The architecture is impossible to ignore. And so is the setting.
The architecture is impossible to ignore. And so is the setting.
As you probably know by now, the wine bar at Palacio Duhau has one of the best selections of Argentinean wine in the country, including such icons as Cobos Malbec, in an absolutely enviable setting.
But for our money, one of the best experiences was this very early vintage blend from Fabre Montmayou. The 2001 Grand Vin contains a blend of malbec, cabernet and merlot planted in 1908. It’s aged in 100% French oak barrels, and 16 years in bottle has done beautiful things for this wine. It was so good that while sitting on the patio, we immediately went searching for more on Wine Searcher.
Alas – this vintage is impossible to get in the States – or as far as we can tell, anywhere in Argentina but the Park Hyatt!
So when you’re here – don’t miss the chance to enjoy a bottle.
Fabre Montmayou was founded in the early 90s by Hervé Joyau Fabre, one of a number of acclaimed French winemakers who early on saw the potential of Mendoza. You can read more about his wines here.
One of the highlights of last season’s trip to Mendoza was our personal tasting at Paul Hobbs’ partnership in Argentina, Viña Cobos. Our host, Victoria Bravo, could not have been any more welcoming. She offered details about the entire line of wines, from Felino (approx $20 US) to Bramare ($40-80+ US) to Cobos Malbec and Cobos Volturno ($200+). We were able to taste the whole range of wines with the exception of, understandably, Cobos! We’re not going to win any awards for iPhone cinematography, but you’ll get an authentic feel for what it’s like taste the wines at one of Argentina’s greatest wineries.
This clip is long – 43 minutes! (Follow the captions to get to the sections you’re most interested in.) If you like what you see on this blog, be sure to like us on Facebook for frequent updates on Argentinian wine.
It was 2008, and we had the good fortune to be shooting a television campaign in Argentina. I had visited once before as a tourist and had the time of my life.
But this time, we were hosted by a production company who was truly knowledgable about the country. And one member of our production team happened to be an experienced wine guy.
He took me to Winery in Recoleta. As I marveled at the different bottles in all price range, he walked over to an oak case and pulled out a bottle in an elegant, gray felt bag, tied with a red string:
“This is the one you want.”
It was Angelica Zapata, from Catena. Distributed only in Argentina and virtually impossible to find in the U.S.
Angelica Zapata Malbec Alta represents grapes from some of the Catena family’s very best lots in their best vineyards, at altitudes ranging from 3000 to 4500 feet. Combining grapes from different lots at different altitudes contributes to the wine’s elegance and complexity. For the 2008 vintage, here were the sources:
Lot 18, “Angelica” Vineyard, 3018 ft elevation.
Lot 4, “La Pirámide” Vineyard, 3117 ft elevation.
Lot 2, “Altamira” Vineyard, 3642 ft elevation.
Lot 3, “Adrianna” Vineyard, 4757 ft elevation.
Lot 9, “Adrianna” Vineyard, 4757 ft elevation.
If you want a point of comparison from the American Catena lineup, you might consider Catena Alta Malbec ($50) as the most comparable wine. I am told it has a more oak-forward California style profile, while the domestic Angelica Zapata has a bit more European balance.
My first taste of Angelica Zapata was the beginning of a love affair with Argentinean wine that will last the rest of my life. We opened a bottle last night to mark a family occasion, and this 12 year old bottle was as elegant and smooth as I had hoped.
If anyone you know is headed southward to Argentina soon, be extra nice – and maybe they’ll bring you back a bottle of this.
All you have to do is spend a few minutes on the Argentina forums of FlyerTalk or TripAdvisor before you see all the kudos for Miguel Sanz, a driver and personal tour guide for visitors to Mendoza. To call Miguel a “driver” hardly does his role justice. He’s more like a concierge or chaperone. He can make appointments with the wineries, arrange a memorable lunch, and make just about anything happen. Since practically everyone’s heard about Miguel, we thought it would be interesting for people to get to know him better.
Where is your hometown? Tell me about it.
I live about 15′ from downtown in a great city called La Heras. My house is in a calm residential area, where the kids are still playing outside without a problem.
You have quite the fan base on TripAdvisor. Why do you think you’ve become so popular with Americans?
I guess because I understand the needs of the visitors and probably because I had great training working in the Park Hyatt and Cavas Wine Lodge hotel the first three years as a driver.
You worked in the wine business before you began Driving Mendoza, correct? Where did you work, and what did you do?
I have a degree in Export Marketing and Logistics and I did work in the wine industry. I worked for Familia Zuccardi as a Logistics Manager and also for Wines of Argentina too.
How did you get started driving visitors?
In February 2007 I had a full month off. My brother was a driver of a tourist agency and the owner needed to replace a couple drivers so they offered me to work for him 15 days. In those 15 days I drove many people and three of them wrote the manager of Park Hyatt a letter about my great service and knowledge, so the manager call my brother’s boss and asked him to do what ever it took to keep me in the hotel. That’s how I started.
How many days is a good visit to Mendoza, that gives people enough time to get to know the wineries and the region?
Well, there are three different regions to visit in Mendoza, so I would say at least three days.
Some people think renting their own car is a good idea. What do you think of that?
First of all, the rentals agencies don’t have automatic transmissions. So if you don’t know how to drive manual transmission, that is the first reason. We have zero tolerance in drinking and driving. And besides that, there are no good signs. GPS can help a little, but if the one you get isn’t updated to the very latest version, you’re still getting lost.
What are some of the less-discovered wineries that you think visitors should take more time get to know?
Well if I tell you all my secrets, my competitors will start to copy me.
Okay, I’ll give you some: Altocedro, D’Angeles 1928, Sin Fin.
What if one of the member of a group is not a wine drinker? What other places and activities in the region do you enjoy taking visitors to?
There’s many options, mountain trips all the way to the Aconcagua Park, outdoor activities like horseback riding, rafting, zip lining, trekking, 4-wheel drive tours on a road through the mountains, shopping tours. Night tours, etc. You ask and I provide.
What is the biggest mistake foreign tourists make when traveling to Mendoza?
Try to arrange the winery appointment by themselves. It’s not impossible, but sometimes they make appointments each hour to try to get most of their day and they forget that some wineries are 30km apart and hidden.
What’s your favorite story of something that has happened when you were leading a tour?
I was in La Azul restaurant and this guy told me that he was going to propose to his girlfriend. He did it with the surprise that I told everybody in the restaurant and we filmed all the proposal.
What are some differences to consider when you are choosing a driver or tour company in Argentina?
First, my tour is totally private and if you decide to come back after lunch to the hotel you can do it. You can choose your wineries, or at least share the names of the wineries that you like to visit. Sometimes it isn’t possible because availability from them, but normally, we work it out. On a group tour you have fixed tours and you don’t know what kind of people you will sharing the tour with.
How has the wine industry in Mendoza changed since you began giving tours?
A lot, because many wineries are open for tourists, so now we have more than 150 wineries to visit.
What do you see as the biggest change that will come in the next five years?
Well Argentina is just beginning. New investors will come and now with the new government that just started, I think this type of service will grow.
Patience is a virtue, yes? Rearranging our wine coolers this morning. Here are a few favorite bottles we’ve put away for aging, all 2004-2009 vintages. Need to go back and look at Robert Parker reviews to check the recommended years for enjoying these, but in most cases they should benefit from more time in the bottle.
Thanks to The Vines of Mendoza, Bodega O. Fournier, Park Hyatt, Grupo Clos de los Siete, Lares de Chacras, Bodega El Enemigo, Vina Cobos, Luca Wines, Mendel Wines, Bodega La Azul – Tupungato – Valle De Uco – Mendoza, Bodega Altocedro · La Consulta Mendoza Argentina, and Miravida Soho Hotel & Wine Bar, Buenos Aires for giving their time, their hospitality and their expertise.
In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing our trip in much greater detail, with photos, video and more. Here are just a few highlights from our trip.
(4 / 5)
Colomé Estate Malbec 2010
The best bottle of South American wine you can usually pick up at Whole Foods Market is Colomé Estate Malbec. Owned by the Hess family and sourced from a desert vineyard in Salta, it’s one of my absolute favorites. There’s an elegance to this wine that belies its mid-$20s price.
However, the Whole Foods price of $28 is a terrible value. It’s why I tell people only to buy it during the store’s 20% off sale, when it drops to around $23.
But if you live in a US state that can receive mail-order wine, Ultimate Wine Shop is offering a much better deal. $17.99! With free shipping if you order 4 bottles.
As a reminder, I don’t sell wine, and I don’t get any kind of financial incentive from the wines I recommend. I figure if I turn you on to great wines at great prices, the karma will come back to me eventually. A world where people are buying less Cigar Box and Diseno is a world I want to live in. If you like what I’m doing, maybe you’ll buy me a bottle sometime.