels offering good information without offending the eye with bright shiny coloring or cartoon-like illustrations. On the down side, they should seriously give a second thought to their website efforts. Wine geeks and lovers and drinkers look wineries up in the net. Nothing is more aggravating than broken links or pages that appear etternally “under construction”. The currently working website, www.fincalasmoras.co.uk provides very little information on either the winery, the wines or anything. Plus, aesthetically speaking, is a bit tacky. Come on guys, the quality of your wines deserves better. Communications are important too, you know.
 
A note to the importer, Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits. Great job, guys, but when are we getting the Las Moras Late Harvest Viognier here? After the Olympics (not to mention the bill hanging over their heads), Vancouverites only deserve gold. 
 
ps. Apologies for the formatting. Used a new clipboard and showed up in color green and other font. Will try and fix soon.
 

IVSA November 9: The Reds. Part I

November 12, 2009

Ok, let’s face it: A shiny morning doesn’t mean that our beautiful Vancouver fall is holding on. Mostly days are turning gray, cold and miserable. And it is for that reason that while I decipher my wine notes from the last IVSA, a pot of Osso Bucco -Peruvian version- is simmering on the stove, flooding my kitchen with aromas of beef ribs, porcini mushroom and melting celery. While I seep and write I keep an eye on it, you know, cooking is a serious matter for a wineaddicto like me.

The wine I have in mind for this Peruvian stew  (Estofado) is the Poggio al Lupo IGT Toscana, brought to Vancouver by Liquid Art Fine Wines. This fine, big wine is made by Tenuta Sette Ponti, the very creators of proved success stories, like the delicious Crognolo. The Poggio al Lupo is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante and a dash of Petit Verdot. The latter two are responsible for the deep coloring of this remarkable Tuscan broth and for its reverberate-on-the-palate tannic charge too. Piquant fruit on the nose, aggressive almost to a fault –but stopping just shy of- and with black fruit and herbal flavors that have a hint of bitterness, in the right sense. This makes for a challenging drink and for a great companion to a dish like the one I have on the slow cooker or for Osso Bucco, game or mature cheeses. In the vicinity of 70 dollars, this is a wine to look for. 91 points Wine Spectator 2007, 2008.

Wine Rhapsody treats British Columbians with the Chateau La Moutete, a red blend from Provence. The Rouge Vielles Vignes 2005 is a typical southern blend of Carignan, Grenache Syrah and Mourvedre. Medium bodied and straightforward in its simplicity, it will accompany duck or red meats with alacrity at c. 30 dollars. More impressive, albeit a lot pricier (7o dollars), the Marchesi di Barolo Cannubi 2001 is a big wine from Piedmont. A floral whiff precedes a full, dry, serious body that delivers all the textural –tannic- load of the properly vinified Nebbiolo grape. Braised meats like beef, lamb or game should allow the full appreciation of this biggie.

Stepping down a bit from the previous big Italian, I tasted the Sgubin Schioppettino, courtesy of Burrows, Luongo & Associates. This a red that deserves a lot more of the Vancouverite wine lover’s attention. The varietal is another incarnation of the better known Refosk grape, a local specialty which is adored in Northern Italy and Slovenia (where it is called Teran) but apparently nowhere else. Simple, rustic and tannic, it does have its charm, and having the chance of choosing a wine to have with roasted boar (ok, yes, it was road kill) I would go for this inexpensive food friendly red. 20-23 dollars. Burrows & Luongo also brings Australian wines. They showcased their Serafino line from McLaren Vale. At 26 dollars and 14.5% alcohol, both the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz represent good value. I enjoyed the Cab Sauv particularly, with its well integrated oak, juicy fruit and fine tannins.

Natalia Samborski from Select Wines walked me through some of their products. The 2008 Little Yering Pinot Noir comes to mind as excellent value. At 14.99 this Pinot from Yarra had a decent level of structure and a solid, savoury finish. The Villa Saletta 2005 Chiave (key) was the surprise novelty at this table and kept us chatting about it for a while. A blend of Cabernet, Sangiovese and Caladoc, this 16 dollar wine is light, simple and carries ticklish tannins, making the perfect complement to lighter fare. The 2004 Faustino V Rioja doesn’t need introductions and once again, impressed with its burly, intoxicating nose and stewed fruit loaded body. One of the best Riojas to be found at this price. My visit to this booth ended with the Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2006. Delivering the typical Mendoza’s Malbec style, this concentrated broth will be serious competition to the likes of Pascual Toso Reserva.

I will continue with the rest of the reds in my next post.

Salud!

Import Vintners & Spirits Association New Products Salon: The Reds

October 24, 2009

Scary. Looking at my calendar I realize that the next IVSA event is scheduled for November 9th! So, before I get a glut of new wine notes to comment here, I will go back to those I had in the September event. And since I already posted notes on the whites I enjoyed, let’s now visit the tintos I found memorable. You may notice that mostly I am covering Italian wines but given the size of the IVSA event and the number of products (and the number of people you stop by to say hi and chat) there was little room for anything else.

• Let’s start with one of my favorites of that busy evening. Enoteca Bacco brings a truly delicious Negroamaro varietal, the 2006 Verve IGT from Salento. Pure expression of fruit, direct and ample, with dark overtones and really fun to drink. Not surprisingly, a previous incarnation of this wine, the Verve 2004, collected gold medals left, right and center. Battle the incoming November blues with Verve matching grilled blue fish like mackerel, sardines or spicy dishes (click on links for recipes). Just under 30 dollars, this listed product is available at LDB stores.

Tempus Malbec 2007. Under 18 dollars, I fully enjoyed this uncomplicated, fruity, filling Malbec brought to us by MKR Importers. A no brainer for roasted beef, grilled meats, sausage in a bun with friends, etc. Just make sure you don’t eat your friends. Ha ha.

• When I had the Anghelos IGT 2006 I did understand the reason for the name: Angelic. I recommend this wine with absolutely NO reservations to those who enjoy a balsamic nose followed by a meaty, fleshy chunk of fruity acidity and elegant tannins that do not let go. Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano and Sangiovese are blended in this superb broth hailing from the Marche region. Soft enough to accompany a Pasta Fagioli (pasta and beans in tomato sauce) but will stand up to an Osso Bucco. Wine Quest importers hit it right on the nose with this vino tinto. Under 40 dollars, this is the kind of wine you want to kick off the cool part of the year in full form.

Fontanabianca means “white fountain”, which is the name of the winery that makes the Sori Burdin 2004 Barbaresco. This broth is potenza (potence) in the full meaning of the term. Nebbiolo grapes in grand style, with a tremendous aromatic profile and an equally tremendous body and tannic structure. Robert Parker, in his flowery-paralegal style calls this wine “authoritative”. I don’t know how a wine can be authoritative but I surely like the adjective here. Close to 90 dollars, granted not a wine for everyday consumption, but make sure you have a bottle around for that special occasion. And give me a shout when you do; I’d love to have this tinto again.

Di Majo Norante is a producer that always delivers quality at affordable prices, without compromising the quality and more importantly, the sense of terroir. Their Sangiovese and Ramitello are good examples of this, but here I want to mention the Prugnolo del Molise IGT 2004. A delicious, easygoing yet flavorful Sangiovese. Light and playful but balanced and structured enough to be taken seriously. This product, brought by Style Wines retails for less than 22 dollars.

•The last two wines are both represented by Liquid Art Fine Wines. The Tenuta Sette Ponti ‘Crognolo’ IGT 2006 is a Sangiovese Merlot blend from Toscana. At around 40 dollars a bottle, it merited a 92 pt score by Wine Spectator (08/31/08). Full bodied, concentrated, tannic, warm, with cherry and earthy aromas and flavors, this is a delicious, powerful wine.

I closed the night with the Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape AC, 2006. I knew it would be my last tasting of the night. The lights had already flickered off a couple of times and the Liquid Art reps were already putting their gear away. I could not but ask for a second pouring, being late and feeling like I deserved a break. I savored every drop of the Cristia. Elated and in awe, I only jotted down

depth suavidad elegance long red fruit rocks beautiful alcohol integration A

Enough said.

Hasta la proxima.

Andeluna Wines

October 6, 2009

Argentina keeps surprising the world of wine. Last week Vancouver hosted the andeluna panoramicWines of Argentina event at the Sutton Place Hotel. Wineries from all over the country of Tango, from the hot, arid high elevation vineyards in Salta to the wind-swept pampas of Patagonia’s Neuquen, were present offering their best Malbec, Torrontes, Cabernet Sauvignon, among other varietals and blends. Andeluna Cellars was present at the event, with Mike Kenter, Vice President and Marketing Officer for the US at the booth. So, let’s leave the Wines of Argentina tasting for a later posting and let’s look at Andeluna’s wines instead.

Mike Kenter has been to Argentina a number of times, both in central, Andean bodega_1Mendoza and also in Patagonia, where he combines his wine enthusiasm with fishing trips. He knows the country and loves the wines. When his friend H. Ward Lay of Frito Lay bought property near Mendoza and started producing outstanding wines, enlisting the services of world renowned Michel Rolland and Argentine winemaker Silvio Alberto, Mike joined him on his quest. I had the opportunity to meet one on one with Mike at the Dream Wines headquarters, in Yaletown, courtesy of David Tremblay, to taste some of the best wines Andeluna has to offer today.

Most wineries claim they are on search of excellence for their wines. In the case of Andeluna, after tasting three reds and a Torrontes, this seems to be true. This 2008 Torrontes was arguably one of the best varietals I have tasted. Although this may seem anathema to many, Torrontes appears to be destined to produce rustic wines, lacking finesse or even proper acidity. This was something that I found interesting in Andeluna’s Torrontes, very good acidity, in a lean, unoaked version of the varietal. Its elegance and lingering spice has earned it 87 Parker points, and it is definitely one I favor when compared to other Torrontes I tasted before. This wine will retail for about 18-20 dollars.

The Winemaker’s Selection 2007 Malbec (already available at LDB and private stores) was the second wine in the flight. I had tried it before, and only confirmed what I found previously. This is a serious competitor in the 18-24 dollar bracket. Winemaker Silvio Alberto checked all the elements that a good Malbec should have; none stands out, none is weak. A low 10 tons of grapes per hectare harvested at 4300 feet, results in improved concentration and flavor. Simple, straightforward in its potency, loaded with pure dark fruit and with a good finish, this is a wine worth every cent you pay. No need to look any further for a solid, inexpensive steak wine.

Andeluna also offers a terrific Limited Reserve Malbec. The 2004 vintage is TN_bottle_R_Malbec2produced from vineyards yielding only 2.5 to 3 tons per hectare. This is Malbec at its best, and talking to colleagues we all agreed that you may pay 20 or 30 dollars more but you will not get a lot more Malbec (retail price in Vancouver is around 45 dollars). Great palate, chewy, meaty, excellent tannic structure… I could keep piling positive adjectives on this Malbec. The 14.7% alcoholic concentration is not noticeable, as this is very well integrated with the fruit and acidity. Knowing well the wine retail industry in Vancouver, I am convinced that this product will fly off the shelves once it hits the “City of Glass’” retail outlets.

After the Limited Reserve Malbec I believed I could not be further impressed by TN_bottle_R_Passthe last wine in the flight, Andeluna’s flagship Pasionado. This is a Bordeaux style blend that has its individual components aged for 12 months prior to an extra six to eight months once blended. I turned out to completely underestimate the winemaking abilities of Andeluna’s Silvio Alberto. The Pasionado 2004 Grand Reserve shows a restrained nose that promises a lot more. Once on my palate I stopped writing notes. I just could not keep going; I had to focus on what my body, my physical body, was experiencing. Tremendo Vino like they say in the Southern latitudes of Latin America. A tremendous wine, indeed. Incredibly powerful and equally incredibly easy to drink. Certainly Andeluna Cellars is on the right track.

These two latter products will be hitting Vancouver wine stores around the third week of November, and there will not be a lot of them. Make sure you grab your bottle.

A Soiree with an Argentinean Winemaker

October 2, 2009

Argentina Tango, the South World Wine Society’s* wine tasting event of Photo-0070September, featured Ms. Celeste Pesce, assistant winemaker of Luca Wines, a small lot production effort led by Laura Catena, scion of the quasi legendary Catena family of Argentina.

When I first arrived at the Sculpture Room of the Listel Hotel, I saw familiar faces, wine lovers who attend the Society’s events with regularity, the members of the exec committee, but couldn’t find the lecturer. I saw a bunch of women, attractive, well dressed, chatting near the bar, but I couldn’t tell if Celeste was one of them. They looked too vancouverite to be her, so I went around the room, not asking my fellow members, so as to guess, just by the looks, who Celeste was.

I figured I should be able to tell. This lady got her degree in enology in Udine at the age of 26. She became assistant winemaker to Laura Catena at 29. Is talent like that written on the face? Which of these women could be her? I also considered her ancestry. Pesce, meaning fish, is an Italian last name. So I figured she would have that mediterranean dark, that voluptous look of the daughters of Botticelli, Garibaldi and Sophia Loren. I placed my eyes on a woman whose dark hair, full and supple, made me think that was Celeste.

I was walking toward her when a red-haired, jeans clad thin girl, with a boyish glint in her blue eyes gave me the amplitude of her smile, with a few strands of hair reaching over her eyes and down to her freckle-covered cheeks. “Tu eres Ivan, el Peruano?”. I could not conceal my amazement. This was Celeste, asking me in Spanish and with a very slight Argentinean accent, if I was who I am. She must’ve heard from other members of the exec committe that there was a Latino on board. She looked decidedly Irish, or at least, she looked as she came from the British Islands. I learned later that her mother side is Swiss. So on we went with our Spanish, animated chat. It’s a great feeling when you can speak your mother tongue. I sat next to Celeste and listened to her as she walked us through the eight La Posta and Luca wines of the night.

Celeste was quite candid about her life. Everyone was surprised to hear that she grew up in a farm in Santa Fe, a town north of Buenos Aires, milking cows and driving tractors. While studying agriculture in Mendoza she discovered her love for wine. “The faculty of agriculture was very wine and viticulture oriented, so it really caught my attention. But what really gave me the final push was to study at the Univessita degli Studi in Udine”. She also had a life-changing experience when she went back to the roots of her family, in Italy. She fell in love with the history of wines, the evolution of winemaking and winedrinking. She could relate to this very well, as in her own home in Argentina they have a lot of immigrants from Italy and Spain, and a vigorous wine culture.

Celeste’s job at Luca is to work with the chief winemaker, Luis Reginato. They work with the growers in the vineyards and then focus on the vinification and blending. The production is rather small, no more than a thousand cases for their Chardonnay and Laborde Syrah, and barely two thousand for their highly esteemed Malbec.

The audience fully enjoyed the night, the wines, the food, and most of all, Celeste’s natural ability to engage people. To tell stories about winemaking, about her childhood, or just anecdotes that happen to those who fly around the world promoting their wines.

When it came the time to vote the favorite three wines of the night, the majority chose the La Posta Pizzella Malbec. Close second came the Luca Malbec followed by the Luca Chardonnay. Celeste’s favorite was the Luca Laborde Syrah, and so was mine. This Syrah is produced from clones selected in France and Argentina. Supple, impressive, deep, this wine left me thinking, wondering, about the sun touching the leaves and bunches day after day, the cold nights, the bunches invisible, hanging on the vines in the dark. It made my mind wander and imagine the winemakers, their labor in the bodega, in the vineyard, their dreams. But enough of my favorite wine. All the wines poured that night score high points with the most prestigious wine critics.

Below the list of wines served at the event:

Catena Chardonnay 2007-88 pts. Wine Spectator**
– La Posta Estela Armando Vineyard Bonarda 2007-89 pts. Wine Advocate
La Posta Cocina Blend 2007-90 pts. Wine Advocate
– La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2008-89 pts. Wine Advocate.
Luca Chardonnay 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate
Luca Malbec 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate
Luca Syrah Labourde Double Select 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate

*The South World Wine Society will be hosting their popular “Big Reds” event on November 5th. More information and registration at www.southworldwine.com
**The wines in bold are available at Everything Wine, North Vancouver Store.

A different Malbec from an unlikely location

May 27, 2009

Who would have known that they make Malbec in the wind swept plains of Patagonia? Well, they do, and vin_43athey do a pretty good job at it, albeit, quite different from what we are used to. Familia Schroeder brings their Saurus Malbec to British Columbia. A purple, inky color, precedes a surprisingly chocolate, plum, tobacco, French vanilla loaded nose. Medium-plus body with red fruit, good acidity and soft tannins. The finish is rich and unusually chocolatey for a Malbec and spice.

Product: Saurus

Variety: Malbec

Vintage: 2007

Winery: Familia Schroeder

Origin: Patagonia, Argentina

Alcohol: 14.0%

Price: 21.99