To go with our lineup of small plates at Playa, John Sedlar’s latest restaurant in Los Angeles, it would have been easy to pluck a popular Argentinean Malbec or Spanish Rioja from the crisply assembled list of wines that speak with a Spanish accent. But Tikal Mendoza Patriota 2009, which is principally made up of the grape Bonarda, looked interesting at $40 on the list. This variety, the server explained, is an insider’s favorite in Argentina, and the Malbec that makes up the other 40 percent of the blend broadened the wine’s texture.
This red turned out to be a winner, made in a bright, effusive style that focused on red berry flavors and underlined those characteristics with mouthwatering acidity and a nice touch of oak. And yes, it matched up nicely with a parade of small plates, including one featuring Ibérico ham and Idiazabal cheese and another, Thai Tamalli, which played fresh corn masa against shrimp with Thai flavors. Given the wine’s friendliness and versatility, my non-blind score was a thumbs-up 90 points.
Bonarda, I later learned, is the local name in Argentina for Charbono. Most California Charbono wines lean toward darker flavors, but show the same peppy acidity.
WineSpectator.com members: Get the original blind-tasting note for Tikal Bonarda-Malbec Mendoza Patriota 2009 (89 points, $20).
Plus, get scores and tasting notes for other recently reviewed wines made from Bonarda.
• Read Harvey Steiman’s blog about his visit to John Sedlar's Rivera restaurant, plus his feature on hot dining spots in downtown Los Angeles, site of the 2012 New World Wine Experience.