Day of Wine Tasting in Valle de Uco
We were super excited for our first day of wine tasting in Mendoza, so we rented a car and headed to Valle de Uco. We made appointments at Clos de los Siete, Giminez Riili and Vines of Mendoza, and lastly Andeluna.
We thought four places in one day was the perfect amount; we could relax and enjoy each tasting, have enough time in between to make it to each appointment and still make the most of our day. This was only partially true...
Let me forewarn anyone planning a wine tasting trip to Mendoza's wine regions, it's a crazy maze out there! The unmarked, dirt roads coupled with our poorly scaled map, made getting to our appointments on time practically impossible. My word of advice is this: hire a guide or give yourself double the time you think you need to get places.
Here's a taste (pun intended) of our first day in Argentine wine country:
Clos de las Siete:
We arrived at this appointment an hour late, but thankfully they were gracious and accommodated us anyway. We met Mariana and she explained that Michelle Rolland is one of seven owners (ie: Siete), but consults for everyone. All seven owners have their own bodega, vineyards and winemaking team and do their own projects on property as well. 50% of their fruit goes into the Clos de los Siete label and the other 50% is for their own use.
Needless to say, this place was huge and top-notch. We tasted a Malbec Rose and then the Clos de los Siete Malbec while she explained the history of the place and people involved.
The Rose was stunning and offered floral, berry notes and bright acidity that was refreshing and surprisingly complex. The Malbec was one of the first 'big' Malbecs we'd tried and a little of Rolland's old world style came out in the subtle earthiness on the nose and palate.
This wine had a lot more to it and while it was still dark purple and driven by berry pie characteristics, it offered up a decent amount of spice and a hint of forest floor to balance it out.
After this, Mariana hopped in our car and took us to see one of the bodegas on property. Flecha de los Andes (owned partially by France's Rothschild family) was a geometrically inspired adobe palace. It came complete with a barrel room, cellar, tasting room and grand patio which looked right into the majestic Andes. We also learned that it was designed by the same person who did the sets of 'Star Wars'.
Mariana also told us that all the owners, including Rolland, were in town for the Vendimia. Unfortunately, my excited inquiry as to whether we could meet him was immediately shot down with a curt 'no' and a stern head shake. It was worth a try!
I mention these together because they are right next to each other and Pablo Martorell, is he winemaker for both places. Gimenez Riili was the wine that we loved so much at the Mega D and we were super excited to try some of their other wines.
Ultimately, we ended up passing the winery since it was under construction and were over an hour late... again. We finally pulled up, and launched into a profuse apology in Spanish, when Pablo, the winemaker, cut us off, laughed and handed us some Torrontes. Apparently, the whole reservation thing is just a soft formality...thank goodness!
Pablo explained the project, showed us some equipment and we finished the delicious Torrontes. We hadn't tried their white at the Mega D, but thought the bright grapefruit, floral, citrus peel essence was perfect in the 90 degree Mendoza heat.
We took yet another bumpy dirt back road to Vines of Mendoza, a cooperative where wine enthusiasts can buy parcels of land and make their own wine. Participants can be as involved in the winemaking process as little or as much as they want to, and have full control over what is made. Of course, Pablo offers his expertise and winemaking skills, which is smartly heeded by most.
Here, they were getting everything ready for harvest and we were amazed and thankful that Pablo, who was picking Gimenez Riili's first grapes the next morning, took the time to taste us on the 2008-2010 Reserve Malbecs.
The 2008 stood out to us all as the clear winner, although the '09 and '10 were poised to follow in its footsteps with a bit more bottle age. We loved the 2008 for its aromas of dried cranberry and blueberry with hints of fresh cedar to round out the spicy start and smooth, silky finish. We could definitely tell these wines were made by someone who had a lot of experience and familiarity with the land.
Even after all this, Pablo took us into the vineyard, showed us his pruning preferences and gave us some fresh berry samples. I swear, we learned more from him in two hours of tasting and chatting than in most semester-long classes.
This was our last stop and in true fashion we were 45 minutes late. The property was absolutely beautiful and the tasting salon makes full use of the surrounding landscape. Wide windows, rock interior and an intimate restaurant make this one of the prettiest wineries we'd seen.
We opted for the basic tasting of 3 wines, and chose the Torrontes, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The woman behind the bar was super sweet and gave us two extra pours of Malbec to compare and contrast.
We were relatively unimpressed and thought the wines, even the high-end ones, were all just mediocre. Technically, they were well-made, but they lacked any real character or pizzazz, and didn't stand out. Michelle Rolland consults for them as well, but this was a far cry from the Clos de las Siete we tasted earlier that morning.
*Fun Fact: This winery was started by Mr. Lay of Frito-Lay and his picture graces the wall next to the door...who knew, wine and potato chips. Fortunately, when we were there, there weren't any Fritos or Lays in sight!
Exhausted and wined-out, we plopped in the car, turned on some Argentine rock, made a gourd of Mate, and rallied for our 2 hour journey back to Mendoza.