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The Best-Laid Plans

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 29, 2006 12:25pm ET

My plan was to work my way through some great beef and Malbec in Buenos Aires. I even had a cheat sheet of all the top-scoring Malbecs we published in 2006.

It began accordingly, with two steaks and two Malbecs within 24 hours. Then things started to go awry. What I discovered were some delicious whites and interesting red blends. And some fabulous lamb.

I had dinner at Nectarine and not only was there no Malbec, I discovered some of the best lamb I have tasted. Chef Rodrigo Sieiro’s main purveyor of meat and vegetables is La Biznaguita farm. The lamb in question is of the Scottish Black Face variety. It was tender and flavorful, an ideal foil for the Bodega del Desierto Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.

Tuesday at lunch, Sam Heitner of the Office of Champagne USA, who had moved to Buneos Aires two years ago with his wife Vanessa, a native of the city, filled my head with the names of several limited-production wineries that piqued my interest.

That night, I tried a number of wines to accompany a tasting menu at La Bourgogne. Most impressive was the Finca Sophenia Sauvignon Blanc Tupungato Synthesis 2006 for its pungent grass and citrus flavors and crisp clean profile, even with a touch of oak aging. And there was a Malbec too, the Valentin Bianchi San Rafael Stradivarius 2000, a big, mouthfilling cherry- and mineral-flavored red. A wonderful match with—you guessed it—lamb.

Wednesday was lunch at Oviedo, a personal favorite of mine with its bright, bistrolike room, tiled floor and warm wood interior. On the list I spotted the Angel Mendoza Mendoza Pura Sangre 2002, a blend of Malbec (80 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20 percent). This is the current release, having spent two years in oak and 9 months in bottle. It was fresh and juicy, displaying intense blackberry, coffee, spice and mineral aromas and flavors. This washed down a succulent baby goat.

Before dinner that evening, I met sommelier Marcelo Rebole of the Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aries for a tasting of wines and cheese. I was blown away by the freshness and elegance of Catena Zapata’s Chardonnay Mendoza Angelica Zapata 2002.

On to Sucre for dinner. Think New York’s Meatpacking district circa 2000. The big, industrial space, with its exposed ductwork and loud music, puts out tasty fare from its wood-burning oven. Assistant sommelier Fernanda Fazekas took the time to answer my endless questions until I finally decided on a Familia Marguery Malbec Mendoza 2002.

But while I was waiting for the Malbec and my main course, I quenched my thirst with a glass of the dry, floral and spicy Dominio de Plata Torrontés Cafayate Valley Crios de Susanna Balbo 2006.

Friday’s lunch was a bit further afield, at Frances Mallman’s Patagonia Sur in La Boca, but well worth the effort. The first taxi driver didn’t know the address and kicked me out of the cab. The next taxi took me on a wild ride down the perilously wide (20 or 22 lanes) Avenida 9 Julio, then past a motorbike fatality until I finally arrived and entered the sanctuary of the restaurant.

It was almost a Zenlike experience. The long, narrow room boasts only 5 tables. There, I enjoyed the delicate Bodega Colomé Torrontés Calchaqui Valley 2006 with empanadas from Salta. For the Patagonian lamb braised 7 hours in red wine and onions, I chose the Finca & Bodega Vistalba Mendoza Corte A 2004. It’s a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda, aged 18 months in French oak. It was lush, cherry-scented and powerful on the palate, sporting plum and oak spice notes.

Thinking back on the week, it was a whirlwind. Fortunately, my best-laid plans didn’t work out. My experience was richer for it.

James Laube
Napa, CA —  November 29, 2006 1:50pm ET
I've enjoyed your tales from Argentina, but I'm worred about your abs (knowing how hard you've been pushing yourself to win the battle of the bulge). I assume you're working out beyond using a knife and fork. Walking at least?
Paul Anderson
Longview, TX —  November 29, 2006 3:41pm ET
Bruce, What a delightful read. I can almost taste that lamb. I'm glad to see the recent coverage on Argentina's wines. I've enjoyed the blends with Bonarda, especially the Syrah's I've had. I'm fairly new to WS and you may have covered wines from Chili in the past but I'd like to see more on their wine making industry.
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  November 29, 2006 5:01pm ET
Jim,While you were writing about the global wine glut, I was working on the global wine gut.Joking aside, I did find the time to work out twice (between meals). Once back in New York, I resumed my punishing routine. A class last Sunday left my abs aching.
Kathy Marcks Hardesty
Pismo Beach, California  —  November 29, 2006 7:29pm ET
Hello Bruce, wonderful tales of Argentina, we all wish we were there with you. But even if we could find those wines here in the states, I doubt we could duplicate the romance of your experiences!
J E Shuey
Dallas, TX —  November 30, 2006 10:35am ET
Abs shmabs...I hope Mr. Sanderson remembered his Lipitor!
Peter S Bernstein
Pompton Lakes, New Jersey —  November 30, 2006 10:56am ET
Bruce,Off subject here. After perusing the Champagnearticle in the current print issue, I onceagain tried finding the USA importer forZoemie de Souza or de Souza without luck.I am ITB with a WS Best of Award of Excellencefor some time now (Berta's Chateau in WanaqueNJ). I was also intrigues by Kramer's recoin his column: Andre Clouet. Have you anyinfor on their importer? The section of mylist which was a big emphasis twenty some yearsago is growing again big time with both wellchosen farmer fizz and carefully selected itemsfrom the Maisons. Any help here is greatlyappreciated.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  December 2, 2006 4:54pm ET
Bruce sorry to be out subject. You are designated taster on champagnes. What do you think of 1989 krug millesime , not clos du mesnil. I am to buy a set of 6. May you please let me know, the last report was on 2000. Great thanksLudovic
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  December 7, 2006 4:08pm ET
Anacleto,I have only had the 1989 once. For some reason, I have had the '88 on several occasions. That said, I think the '89 will be a terrific Champagne, just not as long lived and refined as the '88. It should be drinking beautifully now.
Brian Greenglass
Toronto, Canada —  December 9, 2006 9:48pm ET
RE: Champagne:Bruce, I have not found any tasting notes on the 1988 Dom Perignon Oenotheque which I opened and enjoyed immensely the other day together with a Bollinger RD 1990 - any thoughts?
Brian Greenglass
Toronto, Canada —  December 10, 2006 4:35pm ET
Bruce: have you ever had the Bollinger "Vieilles Vignes"?
Zarmair Keshishian
December 13, 2006 10:56pm ET
Bruce, just wanted to say that I really enjoyed all your posts from Argentina..made for some interesting and fun reading..

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