As many of you know I quite often use this blog space to discuss value. Wines that are not only quality, but come at a price which most can manage. Well folks after attending a wine pairing dinner on Tuesday night I not only present a wine for you which fits the bill, I present an entire winery. All of their wines apply here. Not surprisingly that winery comes to us from South America where quality for value reigns king. From the heart of beautiful Mendoza I present Argento Wines.
I was part of a group assembled to taste and review their upcoming wine line-up most of which should hit the LCBO in mid November. We tried the 2012 production of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Malbec, as well as the 2011 Bonarda (brand new to this market) and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva. However even beyond the wines the entire night was great. The concept of the evening was to transport us all to the heart of Mendoza. After some typical wine event schmoozing, we started with a 7 minute documentary titled “Cerca del Cielo” (close to the sky) in the private screening room at the hotel, which showed a glimpse into the life of winemaker Silvia Corti. From her winemaking philosophy to her time in the vineyards, down to her family life and what a typical family dinner in Mendoza is like. It was a vivid look into a great story. If you’re interested you can watch it for yourself.
Following the documentary came the heart of the evening the wine tasting and dinner in One Restaurant. The wines of course were from Mendoza and the menu was Argentinian inspired and overall our hosts succeeded in taking our minds to Mendoza for a few hours. I personally want to thank them for that because Mendoza holds a very special place in my heart. Not only is it one of my favourite wine making regions in the world, but it was the site of my honeymoon in 2010, and my wife and I talk constantly about when we are going to make it back. Many thanks to the Argento staff, including Sylvia Corti herself, the folks at Profile Wine Group, and hendryPR for a wonderful evening.
You have probably seen Argento wines in the LCBO as they are a staple on general list, and if it wasn’t for the 2008/2009 fad known as Fuzion, they may in fact have been able to take a run for highest selling Argentinian wine. There are two very good reasons for that. First the baseline wines are all priced at $9.95. No exceptions. In fact even if you spring for the Reserva, like the 2009 Cab we tried, your price tag still only jumps to $12.95. However price is not everything as many wines at that price are there for a reason. But these wines are quality, rounding out the value equation. They are well balanced and nicely made as winemaker Silvia Corti puts her passion and decades of experience in Mendoza into the wine. They grow very ripe grapes with high concentrations of flavours opening up many possibilities for winemaking and creating fruit heavy, easy drinking wines. Okay they might not be the most age worthy malbecs, and the 2011 Bonarda although excellent, wasn’t the best Bonarda I have tried. But for this market, at $9.95, they are perfect. They are easy to understand, easy to drink, and extremely easy to recommend at the price.
Surprisingly though I left most impressed with the 2012 Pinot Grigio. I find many Pinot Grigios to be overly watery, with limited flavours and even less structure. Sure as a wine style they are not supposed to be over the top and complex, but many show next to nothing. The Argento version is extremely fresh tasting, with nice acidity and fresh lemon zest flavours. It would make for an excellent summer sipper on the deck, or an easy pairing with salad courses or light white fish. You should also keep your eyes out for the 2011 Bonarda. This is the first Bonada available in Canada as a general list, and the first at under $10. I have had better Bonardas and some are available in Vintages, but this is still a nice expression of a grape relatively unknown to Canadian palates. If for no other reason you should try it because in the next 5 years you will be seeing a lot more of it and you’ll be ahead of the game. Bonarda is going to steal our hearts in the years to come in much the same way as Malbec or Carmenere have done in the past 5 years or so. As the head Argento sales rep put it “Bonarda is where Malbec was 10 years ago, we’ll get there.”
On my subway ride home on Tuesday night I was reading the Argento sales material and transporting myself back to Mendoza again. Overall I left extremely satisfied with the wine and food. One Restaurant, though a bit pretentious for me, cooked a fantastic meal and the service was excellent. When I got home my wife and I launched back into another discussion on when we are going to go back. I miss it there. When I go back I will pay the folks at Argento a visit, and I can highly recommend it to any of you who can find the time to get down there. Like our Argento hosts on Tuesday night, the people there are wonderful. They like to drink wine, have a good time, and truly relish the moments when they are doing both of those things. They love their Malbecs, their Bonardas, and their beef. My new friend Anthony from Profile Wine Group is headed to Mendoza in the new year. He loves wine, but doesn’t eat beef. Well one out of two isn’t bad. The people might think your nuts, but they will still love you and treat you to the time of your life. That’s just how they are. That’s just how Mendoza is.
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