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