MENDOZA, Argentina—Of all the lofty accolades and ringing endorsements for Argentinean wine, perhaps none trumps that of Michel Rolland. The famed Bordeaux enologist has not only embraced Argentina’s wine industry but also become an integral part of it. He owns a piece of the rock.
Rolland is revered here much as he is everywhere he goes, as one of wine’s finest minds. But here in Uco Valley, in the heart of Mendoza’s wine country, his level of commitment takes on new meaning. He not only owns a vineyard and winery but has also brought with him his own entourage from Bordeaux to form the gated Clos de los Siete property. He even has a street named after him: Avenue Michel Rolland. And he’s making Pinot Noir.
Clos de los Siete is but one of the fascinating stories. While much of Argentina’s buildings and infrastructure look like something out of the 1950s, you wouldn’t know it by looking at some of the modern edifices here.
Clos de Los Siete (“Enclosure of Seven”) is complicated. There are five state-of-the-art wineries, all architectural monuments, set among 2,000 acres of vines, laid out and planted by Rolland’s team. Each of the wineries has its own wines and winemaking team, each of which Rolland supervises. Each of the wineries has its own vineyards within the “Clos,” and each also contributes wine to a co-op label, Clos de los Siete.
I tasted several of the wines during my visit; most were good, solid efforts. A few showed greater promise. These are young-vine wines, not old-vine Malbecs. But the lasting impressions are of the dedication to the vineyards and the wineries themselves, which are spread out among the high desert terrain, giving them a surreal presence.
With Rolland’s coaxing, the Clos de Los Siete French contingent includes:
Catherine Péré Vergé (owner of Château Montviel and Le Gay in Pomerol): She owns Monteviejo here.
Laurent Dassault (Château Dassault in St.-Emilion) and Benjamin de Rothschild (Château Clarke in Listrac, Médoc), who have merged their two projects into one, called Fleches De Los Andes.
The Cuvelier family (owners of Léoville Poyferré in St.-Julien and Château Le Crock in St.-Estèphe). They own Cuvelier los Andes here.
More recently, the Bonnie family (Château Malartic-Lagravière and Gazin Rocquencourt in Pessac-Léognan). They own Diamandes here.
Michel Rolland's Clos de los Siete Uco Valley Argentina projects are monuments themselves.
Rolland’s winery is tentatively called Miraflor. It is still under construction.
The wines are very impressive (and my ratings jibed with those of James Molesworth, who has reviewed the wines in blind tastings). The 2008 Clos de Los Siete (mostly Malbec, but also Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet and Syrah), at $18, reflects their goal of making a great wine at a fantastic price.
Monteviejo's Lindaflor cuvier is an architectural marvel.
The 2007 Fleches de los Andes is rich and layered, also a good value. The 2006 Monteviejo Lindaflor is deep and focused; the 2007 Diamandes is pure and fruit-driven, with a medley of dark berry flavors. Rolland is making Pinot under the Miraflor label.
Not far away is yet another magnificent edifice, that of O. Fournier. It looks like a spaceship (the owner calls it a flying saucer) has landed in the middle of Uco Valley.
No, O. Fournier does not actually fly.
Five years in the making, O. Fournier reflects José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier’s assertive take on life and the wine industry.
He hired local architects “with only two messages: One, this is supposed to be a winery, so the winemaker has to rule [on all the key decisions], and I didn’t want the architect to overpower the winemaker,” Fournier said. The second message: “With the aesthetics, do as you please, but I want it to be something that people either love it or hate it. I wanted it to send a message. The same with our wines.”
Then he smiled and laughed. “When I saw the first drawings, I thought I’d go crazy. I saw a spaceship in the middle of nowhere. To us the winery is one thing, wine is another. Both are art."
Glenn Tubb — Denver, Colorado — March 23, 2011 6:01pm ET
Robert Yett — Walnut Creek — March 24, 2011 1:20am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — March 25, 2011 12:49pm ET
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