It was the 2012 La Pampa Malbec from Bodegas Salentein (at the top). Round, full and soft, it felt so substantial in my mouth that I could almost chew it.
This is a single vineyard Malbec, from grapes that grow at high elevation--4,300 feet--in the Uco Valley. Uco is a premium growing area in Argentina's main wine region, Mendoza.
"Malbec loves the sun. All the aromatic properties of Malbec develop in the sun," said José Galante, Salentein's head winemaker (above), at a tasting and lunch at Larsen's Steak House in Encino. Mendoza is a desert, so grapes there get plenty of sun. They're watered by melted snow from the Andes.
Aged in oak for 16 months, La Pampa is one of the single vineyard Salentein wines that are being launched in the United States in Los Angeles. That was one reason for his stop here on a nationwide tour. The price is $50 (worth it, in my opinion).
The Reserve (above) spent 12 months in French barrels. It blends grapes from different altitudes--Salentein is researching the relationship of terroir to altitude, as its estate vineyards range from 3400 to 5500 feet high.
It's a hugely rich, golden wine and worth $50, if you can spend that much on wine. "For me, it's my favorite Chardonnay. "It's incredible," Galante said. What looks like the back label is the front label, packed with information.
And then there's the 2014 Killka Torrontes (above), a heart stealer as well. Killka means "entry" in the local indigenous language. The wines in this line are entry level only in the sense that they are lower priced, $14.95. Each label features a painting by an Argentine artist. The one on the Torrontes label is "Looking for Love in the City," and you're sure to find it with this wine.
Salta province in northwestern Argentina is the capital of Torrontes, so it was interesting to taste one from another region, specifically from the higher altitudes of Salentein's Uco vineyards.
"Torrontes from a cool climate is more delicado (delicate) and with more acidity than those from Salta," Galante said. "With a cool climate, you have more acidity."
Galante was one of those who retooled Argentine wines from low quality, mass produced wines consumed within the country to wines that could meet international standards.
The line includes a red blend, Numina, at the right of the Malbecs in the photo above. The blend changes each year. The 2012 in the photo is 62% Malbec and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller amounts of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. In front is a steak sandwich--you can't taste Argentine wines without steak, the most popular meat there.
This year, Galante is celebrating his 40th vintage, 34 of those with Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza. A Mendoza native, he joined Salentein in 2010. This is a good year for him to celebrate. The harvest is over (harvest in Argentina begins in February), and it was "very nice," he said.