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Argentina Embassy Tasting: Part One

November 15, 2011 - by Mr. Steve Stumpf

Who knew Argentina has a Promotion Centre in Los Angeles. Consul Adjunto Jose Cafiero sent out invitations to the right people who showed up on a lovely early fall late afternoon to check. Sr. Cafiero promoted six Mendoza wineries that would love to be represented in Los Angeles. All they need is an importer and/or distributor.

tBoW documented a March 2008 Argentina trip that left a powerful impression of the wonderful and abundant wines, the perfect growing conditions, and the excellent values. We may not have mentioned how gorgeous is the country and the people. Argentina has a preponderance of spectacular scenery and easy-to-look-at citizens. Today’s post is peppered with handsome Argentines pouring their wines. Even their feet are attractive.

The tasting was set in the back yard of the Consul residence. Nothing fancy. Six wineries looking for partners. If there is a downside to Argentine wines it is the difficulty finding them. Distribution in the USA is at best sporadic which was the point of this exercise. A tasting like this is a great way to make a match.

Karma Wine Group showed five wines. The “story” is how a Tibetan guardian priest fled with the Dahli Lama and eventually settled in Mendoza where he started making wine. His wines were being poured by Gary Parker, the owner of San Diego’s excellent WineSellar and Brasserie, a ground-breaking restaurant and wine store celebrating 21 years in business. Gary’s once unique concept is now widely copied. These wines were all under $20 making Karma the best price to quality ratio table at the tasting. There were other wines we preferred but no other table with this consistency at the U20 price level.

2009 Karma Sauvignon Blanc $10: Fruity, slight grassiness. Fruity with a bubble gum aroma and flavor. Slightly tannic. Good wine at a great price. 13%
2009 Karma Chardonnay $12: 100% Steel fermented. No aging in oak. Good fruit. Perfect restaurant $5-pour-by-the-glass-wine.13.2%
2008 Karma Torrontes $13: Bright fruit. Clean flavors. Best in the flight. From Salta region where great Torrontes comes from. 13%
2006 Karma Cabernet Sauvignon Premium Reserve $18: Cherries on the nose. Gets 6 months French oak. Medium weight. Slightly vegetal that gives character. A U20 winner. 14%
2007 Karma Malbec Gran Reserva Old VInes: Did not get the price. Very nice middle weight wine. Good stuffing. Citric flavors characteristic of Maipu vines. Went back for it. 14%
Bodega Viniterra showed the typical lineup of entry, middle and top level reds. But they also showed a couple of unique bottles; 15 bottles in all! Grapes from Mendoza’s premium Lujan de Cuyo region located at 3,400 foot elevations. The commitment to premium winemaking is evident.

2008 Viniterra Pinot Grigio $11: Delightful wine with a minty powder puff nose. Sweet but not too much so. Soft body, fragrant nose. U20 value wine. 14%

2008 Viniterra Viognier $15: No foxy flavors we dislike in the varietal. Like Malbec, another example of how the region or country changes the profile of a particular varietal. Nice enough. 14%

2008 Viniterra Chardonnay
$15: Pour it by the glass in your restaurant. Cannot go wrong. 13.5%

NV Viniterra Sparkling Extra Brut Champenoise Method
$22: 980% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. Very pale salmon. Yeasty nose. Mucho mousse. doughy flavors, dry. Very nice and low alcohol. 12.5%

2008 Terra Sparkling Malbec: Think of sparkling Buguey or Lambrusco. Only this is much nicer. Red color and a solid spritz. This wine could make it here. Not your fruity summer pink sparkler. A butch sparkling red. Very nice effort. 12.5%

2007 Viniterra Pinot Noir
$16: Your basic New World fruity forward, middle weight Pinot Noir. If you like California Pinot then you will be very happy with this wine especially since you are going to pay half to a third of the normal California Pinot Noir price. Forward fruit with lots of cherry flavors. Mrs. tBoW liked it just fine thank you. 14%

2006 Viniterra Select Carmenere
$18: tBoW missed the memo on the history of the Carmenere grape…you know – wiped out by phyloxera in Europe mid-19th century memo to be discovered in Chile in the 20th where it is used as the basic blending grape in red wines. That one. Highly perfumed nose. Tastes Italian with plenty acid and lean fruit, especially for Argentina. Violets in a glass. Kind of sweet like a ripe Sangiovese. 14%

2006 Viniterra Select Malbec
$18: Fruity with plenty of stuffing. Middle weight and muscular. 12 months in French and American oak. Balanced and rich. Very tasty and excellent U20 value. Can they really sell it at this price? 14%
These are two of the best wineries presenting. Karma with its narrow range and Viniterra with everything under the sun represent the variety and range of wines available in Argentina. We present the other two that impressed in the next post.

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