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


A closer look at Biodynamic wines - Finca Dinamia and Krontriras Winery

Criticized as pseudoscience by scholars, biodynamic viticulture is gaining force in Argentina, and delivering extraordinary wines, some of them very unique.

The practice of biodynamics in viticulture (grape growing) has become popular in recent years in several growing regions, including France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Canada, Argentina and the United States. A number of very high-end, high-profile commercial growers have converted recently to biodynamic practices. According to an article in Fortune, many of the top estates in France, "including Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, Château de la Roche-aux-Moines in the Loire, Maison Chapoutier in the Rhone Valley, and Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace," follow biodynamic viticulture. There are currently more than 450 biodynamic wine producers worldwide. Currently, for a wine to be labeled “biodynamic” it has to meet the stringent standards laid down by the Demeter Association, which is an internationally recognized certifying body.

Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic viticulture stems from the ideas and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), who gave his now famous Agriculture Course in 1924, predating most of the organic movement. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual/practical philosophy, called anthroposophy, which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.

As a practical method of farming, biodynamics embodies the ideal of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency just as with modern agro-ecology, but includes ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system.

Gorgeous spring day at Rama Caida district, in the southernmost oasis of San Rafael Valley. Pedro and myself drove the 162 miles from Mendoza, to honour Alejandro Bianchi´s invitation to see his 14 hectare (2.5 acres: 1 hectare) estate and taste his wines.

Alejandro descends from a Italian immigrant family that founded a wine empire, the Bianchi family, so he is fourth generation of vintners, but after working several years in the family business, he decided to follow his own way.

This is no ordinary vineyard, as we observed, looked more like a garden, with grass between the vine rows, lavender bushes growing at each row head post, and farm animals: chickens, horses, caws, geese, and goats every were. A sense of peace fills the afternoon.

Finca Dinamia, at San Rafael Valley, Mendoza
Very passionate about biodynamic practices, Alejandro, is now days considered among his peers as the "guru" of this practice in Argentina´s viticulture, while walking among the very healthy rows of his state, teaches us a great lesson on his way of winemaking, and the results show in his wines, as we later discovered.

At the moment he is concentrating only in two labels:

BUENALMA MALBEC: Its red ruby color and intense fruity character are obtained from the vineyard thanks to a balanced management of the ecosystem and ample day/night temperature range. On the mouth is gentle, velvety and with good intensity, and the finish is spicy with medium lenght. French wood ageing brings up complexity, elegance and sweet tannins.
VARIETY: 100% Malbec
APPELATION: Rama Caída, San Rafael, Mendoza.
YIELD: 70 qq. per hectare (104.09 bushels/acre)
CONTROL: Ecologic control over production to obtain higher concentrations and purity in our fruits.
HARVEST: By hand in 20 kg boxes.
FERMENTATION: Stainless steel vats, with indigenous yeast to bring out the characteristics of the terroir, observing organic elaboration standards at all times.
AGEING: Aged in oak during 6 months, then bottle aged.
BOTTLES: Thin-wall eco-bottles, for a better recycling of glass (Ecologic line ECOVA).
CORKS: Flor grade natural corks, produced under sustainable methods, certified by European organisms for to contribute to environmental care.
CAPSULES: Certified for contribute to environmental care, made with ecologic materials and inks.
PACKAGING BOXES: Second use recycled cardboard.
SULFUR DIOXIDE: Under 50 parts per million.

BUENALMA MALBEC ROSÉ: Light but very bright red color. Delicate on the palate, with quince jelly reminiscences, a typical descriptor of south-of-the-state mendocinean malbecs. It has a round, fresh and balanced finish.


Pedro helds an annual "friends from the industry" asado every year in his estate. Winemakers, winery owners, agronomists and somelliers among other friends and characters assist to this soiree were the motto is that everybody has to bring a rare bottle of wine or an unique label or sample that never hit the shelves, this is, not in the market.

Back in 2007, new neighbors settled not far from Pedro´s, a Greek investor, Constantinos Krontiras, and his Argentinian wife, Silvina Macipe purchased an abandoned 80+ year old malbec vineyard, so he decided to invite them to his party. With the winery in the works, greek head winemaker Panos Zoumbulis and project manager Thanassis Vafiadis assisted with their wines, and guess what: huge success!

The only one in the world:
This winery was conceived to produce wine according to biodynamic principles. There were no rules or guidelines for this type of buildings at the Demeter Association, which is an internationally recognized certifying body, so the challenge was to design, build and certify without precedents.

The design minimizes the use of electricity, water, uses gravity flow system. All vinification areas are circular or curvy. The architectural design applied the famous PI π=3,14..., which symbolizes eternity and health. The golden number PHI φ=1,618..., which symbolized the perfect proportion, the divine symmetry in ancient times has also been applied in the winery’s design.
The absence of angles in the outside shape of the areas also symbolizes eternity and life. Right angles (90 degrees) do not exist in nature; they represent the death of two straight lines.
The walls of the wine cellar are built-in with straw. Straw is believed to absorb solar energy during growth, and this solar energy is slowly transmitted to our wines while aging in the cellar.
All building materials used in the winery have been sent for analysis to specialized laboratories in order to avoid risks of contamination, and comply with biodynamic principles.

Today, the team managed by Thanassis Vafiadis, include young promise agronomist Maricruz Antolin, and her cousin Leonardo Sesto at winemaking. They conducted a great visit for us that started at the field and ended at the tasting room, were their pasion and hard work, plus the practice of biodynamics fully showed in their wines!

These are the labels we have tasted, all four exellent wines:

DOÑA SILVINA ROSÉ MALBEC: Clean and brilliant rosé, with light ruby tones. White flowers and cherry notes, expressive and elegant. In the mouth it is round and warm with a fruity finish.

DOÑA SILVINA FRESH MALBEC: This Fresh Malbec is harvested during the last days of February and the beginning of March (earlier than regular malbecs). It is made from 100% Malbec grapes from certified organic vineyards of Maipu. Once in the winery a double selection is performed. First the whole clusters and then after desteming, a berry selection is made. The selected berries are then put into stainless steel-wheeled-vats, which are moved to the top of the tanks to fill them (gravity flow). The berries stay in the tank at low temperatures for 5-6 days, where we make a long cold maceration. The alcoholic fermentation takes place at low temperature also, in order to keep the all the aromas. Once the first fermentation is finished, the juice is separated. Malolactic fermentation then takes place in a natural way with wild bacterias. Then the wine undergoes a cold stabilization. This wine does not have any wood contact during its elaboration.

A deep ruby red wine with bluish tones. Fruity and fresh with the right acidity, opens up in the mouth and leaves the memories of matured berries wrapped in spicy slightly tannic notes that linger in the mouth leaving a very pleasant finish.

DOÑA SILVINA MALBEC: Dark red color wine, with very pleasant aroma of red fruits and oak.
In the mouth, hot, with great balance between alcohol and acidity, soft tannins and an elegant, refreshing finish. 90 points Parker, Tanzer and Wine Enthusiast.

DOÑA SILVINA MALBEC RESERVE: Deep and brilliant red color, with ruby tones. White flowers, violets notes at first, then the vanilla and chocolate notes appear. Elegant and complex. In the mouth it is creamy and full bodied; The oaky notes are present as a back drop. Long and velvety ending. Robert Parker / Wine Advocate: 2006 Doña Silvina Malbec Reserva 93 POINTS - Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar: 2006 Doña Silvina Malbec Reserva 90 POINTS - Jancis Robinson: 2006 Doña Silvina Malbec Reserva 16.5 POINTS. Big wine.


Skeptic Brian Dunning writes "the best way to think of biodynamic agriculture would be as a magic spell cast over an entire farm. Biodynamics sees an entire farm as a single organism, with something that they call a life force."

What do you think about this?

Eduardo Soler



Is this Pinot?

Double jacket stainless steel tanks at Bressia winery
While visiting wineries with my friends Peter LaMotte and his wife Susan from Washington DC last week, and after much tasting of mostly malbecs, an interesting discussion surfaced. We were at Bressia Winery tasting different wines from the stainless steel tanks, when Walter Bressia (owner and winemaker) joined us.

While Peter and Susan were discovering new aromas, flavors and getting inside detailed information about fine wine making, they mention that they were big Pinot Noir fans.

Walter said that pinots from Mendoza are excellent in their own fashion, but they are different from the general style´s mainstream, therefore very hard to sell in a market that already have a strong formed idea of palate parameters for this varietal.

As a challenge, he produces a small quantity (3.000 bottles) of pinot with grapes from Uco Valley (not your ideal terroir for this fragile grape), and vintage after vintage he is trying to get close to the general standard for this varietal.

"Our main distributor in the US wont carry it", Marita Bressia (Walter´s daugther, in charge of marketing and sales) comments, "this wine is not what the average pinot drinker expects".

Peter, Susan and myself founded this wine delicious, exotic and different, and concluded that it is perfectly fine to break the mold once in a while. This is what makes wine such a fantastic experience: diversity!

TASTING NOTES: This 100% Pinot Noir surprises by its color intensity, offering a deep and intense red purple color with black shades (hence its name, black skin) of attractive vivacity. On the nose, descriptors from this varietal perfectly appear: cherry, blackberry, dry tomato, rose petals and violets. Spicy but elegant, in the mouth reminders of cinnamon, rosemary, and mint, combined with coffee, vanilla and smoke reveal in layers, a side effect of the french oak barrels. Despite its structure and body, it has the right texture to pair with lamb, duck, and meats with heavy sauces like bourguignon, as well as salmon dishes, red tuna, lobster and seafood.

2009 Bressia Piel Negra Pinot Noir - From The Vines of Mendoza
From local cult wine maker Walter Bressia, this is a sweet, earthy Pinot with lively acidity and plenty of vanilla and spice on the finish. With fruit from Uco Valley, Piel Negra is an excellent display of what this region can do with this classic varietal. With fresh red fruit, floral aromas, and plenty of earth, Bressia puts out a Pinot that does the grape justice.


Featured wine of the week: 2008 Viña Alicia Brote Negro Malbec

Viña Alicia is a winery that combines the wine grower tradition of its makers and the privileged location to get collection wines.
With more than 25 years of research and study to obtain "excellent wines", in 1998 Alicia Mateu Arizu, wife of the well-known "winemaker" Alberto Arizu (Luigi Bosca's alma mater), started the commercialization of the wines that bear her name, along with the youngest of her three sons, Rodrigo Arizu.
Featured as a "chateau", the winery "Viña Alicia" is surrounded by a 10-hectare vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot grapes and some vines that are hardly found in Argentina, such as Nebbiolo, Grenache Noir, Carignan, Albariño and Savagnin.
Although the winery has a 50.000 liters production capacity, it only commercializes 25.000 bottles per year of Viña Alicia's wines and 80.000 bottles of both Paso de Piedra's wines, which are all exported to fourteen countries."Viña Alicia" currently enjoys the international prestige and recognition of the most outstanding personalities of the wine world.
Brote Negro is a "natural rareness". A Malbec biotype, found in a very ancient vineyard of vines from this variety. A follow up of this "rareness" was made during a long time. Then, those vines with different characteristics were transplanted and they currently give origin to the grape variety which makes up this wine. The most prominent characteristic at first sight is its very dark, almost black buds (vine branches) which last for a certain time. Buds grow straight and bunches are smaller and looser than those of the regular Malbec, the winery explains in its website.
Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. 94 points. by Stephen Tanzer. Bright, fully red-ruby. Knockout perfume of blackberry, violet, minerals, licorice; conveys a tiny-berry quality. Compellingly intense and racy in the mouth, with great energy and definitionto the perfumed flavors of blackberry, boysenberry, minerals and licorice pastille. This suave, classy, essentially gentle wine finishes with mounting tannins, great sweetness and terrific grip These "black shoots" are a mutation of malbec from the same hundred-year-old vineyard used to make Las Compuertas wine. This wine has been consistenly superb in recent years , but 2008 gets my highest rating yet. - 



The Malbec Adventure in Argentina

Malbec is originally from the southwest of France, were known as COT, and it has a tannic, hard style. It was introduced in Argentina in 1852, by Michael Pouget, a French agronomist hired by the Argentinean Government.

In 1863, the Phylloxera plague took a strong hold on France, causing serious problems to the wine industry of that country. Vines were hard hit and began to deteriorate massively on the southern Rhone.

Argentina was one of the few regions, together with Chile and Cyprus that remained exempt from phylloxera. Towards the end of the XIX century, argentine viticulture experienced exponential development in the hands of Italian, French and Spanish immigrants. Malbec in particular adapted quickly to the varied terroirs offered by Argentina´s rugged landscape, and began to produce wines better than in its original land. Argentina becomes the only country to have original malbec vines from true French heritage. A superior malbec then was elaborated in French oak casks, and a star was born: Argentine Malbec, a delicate passion that is characteristically ours.
Presently, Argentina is the main producer of malbec in the world, with 76.603 acres planted across the country, followed by France (13.097 acres), Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and the US., although none of these countries is known for the production of malbec as a single varietal wine. It is used to add roundness to blends.

Argentine vintners have grown malbec everywhere and winemakers are constantly experimenting with new techniques and conditions. Today you can find thriving succulent malbecs along the Andes Range, from Salta to Patagonia, each with its own distinct personality and charm.

Lujan de Cuyo (Mendoza) was the first region in the Americas to gain the regulatory Denomination of Origin (DOC) designation for Malbec.

A Malbec wine from this sub-region has an intense and dark cherry red color, which may look almost black. Lujan has deep stony soils, controlled irrigation, excellent sunlight exposure, and good altitude for vineyards. Malbecs from Lujan de Cuyo are wines with good mineral expression, in which black fruit and sweet spices are predominant.

At Uco Valley, the combination of high elevation, alluvial soils, controlled irrigation sourced from the Andes, a long growing season (over 250 sunny days a year), little rain and vast temperature differences between day and night are all conducive to growing quality grapes. These climate and geography elements come together to provide excellent fruit ripening and concentration, developing extreme colors, aromas, flavors and textures resulting in complex wines that are deep in color, intense in aromas and rich in flavors.
So, malbecs from Tupungato, Tunuyán and San Carlos (Uco Valley), have a more elegant expression and clearly define spicy floral notes in different layers.

In Patagonia, Neuquén and Rio Negro, we find a slightly colder climate, and less extreme altitudes, which help grape berries to retain acidity, and produce wines that have notes of ripe black fruit, combined with marked mineral character.

The Argentine NW, Salta, Jujuy and Catamarca, loves the sun and the heights, like all products from this region, malbecs has an unique expression and personality, aromas that evoke very ripped and black fruit, black pepper, paprika and a very solid structure, with firm sweet tannins.

Malbec wine has great varietal expression in regions were the wide temperature range, and lime, clay or sandy soils are find, such as those along the Andes Mountain Range.

As a result of these geographical and climatic conditions, Argentine malbecs stand out primarily for the quality of their tannins, sweet, silky, mouth-filling, ranging from simple fruity wines, to complex wines with good aging capacity. Argentine malbec has maintained, vintage after vintage, a high standard of quality.