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.
Trapiche is one of Argentina's largest winery operations, founded in 1883 and now part of the even larger wine concern Gropo Peñaflor. Its motto: "We drive the Argentine vinicultural industry into the world." But despite its size, it makes some excellent wine and from 1995 to 2003, enologist Michel Rolland worked at the winery as an advisor. Today Daniel Pi oversees winemaking and his top wines are excellent. (All of the wines listed here were tasted non-blind.)
The entry-level wines I tried, a 2010 Pinot Noir, a 2009 Broquel Bonarda, a 2009 Cabernet and a 2009 Cabernet Franc, were all in the good to very good range—clean, balanced and enjoyable. They sell in the U.S. for $11 to $20.
The Viña Pedro González Malbecs from 2003 and 2004 are a step in quality and price, selling for $40, and offering more depth and concentration.
The Viña Fausto Orellana Malbecs, from 2005 and 2007, were outstanding and among the best wines I tried on my three-week trip to Argentina. They show a greater level of density and concentration as well as a stronger oak presence. I also gave high marks to the 2005 Federico Villafane, which was rich and layered, with generous plum and a mocha-vanilla edge. They sell in the $50 range.
2008 Viña Cristina y Bibiana Coletto Malbec ($50) is similarly outstanding, dense and extracted, with firm berry, mineral and peppery scents. The 2008 Iscay, a 50-50 blend of Merlot and Malbec, came across as lighter and less complex.
Finally, I tried a 2005 Trapiche Manos, where the berries are hand-picked, an eccentric measure showing that the winery is interested in having wines that are distinctive.
At Norton, too, the range of wines at different price points and levels of quality is one reason it continues to be a global leader in value.
"We're obviously not a small winery, but we don't want to lose sight of the details," said CEO Michael Halstrick. "The details are essential."
Norton, he said, works hard to keep up with wine business challenges. The best wines are made in what amounts to a boutique winery within the winery.
Norton, like Trapiche, has enough volume to be widely distributed and its entry-level wines, which sell in the $11 range, consistently merit good ratings (in the 83- to 86-point range).
Norton's Reserva Malbecs ($18) are more complex and richer flavored wines, well worth the price. The Barrel Select Malbecs (about $13) are also good values. Both lines include Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot bottlings.
The winery's Privada bottling (about $25) is a selection of the best grapes from all of Norton's properties and it routinely earns 90-point ratings. It includes Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet.
The Perdriel line (about $60) is a single-vineyard wine that's a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec. It too offers wonderful depth.
Finally, Norton has a luxury bottling, the Gernot Langes Luján de Cuyo Gernot Langes, which sells for $110. The 2005 I tasted was intense, vibrant and deeply concentrated, a bigger, more complex and expressive wine than the others from Norton. It's mostly Malbec, with smaller doses of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc.
Mark Lyon — Sonoma, CA; USA — March 21, 2011 12:42am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — March 21, 2011 2:45pm ET
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