Wine Tasting of the Week

Argentine Wine

This week we will sample a variety of Argentine wines, most are new vintages of old favorites; however, the Zolo Red Blend is new to the Spirits selection.

Altogether we will try one white, one rose and four reds. The Crios, Bodini and BenMarco wines are imported by Vine Connections, who “in 1999, pioneered the first nationally imported portfolio of artisan wines from Argentina. Soon after… introduced Americans to a selection of premium Japanese ginjo sake from family-run brewers.” The Zolo Red Blend is imported by Vino Del Sol, who specialize in terroir-driven wines that are estate-grown, sustainably farmed and family-owned.

crios rosebodini malbecbenmarco malbeczolo signature red

Vine Connections (importer)
“We are a Sausalito, California-based importer and the exclusive U.S. representative of some of the world’s most unique and exciting wines and Japanese sake. In 1999, we pioneered the first nationally imported portfolio of artisan wines from Argentina and have now become the leading US importer of fine Argentinean wines retailing above $10. We are also fortunate to represent 13 of Japan’s finest ginjo sake breweries. These small, ancient (our youngest is 86 years old!), and traditional family brewers produce some of the world’s most delicious premium chilled sake. We proudly market more than 20 premium sake brands in our outstanding portfolio.

Closer to home, we also represent two incredible boutique California wineries: Lewelling Vineyards (outstanding Napa Cabernet) and Davis Family Vineyards (highly sought after Russian River Valley Syrah, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir).”

Susana Balbo is the creator of Crios, BenMarco and Bodini. “In a country dominated by male winemakers, Susana Balbo stands out not only for her gender, but for her incredible skill and experience. She has been making wine since she earned her enology degree in 1981, and she has probably produced a wider variety of wines than any other winemaker in Argentina. Susana was the first Argentine winemaker to be hired as a consultant to make wine outside of Argentina. She has made wine in Australia, California, Chile, France, Italy, South Africa, and Spain.”

Crios Winery
“After 25+ years of winemaking, Susana Balbo has a strong sense of what she wants from her wines. From every harvest, she creates the grandest possible wines under her Susana Balbo label. To achieve this, she makes a rigorous selection of the finest barrels prior to making her final blends, dividing them into the parents (reserve level wines) and offspring or “crios”. Wines under her Crios label display ripe fruit flavors, excellent balance and concentration, and are meant to be enjoyed in their vibrant youth. They are also an incredibly good value. The label features a series of three connected and overlapping hands, an image that represents Susana and her children, José and Ana. In 2011, Susana passed the winemaking reins for Crios to her own son, José Lovaglio, a graduate of UC Davis. José continues to translate his mother’s vision while bringing his own unique, modern style to the wines.”

Crios Torrontes 2012
Cafayate (Salta), Altamira, (Mendoza), La Rioja, Argentina. Average elevation is 5576 feet; average age of vines is 33 years. 100% Torrontes, no oak. “Enticing aromas that are strikingly similar to Viognier, with hints of peach pit, white pear, flowers, and orange citrus fruit. On the palate, it has beautiful structure and acidity along with enticing fruit flavors that keep you coming back for another sip and plenty of body for a wine that shows such delicate aromas and flavors. Fruity, floral and yet still quite dry.” Jens note: floral, pretty nose. Tropical, melon and peach flavors. Juicy and friendly. $13.99

Crios Rose of Malbec 2012
Agrelo and Ugarteche (Luján de Cuyo); La Consulta (San Carlos) Gualtallary (Tunuyan), Argentina. Average elevation is 3280 feet; average age of vines is 12 years. 100% Malbec, no oak. “A beautiful, deep, vibrant rosé color. Has a surprising amount of body for a rosé wine, and beautiful aromas of fresh, ripe wild strawberries. On the palate, the flavors of strawberries and young cherries come rushing in, accompanied by some spice notes and a clean, dry finish. This is the perfect chicken wine and a charming companion to mildly spicy Asian cuisine.” $11.99

“stands for “Built On Dreams of Individuals Not Institutions”.  This is a wine that is built upon the dreams of all those involved in crafting these amazing wines:  the dreams of the vineyard and winery teams to do their part to preserve the earth and environment through sustainable viticulture & winemaking practices, the dreams of the winery to promote the well-being of its workers, their families, the community and future generations, and the dreams of a young, up-and-coming winemaker, Jose Lovaglio.

A portion of all Bodini wine sales are also donated to the Dominio del Plata Scholarship Foundation which was established to help fulfill the dream of a college education to winery worker families throughout Argentina.”

Bodini Malbec 2012
Agrelo, Ugarteche (Luján de Cuyo), Cruz de Piedra (Maipú), Argentina. Average elevation is 3280 feet; average age of vines is 24 years. A blend of 10% Bonarda, 90% Malbec that aged for 4 months in 50% French oak & 50% American oak. “Aromas of dark, ripe bing cherries and toasty caramel. Full and fleshy in the mouth with loads of ripe and spicy red and black fruits. Firm tannins and great structure for such a drinkable wine with a long, persistent finish that continues to dance on your tongue long after the first sip.” Jens note: Pretty magenta in color. Briary black and blue fruits on the nose. Approachable and juicy. $9.99

BenMarco Winery
In 1999 Susana Balbo crafted a line of wines to showcase the ripe fruit expression of her sustainably-farmed Mendoza vineyards. The philosophy is a simple one: grow great grapes and make wines that are true to their place. Minimal intervention during the growing season and through harvest allows the true fruit character to develop. Combine this with Susana’s winemaking skills and the result is wines that express the powerful fruit flavors, the ripe tannins and the incredible length and balance that can only come from this one place: Mendoza.

BenMarco Malbec 2011
Agrelo, Alto Agrelo, Ugarteche (Luján de Cuyo), Altamira (Uco Valley) & Gualtallary (Tupungato), Argentina. Average elevation is 3345 feet; average age of vines is 25 years. 5% Bonarda, 95% Malbec that aged for 11 months in 60% new French oak & 40% 2nd use American oak barrels. “Beautiful deep purple color with perfumed aromas of ripe red fruits and roasted coffee beans. It is lush, full-bodied and penetrating on the palate with loads of chewy, currant jam flavors, bright acidity, and a touch of grip on the almost savory finish. This wine really unfolds with some air so try not to slurp it down in a rush, and it shows why the Argentine people are in love with Malbec. Some Bonarda was blended in for greater complexity and to achieve better balance.” Jen’s note: Deep magenta/purple color with a beautiful nose of pungent blueberry fruit. Soft and textured with a full-body and generous fruit. $16.99

BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Agrelo (Luján de Cuyo), Los Arboles (Tunuyan), Altamira (Uco Valley), Argentina. Average elevation is 3620 feet; average age of vines is 21 years. 5% Cabernet Franc, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot that aged for 11 months in 50 % new French oak & 50% 2nd use American oak barrels. “Beautiful deep red color with perfumed aromas of ripe black cherries, strawberries and roasted cocoa beans. This wine is full-bodied and incredibly lush for a young Cabernet. It explodes on the palate with red and black fruits, then shows baking spices on its way to a mouthwatering finish.” Jen’s note: Dark ruby in color with purple edges. Dark briary fruit on the nose. Sweet oak notes; rich, full and ripe. $16.99

Vino Del Sol (importer)
“Since 2004 we have built our reputation as a leading importer of terroir-driven wines that over deliver in value. We build brands for the long-term, and are trusted by both our winery partners and customers to exceed expectations at all stages of the value chain.”

Zolo Winery
is part of Altocedro Wines. “Owner and President Patricia Ortiz spends much of the week working in Mendoza, leaving her husband alone – solo/Zolo – in Buenos Aires. The winemakers are Fabian Valenzuela and Jean Claude Berrouet (former winemaker at Petrus). The Zolo wines are estate-grown and sustainably farmed.

The purpose of the winery’s Zolo classic line is to create a family of fruit-forward, great value wines, which can be enjoyed with a wide range of food or by themselves. The Zolo Reserves, with their ultra-high concentration, long ageing in new French oak, and aromatic complexity are made for those special occasions when one needs a wine to “blow your hat off.””

Zolo Signature Red Blend 2011
Mendoza, Argentina. Estate vineyards in Agrelo and Ugarteche, Mendoza Varietals: 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Bonarda, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec Average Vineyard Altitude:3,200 feet. Vineyards are sustainably farmed. Fermented in stainless steel then aged for 6 months in French (75%) and American (25%) oak. “This blend of Mendoza’s signature red grapes features intense and fresh red fruit aromas and a lush, long mouthfeel” Jen’s note: ripe and toasty nose. Some spice; lots of oak. Generous flavors. $9.99



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