Tag Archives: wine tasting

Uncorked with Travel Guy: Part 4, Hom

24 Oct

On Friday night I opened up a bottle of Hom Extra Brut from the Cava La Carmela winery in Mendoza. This is a sparkling wine, which is essentially champagne, but because there is a copyright on the word champagne, only sparkling wine produced in France can be called champagne. But if you know wine, you know what you’re really drinking. Personally, I don’t drink too much sparkling wine, though it’s not because I don’t enjoy it. Sparkling wine isn’t a typical drink I’ll have before heading out to a party or bar, and I don’t usually have dinner parties in which it could be called for. However, on special occasions like New Years Eve or other celebratory parties, it’s more than welcome by me.

Hom

I’d tried Hom before when attending the Anuva wine tasting and remembered liking it, though the exact taste was something I couldn’t recall, so I was happy to give this wine a shot. One thing that I had remembered was that Hom went very well with something light such as green apple, crackers and a cream or paste. I cut up some green apple and went for it, opening the bottle and trying the first sip with much enthusiasm. I felt the strong sense of tart flavor and definitely noted the well-balanced melody of fruits. Next I ate a piece of the apple, which had a more than usual jump to it. Back to another sip and the sparkling sensation bounced all throughout my mouth with the aftertaste lingering.

One thing that I realized was that with extra brut sparkling wines, such as this one, I get bad indigestion. The same thing happened to me on New Years Eve of last year in Mar del Plata when we had a typical dessert of lemon gelato and sparkling wine. I was tossing and turning all night from the acidic taste and strong sensation in my chest. I could feel that happening again with the bottle of Hom, so I cut myself off after just a couple of glasses.

Later, I went out to Thelonius Club in Palermo. We had just missed the show, but listened to some really nice music as we talked about a number of things, including the wine. I came to the conclusion that maybe listening to some jazz music while drinking this sparkling wine could be really pleasant. Something smooth about the music and the drink would go together well, and nothing could make it better than a cool spring or summer night.

Technical Data

Varietals: Chardonnay 70% & Chenin Blanc 30%.
Method: Chaussepied Method (Natural fermentation in closed tanks).
Alcohol Content: ALC 12.3% by Vol.
Bottle: 750ml.
Packaging: 12x750ml/case
Annual Production: 35,000 bottles.

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Touring Around the Colchagua Valley

14 Oct

Viu Manent

In driving through Chilean Wine Country we passed through various estates and villages, always surrounded by the vineyards and mountains. Heading from Nancagua, we took a stop at Bodega Viu Manent, which had a wonderful restaurant before the earthquake I was told, but it’s roof collapsed and was being rebuilt. We talked to a couple of the employees who seemed to know my friend Nicole, and they recommended that I buy a bottle of their Secreto Caremenere. Caremenere is a special grape that originally came from France and was brought to Chile. After a disease wiped out the grape in France, it was sort of forgotten in Chile, and people labeled it as another variety until realizing what it was.

Now it’s basically the only place in the world where it’s grown with success, and Chile is able to boast this as a claim to fame while Argentina touts the Malbec grape as their cash cow. I didn’t buy a bottle at the winery because I wasn’t sure if I’d get it through customs, but I did eventually buy this bottle at Duty Free shopping. At the very least, it will make a nice addition to my wine tasting series.

Cochagua Valley

We headed off to the Apalta region, with vineyards at the base of hills with a deep green. We didn’t stop at Clos Apalta, but went for a quick look around Viña Montes, where several tourists were beginning a tour. Throughout the time in Wine Country, we didn’t actually do any wine tasting. Kind of weird, right? But there was really no need as my friend Nicole put it, because why should we pay for just a small glass when they already know what the best wines are? Instead, we can just buy whole bottles and enjoy it comfortably at home. Of course, that logic will only work if you’re a local and a seasoned wine drinker.

We took a walk through the town of Santa Cruz, where a laid back feel was mixed in with tourism driven by wine and luxury accommodations at Hotel Santa Cruz, where I found some delicious manjar (like dulce de leche, aka caramel but better) with different flavors. A quick nap upon returning to the house and another glass of wine, and soon we were headed back to Santiago as darkness fell over the peaks of the Andes. The time spent in the Colchagua Valley was slow paced and relaxing, and exactly what I needed. There’s nothing that I would change about the trip there.

Uncorked with Travel Guy, Part 3: Mairena Bonarda

26 Sep

Mairena Bonarda 2005

This weekend I came back with Part 3 of my series on Anuva Wines, this time trying a Mairena Bonarda from 2005. I knew that this new bottle would have a lot to live up to because the San Gimignano Malbec from Part 2 is undoubtedly one of my favorite wines I’ve ever tried. But with much responsibility and legend to live up to also comes the potential to bring high rewards. I’d sampled this bottle once before at a wine tasting with Anuva and remembered that while it wasn’t my favorite at the event, it was notable. Now the challenge would come again, and could it live up to previous libations?

This dark wine, which has been described as having tastes of vanilla, toast and sour cherry, goes for U$15, but the interesting story behind the company affords it a rare quality which could by all means be reason for a niche, jumping the price higher. The story behind Mairena, produced by the Blanco Family, which has been producing wine in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza for generations, is that during the military dictatorship in Argentina certain names were prohibited. They wanted to name their daughter Mairena, but it was on the prohibited list, and thus settled on something else. Yet they still liked the name, and thus when it was allowed, named this line of wine Mairena. The forbidden fruit tastes awfully sweet.

Now, I’ll admit that this is the only bonarda I’ve tried, but to me it had a sharp taste at first, quickly grabbing my attention but making me wonder where it was going. Robert Parker, an expert in South American wines, has rated this bottle with 90 points, a damn good score. Yet I wasn’t totally sold. I liked the wine, and would not say I was unhappy with it, but I just couldn’t say it was very memorable. But remembering that so many things affect a wine tasting, I decided to leave some left for a second impression the next day. Often times a good wine will open up with more time, and I also wanted to try pairing it with food.

The next day I uncorked the bottle again and smelling it could see that it still had a great bouquet. I made a plate of pasta to accompany the meal, though it’s also listed as going well with game meat or cheese and spicy sauces. To my surprise, the bottle opened up very well and side by side with the pasta, tasted much better. It’s amazing how food can greatly impact the drink and vice versa. The Mairena Bonarda 2005 still isn’t my favorite bottle of wine, but the truth is that I’m okay with that. Not every bottle can be your favorite, and it would be ridiculous to say every bottle is amazing. There has to be a mid-ground, even while the quality of these wines is top notch. Again, everyone has different taste buds, and for me, the bottle improved greatly on the second day.

With that being said, I think the bottle goes well with food and should be paired rather than taken alone. If I were having this bottle again I would let it sit after opening for a while before drinking it, because while it was smoother after a while, it also had a lighter feel to it which was great for dinner time on a spring night. Stay tuned for the next segment of Uncorked, coming soon.

Technical Data

Varietal: Bonarda 100%.
Maturation: French Oak – 6 months.
Alcohol Content: 13.7% by Vol.
Bottle: 750ml.
Packaging: 12x750ml/case

About the Video from Part 2 of Uncorked

6 Sep

A good point was brought up today from Dan at Anuva Wines. In the video which I produced on the the wine tasting of the San Gimignano, you notice that my friends and I aren’t drinking out of proper wine glasses. I want to point out again that I am not an expert on wine, nor have I studied it or wine making in any great depth. However, I am a wine enthusiast and I have sampled numerous types throughout my time in Argentina, as well as in years in the past. I hope that everyone who reads and follows along with this series will keep that and mind and understand why I use simpler words like, “good” and “delicious”.

I think this is a valid opinion on wine because the great majority of the population aren’t wine experts. We all go by the word of friends, family, and average people we meet through every day life. Think of it as if a friend is giving you an honest opinion of a bottle they have tried. In the video from Part 2 you see that we are drinking out of regular water glasses, and Dan has pointed out that this can affect how the wine ends up tasting. With that in mind, I like to think of this as a learning process. For the next review, a real set of wine glasses will definitely be used to cover all of the bases. Additionally, each new review will be another experimentation, just like with the wine itself. There are plenty of ways to review the wine, so you’ll have to keep checking in to see how the process is coming along.

Uncorked with Travel Guy, Part 2: San Gimignano 2008 Malbec

5 Sep

San Gimignano 2008 Malbec

Back in April I was given a bottle of San Gimignano 2008 Malbec by Dan from Anuva Wines. The idea was to save this bottle that I loved for a special occasion, but once a dinner was postponed or a real reason seemed unlikely on a standard weekend night, I put the bottle on its side and let it age even further. Later, I considered breaking it open to celebrate one year in Argentina, but again the date passed and it stayed corked. But now that I have this new project with Anuva, it only seemed right that it should be the first bottle opened up.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy. After all of the time waiting, my hands almost didn’t want to open it, like it should stay closed. That is obviously ridiculous. I invited my friend Pablo, an Argentine writer, to come over and share the wine with me. I value his opinion on wine because, after all, he’s an Argentinian and knows about wine just like anyone else here. To add to the group, I also invited Linde, a new roommate of mine from Holland who just arrived a couple of days ago. This was her first taste of Argentinian wine in this country.

San Gimignano comes from the Mevi Boutique Winery in Mendoza, in the locality of Maipú, where some of the best wine in the world is produced. We opened the bottle and let it sit for a few moments, oxidizing and allowing us to enjoy the bouquet. Breathing in deeply, I noticed something smokey and dark, but not exactly overpowering. My notes tell me that it smelled like chocolate on the first whiff, but should definitely mix well with some kind of meat. After the long wait, the first sip was no disappointment. Smooth and almost silky, I once again had the sensation of a buttery taste.

My friends joining me in the tasting agreed that it was smooth and a really excellent wine. Talking and enjoying the laid back but fun night, the three of us got through the bottle easily. As time went on and we drank the second glass, we found that it matured well and opened up very nicely. From what I’ve found throughout my year in Argentina and by experimenting with various wine labels, the possibilities are endless for the drink. You can find a really cheap bottle that’s mass produced, and the quality shows. On the other hand, when you do find a bottle you love, you want to stick with it and keep the good times going. San Gimignano is one of those bottles for me. However, the small winery only produces 9,000 bottles a year, and as every label shows the number, I’m happy enough to say that I drank number 6,115.

Modeling with the wine

Anuva recommends pairing this wine with a meat like salami, or perhaps another kind of deli meat. It’s also good with red meats, stew, pasta, fish and cheeses. In our case, we paired it with some potato chips, but nothing could diminish its quality.

Here’s a video on my first reaction to the tasting, as well as how the evening went with my friends. In Part 3 of Uncorked, I’ll be trying the Mairena 2005 Bonarda.

Technical Stats

Varietals: Malbec 100%.
Maturation: French Oak – 12 months,
plus 6 months in the bottle.
Alcohol Content: ALC 14.2%

Uncorked with Travel Guy, Part 1: Anuva Wine Tasting

5 Sep

Wine Tasting, Through the Looking Glass

As a way to kick off this new series on Anuva Wines and their catalog, I was invited back for another wine tasting last night at their new tasting room in the Rendez Vous Hotel in Palermo Hollywood. Last April when I went for a tasting at the owner’s house in Las Cañitas, I was really charmed by the neighborhood and personal setting of an actual house. Yet no part of the charm or personal service was lost at the Rendez Vous Hotel, which is a small boutique hotel that sticks out into the sky over the low houses in the residential neighborhood where chic restaurants and bars sit next to tree-lined streets. With a quiet and fashionable setting, the wine tasting found its new and appropriate home.

Food pairings

This time, instead of Dan giving the tasting, we were led by Sarah and Koko, both Americans who live here in Buenos Aires and have joined the Anuva team. Young and enthusiastic, my three fellow wine tasters enjoyed the laid back conversations and recommendations on cool bars and restaurants. As always, wine was a central theme in the talks, but just as important were the options for pairing the wine. The mother-of-all-empanadas, sorbet which really brought out the flavor of the Torrontés, and other delicious nibbles which quickly caused my large and crowded plate to be empty and clean. At the risk of looking like a fat kid at a buffet, I ate it all.

I was really pleased that we tried different wines this time, immediately alerting me to the fact that it’s 1. not just a script tasting, and 2. there are numerous reasons to do this tasting a second or third time. The sad truth is that there are thousands of great drinks out there, and in order to find your favorite, you just might have to roll up your sleeves and take on the tough assignment of doing some “research.” At the last tasting, my favorite was the San Gimignano 2008 Malbec, and this time we tried the San Gimignano 2007 Syrah, again striking a special chord with me. But I didn’t want to lean too much on the San Gimi because later in the evening my plan was to do my own wine tasting with my bottle for Part 2 of Uncorked (coming soon).

Wine tasting

Also impressive were the Bonarda and Callejon Del Crimen Sangiovese, which paired well with chocolate from Ecuador and the Ivory Coast. At the end of it all, we sampled six wines paired with their appropriate food. Looking at my cell phone clock I expected to see that we were there for an hour, but it was more like two. Time flew by as we enjoyed the conversation, and it was time to take off for home, where I had my second wine tasting of the night waiting. This, of course, is my lead in to Part 2, a wine review on the San Gimignano 2008 Malbec, which will come shortly. Check in soon for photos and video of the taste test!

Sweet, sweet wine

Uncorked with Travel Guy: A New Series on Anuva Wines

1 Sep

Anuva Wine Tasting

If you recall back to April, I wrote an article for Argentina’s Travel Guide on a review of a wine tasting I attended with Daniel Karlin of Anuva Wines in the Las Cañitas neighborhood of Buenos Aires. I also wrote a blog post about it here. If you look to the right side of the screen you’ll also see an advertisement for Anuva wine tastings, which I promote because I honestly believe it’s a good product and thoroughly enjoyed the experience myself. (Just to refresh you on that, Anuva offers private premium wine tastings at Daniel’s residence for U$40, including food pairings). Ok, so now that the plug is out of the way, here’s the deal:

Daniel had a nice idea recently which involves my own review of the various labels they offer. Warning: There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your assignment. I’m starting a new series here that will begin this weekend when I sample the first bottle, which I’ve actually had since he gave it to me back in April. I’m calling the series “Uncorked with Travel Guy,” in lieu of something more catchy. So here are the ground rules for this new project:

  • All of the reviews are real. Yes, I am receiving bottles of wine to sample, but receiving them does not mean that everything will be a glowing review. No two bottles of wine are alike, and my opinion alone does not mean that one bottle is the best ever and another is garbage sauce. I’m also not a sommelier, in case there was any confusion on that. However, I am a trained appreciator of wine through personal experience, and after living in Buenos Aires for a year, I’ve tried many good and many not so good bottles. In other words, I know my way around a cheap box of wine just like I can recognize and describe what makes a premium wine worthwhile.
  • I’m going to be including a couple of photos of each bottle for your own familiarization, and try to include short videos as well. My thinking is to record my first sip so that you can see a genuine first reaction. If I look happy it’s a good thing. A sour face might mean it’s a pass. I also want to include a final thought though, because often times your opinion on a drink changes after you’re a couple deep. Likewise, many good wines open up and change after several minutes.
  • I’m going to experiment with pairing different foods, music, times of day, etc. The goal isn’t to revolutionize wine tasting, but just to cover all of my bases. I take drinking seriously.
  • With all of the reviews I’ll be including relevant information on the bottles and wineries, as well as information on how you can get your own bottle if you’re interested. As always, I encourage feedback and would love to know how it worked out for you.

This weekend I plan on starting the first wine of the series, a 2008 San Gimignano Malbec, which has been “aging” on its side for four months since I received it. So stay tuned for what will no doubt be a delicious and entertaining look into Argentinian wine.