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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Mendoza! Vino Uco Valley

So on our recent wine trip to South America we decided to go to Mendoza for a few days. We flew into Santiago, thought we could drive to Mendoza and then drive back to visit Chile's Wine regions. I had heard that the drive to Mendoza is one of the most beautiful drives. It was. Close to 30 of the most intense hairpin tuns, steep inclines and sharp cliffs make it an adrenaline rush to the top. The border crossing was not. Long lineups and chaos in the lines. People were so disorganized and not sure what was going on. At one point someone ran away with my passport and documents. I had to chase him down to find out he needed to make a copy of them for our rental car. 1.5 hrs of chaos and we made it out of there. The drive lost some of its luster.  Then we got lost trying to find our hotel. 2.5 hours of driving around. Duplicate street names and lack of sign posts made for a difficult time. Siri and google could not even help me get there. After that long I really needed a glass o' wine. It had better be good.

Day one in Mendoza. We started with AltaVista. Beautiful garden, winery, and wine. OK, maybe this is worth the drive. The French owned winery has 80+ year old vines and a restored facility that was impressive. Most of all the wines were great. 100% concrete fermentation in epoxy lined tanks. Varying in size and shape in relation to the quality of the wines. The wines that stood out to me were the 2010 Bonarda and the 2007 ALTO. The Bonarda was full of Juicy red fruit, medium to medium low tannins and just and easy excellent drinking wine that was a pleasure. Sometimes it is just nice to drink a wine for the sake of consumption :) Next was the ALTO. A wine full of structure. Big tannins and full of complexities. Deep Ruby in colour. Vanilla, chocolate, plums and Cherries.  Long finish with round tannins and subtle baking spices. This was a wine I could keep smelling for hours.

Next tasting was off to Luigi Bosca. Beautiful facility. Hand carved plaster art everywhere. Mix of concrete and steel fermentation tanks. Concrete only for the lesser quality wines. Lots of modern technology. Here they were experimenting with Russian and Chinese oak barrels to for the malbecs. So far no luck but as we are running out of french oak we may need to look for more alternatives soon.  The wines that we enjoyed here were the Gala 4 and the Icono. The 2008 Gala 4 was a blend of 4% Malbec and 95% Cabernet Franc. Beautiful wine with red fruits from the malbec and pretty floral and Purple notes from the Cab Franc. The well structured wine is one that was hard to judge at this point and need some time for a real test. 8-10 years :)  Next was the 2008 ICONO. Signature wine from Luigi Bosca. At first i thought the wine was a bit too soft and easy on the pallet. It certainly was a drinking kind of wine. After going back i realized  the wine did have a good amount of tannin but they were very well integrated and made for a easy drinking impression. The fruit was very prominent and was full of cherry, and plum with black pepper and leather adding to the wine.  The smell was intoxicating. This was a wine I would be excited to taste again in 5 anos.
Drive up to Catena Zapata

Day Two Mendoza. Off to Catena Zapata. While the reception was less than inviting we did get in and get to taste the Angelica Chardonnay, 3 Malbecs and 1 Cabernet Sauv. The 2010 Angelica Chardonnay was fantastic. Rich mouth, dairy but not oaky. You could barely tell the influence of the oak in the taste but in the mouth feel, It was full of citrus and peaches and had a beautiful creaminess. Almost Creamsicle.  The other wine that stood out to me was the 2007 Adrianna Malbec. Grown at 1500 meters this wine shows complexity and concentrations of flavors  Feminine on the nose but Masculine on the pallet. This was a truly interesting wine. Floral vs Spice. Cherry vs Tobacco. I could not stop going back to this wine. I certainly will be bringing this wine home with me :)  The other malbecs were fantastic as well but i could not stop going back to this one and smelling vs tasting.
Andaluna Lab - The kids loved all the science labs!

After this tasting we were headed to Andaluna. We were told that if we turned south we would get to it but it took up over 2 hours and after getting lost 3 times we finally ended up in the Uco Valley. I had thought we were going to stay just outside of Mendoza but here we were so we made the best of it. 4 wineries later we were spent. We visited Andeluna, Tupengato, Azul and Salentine.
Bodega La Azul. A refreshingly small winery with only 4 stainless fermentors and approx 12 oak barrels. We tasted 2 malbecs and one Cab Sauv and they were all very well made. Their Grand Reserve Wine was all sold out so they offered to taste out of the barrel   I will never say no to tasting out of the barrel ! I wish i could bring back cases of this wine.
Andaluna- Large winery. Is owned by Mr. Frito Lay. Usually i stay away from large wineries like this but we found the locals recommended this winery above any other ones to visit. So we trecked there and were pleasantly surprised by the wines. Sitting in the shadow of the Andes mountains the air felt thin but the concentration of flavors in the wine were certainly not.  We tasted 5 Wines. 2012 Torrontes, Altitude Chard 2011, Altitude Cab 2006, Altitude Malbec 2010, Pasionado Quatro Cepas 05. I left this winery with all 5 wines. Many did not even make it home. Extremely well made wines with distinct character. The Quatro Cepas was Rich and full bodied, subtle vanilla with dark cherry and blackberries. The texture was very velvety. YUM!

Side note- While we were in the UCO valley the wind began to blow from the mountains. This was an extremely strong wind and was uprooting trees and bending the vines over. The locals call this wind the 'SONDA' and were not expecting it during this time of year. They say it is very common in the spring and fall but not summer.

Salentine Entrance
 Salentine- This large and well known winery has a beautiful facility. The hospitality on the other hand was less than welcoming. We felt as more of a nuisance than a guest and had to remind the staff multiple times we were waiting for a tasting. I think this winery had outgrown its capacity to host people. I had all but written this winery off until the wines finally came. They were delicious. I tasted the Primus Pinot Noir (07), Malbec (07), and Merlot (05). Probably because we were in Malbec country I was in awe of that wine the most but I would say I was shocked to find a pinot of that quality here. Worth a visit but don't expect a friendly welcome.