I sat down with ‘"the Viking," winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers, today here at the office. Lots of people in town as you might expect with the New York Wine Experience kicking off tonight. Vinding-Diers, who makes the wines at Tuscany’s Argiano and Argentina’s Bodega Noemía de Patagonia, wanted to give me a sneak peek at his latest project.
In the early days of Bodega Noemía de Patagonia, the A Lisa bottling was made from purchased fruit, now it’s estate fruit. But Vinding-Diers has kept his contacts with those growers from the past, and now he’s lending them a helping hand.
“The idea is to be loyal and to help Río Negro as a whole,” said Vinding-Diers. “Río Negro has been good to us, so it makes sense.”
Vinding-Diers is consulting for the group of growers, giving them some guidance on what equipment to buy and how to vinify their own wines, without being totally hands on (he has a full plate already). The result is a new line of wines called Valle Azul, sourced from fruit in the Río Negro valley, located in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region.
Named for the local name of the area in Río Negro where the Bodega Noemía de Patagonia winery is, the Valle Azul wines have small productions to start, a few hundred cases of each of the four wines in the lineup, but there’s plenty of room to grow if they do well. There’s no shortage of grapes in the area, and many vineyards, though perhaps in need of some updated viticultural work, typically feature 40-, 50- or 60-year-old vines.
“The vineyards that provide the fruit [for Valle Azul] are closer to the river than those of Noemía. So there’s more gravel in the soil and they’re a little more tannic,” said Vinding-Diers. “Consequently we just vinify softly, at lower temperatures, so we don’t extract too much since we’re aiming for wines that are ready to drink. Down here in Patagonia, we never have a problem getting nice colors, so we’re not losing that aspect by doing a softer extraction.”
The wines are not related to the Noemía project—the fruit source, vinification and winery facility are all totally different.
As for the wines, the 2009 Chardonnay-Torrontés blend (a 50-50 mix) really shows its Torrontés side, with crackling peach, tangerine and spice notes backed by a hint of bitter orange. It’s really tasty and in the league of the better versions from producers like Bodega Colomé and Dominio del Plata. There’s also a Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-Merlot blend (named Don Vito in honor of Vinding-Diers’ dog) to round out the debut portfolio. All the reds are from the 2008 vintage and all the wines will retail at $16 (they're being released now).
Vinding-Diers also left me with samples of a new icon wine from Bodega Noemía de Patagonia. The wine, named Due and adorned with a large numeral "2" on the label, is a blend of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Merlot, a surprising non-Malbec offering from this Malbec specialist.
“I was brought up in Bordeaux and I really miss the old Bordeaux wines,” said Vinding-Diers of the impetus for the wine. “So I decided, why not just make one myself?”
To that end, he had sampled some Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from a neighbor’s vineyard and really liked it, especially for its very small cluster size. So he took some cuttings and grafted over onto a plot of parral-trained vines on his own property.
“The wine is only 13 or 13.5 percent alcohol,” said Vinding-Diers. "So it’s really in that ‘old’ style that I like. With the parral trellis, there’s lots of shade, so the grapes don’t get superripe. But down here in Patagonia we get such a long hang time, and with the small cluster size, there’s really nice balance in the wine, between those herb notes and the fruit.”
The wine, which received 18 months in new French oak and was hand-destemmed (as with all the wines at Noemía ) will go to regular customers of Bodega Noemía de Patagonia. Only 130 cases were made.
[Note: as always, formal reviews of the wines, based on samples tasted blind, will appear in the near future.]
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