Celebrate Malbec With Affordable Choices From Argentina

April 8th, 2014

These days there’s practically a special day for everything. World Smile Day, World Pasta Day, World Left-Handers Day … even World Malbec Day.

Did somebody say Malbec Day? Now that’s a day I’ll celebrate.

World Malbec Day was established a few years by an organization called Wines of Argentina (think Washington Wine Commission as a regional equivalent). April 17 is the day for this year’s events, which include tastings around the globe in recognition of this red wine grape that has really taken off during the last 20 to 25 years.

Malbec has shown promise in Washington State as well, but production has been nowhere near the quantity coming out of Argentina. You’ll find Washington malbec primarily as a component of a red wine blend or, if it is bottled as a single varietal, frequently costing somewhere around $25 to $30 a bottle.

That price range can be a bit steep for some people’s wine budgets, although I’d say that many Washington malbecs are well worth it.

But if you’re trying to be a bit more cost-conscious, look no further than Argentina for solid, reliable malbecs. It’s relatively easy to shop locally and find Argentinian malbecs that fit nicely within the $10 to $20 a bottle category.

nullWhatever the source, it’s good to know that malbec is an excellent wine to have on hand at the dinner table. It pairs well with most everything beef (prepared in practically any style) and also complements lamb, barbeque pork ribs, and roasted chicken.

Here are some Argentinian malbecs from the country’s critically acclaimed Mendoza region that I’ve tasted as of late for you to consider:

Árido 2011 Malbec (about $12) – This wine jumps out with black olive, pepper and dried herbs along with adequate acidity and somewhat firm tannins. Enjoy it with a juicy, medium-rare pepper-encrusted steak.

Argento 2012 Malbec (about $14) – A sip of this malbec is almost like sinking your teeth into a savory berry pie. Juicy blackberry fruits, with melt-in-your-mouth buttery, caramel and herbal accents on the finish. Fun, but sophisticated, this wine is a pleasure to taste.

Tomero Wines 2011 Malbec (about $19) – Understated boysenberry and blueberry flavors lead off, with a nice meaty texture in the mid-palate and a trailing hint of smokiness. If you like your malbecs more reserved without all the fruit-forwardness, this is the wine for you.

Argento Reserva 2011 Malbec (about $19) – Stunning violet and plum aromas are followed by perfectly balanced black currant, blackberry and black plum flavors. The nicely structured finish glides endlessly on a velvety note of bittersweet chocolate. This malbec is the complete package and one of the best I’ve tasted in quite some time.

Vancouver Wine Festival Features a Plethora of Chilean Syrahs

March 20th, 2012

Earlier this month I traveled north to the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival and took a break from Northwest wines to attend a seminar that featured a tasting of syrahs from Chile.

A couple of things really stood out during the tasting. First, most of Chile’s grape growing regions are located in temperate, rather than warmer climates. These regions are often influenced by cool ocean breezes as well as a wide variation in daytime and nighttime temperatures. The desirable result: wines that display leaner fruit flavors, have plenty of acidity and are excellent candidates for food pairings.

Second, Chilean winemakers produce a diverse selection of syrahs while still remaining true to the characteristics of the varietal. Quality levels are good, prices are reasonable and affordable, and the range of flavor profiles is certain to please even the most diehard syrah enthusiast.

To give you an idea of what you might expect from Chilean syrah, here are my tasting notes on several of the seminar wines I enjoyed:

Chono 2009 Syrah Reserva (about $15) – Savory and oily, with notes of black olive and a meaty, gamey character. Pair it with barbeque meats for a winning combination.

Montgras 2010 Antu Ninquén Mountain Vineyard Syrah (about $19) – Cherry, black plum, coffee and mocha flavors predominate. The finish is fairly velvety with touches of toasted oak.

Arboleda 2009 Syrah (about $19) – Fragrant dark fruits on the nose, with a mouthful of cherry, blackberry and blueberry flavors. The almost-elegant finish is capped with just the right amount of acidic edginess.

Emiliana Vineyards 2009 Cool Climate Syrah (about $24) – Stunning violet aromatics, juicy plum and black cherry flavors and a soft, round finish. This one’s a bit more plush than expected…and thoroughly enjoyable.

Viña Tabalí 2009 Syrah Reserva Especial (about $24) – Begins with a whiff of blackberry, then moves to lean, bright cherry flavors with chalky tannins and a hint of black pepper. Roast beef and prime rib come to mind as food pairings.

Viña Morandé 2009 Gran Reserva Syrah (about $25) – Aged in American oak, this syrah shows beautiful balance and acidity. Red cherry, bittersweet chocolate, mineral notes and plenty of character.

Viña Maipo 2009 Limited Edition Syrah (about $27) – Comes across a bit like a cabernet with touches of chocolate, berry, plum, and a hint of savoriness. Dense and chewy, but the acidity still shines through.

Dona Paula Winery a Fine Example of Good Wines From Argentina

April 27th, 2008

The Mendoza region of west central Argentina is considered by many to be the country’s premiere wine grape growing area and is home to over 1,000 wineries.

Lately I’ve enjoyed a number of wines from Doña Paula Vineyards, an Argentinean winery that typifies what you can expect from the region – reasonably priced, well-balanced wines with good character and a nice measure of fruit flavors.

Doña Paula currently bottles its wines under two labels; the top-of-the-line Estate label, priced at about $12 to $14 a bottle, which utilizes lower yields and longer aging, and Los Cardos (meaning “the thistle”), a second label that doesn’t compromise on quality despite a slightly lower price of about $9 to $11 a bottle.

Here are my notes on a few of the winery’s current releases:

Los Cardos 2006 Chardonnay – Slightly citrusy to start, with apricot and apple flavors in the mid-palate and a touch of toasted oak on the finish for added depth. For a chardonnay at this price it’s really quite complex.

Los Cardos 2006 Syrah – Packed with plum and black cherry flavors with a scant bit of spice on the finish. Because the wine is still fairly young it’s a bit tannic – a minor quibble that should be easily resolved with additional cellaring time to allow it to become more plush and well rounded. In summary – fine now, but great aging potential.

Doña Paula Estate 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – Lovely aroma of blueberries and violets followed by restrained dark fruit flavors and a finish of sweet, toasted oak. An excellent food wine to pair with beef or barbeque meats.

Doña Paula Estate 2006 Malbec – Generous, mouth watering dark plum and blackberry flavors followed by hints of anise and pepper. Gentle tannins and a silky finish make this an instantly enjoyable red wine.

All of these wines should be available locally at the Community Food Co-Op, Food Pavilion, and Haggen stores. If not in stock, they can be special ordered upon request and on hand for you to enjoy within three to five days.

Argentinean Wines Flavorful, Versatile and Affordable

April 30th, 2007

If you’re curious about wines from Argentina, why not consider giving them a try? They’re generally fruit-forward, tasty wines and many are priced at under $20 a bottle. Here are a few recommendations that can be found at several local Haggen stores, The Vine wine shop and Gateway Wines:

nullLa Yunta 2006 Torrontes (about $10): Lovely peach and honeydew melon flavors with a slightly citrusy finish highlight this white wine. Great with seafood or as an aperitif.

Carlos Basso 2005 Cabernet/Malbec (about $10): This well-balanced wine features pleasant berry aromas and dark currant flavors backed by good acidity. Makes a nice choice to pair with a beef entrée.

La Yunta 2005 Tinto (about $10): This blend of five red varietals is slightly floral with juicy flavors of blackberry and plum and is capped by a soft finish.

Paris Goulart 2005 Malbec/Cabernet (about $14): An old vine blend with a beautiful nose of fresh berries, dark cherry flavors and a lush, plump finish accentuated by touches of sweet oak. Delicious!

Martino 2003 Malbec (about $19): An outstanding Malbec that’s dark and complex with hints of mocha on the nose, subtle licorice and black cherry flavors and a slightly spicy finish reminiscent of a Zinfandel.

If you’d like to learn more about Argentinean cuisine, local cookbook author Mary Ellen Carter will be hosting a class at the Community Food Co-Op on May 3 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm featuring empanadas, sauces, grilled meats and many of the wines noted above. Register at the Co-Op service desk at 1220 North Forest Street or phone 734-8158.

Merlot

April 21st, 2007

nullSanta Rita 2005 (about $7): Here’s a great bargain from Chile that will stand up to many Merlots at twice the price.

Pleasant aromas of strawberry and vanilla are followed by generous flavors of plum and dark berry. The tannins are noticeable but delicate and the finish is capped by touches of sweet oak. Quite simply, this is an outstanding Merlot in the under $10 a bottle category worth trying.

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