Monday, May 6, 2013

The Bodegas of Mendoza – Part 2

Tim and Naomi arrive at 11 that morning and we plan our day with the first stop being at a bodega we had all had recommended to us – Catena Zapata. Unfortunately it is Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) and it seems the wineries are either closed or short staffed. Catena Zapata is closed to the public, it seems there is a private event taking place and the guard, even after much cajoling and pleading was undeterred, so after talking with the manager on duty, we made an appointment for the next day and moved on. To put us back in the “wine mood”, we stopped at the first bodega that was open and we recognized. Bodega Norton is a medium sized winery and they make a wine that though not excellent is imminently drinkable. Ignacio, who introduced himself by the nickname “Nacho”, told us that he was short staffed and could not offer us a tour but he could pour us some wine and leave us alone to explore the tasting room. After opening a Chardonnay and a Robles Malbec, which I had mentioned was my favorite of their wines and giving a brief explanation of the production process of both, he left us to enjoy the wines and each other’s company. This is just what we needed. One side note, unlike any of the California wineries, which might just chop off your hand if you tried to pour your own glass, that might sound extreme but it is a grave “faux pas” as anyone who visits the wineries is well aware, here in Argentina the bottles are left out in such a way that you can pour as little (or as much) as you like, go back to one that was particularly pleasing to you or even suggest an alternative vintage. It is very laid back and reminds Tom and me of how Napa used to be back in the eighties. Because Ignacio was so generous, we purchased some of that very drinkable Robles Malbec that I enjoy. We next went to Bodega Terrazas de los Andes. In the late 50's, Moet & Chandon sent its chief winemaker, Renaud Poirier, to Argentina to investigate the potential of the region for producing world-class wines. Impressed with the local conditions for winemaking and the presence of unique high elevation vineyards, Moet & Chandon established Terrazas de los Andes as its first subsidiary winery and vineyards outside of France and the bodega is now considered to be a pioneer producer of high elevation premium wines. We elected not to do the tour and so while waiting for the tour to end so we could join in the tasting, our hospitality hostess Valeria, took us to a table overlooking the grounds and ordered us a glass of sparkling wine. Later as we tasted a remarkable selection of wines, Valeria explained their philosophy of wine growing and production. With an emphasis on maximizing fruit expression, varietals have been carefully matched to each vineyard altitude: Cabernet Sauvignon at 980 meters above sea level, Malbec at 1.067, Chardonnay at 1.200 meters and Torrontes at 1.800 meters and as a result they have a truly marvelous selection of high quality wines available. It is late and we drive Tim and Naomi back to their hostel in Mendoza while making plans to meet the next day at our campsite, if nothing else we have a one o’clock appointment at Catena Zapata. Bodega Catena Zapata is without a doubt one of the most visually stunning wineries I have ever visited. From the gorgeous limestone block walled exterior which extends to the interior on the walls and floor, to the amazing temperature controlled rooms on the lower floors which contain an astounded selection of wine from decades of vintages and the interior central staircase which winds its way round each level until at the top you are treated with 360 degree views of the vineyards for miles around, this winery is a “not to be missed”. The tasting itself was a little disappointing in that it was uniquely uninformative which we excused due to the fact that it is Easter Saturday and the winery appeared very short staffed when compared to the number of people visiting. The wines themselves however were very good especially the Chardonnay from the Adrianna Vineyard made from grapes grown at 4757 feet. Compared to the other bodegas we had visited, Vino Cobos is very small. However the wines were superb with a choice of 3 or 4 different wines categories to choose from and complimentary goat cheese and crackers. Our hospitality hostess was very knowledgeable and helpful in discussing not only their wines but also the wines from the region. While the tasting room itself was large and modern in décor, we sat at a table for 6, including us and one other couple from Naples Florida and it gave the feeling of intimacy created by guests and our hostess. It was a pleasant bodega with excellent wines.

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