Imagine a secluded rural property in the wine region of Maipú, surrounded by old vineyards, home of one of the most awarded, innovative and eccentric winemakers of Argentina.

Decanter’s 2013 man-to-watch; and he is opening his home to you, welcoming you as a guest for a unique experience. "One of Argentina’s most passionate winemakers, and perhaps the most talented" were Neil Martin words (Robert Parker´s Wine Advocate’s issue #203 - 2012) describing Alejandro Vigil.

Catena Zapata Winery had recruited him in 2002 from the INTA (Government’s agricultural technology research institute), were he was head of Soil Department (at 28 years old) conducting soil/terroirs research for grapevine growing. The rest is history..., and now, a legend of sort.
Catena´s Chief Winemaker Alejandro Vigil

His strong scientific and academic background led to important developments in both vineyard management and winemaking for the winery. As the results of his research were increasingly incorporated into the winery's operations, Alejandro was named Chief Winemaker in July 2007. A naturally restless person, Alejandro strives to channel his creative energy into pushing the limits of conventional viticultural and winemaking wisdom (he also hosts a music and wine radio show named "In vino veritas"). Always ready to try something new, full of endless experiments, Alejandro's goal is to constantly increase his understanding of the unique terroir in Mendoza's high altitude desert oasis.

But this time, he wants to show you his personal project, called El Enemigo (The Enemy), a partnership between Alejandro and Adrianna Catena, the youngest daughter of Nicolas Catena Zapata.

Five different wines plus some surprises out of his secret stash will be tasted and paired later on with a fine dining experience, prepared by a renown local chef, also present. A unique opportunity to share an evening with a world rising star!

This program includes private transportation from/to the hotel, bilingual guide, wine tasting, and a full dinner with his wines. Advanced reservations are required. Minimum 2 guests, Maximum 8. PRICE PER PERSON: Please enquire.

Some tasting notes of Alejandro’s wines:

In Wine Advocate’s issue #203 Neal Martin reviews 2009 El Gran Enemigo: "The 2009 El Gran Enemigo (96 points) is a blend of 80% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Malbec that sees a 30% whole bunch maceration and is aged in French and American oak for 18 months, of which 35% is new. It has a broody, introspective bouquet with touches of licorice, bay leaf and black olive. The palate is full-bodied with again, broody black fruit that displays exquisite balance and poise. This is a wine built for the long term and to be frank, this is one of the finest Cabernet Franc-based blends that I have encountered. It builds in the mouth, yet never becomes overbearing on the finish, which abides by the old “iron fist in velvet glove” cliché. This “intuitive” Cabernet Franc is just beautifully blended with its bridesmaids, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Not cheap, but this effortless wine is the real deal. Drink 2014-2025+"

In Wine Advocate’s issue #198 Jay Miller reviews 2008 Nicolas Catena Zapata (98 points) “The 2008 Nicolas Catena Zapata is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec, and the balance Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc that spent 24 months in 100% new French oak followed by 24 months in bottle prior to release. It delivers an inviting bouquet of wood smoke, pencil lead, espresso, incense, lavender, black currant, and black cherry. This sets the stage for a full-bodied, powerful yet elegant, beautifully proportioned effort with great depth and volume. It conceals plenty of structure and will effortlessly evolve for 6-8 years, drinking well through 2028, if not longer”

In Wine Advocate’s issue #203 Neal Martin reviews 2009 White Bones Chardonnay: “The 2009 White Bones Chardonnay (96 points) also comes from Lot 1 of the Adrianna Vineyard and the name refers to the calcareous deposits in the subsoil. You can tell that Alejandro Vigil included a little botrytis here. It has another bewitching bouquet of hazelnut, crushed stone and white peach that would shame many a Burgundy Grand Cru. The palate has a touch of honey and apricot on the entry. It is beautifully balanced with subtle white peach and apricot notes mingling with pear and quince towards the poised finish. Stunning. Drink now-2025”
For more information about this unique experience please contact us at info@rosellsoler.com



A "well oiled" party: The new Zuelo Novello harvest from Familia Zuccardi.

I love this time of the year in Mendoza. Cool nights, still warm afternoons, the first snowfalls of the year can be seen afar on the mountain tops. As fall unveils a languid transition into winter, and the vineyard´s foliage turns red, the last red grapes are being harvest. March and April is also harvest time for olive oil producers, that, as old as winemaking tradition, is still an eclipsed activity.

Snow-capped Andes views from the Zuccardi Estate

 Like old tales that later become legend, how Argentina become an olive oil producing country is cunning...The first olive groves were planted in the mid 1.500s as the Spanish conquerors founded forts, villages and missions alongside the central Andean provinces. Over time, production grew, the groves blossomed with the high desert sunshine and olive oil became part of everyday life for the colony. In the late 1.600s, fearing competition, the Spaniards decided that the colony should no longer produce its own olive oil, and a royal decree stated the procedure for tearing off all the olive trees they themselves had introduced, creating a special army squad for this purpose.

Old trunks - 200 years old and still producing!

All groves were destroyed except this one small tree that an old lady hided under her skirts in Almogasta, La Rioja. The legend tells that this particular olive tree was the father of Argentina's first and only native species, the Arauco varietal. Argentina now has over 275,000 acres of olive groves, produces around 100,000 tons of olive oil and is one of the premium producers exporting to around 30 countries worldwide.

But it is not all about wine at Familia Zuccardi winery these days. This far sighted operation started its own olive oil division more than a decade ago, the rudder manned by young agronomist and olive expert Miguel Zuccardi. Today, with 650 acres implanted with 8 different olive varietals, the idea of this project is to bring this ancient, generic product into a new dimension.

Extracting oil at Zuccardi´s facility

Thanks to a new, state-of-the-art centrifugal process, Zuccardi is able to produce, just like in wine, extra virgin varietal oils and blends, that continues to win local and international awards as one of the best producers in Argentina. Imagine the broad spectrum of flavors, intensities and aromas that this offers to chefs, gourmands and consumers.

Chocolate truffles with Zuelo olive oil at Pan y Oliva restaurant
So, back to the party, Zuccardi family organized an open house at their olive oil facility last Sunday to celebrate and showcase the new harvest. Impeccably organized by resident Chef Matias Aldassoro, and the presence of renown local chefs and bakers, olive oil of course as one of the main ingredients in their dishes. 
Miguel Zuccardi with the very first press of 2013 - Zuelo Novello

However there is more to the visiting experience than the guided tasting of their oils. Julia Zuccardi, responsible of the hospitality, tourism and restaurants area of the company, tells us that a day of harvesting starts with coffee before picking your own olives and pressing them to make your bespoke olive oil which is bottled and ready to enjoy over lunch and take home. You can tour around their compact olive press and if you are visiting during the olive season (April – May) you can see the process in action or take part in harvesting.

The small, compact press for tour participants - Take your own olive oil home!
The shabby-chic restaurant has an unparalleled olive-based menu. Their healthy, deli style menu has delightful dishes like beetroot and goat's cheese pancakes with green olive paste; blue cheese, olive, rocket and Portobello mushroom salad dressed in Arauco olive oil; and also more surprising dishes but equally as delicious like raspberries with olive sorbet; and olive oil and dark chocolate torte.
Different breads to pair with varietal oils
The olive is a tree that symbolizes peace and tranquility. This plant has accompanied us for at least 7.000 years, buy mystery and uncertainity is all arround this tree, leaving in the dark all the lessons that we could learn from it..., at least untill now.

The author with wine enthusiast Emilia Armando and Big Kahuna and friend José Alberto Zuccardi
For a truly gourmet olive oil experience and hands-on harvesting Zuccardi is one of the best places to visit. Rounded off with one of Zuccardi great wines and a coffee in the attractive garden overlooking the olive groves, makes a perfect olive day out! And, only if you get lucky, a glimpse of their distilling facility and a glass of their exclusive tempranillo´s grappa as a digestive treat!

For tours enquires please contact Rosell and Soler Wine and Art Tours at info@rosellsoler.com or Discover the Andes at info@discovartheandes.com


Star Argentine Chef Francis Mallmann brings his irreverent cuisine to Uco Valley.

Some people say that Uco Valley is the next argentinean Napa Valley...., do not know about that, but certanly the terroir and its extraordinary wines, the scenery of the Andes snowcapped peaks, the array of prestigious wineries and luxury lodges sprouting here and there lead to think that is going to be a very special place in ten years from now.

Among the projects that already are being very successful, is the wine related real estate project of The Vines of Mendoza. With its first face 250 acres estate sold out, second face being developed, where private investors can purchase their own vineyards, and make their own wine in the project´s common winery.

Such a place needs a nice lodge for people to stay and enjoy their parcels, so the finishing touches at The Vines Resort and Spa are in the works. And of course, such a resort needs a first class restaurant...
Francis playing with fire...
Francis Mallmann, South America’s most popular chef, abandoned the fussy fine-dining scene for the more elemental experience of cooking with fire from his native Patagonia. Mallmann returned to his culinary roots after being invited to serve dinner in 1995 to the world’s leading gourmets at The International Academy of Gastronomy, when he was awarded  The Grand Prix de l ´Art de la Cuisine.
Argentinisn culinary tradition at its best
His book, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way is Mallmann’s first English-language cookbook, written with Peter Kaminsky. It showcases recipes inspired by campfires and cattle drives, harvest festivals and fishing camps, street fairs and family Sundays.

Siete Fuegos Restaurant at The Vines Resort and Spa: Now Francis Mallmann brings his irreverent cuisine to the Uco Valley. Siete Fuegos - the quintessential Argentine asado will showcase the best of Argentina, from beef to vegetables to seafood. These are the authentic tastes of Argentina and its fire touched by centuries of history and culture.
A table in the vineyards, fresh ingredients, irrigated with seven of the region's finest and most exclusive wines from winemakers Santiago Achaval & Pablo Martorell.

Argentine beef empanadas.
Artisanal cheeses.
Salt crusted salmon with summer salad.
Roasted butterflied lamb with criolla (creole) sauce.
Grilled rib eye with chimichurri sauce and ember roasted vegetables.
Goat roasted with rosemary leaves and jarilla.
Dulce de leche pancakes served with grilled peaches and plums.
Coffee and tea.

Reservations required at 7fuegos@vinesofmendoza.com , www.sietefuegosasado.com

Dinner asados, cooking classes, and exclusive wine tastings are available upon request also.

Note: Rosell and Soler Premium wine and art tours offers exclusive private wine tours at Uco Valley with lunch at 7 Fires restaurant. For enquires please contact info@rosellsoler.com / www.rosellsoler.com


Making egg wine at Zorzal Winery

Majestic Tupungato Volcano (21.555 ft.) oversees Uco Valley
First week of March, in a clear morning in wind-barren, rocky, sandy and dusty Gualtallary district in Uco Valley, Mendoza. Under hughe vistas of the snow capped Andes, feeling the crisp air in their nostrills, a small army of harvesters are hand picking clusters of dark small grapes.

Of all the terroirs of Argentina, and perhaps in the world, Gualtallary is considered a hidden gem. Altitude (vineyards climbing up to 5.000 ft.), a broad night /day temperature span, and more importantly, the soil. So poor, so rocky, that the vine´s roots had to dig deeper in search of humidity (drip irrigation is also a key here) and nutrients, where they find precious calcium carbonate coated stones, locally called white bones. These calcareous soils result in a minerality and fine, chalky tannins… the mouthfeel you might recognize from… perhaps… Barolo? Burgundy? Sancerre?

In this 175 acres estate that is still being planted, ancient bush style training system for the vines in some of the slopesides, a new, beautifully simple winery arises in the middle of the desert, a dream comed true for three mendocinean brothers.

Just harvested pinot noir grapes ready to go into cold maceration

Zorzal Winery is the brainchild of Gerardo Michelini. Once in the banking industry, and tired of economic up and downs, he began to envision this long term project along with his two oenologist brothers, Matias and Juan Pablo. They purchased the property in 2008, and the winery was ready to receive its first harvest in 2009.

Gravity feed stainless steel tanks
Welcome..., Juan Pablo Michelini greet us with a broad smile and extends a purple-stained hand for a warm shake. Excuse the mess... he says, we just got the pinot noir grapes in and we are about to start de-steming. After imparting instructions to some of his workers, he signals us to follow him..."when we decided to produce wine with my brothers, we needed to create an identity, a sort of DNA, in order to differentiate ourselves from the thousands of labels out there. We realized that this terroir was unique, so we wanted to reflect as much as we could of it in our wines!"

Therefore, bold, innovative, creative, somehow risky vinification techniques are applied to the whole process, and this results in unique, natural and exotic wines. Low intervention, the use of native yeast only, low fermenting temperatures, selected stems maceration and fermentation (diferent than whole bunch maceration/fermentation, were a percentage of the wine is fermented using the whole cluster, without separating the berries from the stems, what they do is to de-stem all the grapes, then go to the discarded stem pile and select a percentage of the ripest ones, and introduce them with the berries in the fermentation tank), white wines fermented with its skins, and the most distinct feature: very unique vats....

Egg wine: One of the innovations Zorzal uses are concrete egg-shaped, amphora styled vats, originally made in France and first introduced in Argentina by Michel Rolland. Juan Pablo and Matias needed a few to began with but could not afford the french ones, so the found a company that was brave enough to try to make a prototype for them. They provided the specs, and now these vats can be seen in other wineries as a trend.

The very first concrete egg vat made in Mendoza
Zorzal Lines:

Entry level line: 100% varietals with no oak intervention: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet, and Malbec Rosé.

Reserve Line: Pinot Noir, Malbec and Cabernet.

"Field Blend"Line: 50% Cab.-50%  Malbec fermented together, aaaaahhhhh, incredible wine!

Icon Line: Climax Malbec and Climax Blend.

In the kitchen, to be released: T5 Cab. Franc, that really surprised us by its finesse!, Eggo, a blend totaly fermented and aged in eggs, and a special sauvignion blanc.

Note: The famous, unique, Taransaud T5 is like the Ferrari of all french oak barrels. T5 is made from very tight grain French oak specially selected, seasoned in the open air for 5 years on limited series and quantities. Every T5 is produced and finished under the active control of a Master Cooper ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France’ who signs each barrel.

Local artists began to decorate the eggs

The Michelini brothers, are part of a very young, innovative, powerful new generation of argentinian winemakers (along with Sebastian Zuccardi, Laureano Gomez, Alejandro Vigil, Alejandro Sejanovich, Marcelo Peleriti, and Luis Reginato) that the wine industry is in the watch for.

With Juan Pablo Michelini, while tapping the barrel cellar, like a kid showing his toys!

So no fancy tasting room, nor model like receptionist or award winning building, just a bunch of young, passionated, honest guys showing their talents! I highly recommend to give them a try!

Note: Zorzal is not open to the public, but visits and tastings could be arranged trough Rosell and Soler Premium Wine and Art Tours at pedrorosell@rosellsoler.com


An Andes Day with Discover the Andes guides

Whether on foot, horseback, bike, or just from one of their 4 wheel drive trucks, if you are in Mendoza, a day in the Andes is not to be missed.

Discover the Andes expeditions, had devoted the last 25 years to guide visitors into this majestic range. This prestigious guiding service provides first class experiences on private only basis. Pedro Rosell, its leader, tells us a selection of his client’s favorite outings:

"Paso de la Carrera" or La Carrera Pass is located SW of Mendoza City. To get there we must cross the first Andean mountain range, known as Precordillera, or Pre Andes Range. When we arrive to Potrerillos village, then we head SW, into the mountains.
Leaving behind both El Salto and Las Vegas oases, we drive up the pass on a dirt road to get to the trailhead. "Paso de la Carrera" is a high valley that sits at about 6.400 ft. (1.950 m) above sea level. Farming is a common activity and the area is famous for agriculture and breeding cattle. During summer time, "gauchos" (local cowboys) show their skills in festivals that are held regularly in the area.
As soon as we reach the highest spot of the road we start walking through paths printed by grassing cows and horses. During the first 30 minutes, the trekking is very light in order to warm up. From there on, we slowly ascent through soft hills until we get to the top of the range from where most of the Cordón del Plata (Andes Front Range) can be seen so close that can be nearly touched. Birds, wildflowers, fox, condors and guanacos (wild llama) are normally there to amuse the trekkers.  This is the best place to enjoy the picnic lunch. Returning to Mendoza City takes one and a half hours.

This traverse from one valley to another follows an ancient native indian hunting trail, as they use to follow herds of guanaco (wild llamas).We departure Mendoza westbound on Highway 7, contouring the Pre-Andes Range, then highway turns northward following a valley that runs between the Pre Andes range and the Front Range, to the scenic village of Potrerillos, were a detour will lead us westward into the Front Range. We´ll go through the small green valleys of Potrerillos, El Salto and Las Vegas, then the road turns into a gravel path. Reaching 7.550 ft. of altitude, we´ll begin our trek, after a creek crossing. We´ll ascend on an animal´s pathway for an hour, reaching 8.900 ft. of altitude, were a traverse amid the foothills of the Cordón del Plata Range commences, with another four hours of open views of this range running north to south. We’ll come upon an area with a couple of small creeks with green shades provided by willows and poplars, which will host our picnic and provide rest. This was a native campground, and some artifacts can still be found, especially primitive stone mortars to grind corn. The descent ends at the small village of El Salto, right at the gardens of our final target: The Jerome Microbrewery!

We set the compass to the West and take route Nº 7, towards the mountains. The first Andean mountain range we will come across is called the Pre Mountain Range, and the snowy peaks to the west are part of the Cordillera Frontal, a different range. We shall drive through the Potrerillos valley which lies between these two ranges, and drive pass by Potrerillos Lake to then take the SW bearing into the Cordillera Frontal. We get off the asphalt into a dirt road, going towards the abandoned Vallecitos ski area that was build in the late 1950, where we will be dropped off.
Leaving the ski area behind us we start trekking into a gorge and we'll be able to see on our left mount Franke (16.400 ft. - 5.000 m) and on the right the San Bernardo (14.400 ft. - 4.400 m). The path goes up along a water stream and at the first flat land, we come to a very fertile tract where the water table approaches the surface and a few water springs can be seen. Ahead of us, the majestic mount Vallecitos (19.000 ft. - 5.800 m) is the perfect spot to have lunch. Eventually, packs of guanacos and some condors can be added to the scenery. Clues of the working forces of ancient glaciers are everywhere to be discovered. After lunch, depending on one's will, we can trek up for another hour and surprise ourselves with a wide valley where accumulated earth and stones were deposited by a glacier. During the winter, the area can be covered in snow, and we might need to track with snow shoes, which is as fun as it is easy.

These mountains had determine the climate down in the vineyards, the soil is a result of them as they erode, and its rivers deposited alluvial debree, and the water that preciously irrigate the grapes come from runoff of its glaciers and eternal snowfields, so Mendocinean wines are a direct result of this spectacular range. As you can see, there is more than wine to discover in Mendoza.

Note: These programs by Discover the Andes had been featured in the NY Times, AFAR Magazine (May 2013 issue - to be released), and Fodors.com (http://www.fodors.com/news/five-reasons-to-visit-mendoza-now-6397.html). You can contact Pedro at info@discovertheandes.com / www.discovertheandes.com


Wine epiphany: Viña Cobos, Bressia and Catena Zapata

Few times every summer, we get the challenge of designing a special wine tour that involves coordinating unique wine tastings showcased by the most prestigious winemakers/winery owners of our region. Winemakers or producers from around the globe, journalists, wine traders, wine lovers and chefs are usually the typical guests for these special tours.

These requests are both hard work and a real pleasure to partake, since these winemakers or owners are hard to round up with their busy schedules. On the other hand, we get to taste wines that normally are out of reach, explained by their creators.

But the real task here is to quickly "interpret" our guest palate style in order to choose wines that probably will fit his/hers senses. The final idea is to create an pleasurable surprise, in order to get close to a "wine epiphany" type experience as possible and exceed expectations, that already are set pretty high.

Few weeks ago, long time wine collector and connoisseur from Singapore, visited Argentina. He was looking for a learning experience about our wines, from the inside, searching for labels worth collecting, and I was commissioned to guide them through this task.

They had a previous stop in Salta, Argentina´s northwest wine producing region, the place with the highest vineyards in the world.

I really wanted to give them a cross section of the industry in Mendoza, so in the afternoon of the first day we went to The Vines of Mendoza tasting room. You see, we are not only malbec, a great number of other varieties are grown here being now days vinified into wonderful wines.

There we sat in a private room, over a sea of glassware. First we tried an array of four Torrontes. Then a flight of seven Malbecs, from young to complex, from different sub-appellations. After this, a set of five blends, and later on, a couple of rarities like Lorca´s 100% petit verdot. Some of these samples were really big wines, all of them over 90 points. Not vinegar at all!

Wine tasting at The Vines of Mendoza

He was taking notes and playing with his own rating system. After two hours, the verdict came: not happy...

Mamma mia! I thought. We better nail it tomorrow. Our reputation as an up-coming first class wine producing country with wines worth ageing and collecting was in jeopardy.

Day two: Wonderful morning, I pick them up at 9:15 AM at Cavas Wine Lodge for a full and last day of tasting and interviews. Not far from this countryside hotel in the sub-appellation of Agrelo, our first winery of the day was awaiting.

By the end of this trip, so many wines were tasted that it will make an endless entry if I describe tasting notes of all of them.

VIÑA COBOS: Paul Hobbs South American dream meets ideal partners and terroir.

Luis Barroud, Andrea Marchiori, painter Alberto Thormann and Paul Hobbs
Viña Cobos started at harvest time, 1998, when Californian winemaker Paul Hobbs partnered with local oenologists Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barroud, aiming at producing terroir-driven wines. Holding nowdays an impressive, highly rated portfolio, this state-of-the-art winery produced the first Argentinian wine to pass the u$s 150 price tag barrier in the US.

A showcase of Alberto Thormann´s paintings greet us while we enter the building, as Mariana Cerutti, in charge of marketing and sales, as well as hospitality manager, warmly receive us for this special private tasting.

We started with entry level line Felino Malbec (91 points) and Felino Cabernet (90 points). Their makers want to highlight the utmost essence of each wine variety grown in different wine sub-regions of Mendoza, specially Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley. Intense, pure wines with good acidity, with 8 months in oak, and great quality for the price (just like Paul Hobbs entry level Cabernets from Napa!).

Then we moved on to the Bramare Vineyard Designation line, with Bramare Malbec Marchiori Vineyard (Agrelo, 95 points), Bramare Malbec Rebon Vineyard (Uco Valley, 94 points), and Bramare Cabernet Marchiori Vineyard (Agrelo, 93 points). Picturing specific terroirs, from 3,270 feet of altitude for Rebon Vineyard in Uco Valley, to a 80 years old vineyard at Marchiori estate.

Viña Cobos Volturno Blend 2009 - 98 points 

He was asking questions and taking notes. Then, the turn for the Volturno 2009 - a blend Cab 80%  Malbec 20% (98 points, Wine Advocate). This blend is one of the two icon wines of the winery, the other one is the Cobos Malbec (96 points). The Cobos Volturno is inky red, with alluring ripe blackberries, black cherries, licorice and dark chocolate that follow through on the palate. Richly textured, with plush, tight tannins covering dense layers of black fruits, leather, cigar box and crushed stones. Waves of flavors unfold over a lengthy finish, providing a deph of multiple dimensions.

The aging potential question arose and an interesting discussion took place, in our guest opinion, this wine needed at least 12 more years in bottle to develop its full potential. Verdict: not totally happy... Most of these wines are sold out vintage after vintage, so consumers seems to like them.

Manual harvest at Marchiori Vineyard / Viña Cobos

...I corked the rest of the bottle and saved it for later..., and we moved on to the next stop, Bressia Winery.

BRESSIA WINERY: The Cult of Elegance and Finesse.
We got there ahead of schedule, so a walk among the vineyards that surround the winery gave me the chance to show them our ancient irrigation system, to see how vineyard workers were conducting the water from lot to lot, and also to see the different vine training systems, talk about clones, vineyard management and plant reproduction.

Walter Bressia belongs to a small group of select cult winemakers. He had spent more than 20 years working for a big winery. In 2003 he decided that he had enough and started his own project involving his whole family. His personality reflects in every wine of his portfolio.

Walter Bressia in his cellar

The whole line (except the sparkling and the grappa) was waiting for us at this small but warm winery, so we sat in a cozy relaxed living room with Walter and Marita (Walter´s eldest daugther, in charge of sales and marketing). Cheeses, nuts, raisins, cold cuts and crackers were also brought to the table, honoring the Italian tradition.

Walter wanted us to try his latest creation, the Silvestra malbec. Intended to be the purest expression of the fruit, this entry level unoaked malbec surprised everybody in the group. Silky, mature, simple but fresh, easy to drink yet elegant. Tsun-Yan was reluctant to try young wines, and this one really surprised him.

Afterwards, we tasted a Cabernet Franc from the Monteagrelo line. There is this slight trend I detected in certain wineries, to play with pure Cab. Francs, surprising everybody with very elegant, out of the ordinary wines (I also strongly recommend Cab. Francs from these other wineries: Pulenta Estate, Benegas Lynch, Riglos, Catena Zapata and El Zorzal).

Notes and questions, sip after sip, purpurish lips by now, then Conjuro Blend (spell or incantation in spanish) was poured, more notes, poker faces, polite comments. Then Profundo Blend (profound in spanish) and Walter telling us what it takes to vinify these nectars, the pleasure and honor to witness such erudition, gently transmitting knowledge, the passion of winemaking just veiled by the language barrier.

At this point, something had changed. The first smiles arise, and I went internally: hard to duplicate this experience, it does not get better than this. And just before the icon wine was poured, our guests were complimenting the wines and enquiring about their distribution.

The Last Page, or Ultima Hoja in Spanish was next. This secret assemblage is only released in extraordinary years. Walter blends the best four barrels in his cellar in order to bottle a small, limited edition of this wine.

The family choose  this name in Walter career´s honor: winemakers normally average 35/40 harvests in their working life, he is about to work his # 36. So virtually these coming years are going to be the last pages of his wine storybook, resuming all his experience in this wine.

Its color is intense deep red, with purple and black highlights, framing an incredible attractive core. In the nose, ripe red and dark fruits like plums, raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries. Just the right combination of chocolate aromas, caramel and coffee lent by the high-quality fine toast of the french oak. Sweet but well balance, robust but extremely elegant body, with a long, refined and memorable finish. Then, the verdict came: SEAMLESS BLEND. He was a happy camper, and so was I.

Walter insisted that we try Lagrima Canela, by the way one of my favorite white wines. Lagrima Canela (cinnamon tears in spanish) Chardonnay/Semillon is an intense greenish-yellow wine with luminous golden highlights. It has fresh, elegant floral aromas lent to it by its grape varieties, as well as a touch of oak. On the palate it has very good body, and good unctuosity but at the same time is fresh and floral. It is a wine of great delicacy and subtle elegance.  

Bressia winery’s wines received high scores in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and in Tim Atkins’ Special Report on Argentina 2012.

Neal Martin, the new critic for Robert Parker’s publication, when assessing wines of South America, considered Walter Bressia’s wines among the best of the world. In this publication, Bressia Conjuro 2007 obtained 94 points and Bressia Conjuro 2008, 93 points. Also, the wines Bressia Profundo 2008 and 2007, and Monteagrelo Cabernet Franc 2010 were recognized with 92 points. And Lágrima Canela (Cinnamon Tears) 2009 and Pinot Noir Piel Negra 2010 got 90 points.

Apart from this, Tim Atkin’s special report includes Bressia winery in many categories of the Top 10s: “Best Wineries” (Bodega Bressia); “Best Red Blends” (Bressia Conjuro 2007 and Bressia Profundo 2006); “Best Malbecs” (Bressia Monteagrelo Malbec 2008) and “Best White Wines” (Bressia Lágrima Canela 2009).

Six of his wines were rated with scores that go from 91 to 96 points: Bressia Monteagrelo Malbec 2008 (96 points); Bressia Conjuro 2006 (95 points); Bressia Profundo 2006 (95 points); Bressia Lágrima Canela 2009 (92 points); Monteagrelo Syrah 2008 (91 points) and Bressia Profundo 2007 (91 points). In each publication, Walter Bressia is mentioned and considered to be part of the group of winemakers that makes the best wines of Argentina.

Surprised about the personality of the whole line from Silvestra to The Seamless Blend, Ultima Hoja. Fine, sensitive winemaking - elegance. The Cult is justified.

Lunch time, so we went next door to Melipal Winery for a quick bite before our next and last appointment.

Chef Lucas Bustos restaurant at Melipal Winery
CATENA ZAPATA: Excellence through research, innovation and pioneering.

Dr. Nicolas Catena, a true fine wine industry pioneer in Argentina since the early 1980s, always aimed to create wines that could eventually be considered world first class. Until that time, no one in the new world had dreamed of rivaling France.

The Pyramid vineyard: Nicolás set out to develop his own selection of Argentine Malbec clones planting 145 clones in the La Pirámide vineyard. Of these, he selected the best five and began to plant them in different terroirs and altitudes. The results became more than clear in 2003 when his best Malbec came from the La Consulta vineyard where the five clones had been planted in separate rows.

In 2001 Nicolas' daughter Laura took over the Research & Development program at Bodega Catena Zapata. An Emergency Room physician with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, Laura brought a very strong science background to the family winery's R&D project. She immediately set about working with the high altitude Malbec that her father had planted. Laura was sure that this Argentine varietal, planted in these extreme microclimates, would yield something truly special.

Catena Zapata Winery with the Andes in the background

In 2004 this program produced such extraordinary fruit that the winemakeing team decided to ferment the fruit directly in new oak barrels. The result were three spectacular new Malbecs which showed the incredible quality of the family's high altitude Malbec vineyards.

Today, a team of young, very talented men are charged with the responsibility of continuing on Dr. Catena´s vision. These two gentlemen were waiting for us at the Mayan like pyramid winery for an afternoon of revelations, insight, superb winemaking and wine philosophy.

We finally were at the "amphitheater" tasting room, a semi circular shaped room that overlooks the barrel cellar, seated by an immense beautiful exotic wood table, with Luis Reginato and Alejandro Vigil.
Catena's beatiful tasting room 

My friend Luis Reginato bears the responsibility of supplyng grapes to the whole group of Catena wineries. He was born and raised in the small village of La Consulta, in Uco Valley, in a family of grape producers. His father also founded a sparkling wine winery, nowadays among the best in the country. Luis planted himself the Nicasia Vineyard back in the days, in his hometown, so he is very fond of the wines that come from this property.

Vineyard Director and Luca line winemaker Luis Reginato

"One of Argentina’s most passionate winemakers, and perhaps the most talented" were Neil Martin words ( Robert Parker´s Wine Advocate’s issue #203 - 2012) describing Alejandro Vigil.

Catena had recruited him in 2002 from the INTA (Goverment´s agricultural thechnology research institute), were he was head of Soil Department (at 28 years old) conducting soil/terroir research for grapevine growing. The rest is history..., and now, a legend of sort.

Catena´s Chief Winemaker Alejandro Vigil

His strong scientific and academic background led to important developments in both vineyard management and winemaking for the winery. As the results of his research were increasingly incorporated into the winery's operations, Alejandro was named Chief Winemaker in July 2007. A naturally restless person, Alejandro strives to channel his creative energy into pushing the limits of conventional viticultural and winemaking wisdom (he also hosts a music and wine radio show named "In vino veritas"). Always ready to try something new, full of endless experiments, Alejandro's goal is to constantly increase his understanding of the unique terroir in Mendoza's high altitude desert oasis.

So our tasting started with Catena Zapata White Bones Chardonnay, its name because of the white stones in the soil profile of this vineyard, then, Luca Pinot Noir, exquisite and different.

Then was the turn for the malbecs. Catena Zapata Finca Adrianna Single Vineyard (Gualtallary - 5.000 ft.) Malbec 2005, and Catena Zapata Single Vineyard (La Consulta - 3.970 ft.) Malbec

Again the ritual of taking notes, playing with scores, asking questions, dyed theeth ennamel at this point and nodding heads. Finally malbecs that he liked!. So with gentle conversation, he asked Luis and Alejandro to unveil the secret behind this two superb wines.

Alejandro went:"when you harvest a whole vineyard in one day, you get a picture of the conditions at that particular moment, so later on in the winery, the winemaker can develop  this photograph: the wine. I wanted to graduate from being a photographer to a motion picture director. So what we do with Luis is seven different harvests in these properties, selecting different rows and different ripeness stages. This will give me seven different pictures or wines to play with, that I will edit for the final wine", set apart that is new oak barrel fermented. But the thing that got my attention was the fact that 5% is co-fermented with viognier grapes. Our guest had found his Malbecs!

So the stakes were getting higher and higher when flagship wine Nicolás Catena Zapata 2002 was poured from a decanter, the wine breathed for about an hour. This wine was one of our guest´s special requests, and Alejandro´s first vintage at Catena.

This excellent blend is 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Malbec. The Cabernet Sauvignon was sourced from the lime, clay soil of Lot 3 in the La Pirámide vineyard and the sandy, lime soil of Lot 3 in the Domingo vineyard. The 2002 vintage was cooler than usual in La Pirámide, with average March temperatures 1.5º C below normal, resulting in complex aromatics and firm structure. March conditions were slightly warmer than usual in Domingo, with average temperatures reaching 1.7º C above normal, offering generous fruit flavors and touches of green pepper and mint. The Malbec fruit was sourced from the sandy soil of Lot 9 in the Adrianna vineyard and the sandy, lime soil of Lot 1 in the La Consulta vineyard. Similar to Domingo, the Adrianna experienced average March temperatures some 1.9º C higher than normal for Malbec grapes with a great depth of flavor and concentration. The La Consulta vineyard, like La Pirámide, had cooler than average March temperatures, about 1º C below normal, which produced Malbec fruit with a soft, velvety texture. This vintage should be enjoyed in 6 to 7 years and will continue to improve over the following 14 to 16 years.

Well, near wine epiphany, Alejandro decided to surprise us with an ace out of his sleeve. As a personal project, but with Catena´s support, he is producing a small batch of wines labeled El Enemigo (spanish for The Enemy). An unlabeled bottle of El Gran Enemigo (The Great Enemy) was requested by phone to the cellar and promptly brought to the tasting room.

Just in the process of being released, not in the shelves as yet, this 2009 vintage ended the job of blowing our gest´s heads. Such a big surprise for a blend style that is traditionally found in french wines.

In Wine Advocate’s issue #203 Neal Martin reviews 2009 El Gran Enemigo: "The 2009 El Gran Enemigo (96 points) is a blend of 80% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Malbec that sees a 30% whole bunch maceration and is aged in French and American oak for 18 months, of which 35% is new. It has a broody, introspective bouquet with touches of licorice, bay leaf and black olive. The palate is full-bodied with again, broody black fruit that displays exquisite balance and poise. This is a wine built for the long term and to be frank, this is one of the finest Cabernet Franc-based blends that I have encountered. It builds in the mouth, yet never becomes overbearing on the finish, which abides by the old “iron fist in velvet glove” cliche. This “intuitive” Cabernet Franc is just beautifully blended with its bridesmaids, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Not cheap, but this effortless wine is the real deal. Drink 2014-2025+"

Now, this one really "fitted" his palate. Next morning, while driving to the airport, he continued on praising these wines.

...afterwards, I discovered that he had the remaining Viña Cobos Volturno that I saved that morning with dinner, and he really liked it..., go figure!

Eduardo Soler

Rosell & Soler and Discover the Andes


The Art Scene in Mendoza: a secret well kept... Part I

For many lifestyle enthusiasts in the northern hemisphere, the onset of winter means it’s time to escape to Mendoza for another season in the world’s fastest growing wine region. Malbec and beef put Mendoza on the map a while ago. But more and more what keeps many cultural tourists coming back is the flourishing art and design scene, fueled in large part by high end boutique labels and the money from the U.S. and Europe, but also increasingly China, Russia and Brazil, behind them.

Not only are Mendocino artists now encountering a quality of international collector and multicultural influence they would rarely have been exposed to a decade ago, they are also now finding that the predominantly modernist spaces springing up to house new wineries, restaurants and hotels offer prime wall space for artists who before were relegated to competing for attention from the limited number of galleries in town, or to simply showing in the town square.

Since artistic movement in Mendoza is getting pretty interesting, specially with some contemporary painters and sculptors being on the international spotlight, I decided to write a series of entries to portrait some of the artists we usually visit with our guests during our Art & Bike and Art & Wine private tours.

Our day started at 9:00 am. at Finca Adalgisa Lodge, were Karla and Dianne, from Boulder, Colorado, were staying. We fitted them with their bikes and helmets, and Pedro lead the way for a short ride to Gonzalo Anton´s home and atelier.

At Gonzalo Anton´s atelier with Dianne and Karla

GONZALO ANTON: Young Mendoza artist Gonzalo Antón has become at his early 30 years of age one of the highest priced painters in Argentina. A former graphic and web designer, and university professor, Gonzalo felt the call five years ago, closed his business, and secluded himself for a year to paint.

Then, on a bold move, he contacted the organizers of Art Basel. Founded by gallerists in 1970, Art Basel stages the world's premier art shows for modern and contemporary works, sited in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Defined by its host city and region, each show is unique, which is reflected in its participating galleries, the artworks on display and the parallel content programming produced in collaboration with the local institutions. In addition to ambitious stands featuring leading galleries from around the globe, each show's singular exhibition sectors and artistic events spotlight the latest developments in the visual arts, offering visitors new ideas, new inspiration and new contacts in the artworld.
The organizers thought his work was interesting, so he got invited to the vernissage in Miami. The rest is a story of high production-meteoric ascent. Now, Gonzalo is a cult "have to have it" artist among private and institutional collectors around the globe.

He will swap from very abstract to modern to figurative style in a brush stroke, what makes experts and gallery owners crazy, because his style is hard to catalogue.

After a nice chat with Gonzalo, and some peeking at his latest creations, the trio mounted their bikes again, and followed by the support truck, biked all the way from Chacras de Coria district to a secluded among-the-vineyards estate in Maipu, were our next artist, Mema Rocha was waiting.

Mema´s Wine Paintings

MEMA ROCHA: Fun and hyper kinetic, Mema uses different wines and lees as watercolors. She also combines adobe (mud and straw) with oil paint in some of her creations. She is a children´s English teacher so her atelier, that she builded herself using ancient adobe and cane technique, serves also as a classroom.

Here they spend some time learning how to obtain different colors using several wines and after few exercises, they produced amazing pieces of art.
After this, hunger was calling our bikers, so after another short ride, they got to Terruño restaurant at Club Tapiz Lodge, were they enjoyed a wonderful meal and a well deserved rest, in preparation for the last visit of the day, the beautiful home and atelier of our friend Sergio Roggerone.

Sergio Roggerone´s intrincated broccato details

SERGIO ROGGERONE: Despite all you hear, nothing compares with the experience of trespassing the doors of his beautiful magnificent manor for the first time. With awe in her faces, Dianne and Karla just can´t believe their eyes. Sergio was waiting by the door with a broad smile.

He remembers when he was seven years old, how his grandma encouraged drawing with colour pencils. Later on, while studying architecture, he learned about a national painting contest and 24 hours before deadline, he decided to enter. With virtually no time, he painted a very long but narrow canvas (79 x 10 inches), and sended over to Buenos Aires. He was awarded the first prize.

With the firm decision of telling his father, a conservative accountant, that he was dropping off university and embracing the artist´s life, he got kicked off home and with the price money left to Europe for a year where he studied restoration of XII and XIII century paintings at the Pitti Palace, in Florence, living on the artwork he was producing right then.

Extremely prolific, because his techniques call for long drying times, he is always working on three or four pieces simultaneously. Expert with oil, mixed, collage, and gold leaf, Sergio also works with antique fabrics, ceramic tiles, furniture, ancient manuscripts and chandeliers. Some of his paintings include beautiful frames, done by himself as a continuation of the work.

Sergio´s frames

Recently, The Royal Commonwealth Club of London commissioned him a painting that was auctioned in a gala dinner organized by Christie´s during this past Olympic Games, for 500 collectors, a rising funds event for Africa.

Chandelier made of melted windshield
broken glass decors his blue patio

But despite his great art, his home deserves a separate paragraph. "La Alboroza", he calls it, was totally designed, constructed and decorated by himself.

This Cortijo style with Moorish accents building encloses a central courtyard and houses Sergio´s family living quarters, his studio, art gallery, guest rooms and workshop shop. Lavishly decorated living room with oriental silk, Persian paintings and hand carved (by himself) ceiling, hand made doors, and fresco paintings with an indoor fountain in his foyer, an insurance company nightmare...

Expect Sherazade to walk by any minute...

Mendoza has a hot art community that is waiting to be discover by the art enthusiasts, but there remain a number of promising younger artists thriving underground who, when they aren’t installing at a cutting edge wineries or hotels, can still be found on weekends lined along the broad shady walkways Plaza Independencia.

The art scene is young enough that the definitive guide has yet to appear, but a good place to start is with us at www.rosellsoler.com