Argentina 2017-2018 (part 2: oh so much more wine)

Thursday

The hotel offered breakfast to its guests, which makes sense given its remote location. Turns out it was quite good — eggs/omelets, yogurt & muesli, various breads, juices and coffee/tea. The coffee was also good, an unexpected surprise.

After breakfast, we met Miguel, our guide for the next three days. We heard about Miguel through Alex, a Buenos Aires wine merchant we met four years ago. Virginia provided Miguel with a list of preferred wineries, and he took it from there, making all the arrangements. (It’s worth noting that most wineries in Argentina are appointment-only, so this isn’t a trivial matter.) Miguel set up three days: two in the Uco Valley and one in Lujan de Cuyo.

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Andeluna.

Our first stop of the day was Andeluna, which we had previously visited. It was a nice way to ease in, especially as you can taste wine while enjoying the vineyards and Andes scenery. We were grouped with a couple from Atlanta who had a lot of questions about the winery. It turns out they were new to Argentine wine and were trying to relate it back to Napa/Sonoma. They like big, bold reds and weren’t so impressed with the wines. We enjoyed them, but decided not to buy any bottles because of their availability in the United States.

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Monteviejo has vines growing above its cellars.

We then went to Clos de los Siete, a collective of wineries founded by Michel Rolland. We were there because Cuvelier los Andes was on our winery list. However, a mixup about our appointment (they put us in for 28 Nov instead of 28 Dec) meant we had to tag along on a different tour that had already visited Cuvelier los Andes and was on to the next winery, DiamAndes. The winery is beautiful, and the two wines we tasted were both very good. We then briefly visited Monteviejo but there was no tasting as the tour we joined was staying for a lunch tasting. The tour guide, Jessica, was great, and it was nice to see both wineries. But ultimately this was a bit of a washout due to the mixup. 

The last stop made up for it, though. Miguel drove us to Gimenez Riili for lunch. Fantastic. We met the winery head, Federico Gimenez Riili, and the staff were both friendly and competent.

  • Beet gazpacho, with Merlot
  • Smoked trout w/ radish and microgreens, with Torrontes
  • Sweet corn empanadas, with Cabernet Franc 2013
  • Mixed grill (pork rib, chorizo, veal filet) and roasted vegetables, with Malbec 2014 and Joyas de Familia 2012
  • Pear granite (palate cleanser)
  • White chocolate and berry pudding with raspberry ice cream, with two Malbecs – Reserva 2009 and Tierra de Dioses 2011.

We enjoyed everything so much we ended up ordering a mixed case to ship home. Happy and very full, we returned to the hotel for a siesta. We decided to order in knowing the next day would be a long one.

Friday

After breakfast, we set off with Miguel for Lujan de Cuyo, north of the Uco Valley. Miguel had grouped four wineries in the region for the day.

We started at RJ Viñedos at 9:30am, which I realize is an oddly early time to start tasting wine. But here we were anyway, ready to go. We toured the facility (which dates back to 1940) and then each had an individual tasting. Virginia’s was red wines paired with chocolate, while I focused on their Malbecs. Not only are the wines excellent, but they have many “library” vintages that they offer at the same price as the current vintage. For visitors, this is an incredible and exclusive deal, and we took full advantage.

Next up: Bressia at 11:30. Here we had just a tasting, which was fine by us (wineries tend to follow similar practices and use similar equipment). We ended up really liking two wines: Lagrima Canela (Chardonnay and Semillon blend) and Profundo (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah blend), and bought two of each.

Nearby was our third winery: Carmelo Patti. Unlike most wineries in Mendoza, this place was meant for no-frills work. In other words, it was my kind of place. Carmelo himself was on hand to guide us through the tasting and show us some tips for extracting corks from older bottles. He’s been making wine here for decades, and it shows in his Cabernet Sauvignons. He doesn’t release them until he thinks their ready (for example, the current release is from 2008). We’d never heard of Patti before, so credit here goes to Miguel.

Finally, we had lunch at Bodega Lagarde. We sat outside under the building’s eave and enjoyed a leisurely, very large meal.

  • Cured trout and vegetables, with Chardonnay 2016
  • Goat cheese with honey and cumin, with Malbec 2016 / Guarda Malbec 2014
  • Asparagus with bacon, egg yolk, and fava beans over pea cream, with Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 / / Primeras Viñas Malbec 2014
  • Grilled veal filet, roasted potatoes, and vegetables, with Guarda blend 2014 / Henry Gran Guarda 2012
  • Passion fruit sorbet

It was after 5pm by the time we returned to the hotel and we were basically cooked. A nap was necessary, which was then followed by a refreshing dip in the pool. We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, a surprisingly inventive protein-packed four-course menu that included sweetbreads, chicken liver, filet mignon, and chocolate.

Saturday

Our last wine touring day was a little tricky for Miguel, as we were now into the New Year’s weekend. He arranged our first tour at Finca Sophenia after learning more about our tastes (just one of the many reasons he’s the best).

 

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The front of Finca Sophenia.

We arrived at Sophenia a little before 10am, and security made us wait outside until our host arrived. Once we were settled, we joined four other Americans for the only English-speaking tour of the day. As we’ve done before, we walked through the facility before sidling up to the tasting bar (which was appealingly placed between the wine library and barrels storing wine yet to be bottled). After tasting a Torrontes, one of the others suggested we taste the remaining three wines (all Malbecs, but at different levels) so we could better understand the differences. It turns out Virginia and I were the only ones to decide our favorite was the high-end one; everyone else liked the middle-tier best. We bought a couple of bottles before thanking our host for opening on a Saturday.

 

 

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A showcase of vines at Bodega Atamisque.

It was then on to Bodega Atamisque for an 11:30am appointment. Joanna, our guide at the winery, walked us around the facility and pointed out the distinctive slate roof, which helps protect the winery from the sun. After a brief look at the chemist lab, we tasted several wines, including their outstanding Petit Verdot. We focused on that wine, picking up a couple of bottles.

 

We finished with lunch at Bodega La Azul, to which we’d been really looking forward. We’d had the Reserva Malbec before so we already knew we liked the wine. We were greeted by Pablo, who was wonderful in taking care of us throughout the five-course meal. We also met Ezequiel, who runs the restaurant. Unbelievably, I failed to write down what we ate. I definitely remember an excellent mini Choripan (Argentine sausage in bread) early on, skirt steak/roast pork as our mains, and dulce de leche/poached pear for dessert. We picked up two bottles of Malbec-Cabernet and two bottles of Syrah (at Miguel’s recommendation). All in all, a perfect end to our wine touring.

We went back to the hotel, where we bade goodbye to Miguel. Virginia decided to continue embracing siesta, while I went downstairs to exercise and then read by the pool.

We decided we should go into Tupungato at least once, so this was the night! We made an early (9pm) reservation at Restaurante Ilo, and drove in a little early to wander up and down the main street. Dinner itself was just what we wanted: salad followed by pan-fried fish in garlic, lemon, and herbs. We paired it with a half-bottle of Torrontes, which went very well. After dinner, we drove back to the hotel for a nightcap and sleep.

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