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stirring the lees with james molesworth

Heading Over the Andes—in the Other Direction

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jan 25, 2007 4:12pm ET

A number of Chilean wineries have been drawn to invest in Argentina, including Viña Montes (Kaiken), Concha y Toro (TriVento) and Viña Santa Rita (Viña Dona Paula).

But up until now, no one has gone the other way, from Argentina to Chile. Leave it to José Ortega to make the first reverse commute. The energetic Spaniard, who owns Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier, told me he has just signed a four-year lease on a winery that used to be owned by Kendall Jackson in the Maule valley, along with a five-year purchase contract for a 60-year-old Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard next to the winery. (In addition to his winery in Argentina, Ortega owns a Spanish winery under the same name.)

Ortega has always shot for the stars—his space-age-looking winery in the Uco Valley is quite the sight, and he names his wines after constellations. There's no fluff here though—Ortega is serious about quality—and he's invested his own finances into his projects.

I'm willing to bet he does a good job. He's a sorely needed new face in Chile, which has historically been dominated by a handful of wineries. (Some of which make terrific wines, but diversity in wineries has always been lacking in Chile.)

But for now, we'll have to wait and see...

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  January 27, 2007 1:26am ET
And so we wait...
Trevor Witt
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada —  January 28, 2007 8:16pm ET
JamesInteresting wines from this part of the world. Just building my Chile/Argentina component of my cellar. I am very glad you are reviewing them. I just picked up 4 bottles of Argentina 2003 Catena Zapata Catena Alta Malbec. I believe you have tried this...any comments? How long can I cellar this? Thanks.
James Molesworth
January 29, 2007 9:38am ET
Trevor: Yes, I gave the '03 Alta 94 points in the Nov., 30 issue, and it earned a nod in our Top 100 too. Winemaker Jose 'Pepe' Galante is Nicolas Catena's secret weapon for sure...

Most of the top Argentinean Malbecs offer drinking pleasure right out of the gate, thanks to their exuberant fruit. They mellow a touch with age, but I don't view them as wines that develop into anything different with extended cellaring. I'd drink it over the next 4-5 years.

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