This is our last full day in Argentina—and what a day. We began at the Zolo winery and were again hosted by owner Patricia Ortiz and winemaker Fabian Valenzuela. Zolo is produced at one of the most technologically advanced wineries in Argentina. They select grapes from estate vineyards throughout the different key regions of Mendoza. Located at various altitudes, each of these terroirs provides a different expression of fruit and varietal concentration. The Zolo Reserves are made for those special occasions when one needs a wine to "blow your hat off," which accounts for the label image of a man whose hat is poised spaciously above his head.
I hadn't tried these wines in years and, frankly, had written them off as just another mass production value brand. Oops. My opinion was immediately altered after tasting the first wine, the very fresh Sauvignon Blanc 2010, which is very good. This wine hits on all of the strengths of a good Sauvignon Blanc, and knowing that these all retail at $9.99, I was very pleasantly surprised. We followed this with the Chardonnay 2010, which also did not disappoint. Fermented in stainless steel it was very tasty, even for someone who doesn't drink Chardonnay. It's very clean and refreshing.
I loved the Zolo Torrontes 2010! Besides Malbec, Argentina is known for its Torrontes, and this was one of the best I've tasted. (The other being the Manos Negros reviewed later) This is what Torrontes is supposed to taste like—fresh, delicate, and even intense. Serve to anyone who normally drinks Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier—or any other white for that matter.
Zolo Merlot 2009 is another wine you can proudly serve. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find another at this price that is so true to the varietal and of this quality. The Zolo Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 compares to any domestic Cabernet at the same price; a very impressive Cabernet. The Zolo Malbec 2010 is blended from several different vineyards and climatic conditions. It has some weight that will appeal to Cabernet drinkers. Zolo Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008—Wow! You’ll say the same when you try it. This is another reserve, similar to others that I’ve reviewed on this trip, that over delivers at its price, and this one will come in somewhere in the mid teens. And the Zolo Malbec Reserve 2008 has lots of depth with wheelbarrows of fruit, and elicited a lot of vocal support from everyone in our group.
Our last winery on this trip, we met for a first-rate dinner at wine educator Jeff Mausbach's beautiful home. Each course was designed based on the flavor and aromatic components of the wine. I'm waiting for recipes for everything and hope to share these with you.
American immigrant Jeff works in collaboration with New Zealand winemakers and fellow immigrants Duncan Killiner and Jason Mabbett, who look to the best growing regions to source the juice for each of their varietals. They are all very knowledgeable, high-energy, high-enthusiasm, and high-quality people who are very excited with what they are doing and accomplishing. They are obviously enjoying themselves.
Their Torrontes 2010 shows the classic citrus in the aromas, balanced acidity that really drives the fruit to the front. It's in the very long finish where you find their secret ingredient: 10% Viognier. Really a great match when you consider their complimentary flavor profiles. The Viognier adds some weight and the white peaches to the long finish. The wine has seen zero oak and zero malolactic. This is a unique version of the varietal and well worth trying. The Pinot Noir 2009 is a real crowd pleaser at about $13. Sourced from Patagonia Argentina, in the southernmost growing region. Bright Pinot fruit, elegant and food friendly. 12 months in French Oak.
The Malbec 2009: Again, they reach for and achieve uniqueness with this varietal. It has more depth and complexity than most but still user friendly. Sauvignon Blanc 2009, from the Casablanca region in Chile, was a favorite of mine. If you like a little less intense New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc this is for you. Really racy and grassy. Pleasing acidity throughout and leading to a long tingling finish that can only lead to another sip, and another...Aged on lees and no oak. This was a favorite of mine.
And in the Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, from the Alto Maipo region in Chile, I wasn't expecting this kind of quality. I sound like a broken record but you aren't going to find this kind of quality in any California Cabernet for under $20.
I'll head home having forged some great relationships and armed with an expanded knowledge of Argentine wines—and an expanded palate from all the fabulous sampling. Now it's your turn to swish and swirl these wines and taste for yourself—it will just be under the Pacific Northwest skies.
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