In January 2007, Charlie and I, plus our good friends Terry and David, spent 2+ weeks in Chile and Argentina. The objective of our trip was to visit top flight wineries, meet with the winemakers when possible, and taste the best wines each of these wineries had to offer. The trip was arranged through Brian Pearson of Santiago Adventures (now Upscale Travel) (http://upscapetravel.com/our-experiences/food-wine/). We had a private guide and driver for Chile (Jean Albert Rauld/Bernardo), as well as for Argentina. You should contact Brian if you are planning a trip to either of these countries, as we had a fantastic trip!
We flew into Santiago, and started our journey from there. While in Chile, we also visited Valparaiso and Viña de Mar.
Below are the wineries and wines we tasted, and my notes (albeit brief) on each of these wines. I have indicated my favorite wines with a “buy” following the wine’s description.
CHILE (But, if you want to read about Argentina first, click here).
Casa Marin (http://www.casamarin.cl/) in the San Antiono Valley; great visit and tasting with the winemaker, Carola Vasquez. Wines tasted:
Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Laurel Vineyard – crisp, with good acidity; very nice as an aperitif; buy
Pinot Noir 2003 Litoral – very oaky/smokey (Carola thought the new barrels had overwhelmed the fruit, so poured a 2004 pinot to show us the difference)
Pinot Noir 2004 Lo Abarca – this was a very nice pinot; red fruits on the nose and palate; buy
Sauvignon Gris 2006 Estero Vineyard – very crisp, spicy; very nice as an aperitif; buy
Matetic (http://matetic.com/) in the San Antonio Valley; very nice visit and tasting with the winemaker, Paula Cardenas. Wines tasted:
EQ 2005 Sauvignon Blanc – very nice, mellow; long finish; would go best with food; buy
EQ 2005 Pinot Noir – sort of smokey, but not overwhelming; a little pepper on the nose and palate
EQ 2005 Syrah – tasted very tight and closed; did get better with some air
Viñedo Chadwick (http://www.vinedochadwick.cl/) in the Maipo Valley; this was a fabulous visit and tasting with Mercedes Espindola and Margarita Aguilera at the Chadwick home. Wine tasted:
Chadwick 2002 – this is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and was a very, very good wine, on the nose, concentrated fruit, and on the palate, very well balanced, smooth and elegant, full mouth feel with a lingering finish; buy
Almaviva (http://www.almavivawinery.com/) in the Maipo Valley; a vertical tasting of the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004:
1999 – herbaceous nose, but blew off with a little time in the glass; smooth and elegant
2000 – ripe tannins; smooth and elegant on the palate
2001 – again, a little herbaceous on the nose; dark chocolate and plums on the palate
2004 – same herbaceous nose; red and black fruits on the palate, with a hint of cinnamon on the back palate
After Almaviva, we had a wonderful lunch at Fundacion Origen (http://fundacionorigenchile.org/eng/), an organic agricultural school in Pirque. This was a recommendation from Brian that I was somewhat skeptical about. However, we were treated like royalty by all of the staff, and we could not have enjoyed our visit and lunch more.
Concha y Toro (http://www.conchaytoro.com/?lang=en_us) in the Maipo Valley; a vertical tasting of the Don Melchor 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2004 with Francisca Hederra, sommelier for Concha y Toro. Wines tasted:
1989 – mature; menthol on the nose (we were repeatedly told that this is a common characteristic of the Maipo Valley cabs, because of the large number of Eucalyptus trees near the vineyards)
1991 – menthol on the nose, livelier than the 1989, a hint of soy sauce on the palate
1993 – not much to say about this wine
1995 – pepper and leather on the nose, mellow
1997: bitter chocolate on the nose, nothing else really to say
2004 (we were supposed to have the 2003, but they said they had none to pour) – almost vanilla on the nose; smooth, nice tannins, certainly the best of the vintages we tasted
Antiyal (http://antiyal.com/) in the Maipo Valley; fantastic visit with Marina Espinoza; Marina’s husband, Alvaro, is the winemaker, and both own this small organic, biodynamic winery. We are now experts on biodynamic farming thanks to Marina!
Kuyen 2004 – cabernet sauvignon/syrah blend; smooth, good fruit; buy
Antiyal 2004 – carmenere/cab/syrah blend; very smooth; dark fruit on the nose and palate; long finish; buy
Altair (http://altairwines.com/en/tabs/our-state/) in the Cachapoal Valley; this a beautiful winery overlooking the Cachapoal Valley. We also had lunch here, with wine pairings. A great visit and lunch. Wines tasted:
Altair 2002 and 2003 – cabernet sauvignon/carmenere/merlot blend (also syrah and cabernet franc in the 2003), good structure and concentration, full bodied, red fruits on the nose and palate, long finish; both buy
Sideral 2002 and 2003 – primarily a cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend, very nice wine, black currant on the nose and palate; both buy
Casa Silva (http://www.casasilva.cl/home) in the Colchagua Valley; we tasted some of their wines, but nothing really stood out. We did stay several nights at Casa Silva, and I would highly recommend it for lodging.
Montes (http://www.monteswines.com/en/our_history_the_beginning_of_our_adventure.php) in the Colchagua Valley; visit included a jeep ride up to the mirador on the hillside overlooking winery.
Sauvignon Blanc 2006 classic series – crisp, with good acidity, very nice aperitif; buy
Chardonnay 2005 Alpha – strong herbaceous nose, nothing but oak on the palate
Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Alpha (includes 15 percent merlot) – black pepper on the nose, black currant on the palate, a very good QPR wine; buy
Alpha M 2003 (cabernet sauvignon/merlot/cab franc/petit verdot) – smooth, black cherries, buy
Folly 2004 (syrah) – powerful, but smooth, blackberries and mocha; buy
Viu Manent (http://www.viumanent.cl/?login=ok) in the Colchagua Valley; a vertical tasting of the Viu 1 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2004, a malbec/cabernet sauvignon blend; also lunch and a carriage ride through the vineyards. Wines tasted:
1999 – nose of forest and truffles, smooth; buy
2001 – leather on the nose, very different nose and taste than the 1999
2003 – plum and blackberry on the nose, smooth mouth feel, some spice, long finish; buy
2004 – cassis and black cherry on the nose, smooth, long finish; buy
Casa Lapostolle/Clos Apalta (http://en.lapostolle.com/) in the Colchagua Valley; wines tasted:
Cuvee Alexandre 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry and fig, a pretty nice wine
Sauvignon Blanc 2005 – not much to this wine
Clos Apalta (vertical of 2002, 2003, 2004) – I don’t know if my palate was tired, or what, but I found the 2002 to be terrible and the 2003 and 2004 to be just ok
Miguel Torres (http://migueltorres.cl/en/miguel-torres.php) in the Curico Valley. Wines tasted:
Cordillera 2001 (carignane/syrah/merlot) – this is a very nice wine for about $20, raspberries and ripe fruit; buy
Manso de Velasco 2003 (cabernet sauvignon) – black currant and fig, very enjoyable; buy
Conde de Superunda 2003 (a tempranillo blend) – black currant and dark chocolate; a nice wine, but not worth the $50+ price tag
Echeverria (http://www.echewine.com/home.html) in the Curico Valley; a very nice visit and tasting with the winemaker, Matias Aguirre. Wines tasted:
Carmenere 2006 – fruity and simple
Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Limited Edition – a little menthol on the nose, black cherries, well balanced, very drinkable
Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2005 – very nice nose, orange peel, nice taste
Altacima (http://altacima.cl/home_english.htm) in the Curico Valley; tasting with the assistant winemaker, Juan Pablo Carro Coronado. This was a fantastic visit, tasting and lunch at the Schroeder family home! Wines tasted:
Chardonnay 2005 – fresh, not oaky; butterscotch on the nose, a very pleasant chardonnay
Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer 2006 – orange blossoms on the nose and on the palate
6.330, vintage 2003 (cabernet sauvignon/syrah/merlot/petit verdot) – very pleasant nose, good tannins and mouth feel, a very nice wine; buy
Errazuriz (http://www.errazuriz.com/?q=en/frontpage) in the Aconcagua Valley; joining our tasting and lunch was Ricardo Grellet Almerighi, who we were told was one of the finest sommeliers in Chile. Ricardo was at the winery to train the staff. This was another wonderful visit and tasting, and in honor of our visit, the winery flew the US flag at the front of the winery. Our guide was Maria Eugenia Pavez; wines tasted:
Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Casablanca single vineyard – fresh and very pleasant, better with food (Ricardo suggested serving with a white fish with a light sauce, also scallops); buy
Sangiovese 2004 single vineyard -herbaceous nose; a little black pepper on the palate (Ricardo suggested wild game)
Carmenere 2004 single vineyard – the best 100 percent carmenere we tasted; wonderful nose, fruit forward (Ricardo suggested red meat with a red wine sauce); buy
La Cumbre 2004 (shiraz) – nice nose, smooth (Ricardo suggested goat or maybe lamb, both simply prepared with salt and pepper); buy
Don Maximiano Founders Reserve 2002 (cabernet sauvignon/cabernet franc) – this was a very good wine, some alcohol on the nose, but still a pleasant, smooth; long finish (Ricardo suggested rabbit [apparently fairly common in Chile] or a mushroom risotto); buy
Sena 2003 (mainly cabernet sauvignon and merlot) – this is a post-Mondavi joint venture wine, an excellent wine, chocolate on the nose and palate (Ricardo suggested serving this by itself after dinner, or with a dish with black truffles at dinner); buy
While we were in the Aconcagua Valley, we stayed at the Hotel Termas de Jahuel (http://www.jahuel.cl/2013/index.php#!/pageHome). During our stay, Brian had arranged a tasting of wines from von Siebenthal (http://vinavonsiebenthal.com/visit_us.html). Since the winery was closed for a pre-harvest holiday, Brian had the wines brought to the hotel. We tasted the Parcela #7 2004, Carmenere 2005, Carabantes 2004 and Montelig 2004, and all were enjoyable.
Alta Vista (http://www.altavistawines.com/home.php) in the Lújan de Cuyo; wines tasted:
Torrontes Premium 2006 – very aromatic and fruity nose (despite some postings about Torrontes being a wine that Argentina should market, I thought this wine was disappointing; it has a great nose, but what you expect from the nose, doesn’t deliver on the palate)
Malbec Premium 2005 – very tannic, dry and astringent
Cabernet Sauvignon Premium 2004 and Malbec Grande Reserve 2004 – nice enough wines, but nothing to seek out
Achaval Ferrer (http://achaval-ferrer.com/) in the Lújan de Cuyo. I expected this to be a great visit and tasting, based on my direct communications with Santiago Achaval and Patricia Lambert. I was very much disappointed. A relatively new tourism person gave the tour and we tasted primarily barrel samples of some of the components of the 2006 Quimera, as well as a barrel sample of the 2006 Mirador and 2006 Altamira (all while standing in a small barrel room). The only bottled wines we tasted were the Mendoza Malbec 2005, Quimera 2004 and the 2004 Dolce. I did think the 2004 Quimera was excellent.
Viña Alicia (http://www.vinaalicia.com/bodegaIng.php) in the Lújan de Cuyo; a great tasting with Gustavo Arizu, Alicia’s middle son. Wines tasted:
Malbec 2003 and Cuarzo 2004 (petit verdot/carignan/grenache noir) – both of these wines were excellent, and were wines I immediately sought out to purchase upon returning home. We also had the Cuarzo 2003 at Cabana Las Lilas on the last day we were in Buenos Aires, and like the 2004, it was excellent. I highly recommend these wines!
Catena Zapata (http://www.catenawines.com/) in the Lújan de Cuyo – We were supposed to taste the Luca, Angelica and Alta, but that didn’t happen. This is a very commercial operation. Wines tasted:
Bonarda – this wine was so bad that I didn’t even look at the bottle to get the details
Estiba Reservada 2002 (a “poncho” bottle) – a nice nose and red fruit on the palate, however it didn’t make my “buy” list
An interesting footnote to our visit happened a few years later. Laura Catena was a guest poster on the Robert Parker bulletin board, and I wrote her and told her what a poor visit we had. Laura was most gracious, and had her local distributor hand deliver to me a bottle of the Zapata Nicolas Catena 2006. This wine was very, very good, and one that I would buy.
Miguel Escorihuela Gascon 2002* (malbec blend): we had this with dinner at Mallman’s 1884 (http://1884restaurante.com.ar/) restaurant in Mendoza. We called ahead and had the restaurant decant the wine for an hour before we arrived. This was an excellent dinner, with an excellent wine.
Viña Cobos (http://www.vinacobos.com/en) in the Lújan de Cuyo; a wonderful tour and tasting with Andrea Marchiori, one of the owners/winemakers. Paul Hobbs winery had arranged for Andrea to meet with us, and it was a great visit. Viña Cobos was building its own winery, but the winery was not yet complete. As such, Andrea had us taste several barrel samples of the 2006 chardonnay, merlot, malbec (from 2 different/distinct regions) and cabernet sauvignon.
Terrazas de los Andes (http://www.terrazasdelosandes.com/index.cfm?) in the Lújan de Cuyo; our tasting was on the veranda of the guest house, which looked to be a great place to stay. Wines tasted:
Chardonnay 2005 – soft, not too oaky
Malbec Afincado 2004 – pleasant nose, red fruit on the palate, good tannins
Cabernet Sauvignon Afincado 2002 – good nose, red fruit; smooth with good tannins; buy
Cheval des Andes 2002 (cabernet sauvignon/malbec) – this was a very enjoyable wine, smooth with very good tannins; buy
Carlos Pulenta (http://www.pulentaestate.com/en/index.php) in the Lújan de Cuyo (our tasting was at lunch at La Bourgogne which is located at the winery). We started off with 4 different wines (2 whites and 2 reds) from the Tomero line, and they were all unremarkable. We also had the Vistalba Corte B, which was also unremarkable. We then had the Vistalba 2004 Corte A (cabernet sauvignon/malbec/bonarda), which was a very nice wine, silky and elegant with good tannins; buy.
Bodega Benegas (http://www.bodegabenegas.com/eng/index.php) in the Lújan de Cuyo; a trip highlight was the tour of the renovated winery with Carmen Benegas and the tasting with both Federico and Carmen Benegas. Wines tasted:
Malbec 2005 – this was a very nice wine, black cherries and blackberries on the nose and palate; buy
Sangiovese 2002 – the story that Federico told about this wine, including consultant Michel Rolland’s comments, were priceless. Terry and David, who love Sangiovese, thought this wine was great.
Benegas Blend 2001 (cabernet sauvignon/cabernet franc/merlot) – this was one of my favorite wines on the trip, balanced and smooth, good tannins and finish; buy
Lynch Meritage 2002 (cabernet sauvignon/cabernet franc/merlot/petit verdot) – another favorite, black pepper and red fruits on the nose and palate, great body with sweet tannins; buy
Cabernet Franc 2003 – another favorite, chocolate on the nose, soft with sweet tannins; buy
Kaiken (http://www.kaikenwines.com/ingles/index.html) in the Lújan de Cuyo; very nice tasting with the winemaker, Cristobal Undurraga. We tasted both the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, and the 2004 CS Ultra and Malbec. The Ultra wines are great QPR wines (about $18).
Salentein (http://www.bodegasalentein.com/en/bodega/acerca/salentein.html) in the Valle de Uco; this winery is spectacular (and includes an art gallery).
Pinot Noir 2003, Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 and Merlot 2002 – all are great QPR wines (around $18)
Primus Malbec 2003 – ripe fruit and violets on the nose, a very smooth and elegant Malbec; buy
Adeluna (http://www.andeluna.com.ar/site/en/) in the Valle de Uco; lunch with wine pairing; brief meeting with Rodrigo Reina Rutini, one of the owners. Wine tasted:
Pasionado 2003 (malbec/cabernet sauvignon/merlot/cabernet franc) – this was an excellent wine that we enjoyed with lunch at the winery (a spicy cabrito was the entrée); buy
O. Fournier (http://www.ofournier.com/) in the Valle de Uco; nice tasting with the
winemaker, Jose Mario Spisso. Wines tasted were the B-Crux and A-Crux (both are tempranillo blends); they were nice wines, but nothing I would buy.
We also had the following wines at a wine tasting at a wine shop in Mendoza- Chandon Cuvee Reserva Pinot Noir, Septima Codorniu Santa Mari, Dominio del Plata Crios 2006 Torrontes; Enrique Foster 2003 Malbec Reserva, Renacer Punto Final Reserva 2004, Chanarmuyo 2005 Malbec, Tempus Alba Pleno 2003, Nieto Senetiner 2005 Bonarda and Monteviejo 2003 Vale de Flores. None of these wines were remarkable. I expected the Monteviejo (which we were originally supposed to visit, but then suddenly closed for a holiday) to be great, and it wasn’t. This could be another example of a very tired palate.
While in the Mendoza area, we also had nice lunches at Bodega Ruca Malen (http://bodegarucamalen.com/)and Almacen del Sur (which unfortunately is now closed). Except for the first night (when we stayed at the Park Hyatt), we stayed at the Finca Adalgisa (http://www.fincaadalgisa.com.ar/finca-adalgisa-dup/finca-adalgisa-hotel.htm) while visiting the wineries around Mendoza. As it turns out, not all of their rooms had air conditioning, and we had to flip a coin with Terry and David as to which of us got the air conditioned room.
From Mendoza, we flew to Buenos Aires for a few days. While in BA, we met with Alex (who had helped arrange our visit at Bodega Benegas). Alex is the owner of the Terroir wine shop (http://www.terroir.com.ar/index.php), and he welcomed us with a tasting at his wine store. Terroir is a beautiful, well organized wine shop, and I would highly recommend meeting with him if you ever go to BA. Alex is a great host! The wines we tasted included the Nieto Senetiner Reserva Bonarda (the best Bonarda we had, but the bonarda varietal is not my cup of tea), Terrazas Afincado Petit Manseng (a very nice dessert wine; buy) and the Trapiche Medalla 2003 (cabernet sauvignon/malbec/merlot that was very good; buy).
Practicalities: We flew into Santiago, Chile (SCL), and had a guide and driver throughout our stay in Chile. Jean Albert and Bernando drove us over the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina. We had a different guide and driver while in Mendoza. We then flew from Mendoza (MDZ) to Buenos Aires (EZE). Given that practically every driver in BA thinks a stop sign or stop light is a mere suggestion (the driver simply flashes his lights and plows on through the intersection), I would never rent a car in BA!