I was talking with a winemaker friend the other day about what constitutes a truly great wine. Or more specifically, what is the truest measure of a wine's allure. Indeed, there are many.
Yet in one of those moments of random synchronicity, we both came to the same conclusion at precisely the same moment.
Our shared realization?
With a great wine you should be able to drink the entire bottle without tiring of it. That's not to say you should or need to drink an entire bottle. But you get the point. Great wines keep you coming back for more.
Three weeks on the road totaled some 54 meals dining out. Aside from a steady diet of meats (i.e. steaks), there are many excellent, casual restaurants in Buenos Aires. The dollar is still strong against the Argentine peso, so you can eat and drink in style without worrying about overspending.
Here are a few of my favorites.
Michel Rolland's Clos de los Siete campus of wineries and the spaceshiplike facility of O. Fournier, both in Argentina's Mendoza region, are making bold wines and equally bold architectural statements. Rolland has a team of Bordeaux all-stars consulting at his wineries and is making Pinot Noir in Mendoza. At O. Fournier, the wines come first, but the winery's appearance is an art all its own.
Mendoza, Argentina—Both Trapiche and Norton are large-scale operations that produce top-quality wines in a wide range of prices. There's something for everyone.
Visits to both of these Mendoza-based wineries showed the level of excellence achieved in a variety of wines and styles. Here are my notes.
Mendoza, Argentina—Santiago Achával presented a cross-section of his amazing reds on the morning of my visit, a Malbec-for-breakfast experience.
No stranger to our Top 100 or values lists, Achával-Ferrer is one of Argentina's top producers, and on this day Achával poured some memorable wines that amounted to a brief history lesson.
Mendoza, Argentina—"Once they get to be about 50 years old, we cut 'em off at the knees." Or more like at the ankles.
That's the way Argentine winemakers describe how they rejuvenate their old-vine Malbec. Almost sounds like a knee replacement for a vine!
Once the vines reach middle age (they can age well into their 100s), they are chopped off at the base of the trunk, a few inches above ground.
That allows the vine's root system to remain in tact underground; the stump of the vine is then retrained by taking a new shoot and reshaping it into a revitalized vine, where it's attached to the trellis. It takes a couple of years before the vines are productive.
The owners of Viña Alicia don't seem terribly interested in walk-up visitors. Their winery is quite anonymous. There's no sign out front. Not even a street address, as I recall. Were it not for the fact that my driver knew directions, I'm sure I would never have found it. But I'm glad I did.
The wines were excellent (all in the very good to outstanding range) and this visit provided me with one of those wine experiences we all prize: an introduction to great wine where you least expect it. In this case, Nebbiolo.
Of all the grapes I encountered in Argentina, the one that seemed to make the least sense was Tannat.
As it is, Argentina's wine industry is built around two cast-off red grapes, Malbec and Bonarda (Charbono) and one (Torrontés) that is unique to Argentina.
Several winemakers showed me samples of their Tannats, which are used in blends, either with grapes such as the ubiquitous Malbec, or with Cabernet.
Bryant Family has tapped Helen Keplinger as its new winemaker. That leaves the job at Screaming Eagle as the other high-profile opening in Napa Valley.
Bryant hiring Keplinger is a move that should not only sustain the esteemed Cabernet producer's track record for great wines, but could also add a measure of stability and vitality for the winery.
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