As you may have read in my earlier intro to Argentina, this is an entirely different growing area than Chile. The cool waters that keep the Chilean wine valley growing at optimal conditions do not exist in Argentina. Mendoza and the surrounding wine areas are in desert land, so they rely on drip irrigation to keep vines hydrated enough to produce consistent crop yields.
According to winemakers in the area, they had been worried about the rare rainfall that plagued the beginning of the 2016 growing season. This, coupled with some early season frost severely crippled the wine crop in Mendoza (some report that wineries lost up to 50% of their crop). From what I could taste in some of the 2016 wines, the best of the vintage was made in the cellar, not the vineyards. The opposite is always wished for by winemakers, but the best really showed resolve and elegant wines. The following are my ratings.
I will mark wine prices as follows:
*= Less than $20
**= Between $20-40
One more thing. Try to measure quality for the price. An 84 point wine for $8 I think is a rare and great find as opposed to an 84 point wine for $30, which is a “pass” in my book. The following is a list of wines tasted in Argentina over the past few days:
Casir dos Santos
Originally called Viña Maripu. Winery started in 1862, passed on and purchased by the current family in 1936.
2014 Malbec Reserve*
Smoky notes with black olive tones. Incredibly easy to drink. A little more black tea leaf on the nose along with just a little hint of cola. There is a nice longevity to this wine that hovers in the $15 retail range.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve*
Smoky nose with plum and blackberry jam on the nose. Beautiful, elegant flavors of cassis, with integrated tannins. On a second try, there is a wealth of minerality with a nice, soft finish.
2014 Gran Corte**
80% Malbec, 20% Reserve
6,000 bottles produced. Earthy nose, clay, and dark chocolate. Very subtle at first, continuing with tea leaves going toward a smoky nose with dark berries. The palate is full of red currant with the tannin level on the low end that builds up as it progresses with a solid finish.
Complete family winery. Father, Walter is one of the better known winemakers in Mendoza and dedicated to great winemaking. His sons and daughters handle every other aspect of the business.
They are a 150,000 bottle/year winery, which really isn’t large production, but for as little volume of wine they make, they do make as many as 15 different styles of wine.
Right now, they are sourcing out for all of their grapes in search of the best crops through contracts.
NV Royall Brut Nature Sparkling Wine**
50/50 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay –Methode Champenois
Nose of lemon and honey and very nice acidity on the palate. A definite wake up for the taste buds! The acid falls off a little on the mid-palate, but it is there enough to really drive the flavor through. Incredible as an aperitif.
2015 Monteagrelo Malbec**
Mendoza Valley/Uco Valley –10 months in barrel (60% French Oak, 40% American Oak)
Raspberry with a hint of graphite. Easy drinking and actually a very nice buildup of flavor on the palate. This isn’t the most complex wine in the world, but it is a great little crowd pleaser.
2015 Monteagrelo Syrah**
Slightly spicy nose with sour cherry. Sanguine in flavor (almost umami). This has some very nice power behind it and I would easily pair this with lamb. This is very good for the varietal style.
2015 Monteagrelo Cabernet Franc**
I will have to retaste. Tasted off.
2015 Monteagrelo Cabernet Sauvignon**
Medium bodied. Varietally correct on the nose. Hints at currants and dark cocoa powder that will open up over time. A very nice wine that will develop well within the next 7-10 years.
2016 La’greina Canela White Blend Tupungato**
70% Chardonnay, 30% Semillon
Nice, pleasant nose of peach and a touch of banana. Odd that a thought crossed into my mind, thinking about a Belgian Wit beer. Tangy with the Semillon with a rich finish that has acid. Think fatty food on this little wine.
2013 Bressia Profundo**
50% Malbec 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Syrah
Slow starter, but the Malbec and Syrah really take over. Elegant on the palate with chocolate, raspberry, light glycerin and beef notes. Impressive. Drink over the next 10-15 years.
2013 Bressia “Conjuro” Red***
50% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot
Aged 18 months in new French oak. Great nose. Depth of flavors/aromas of black currant, sweet cherries, glycerine. Exceptional wine. Great acid and length. Exceptionally harmonious as no varietal stands on its own. This wine can age easily 15-20 years.
Chakana (Maipe) since 2002.
Was certified in 2012 as Organic (Demeter) and Biodynamic
NV Maipe Sparkling Wine*
Light, Salmon in color. Pear is predominant with peaches filling out the profile. The bubbles are perfectly fin. Perfect for a Bellini, easy entertaining. I wouldn’t suggest pairing this with anything.
NV Ayne Sparkling Wine Nature**
18 months on lees –100% Pinot Noir –Methode Champenoise
Well done. Good intensity and a very nice finish. Toasty notes are subtle, but then this nice rush of lemon comes out and really makes you want something with salt to pair up. Think oysters or mussels. Very well done.
2017 Maipe Torrontes*
Very “Typical” Torrontes nose that is perfume-y and smells of honeysuckle and lemon zest. Big citrus profile, clean and crisp. I’m not a huge fan of Torrontes, but this wine is well done.
2016 Nuna White Field Blend*
60% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier
Some citrus on the nose but the overall smell and tastes miss. Rather than 3 varieties acting together, there is a lot of nothing in the glass except for some hints of light flavors. It is ok, but ultimately unappealing.
2016 Chakana Chardonnay Estate*
Pretty pleasant. Great vibe of acidity runs to a clean finish. Good apple notes and just a kiss of oak.
2017 Maipe Malbec Rose*
First time tasting on Argentinian Malbec Rose. Strawberry on the nose. Tangy cherry, but surprisingly well structured with a very nice, unexpected finish.
2016 Maipe Reserve Malbec*
Dark, brooding cherry nose with some smoke. Very nice, tart fruit on the palate with a zippy little finish. This wine is great for a crowd pleaser.
2015 Maipe Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve*
Pleasant nose of red and black currant. Like the Malbec Reserve, this is perfectly good wine for what I am assuming is a low price.
2016 Nuna Bonarda Reserva**
Good nose of cedar, tobacco, and pepper. Some minerality with blueberry and rhubarb. Very nice little Bonarda.
2016 Nuna Malbec**
65%-70% Concrete Barriques, the rest of it is aged in French Oak. Classic Malbec style with cherry and raspberry with a touch of lead pencil. Absolutely great for something right off the grill!
2016 Nuna Syrah (not imported to the US)**
Olives and blood come right at you on the nose. Pepper and red fruits are prevalent on the palate. I would hold onto this wine for another 4-5 years.
2015 Chakana Estate Selection Malbec**
Very nice cherry nose with hints of smoke and tar. It really has some nice, subtle power behind it. Lush fruit of cherries, plums, coupled with pepper and clove spices.
2015 Chakana Red Blend**
70% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc
Wow! That really snuck up on me! Blackberry, tar, and some star anise on the nose. This follows through with some sweet fruits. It was said that this would be a crowd pleaser. I agree.
2015 Chakana Cabernet Sauvignon (1st Vintage)**
Fresh red currant with a hint of dark tea on the nose. It feels silly how easily approachable this wine is. Not a huge amount of “umph” that I would like to see in Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is nice.
2015 Ayni Malbec**
Subtle. Nice flavors of blackberry, glycerin, and currants that build up on all sides of the palate. Nice minerality and quite elegant for a Malbec. For this wine to be at it’s best, please either open up a few hours before consuming, or decant at least an hour. This wine will make you say “Wow” as to the level of fruit, acid, and tannins. This is a beautiful wine! Wow!
2015 Ayni “Gravas” Red Blend**
MUCH bigger nose than the 2015 Malbec. Tobacco leaf, cherry, smoke, and cedar really come out to play. Really nice fruit and well-integrated. Just a delicious wine.
50 Acres of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Also makes wines with Nicolas Catena.
Vineyard was planted in 2002 (was an onion and tomato farm in the past, but was a vineyard in the 1930s. The property was purchased in 1999 by David and Sonia Smith. The Smiths are both former journalists and David served under Kofi Anon and Ban Ki Moon at the United Nations. After serving, they both wanted to settle down and found a perfect spot in Altamira. Eventually then and now world famous winemaker Nicolas Catena offered to plant grapes on their property, and they were off from there.
2015 SonVida Chardonnay (not for sale)
Green apple on the nose with a slight kiss of oak. More apple on the palate and not overly manipulated. Very, VERY easy to drink.
2014 SonVida Malbec**
Great cherry/cranberry combo. Once again, tasting near an asado fire, so there is a lot of smoke in the air with bright fruit on the palate. Not as acidic as I thought this should be, but still very nice.
2013 SonVida Cabernet Sauvignon**
A little green on the palate. Smoky flavors on the nose. This is an early version of the Cabernet Sauvignon (3rd vintage) and very light. It will develop little over time and I would drink it over the next year.
2015 SonVida “Alegria” Red Blend**
Cherry, blackberry, tobacco leaf on the nose with maybe a touch of coffee. Very pleasant. Medium-bodied and full of aggressive flavor. There is a nice minerality to this. Not a “crescendo” style finish, but nice.
Viejo Isaias –15 Hectares, 10,000 Case Production
Established in 2000 with the planting of the vines. Winemaker Rodrigo Manuel Romero was 1 of 11 brothers. The name, the symbol (The Rose) is a dedication to the family. The rose represents his grandmother, Juana.
His grandfather (Don Isaias Hernandez) died the same year the vines were planted, hence the dedication.
First Vintage: 2004
Viejo Isaias Sparkling Wine*
50% Chardonnay, 50% Chenin Blanc
Cremant de Bourgogne style. Light and crisp with lemon/lime flavors that are racy. A little hint of honey on the finish.
2017 Viejo Isaias Sauvignon Blanc*
Bottled last week. Lime, kiwi, guava. BIG Nose and it is Just. Fun. Honeydew and zippy acid, and almost Chilean in style. Clean finish, and well done.
2016 Viejo Isaias Malbec*
30% aged in oak for 6 months. A touch hot on the nose, but smokey with a little black olive. Very nice acidity one the entry with cherry, kiwi, with a hint of tarragon. Different and tasty.
2015 Viejo Isaias Bonarda Reserva Classico*
Zippy nose of baking spices and rhubarb. 30% aged in oak (second use). It takes a moment for the flavors to come around, but the acid forces the flavors forward with cardamom, star anise, with cherry playing a strong background character. Well done.
2016 Viejo Isaias Malbec Reserva**
Wow! BIG cherry that will settle down with time, but this is a sexy nose that is a crowd pleaser with vanilla and cherry. This is a pretty drinking wine that remotely makes me think of a Margaux-style wine. The cherry that follows through with a nice, sweet finish. Delicious!
2015 Viejo Isaias “Sy” Reserva**
Young vine Syrah. Aged 10 months in oak. 350 cases made.
Clay, cherry and white pepper on the nose. Dude, good syrah. Nice raspberry, tobacco, sanguine and a hint of mint. This NEEDS to be paired with a leg of lamb.
2015 “Juana” Red Blend**
60% Malbec, 25% Syrah, 15% Petit Verdot. 100% French Oak – 415 cases made.
Cherry and chocolate and just enough vanilla on the nose. Nice “blip” of acid that will mature over the next 8-10 years. Napa-esque without the Napa pricetag.