(--wherein, two months later, we finally pick up the thread
of '...our story, thus far--')
In the twenty-five or so minutes it took us to drive from Mendoza to Sr. Festa's winery in Chacras de Coria, an unspecified & never to be explained emergency came up in his Santa Rosa vineyard, about two hours away to the East. Consequently, & contrary to expectations, we were received by Luis, the winery manager, & the accountant; both quite bemused, as they had not been informed by their patrón of our planned visit.
A quick ring on the celphone led to a somewhat surrealistic round of introductions tinnily broadcast by cellular speakerphone, & after a cursory review of the winery's facts & figures we were led on to taste wines still waiting to be bottled-- stored both in stainless steel, & in traditional concrete 'piletas'.
While all the fruit is organically grown, Luis was quite candid about the winery's dual approach to vinification: white grapes are cold-soaked & innoculated with commercial yeast strains to 'cold-ferment' in refrigerated stainless steel tanks, while red grapes are, on principle at least, taken along a less interventionist & more traditional path.
I must apologize for leaving the implied caveat in the above sentence hanging as I focus on the winery's white wines. Visiting their website (linked to above) to compare my usual spare tasting notes with whatever published data I might profit by reviewing, I found, among other omissions, no entry for the Viognier I sampled & subsequently bought! I must also beg to differ on the characteristics they emphasize for their Ugni Blanc, harping as they do on tropical fruit, & listing pineapple, banana & melon as main descriptors. The discrepancy may be due to year & bottle variation (The bottle I bought was vintage '06. I was a little let down I wasn't offered a taste of anything 'in progress'.) --or it may be all a matter of my own quirky, idiosyncratically semi-educated palate-- in any case, & be that as it may:
The stand-out wine from the visit, lingering most clearly in memory nearly two months later, was a light, herbaceous Chardonnay from the current harvest, still just finishing alcoholic fermentation. It had just enough of a mineral thread-- subtle but undeniable-- to make me regret not having bought whatever bottling of the varietal they had on hand at that point & putting it through some formal tasting paces. I wonder if it's their best product.
Now, here is the preview of coming attractions I posted at the tail end of my 'Wine Blogging Wednesday #46' participation:
On first taste, the Ugni Blanc was peculiarly reminiscent of Sauv Blanc, with grassy gooseberry character, while the Viognier was rather tight & unyielding to the senses. Will taste again this evening, in good company, & will post a link here to a separate post for tasting notes & the story of how I discovered the winery.
'Good company', indeed!-- meaning Jasmine Montgomery & her folks, who have opened Domaine Du Mont, an upscale bistro & private event facility in the Coquimbito district of Maipú. Their lovingly rehabilitated hacienda is twenty minutes or so on foot from Hans & Alina's Posada Cavieres, not a bad walk but for the hardship of no real pedestrian-friendly 'shoulder' for the better part of the route along Carril Urquiza. One must run the gauntlet by the occasional rush of hard-bearing trucks on a narrow corridor of packed alluvial scree along an olive grove fenced in barbed wire. One can only hope the work being done on the Northern end of this road, featuring lovely, secure & comfortable bike & walking lanes, reaches this far before too long. I have the best hopes for the success of this new 'Domaine' & trust we will celebrate when I find my way back to Mendoza next year.
Jasmine is trained both as a Chef de Cuisine & Sommelier, but was unfortunately struggling with a bad cold the evening of our gathering. Maybe I could blame our different evaluation of the wines tasted on her stuffy nose & diminished sensorium.
Rather predictably, the Ugni Blanc generated the most debate. The variety's 'notable acidity' (notorious might be the better term) was very much in evidence, pushing the dominant character from citrus to aspirin, with the latter's saltiness & texture at least adding some supporting density to the light midpalate.
I found telling continuities with Conalbi-Greenberg's boutique bottling reviewed for WBW #46: a faraway whiff of white flowers, & some assertive, lingering herbaceousness which struck Jasmine as unpleasantly bitter.
Although green ginger & rosemary are probably easier for most to identify, I have a new, possibly more correct & accurate descriptor for that bitter, herbaceous character: sometime after that evening, (my farewell to Maipú) during my unexpectedly lengthy 'stopover' visit in Rosario, I let some herbal lemon verbena tea steep a bit overlong, & the resulting brew had an aftertaste of astoundingly similar character-- spicy-tart but with a touch of bitter herbaceousness. I can understand how this characteristic in a wine may make it something of an acquired taste, but I personally don't find it unpleasant & believe the right food pairing will go a long way to winning fans for this type of complexity. 'Umami', anyone?
The Viognier (younger that the Ugni Blanc, an '07 vintage) was more generally enjoyed & I have tasting notes that speak of 'wet stone', 'snowmelt grass', & grapefruit. I do believe the 'Quality/Price Ratio' on this wine is exceptional, even as I find Viogniers from Argentina lacking a certain something. I will immediately start work on a post comparing notes on the five (or so) different bottlings I tried, but will post this 'as is'. As usual,
'to be continued...'
Wine of the Day, No. 250(!)
Fa 2 hores