Argentina's signature red wine Malbec was involved in most of these, like the funny photo at the top. That's Mike Barrow of Costaflores organic vineyard soaking in a tub of red wine--to be exact, the Mike Tango Bravo blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
It's one of just two wines from Costaflores, which is located in Mendoza. The other is the Mike Tango Bravo Torrontés, a dry, lightly spicy white to go with lively Peruvian, Indian and Mexican dishes. Barrow, who grows the grapes--an enologist makes the wine--is not Argentinian. He was born in Tucson.
The bathtub photo isn't mine. Barrow had it taken for his website, www.costaflores.com. Check there for the winery story and another funny photo.
This is the perfect wine for Halloween with its spooky portrait of the actor Bela Lugosi (alias Count Dracula) on the label. It was made by Bodega Domingo Hermanos, located in the Calchaquies Valley in Salta Province in northern Argentina.
The 2008 was poured at the tasting. The blend is 85% Malbec and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the grapes were grown at really high altitude--7,200 feet. Only 1200 bottles were produced.
"It's a bloody good wine," said importer Daniel Degrati, laughing as he poured a taste. I would agree.
The next wine was brought out from under the table when I insisted on tasting it. How could you not want to try a rare blend of Pinot Noir (54%) and Malbec (46%)? Do the two varietals go together well? I thought so--very fruity and fun. The producer was Familia Schroeder in Patagonia.
Another fun blend was Don Palo Domingo from Domingo Hermanos. Only 2000 numbered bottles were made in 2010, and each has its own bag and a leather label. The blend is 80% Malbec, 15% Tannat and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Domingo Hermanos also makes a Tannat. The 2007 (above) was poured at the tasting. Next to it is a Cabernet Sauvignon.
The first table I stopped at had only one wine, Clos de los Siete 2011, from Mendoza. But what a pedigree. It's made by Michel Rolland, the famous enologist and wine consultant, with six of his friends, in other words siete (seven) people. The blend is 56% Malbec, 14% Merlot and smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Non-Malbec reds at the tasting included the Gran Cabernet Franc 2010 from Pulenta Estate in Mendoza. This 100% Cab Franc was aged for 18 months in French oak. The taste was stemmy and grassy--far from unpleasant, as a matter of fact, so bright and interesting that I wanted more.
You can get very drinkable Malbec for under $15, but I went for the top of the line, starting with two $135 Malbecs from Catena Zapata. Then on to Terrazas de Los Andes Single Vineyard Malbec Las Compuertas 2010 ($55) from Mendoza. It was poured from a decanter by Hollie Chamberlain (above), representing the importer, Moet Hennessy USA. What a gorgeous, velvety wine. The grapes were hand-harvested from vines growing at 3500 feet.
Here's the stylish bottle, with a sketch of the Andes. The Terrazas wine that really impressed me, though, was the Cheval des Andes 2009 ($80), a Bordeaux style blend with an impressively high Malbec content--159%. Well, not really. That was a misprint in the tasting program. The actual blend was 59% Malbec, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot.
The tasting, hosted by wineLA and LearnAboutWine, presented more than 170 wines. To survive, you had to eat heartily from the pasta buffet set up for the guests. The choices were spinach and mushroom ravioli, truffled mac and cheese and orecchiette with oven-dried tomatoes, asparagus and Fontina cream sauce. There were grilled vegetables too, and empanadas with a dip you probably wouldn't find in Argentina--chipotle aioli.