Alliteration aside, it seems like I’m doing my fair share of drinking wine and reading books lately. More specifically, I’m reading books about the wine I’m drinking. My latest pairing consisted of an exceptional portfolio of wines (sent to me as samples) from Bodegas Salentein and Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina (sent to me as an advance review copy) by Michael C. Higgins PhD. If I was ever on the fence about visiting Argentina, sipping wine from Bodegas Salentein while reading about their winery in Higgins’ book sealed the deal. I’m packing my bags…
Head on up to their horse corral and get yourself a gaucho (cowboy) to take you horseback riding up into the high elevations of their property. Meander through walnut orchards and towering Alamos trees while experiencing history as you pass the ruins of Casa Grande, an old farmhouse of indigenous Jesuit missionaries who came to the region in the 17th century. Ultimately arrive at Finca San Pablo, their 5577’ elevation vinyeards where grapes are grown at altitudes possible the highest in all of Valle de Uco and are irrigated with pure mountain run-off, creating lower pH in the grapes and higher acidity, more color in the wine and greater ageability. The intense sunlight at altitude with much cooler night-time temperatures create greater thermal amplitude ranges in which the grapes thrive. The result is showing spectacularly… Michael C. Higgins, PhD, in Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina
Bodegas Salentein – Exploring the Property
Bodegas Salentein, established in the late 1990s and currently celebrating its 20th year, is a privately-owned estate located in the province of Mendoza, the most recognizable and, dare I say, most important wine producing region in Argentina. The Salentein property is comprised of almost 5000 acres of which 1730 acres are under vine in three estate fincas (vineyards) located in elevations among the highest in the world. Varieties planted at Bodegas Salentein are 80% red (Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Franc) and 20% white (Torrontes, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc). 12 million bottles of wine, from vines 2 to 34 years old, are produced annually.
Besides a world-class winery and cellars, visitors will find a 125-acre nature preserve, a dramatic mecca that is the Killka Center for Culture and the Arts, the Posada Salentein (a lodge that looks, by all accounts, so incredibly elegant that I could easily relax and sip wine to my heart’s content), and the Chapel of Gratitude that was built utilizing traditional stonework techniques.
The Bodega itself is designed “for both form and function” in the shape of a cross so that “customized gentle handling of the grapes, reducing the distance wine needs to be moved between winemaking steps” can be achieved. Each wing is a small winery with stainless steel tanks and French wooden vats on the ground floor and an underground level for aging in oak barrels; the two levels helps wine “flow from the tanks to the barrels by a traditional gravity transfer system”. The four wings converge in the central chamber that reminds visitors of an ancient amphitheater.
Bodegas Salentein – Discovering the Wines
Led by Jose Antonio Galante, pioneer of the Argentina Malbec movement in the United States and renown winemaker, the portfolio of nine wines I received represented a variety of expressions. From elegant, fresh aromas to well-structured and complex flavors, it was virtually impossible to choose a favorite – each was striking on its own. But this came as no surprise, given the experience and passion of Bodegas Salentein’s Chief Winemaker, Jose Galante.
Jose Galante has made it his mission to understand the micro-climates occurring throughout this massive estate and with such knowledge of this land, he can deliver wines with strong personalities and varietal expression. In the cellar, he plays music to his wines as they rest aging. Galante is the maestro of his wizardly skills in bringing forth a masterpiece of classical wines. Michael C. Higgins, PhD, Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina
Ahhhh, the wines of Bodegas Salentein…
Salentein Primum 2013 Vintage Malbec ($64.99) is the signature wine of Bodegas Salentein. This beauty is produced from exceptional grapes grown in estate vineyards located on various elevations in Valle de Uco. Bursting from the glass were intense aromas of fresh, juicy cherries, red berries, lavender, and herbs. On the palate, I found lively acidity, defined tannins, more luscious red fruit and a rich, expansive mouthfeel leading to a buoyant finish. If this is nirvana, save me another glass, please.
I shared the 2015 Vintage Reserve Chardonnay ($18.99) with a few friends who loved its approachable style. Aromas of citrus, vanilla, spice, and oak led to a lovely, gentle mouthfeel that was fruit forward with notes of oak on the finish. A terrific value is the 2014 Vintage Reserve Malbec ($18.99). Pull the homemade pizza out of the oven and pair with this keeper! Wafting from the glass were rich aromas of juicy, ripe raspberries, red fruit, vanilla and white pepper. Dry with soft tannins and medium acidity, notes of more vanilla and pepper, cherries, plums, blueberries, oak, smoke, and tobacco were deliciously prevalent on the palate. Shared also with grateful friends was the 2014 Vintage Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.99). Dark red fruit, black cherries, early autumn roses, and forest floor were aromas we discovered. On the palate, mouthwatering acidity combined with gripping tannins that evolved into a satin-like texture. Red fruit and floral flavors abounded; the finish was lush and satisfying.
The future? I’m ready to savor everything Bodegas Salentein in Argentina has to offer…I’ll be planning my trip soon.
Cheers! ~ Cindy