Argentinean Wine Seminar – Spago, Beaver Creek, CO

Posted on 20 February 2009

By Gayle Hendrix
Photography by Matt Hendrix
It is a beautiful blue bird day in Beaver Creek, CO and I am lucky enough to find myself at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, located in the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. The Ritz-Carlton is hosting this years Bon appetit Culinary and Wine Focus. It is an annual event that the ski resort puts on inviting some of the top chefs in the country and this year introducing us to some of South America’s top chefs and wines. We each have nine beautiful Argentinean wines laid out before us. I’m not going to give you some clinical rundown of varietal breakdowns, bouquets and tannins. I would like to convey to you what was expressed to me on this day, and that is the passion of a people to make great wines to compliment great food and keep it priced for the masses to enjoy.
Today we are guided through the mountains and valleys of Argentina by Bon Appetit’s Wine and Spirits Consultant Steve Olson, as well as Sean Razee, Master Sommelier and Beverage Director from Spago. Olson begins by telling us that his job is to let us, the reader, know what the next best thing is in the world of wine and spirits. He then points out the irony in the fact that Argentina has been producing wine for the past 300 years and is nothing new. It is our exposure to them that is still fairly new. He goes on to explain that Argentina is the 4th largest producer of wine in the world, but they are actually the 3rd largest consumer of wine in the world. Now it starts to make sense. They have actually been consuming all of their wines and sharing very little with us! I feel cheated, yet I don’t blame them. Why wouldn’t you want to keep these gems to yourself?

Most people are familiar with the Catena family. They are to Argentina what the Mondavi family is to California. They put Argentina’s wines on the map. Today we will taste some wines from the new generation of Catena’s. But that is not what’s important here. It is that you understand where the wine comes from. Olson explains that Argentine “terroir” is the people, the mountains, the passion. Not just the land itself. He insists that you can taste it in their wine. I have to agree. After all, Argentina makes their wine to compliment their excellent steaks, and they have that nailed. These wines are a product of warm days and cool nights. They rely almost 100% on irrigation due to the lack of precipitation. They are an anomaly of sorts being grown at such high altitudes. It is through dedication and careful attention that these grapes take on their own distinct personalities in the wine world. The Malbec grape is not at all what it used to be in Bordeaux. Life under the Argentine sun, high up in those mountains has completely morphed this grape. There is nothing comparable to a Malbec grown in Argentina. These wines are the symbol of absolute freshness.I guess that is actually the moral of this story….. these great wines are meant to be enjoyed by all, not just by those with the money to spend on them. They are created with lots of love and respect for not only the grapes, but the winemaking process. Today there are only 3 bottles of Argentine wine that retail for over $100 in the U.S. That says it all right there. They are the ultimate in ‘value’ wines.

Moving on to the wines themselves, the first of my favorites was the Tikal Patriota 2006, Mendoza. This Bonarda- Malbec blend is ever so delicately balanced. You get the sweetness from the Bonarda accompanied by dark berries from the Malbec. There are essences of chocolate, yet a nice floral note. It is quite the mélange. Another one of my favorites was the Susana Balbo Malbec 2007, Mendoza. This wine actually left me speechless, at a loss for words. Wow was as about as intelligent as it got for me. Mind you, this is an ’06. It is phenomenal. Enough said. Finally, we came to the Trapiche Single Vineyard Malbec Vina Fausto Orellana 2005, Mendoza. Planted from 60 year old vines, this one was deeper, darker and just overall the most intense of the day. It is a stunning wine which is named after the grower himself, a Bolivian immigrant that came to Argentina in search of a better life. He planted these grapes sixty years ago, and now in his 80’s still handpicks them today! I would say that he made a better life for all that have the opportunity to taste his wine! There are only 25 six packs in the world….. and amazingly it retails for $45.

Categorized | Eat & Drink