2009 Dos Minas Malbec

2009 Dos Minas MalbecPrice: $11.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Michael Skurnik Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Plain and simple, this is delicious, organic malbec, perhaps the best $12 and under version we’ve tasted all year. It is produced from 15 year-old vines in sandy, rocky clay in the high (5,500 feet plus) elevations of Cafayate, Argentina. A brief four month elevage in used French oak helps to add some texture without taking away from the wonderful fruit. Rich dark fruit aromas lead to a seriously structured palate, full of dark plum fruit and a refreshingly dry, serious quality.”

What I Think:

(14%) Ok, I’ll admit it! When I first bought this one I thought I was trying a wine from El Calafate near Patagonia rather than Cafayate in Salta. Nonetheless still interesting as this one is grown at 5,500+ feet in altitude. Nice mouthfeel here with rough, rocky acidity around the edges protecting a core of plush dark fruits that emerges to coat the mid-palate before velvety, tangy tannins kick in (along with a touch of heat) on a lasting, pepper streaked finish. Delicious! Best Malbec I’ve had in ages. I really like the rocky, earthy balance added to the as expected lush, rich Malbec fruit. This one also gives me the sense it can age. An almost unbelievable value at $12. I’ve already bought more!

Rating: Wow!

2009 Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Winebow Brands International

What They Said:

2009 Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon91 points Wines & Spirits: “Lightly floral and decidedly fruity, this is rich in cherry flavors that give it a fresh, clean air. A selection from organically farmed vineyards in Mendoza, the fruit is pure and direct, with enough tannin for an Argentine asado.” (06/10)

What I Think:

(13.9%) 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – Another offering from the Catena family wine stable this one is dark purple in color turning ruby on the edges. You get sweet red currant on the nose. Full bodied and juicy on the palate with oak emerging on the mid-palate which adds loads of vanilla and layers of soft tannins to the finish. I’m not sure how Wine & Spirits got to 91 points on this one. Perhaps they were having a rough day in the tasting room. That said this is a perfectly drinkable everyday wine at a nice price point. Don’t buy it for the 91 points. In fact forget about them. I bet you’ll enjoy it even more without the lofty expectations to live up to. I know I am going to try that the 2nd time around…

Rating: 12th Bottle

Summer Stash: A load from Argentina…

I long to go back to Mendoza and often practice the reverse mantra that if you can’t be there bring it to you. Malbec, asada and flipping through pictures from our visit a few years back usually tends to scratch the itch. That said sooner or later I am going to have to book my return trip but until then I’ll just keep drinking more than my fair share of Argentinean wines. Again here I had a chance to drink quite a few (all samples) over the last six months. What was my overall take? Malbec, to me, is still one of the most consistent places to find value offerings and furthermore some of the $20 wines more than delivered on their price points. So what have I been drinking you ask?a few from Terrazas de los Andes...

Terrazas Los Andes and I go way back. Their Malbec (I last reviewed the ’06) is one of the wines I most often recommend to people. This was my first experiences with the Malbec Reserva (which I drank from a 375ml bottle) and it certainly showed more restraint and a few extra layers of complexity. As for the Torrontes Reserva the aromatics on the nose weren’t quite as exciting as I usually find them. Why the wine itself was fine I wouldn’t stretch your budget for this one with so many $10 (See Finca La Linda below) options readily available.

a few from Luigi Bosca...

I have actually previous reviewed the Finca La Linda and as mentioned while I found it nice next time I would prefer to give some others; like this Zolo, a try. The Pinot I found very new world in style. This wine is big and powerful with oak influencing throughout. Well made but not a match for my palate as at this price point I want something more restrained and elegant. The Merlot was an easy and enjoyable drinker but north of the price point I’m willing to pay for that type of offering. But oh the Malbec! This one has a nose of dark berries, dusty chocolate and black pepper. A brooding wine that could knock you over with fruit if it pleased that instead chooses to some nice values...show restraint and layers of flavor. A sure winner and the best of the Argentinean wines I sampled this summer.

This Santa Ana really surprised me as despite my travels through Australia I had come across very few Shiraz blends I had enjoyed. This one was spicy and juicy on the palate with a nice structure. Firm acidity kept it balanced and made it food friendly. The Bodega Norton was a Bordeaux-ish blend that showed sweet fruit and nice meaty characteristics. I’d love to try it with a few more years in the bottle as this has the potential to be something else. As for the Alamos this is another long time favorite (last reviewed the ’06). and a few nice Malbecs...My notes on the ’09 say: “Young, light & juicy w/ loads of stawberries on balanced acidity with a dry spicy finish. Crowdpleaser! Buy this one more often.”

The Nieto Senetiner was new to me. It showed bold red fruit and soft, velvety tannins with pepper spice on the finish. Well balanced with layers of flavors. Yet another very good value. The Dona Paula is a big wine with rich fruit that dries quickly showing a leathery, pepper finish that is laden with barrel notes and tannins. For this price I’m tempted to buy a few and sit them as again this one seems to have the opportunity to evolve into something special.

There you have it. Did you have a favorite Argentinean wine this summer? Have you had any of these? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as a press sample. That said I have purchased many bottles of the Terrazas de los Andes and Alamos with my very own wallet.

2009 Finca La Linda Torrontes

2009 Finca La Linda TorrontesPrice: $10.99 @ Sample

What They Said:

Per Luigi Bosca “Clear yellow-greenish color. Floral aromas related to rose globeflower and some lavender. The first impression in mouth is sweet with balanced acidity, white peaches are perceived and hints of sugar coated orange skin. Excellent balance between floral and fruity characteristics.”

What I Think:

Many already know there is more to Argentina than Malbec. You can drink some fine Cabernet among other things but they also have two more local grapes that are worth exploring; Bonarda (the local favorite) or Torrontes. For those that may be new to Torrontes I most often compare it to Viognier given that both are very aromatic wines. When drinking either my nose spends a significant amount of time in the glass (and I again remind myself I need to expand my vocabulary beyond “floral”). That being said I am no expert on this varietal so when this sample arrived I was happy to give it a try. So how was it?

Pale straw in color. Fresh, floral (see above reminder) and inviting on the nose. The palate starts pure and clean but quickly becomes a bit heavy with a hint of sweetness. A rich, full-bodied wine this shows flavors of orange peels and white tropical fruits. The finish is slightly crisp with a dried flowers (lavender) and spices (white pepper). This one lacks the acidity I like for drinking on its own. I’d recommend pairing this one with food. Perhaps a pasta with a white cream sauce would be fitting.

Given the overall flavor profile of this one it is not well suited for my palate as I prefer my white with racy acidity. Despite that this is a nice wine and a perfect bottle to learn more about a varietal (slightly) off the beaten path. So how about you? Have you had a Torrontes before? If so let me know what you think or if you have any to recommend. If not, give this or another one a try and share your thoughts.

Rating: Pricey

*as indicated above this wine was indeed received as a press sample

2008 La Finca Malbec

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Americal Beverage Group

What They Said:

2008 La Finca MalbecPer the bottle “The vineyards of Finca La Celia lie in the foothills of the Argentine Andes. Stunning purple color. Its bouquet is intense, rich in blackcurrant, vanilla and spices. On the palate the soft and succulent ripe fruits follow through with surprising delicacy. The tannins are silky, coming subtly from the forefront and giving a lingering finish. This is a wine to enjoy with meat dishes and pasta with meat and tomato sauces.”

What I Think:

Long a sucker for the wines of Argentina I have waited endlessly for Trader Joe’s to deliver me a knockout in the super value category as there are an abundance of very pleasing wines available in the $8-$12 price range. But the list of wines that has disappointed me is long and distinguished; La Boca, Terrenal and Fuerza roll readily from my tongue. Could these La Finca offerings change the tides of history? It started off positive with a mention of not only a winery but the website for Finca La Celia. Granted, I had never heard of the winery but for many Trader Joe’s offerings I can spend quite some time trying to determine exactly who it was that made the wine in the bottle. In this case someone was proud that they were behind this one. As I browsed the site it became clear that maybe “proud” wasn’t the right choice of words as there was no mention of the “La Finca” offerings to be found. But hey at least they were willing to admit it! Let’s see what the wine had to say about itself…

Quite a build up, followed by quite a letdown. Hey, I wanted to share my real life experience with this bottle! Surprisingly light in color, really hot on the nose with hints of white pepper. The palate has some berry flavors on top of a highly acidic backbone that holds on through the the finish. This wine shows no varietal correctness and at best is innocuous. Looking at the bottle the 12.5% alcohol content confirms my suspicion that this is much lighter than your ordinary Malbec that typically clocks in at 14-15%. By the way, La Finca is also offering a Cabernet, steer clear of that one as well. Nothing special here.

It continues to puzzle me that Trader Joe’s can’t deliver on my favorite red value varietal. Look like I’ll be stocking up on the Pascual Toso again soon…

Rating: Skip It

2007 Trumpeter Malbec

2007 Trumpeter MalbecPrice: $9.99 @ Pasternak Wines imported by Pasternak Wine

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Inky and dense with attractive berry aromas and a touch of cinnamon and sweet spice. A fully, fruity wine, with excellent body, intense tannins, flavors of cherry, blackberry, boysenberry and plum intermingled with hints of cardamom and pepper, and a long, full finish.”

“Juicy raspberry, blackberry and fig flavors are backed by well-integrated toast on the medium-weight finish. Drink now.” 87 Points, Wine Spectator, February 28, 2009

What I Think:

The Trumpeter label is under the Familia Rutini umbrella which dates back to 1885. They currently own estates in five different areas of Mendoza. If I recall correctly, this one use to carry the Tupungato designation on its label though that now seems to have disappeared. Given that this wine is widely available and Familia Rutini has 255 hectares under vine I was thinking perhaps these grapes are being, at least partially, sourced. Then I realized I had no idea what I was talking about and set out to learn a bit more. To get to bottles you need to know how many hectoliters of wine they get per hectare. This can vary drastically and averages near 25hl in Spain to areas of the Mosel that yield 100hl. Let’s assume 60hl here. Given I know 1 hectoliter equals 133 bottles we arrive at approximately 170,000 cases from 255 hectares. Visiting the Rutini Wines website I found that they reported producing 7-8 million (80k hl) liters annually which equates to 888,000 cases. Reversing my previous exercise this would require a yield 313hl per hectare. It looks like my instinct on them sourcing grapes is correct. Wow did I wander off the topic here, apologies! Let’s get back to the wine shall we…

This wine, which I received as a sample some time back, is exactly what you’d expect from a Malbec. Juicy and dense, loaded with plum flavors intermingled with spices that lead to a warm, vanilla toasty (barrel tannins?) finish. Add this one to the long line (Alamos, Pascual Toso, Terrazas de los Andes) of quality Malbec’s out there for less than a $10 spot. Don’t hesitate to pick this one up should it grab your attention, it makes a perfect pairing with nearly any evening summer barbeque.

Rating: Buy It

2006 Terrenal Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Terrenal Mendoza Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

Per Daniel Rogov “Dark ruby towards garnet, with soft tannins, hints of spices and a note of chocolate highlighting blackberry and black cherry fruits. Round and appealing, a very good entry-level wine. Drink now.” Score 86. K (Tasted 9 Oct 2008)

What I Think:

I’ve been looking forward to posting this one as it has been a rewarding experience thanks to Shimshon of Welner Wines! From the bottle I was able to track this to Vinas Argentinas which led me to Telteca Winery. From there I emailed the contact us info and Shimshon responded with the wealth of information I am about to share. Didn’t even have to use the other information at my disposal (hand harvested for the Cartellone Family and Jose Pedro Gomez was the winemaker)

The first item of note is that this predominately sells under the Tierra Salvaje label. I’ve had a Carmenere ($4) from them at Trader Joe’s a while back. Tried to track down my tasting notes but not much there. My recollection is that it was good but not great.

As for this one specifically, Terranal (from the label) is a cousin of the term terroir and means earthy. Given I have a Cab from Ruca Malen (btw, if you ever visit Mendoza be sure to have their wine pairing lunch. Fantastic!) I picked up on my trip to Argentina in ’06 I considered this a free preview. On sight, the wine is dark but the nose brings me light raspberry fruit notes with a bit of tannin. It certainly lacks the California Cab characteristics you might expect so prepare yourself. The initial taste is familiar but what…something, can’t place it! A nice tannic backbone and a pleasant mid-palate full of plum and cherry flavors. The only disappointment is that there was little from a finish perspective. All in all, for $4 this is a great introduction to what Cabernet from another región is all about; lighter, fruitier and less tanic. Give it a try. I’m going to grab another bottle. They also have a Malbec in stock which I intend to drink/review soon. Stay tuned…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Gascon USA

What They Said:

guess it is too early to have anything official here….

What I Think:

This all started when Melody asked me to give the La Boca Malbec another try after a lackluster first experience. While out to grab another bottle I came across this one. Though a bit pricey at $10 I decided to try and give it a go. Once home I did a quick search and found that this is part of the famed Nicholas Catena family (thought no mention of it on their site) who has been at the forefront of bringing quality Argentinean wines to the world. That raised my expectations a bit…. Parker gave the ’06 a 90. Expectations still growing…

Then I realized this was a ’07, seems soon for a ’07 doesn’t it? Expectations shrinking…It showed its age with a bit of green on the nose. The palate is that of a typical but forgettable Malbec. This wine isn’t bad by any means and may shine if I haven’t had the wines I have had. But I have and thus there is now way I can recommend this or any other Malbec at Trader Joe’s. As much as I love TJ’s go elsewhere for low cost Malbec. Especially with so many winners easily and widely available. Grab one of these (rank ordered) and you will be much happier!

- 2006 Pascual Toso Maipu Valley Malbec ($9)
- 2006 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec ($9)
- 2006 Alamos Malbec ($8)

Rating: Skip It

2006 La Boca Malbec

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Classic Wines of California

What They Said:

Per Tom & Melody “This Barrio La Boca Malbec 2006 is a pearly, opalescent purple in the glass and a fresh and spicy nose reminiscent of cherries and cured meats. It is a dry and tannic, yet quite fruity. The wine has a sharp mouth feel with a smooth finish on the palate. The taste is plums, vanilla, and cherries. The finish is chocolate-covered cherries.”

What I Think:

Enjoying the Pascual Toso a little too much I decided to save the rest for another day and pop this one. Expectations were low as I grabbed the Cabernet Sauvignon from the same label a few weeks back.  I grabbed this one just to ensure I was doing my due diligence for my readers.  After all Argentina is known for value Malbec’s.  Maybe this could be the super value.

And survey says….No! Not much to like here. Nothing but acid on the nose and the same follows on the palate. The next night I tried it with some food and it was a bit better. Oddly on night three it started to show something, not much…but something. Certainly not enough to buy another bottle but just enough to miss the dreaded “Avoid It” label.

Rating: Skip It

2006 Pascual Toso Maipu Valley Malbec

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by TGIC Importers

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines ”91 points and the #1 wine on the “Top 100 Best Buys of 2007″ from Wine Enthusiast: “A year or two ago when Paul Hobbs began consulting for Toso things changed for the better. This is the rare Best Buy that can swim with the big fish and give them a run for the money. Pop the cork and enjoy lusty dark aromas of Turkish tobacco and berry compote. In the mouth, there’s a riot of fruit flavors to ponder followed by a smooth, lusty finish.” (12/1/2007) 90 points and a “Best Buy” in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. (no tasting note given, Dec. 2007) That’s right we can actually offer you a #1 wine from someone’s list. Those end of the year best lists are so frustrating for us. We usually have our stock answer, “Sorry, it sold out months ago.” But not this time, this time we can say, “How much would you like?” And I couldn’t think of a better wine to give to any customer looking for sheer value. This Malbec is attached to Paul Hobbs and it shows. His trademark velvety texture and boisterous fruit flavors are all on display here. The solid tannins keep everything held together while the sappy boysenberry fruit, clove spice and vanilla laced finish are sure to please. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

I had been meaning to grab this one for a while. Ever since K&L sent out an email proclaiming this the “Best Red Available under $10” it has been hard to come by. Couple that with being ranked the “#1 wine on the “Top 100 Best Buys of 2007″ from Wine Enthusiast and you can imagine it is getting difficult. The third feather in the cap was Paul Hobbs involvement who made this “Cocodrilo” that I just had to grab a case of. And I still haven’t mentioned a price tag of single digits ($9). And uh, oh yah, it is a single vineyard offering. It’s been a struggle but recently a friend of mine scored me a bottle and it was worth the wait!

Loads of dark fruit and smoke on the nose, on the palate the fruit delivers with hints of vanilla and barrel spice making the finish as velvety as can be. The combination makes this a hands down winner. To be fair, value wines are plentiful coming out of Argentina. I’ve had offerings from Alamos and Terrazas de los Andes that blow the quality to price ratio straight out of the water. That said those two were enjoyable based on the forwardness of their fruit and didn’t display near the complexity of this one. Wonder if I can find anymore! I’ll sure be looking…

Rating: Bulk Buy