Chile's Viña Santa Rita has extended itself over the Andes. The winery, which currently exports 340,000 cases a year to the United States, has just released the first set of wines from its new project in Argentina, called Viña Doña Paula.
Back in 1997, Santa Rita purchased a little more than 1,700 acres in the Luján de Cuyo part of Mendoza, Argentina's top wine-producing region. The company augmented that with the purchase of 148 acres in the Tupungato area of Mendoza in 1998.
Currently, Santa Rita has a total of 617 acres under vine on the two properties. The heart of the project is a 148 acre-parcel of 30-year-old vines, which provide the grapes for the Doña Paula wines. The fruit from the younger vines is currently being sold off.
Matias Michelin, 28, is making the Doña Paula wines in consultation with Santa Rita winemaker Andrés Ilabaca.
The debut releases, all from the 1999 vintage, consist of a Chardonnay for $12 a bottle and two Malbecs, in different price ranges. The Malbec Luján de Cuyo Ugarteche Vineyard 1999 (86 points, $12) is round and juicy, showing blackberry fruit and toasty, meaty notes. The Malbec Luján de Cuyo Selección de Bodega 1999 (90, $30) is vivid and pure, with succulent blackberry and boysenberry fruit, and a sweet, fleshy finish.
The estate also includes plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, which may be included in blends in the future, though the reds are expected to be always predominantly Malbec.
The Doña Paula estate was ravaged by hail in 2000, so no wine will be released from that vintage. Santa Rita delayed the release of the 1999 wines so that there would not be a large gap between them and the next set of releases, from the 2001 vintage.
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