Espiritu de Argentina Winemaker Dinner @ Destino SF

Espiritu de ArgentinaOne recent bright evening in San Francisco, The Lady and I had the opportunity to head below the border, as in below the Equator…to Argentina!  A new wine label is set to drop on our half of the Earth called Espiritu de Argentina.  Combining the efforts of the US-based Cecchetti Racke, Espiritu de Chile and Argentine winery Bodega Monte Real, it will feature a full line of affordable and Argentine wines.  Lady and I met in front of the resto Destino, where we would have the lucky opportunity of getting a  sneak peak at these quaffable wines paired with a one-time 7 course small plates meal, all courtesy of Balzac Communications.

Destino: Nuevo Latino BistroDestino: Nuevo Latino Bistro is the brainchild and unique tasty destination restaurant by Owner and Executive Chef James Schenk.  It’s really two spots in one, with a full wall separating Pisco Latin Lounge and the other a full service restaurant and wine bar.  I found the cuisine to be rather unique, with many a fresh take on Latin cuisine or with an unusual flavor pairing hitting the mark with every course.  James was clearly engaged in the event, pacing in the background at times as his servers brought out a new pairing.  Each one was eventually met with a warm and pleased smile however, as each dish brought new cherry murmurs to the table.

We arrived just in time to grab a glass of Domaine Chandon North Coast Pinot Noir Reserve Brut Rosé that Kathy Whaley (Twitter) of Cacchetti Racke was pouring to awaken everyone’s palate.  This bubbly, a really good domestic effort with great acidity and fuller, creamy qualities, was a hit and really started the night on a upbeat note.  Joining us that night were all three Brix Chicks Liza (Twitter), Xandria (Twitter) and Nesta (Twitter), all in effect.  Luscious Lush Thea (Twitter) was also there, as well as Jason Mancebo (Twitter) of 20 Dollar Wine.

Espiritu de Argentina winemaker Luis VillarrealWe trundled into the other half of the Latin food and wine duo and settled into our seats, just in time for Bodega Monte Real and Espiritu de Argentina winemaker, Luis Villarreal to have a surprise bottle of vino poured for our starters.  The ’09 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec Rosé is quite possibly the first rosé that I’ve ever tasted that was made entirely of Malbec.  I found it to be solid effort, slightly sweet, but with good zesty citrus peel and strawberry to balance that mild sugar.  While discussing this just bottle wine and his efforts to bring it over on the plane, I got a chance to study Luis.  He is a stout and well-balanced man, who is very well spoken and seemingly quietly passionate about all of his wines. I discovered throughout the evening however, that his passion for Argentine wine runs deep and once started, he will show that fiery passion in his discussions about his home region.

Now it’s time to dive into the wine pairings and menu!  I’m going to bullet-point the fine, tastily extravagant meal for the 6 courses that we enjoyed (we had to leave before dessert).

– Scallop Tiradito: ’08 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Torrontés

– This is the signature white varietal of Mendoza and Argentina and I found that it had a wonderful floral nose that a Viognier lover would enjoy.  The palate was tropical and crisp with great fruit and acid.

-Roasted Apple Quinoa Salad: ’08 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Chardonnay

– A beautiful pairing, the lemon zest and chayote matched the spicy Meyer lemon in this zesty version of this varietal.  This is also a great sipper!

Espiritu de Argentina @ Destino SF– Chicken Chorizo: ’07 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Shiraz

– Another great pairing, the plummy, fruit forward type of Shiraz balances the hearty spices in the *outstanding* chimichurri that was also included as an item in our gift bags…YUM!  Made by interuppcion fair trade, it is made sustainably and socially responsibly right in Mendoza!

– Slow Braised Pork Belly: ’07 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Bonarda

– This Bonarda was very interesting and again, a phenomenal value.  It was tied for my favorite wine of the night, along with the Torrontés.  It has beautiful violets and roses on the nose with charred, earthy blackberry.  The palate has the same great fruit alongside some great black pepper in the long finish.  Ten bucks?  You’ve got to be kidding me!

– Ox-Tail Empanada: ’07 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec

–  My favorite dish of the night was paired with the trademark varietal for Mendoza, Malbec.  Florals here as well, the earthy nose was different from the more fruit-forward palate that had great acidity to pair with the savory, mildly spicy empanada with a Malbec reduction…I stole the rest of the Lady’s as she chatted with Luis!

– Grilled Swordfish: ’06 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec Reserva

–  The final dish of the night was perfectly prepared and clearly a very fresh steak of swordfish with wonderful texture.  The Reserva features a lot more oak and I’d say this one should be laid down for a couple years before revisiting this powerful wine, featuring both red and black fruit on the chewy palate.  This was a risky pairing, but one that was a slam dunk, between the toasty oak in the wine and the grilled char on the fish.  Tasty.

Espiritu de Argentina @ Destino SFOverall I couldn’t help but be completely impressed by the value and QPR found in these wines.  All of these, aside from the slightly more expensive Reserva will retail at $10 here in the US upon release.  While fruit forward, they also feature great acidity, generally tamed and oak that balances the rest of the components in these food-friendly wines.  James and his creations at Destino convinced me that Latin food is certainly an innovative and fresh cuisine that continues to be successfully reinvented.  I’d like to thank Monica, Kathy, Luis, James and everyone else from Espiritu De Argentina, Cecchetti Racke, Balzac and Destino who provided the dinner and wines that night

Dive in and check out the full reviews of all of the wines from Luis and Espiritu de Argentina that we had that tasty night, with the links below.  If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “Espiritu2009Destino“.  All of my pictures from that night are on my Flickr, and grouped in a set, as well as on my Facebook.  Enjoy!

Starter:

Domaine Chandon North Coast Pinot Noir Reserve Brut Rosé NV

Espiritu de Argentina:

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec Rosé 2009

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Torrontés 2008

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Chardonnay 2008

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Shiraz 2007

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Bonarda 2007

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Malbec 2007

Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Reserva Malbec 2006

15th Anniversary of the Rediscovery of Carmenere

What does a down-on-its luck, premium French blending grape varietal do after it’s been kicked out of its ancestral home for having the sniffles?  It merely travels around the world and reinvents itself as the defining varietal of the newest and hippest wine growing nation, of course!  Carmenère, say goodbye to Bordeaux and hello to Casablanca!

The transition didn’t happen exactly that way, but then what’s the fun in that?  Carmenère really was one of the original six blending varietals of Bordeaux, all the way back in the 1800’s.  But then, riding on the roots of some cuttings from America, the vine parasite Phylloxera back-slapped the French wine-growing industry, resulting in widespread vine death and up-rooting of virtually every vineyard in Bordeaux. The destruction culminated during the harvest of 1867.  It was here that Carmenère saw the writing on the wall.  So few growers replanted the variety that it is virtually extinct in France today.  They replanted with the other five varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec), all of which had more consistent flowering in the somewhat damp and cooler local climes.

And so it was a lonely period for poor Carmenère…booted from its home it wandered the world, desolate and devoid of hope.  It roamed afar until the day came that it stumbled upon the shores of a land that was upside down from its banished home, a land called Chile.  (OK…technically it arrived in mid-1800’s, before the Phylloxera outbreak, but again, I digress.)  Here it found warmer and much drier microclimates and plentiful soil, irrigation and eventually, well, money.  It began to enjoy a robust resurgence and it was known…as…Merlot?

Viña Carmen, ChileFor its full re-coronation we must step wayyy back, all the way back, into almost the Victorian era of New World wine-growing…all the way back:  to the 1990’s.  Grunge was on the radio (and its scent upon the air) and a French ampelographer from Montpellier decided to take an exploration to the Southern Hemisphere in 1994.  On November 24th in the vineyards of Viña Carmen, while testing the genetic background of what appeared to be a divergent clone of Merlot, Jean Michel Boursiquot made a fascinating and national winegrowing game-changing discovery: this clone wasn’t F*^%ing Merlot, it was CARMENÈRE!  All the towns rejoiced, the proud and storied winemaking history of Viña Carmen was solidified internationally and there was much merry-making and drinking of wine.

What?  This wasn’t exactly how it happened?  Whatever, FINE OK?  Just go ahead and read the finely crafted information about the 15th Anniversary of the discovery of Carmenère in Chile from its oldest winery, Viña Carmen, instead!  Sheesh…

While you’re at it, try some of these favorites of WineLog members for Chilean Carmenère and cheers!

Le Wine Buff: Enjoy Affordable Bordeaux!

Life Goes Better With BordeauxI am incredibly fired up for this new project that I’m working on with the CIVB (Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux). I’ll be a founding “Le Wine Buff” working with EnjoyBordeaux.com to reintroduce affordable, high quality Bordeaux wines back to your dinner table.

UPDATE: The official Le Wine Buff- EnjoyBordeaux.com Press Release has been posted by the Bordeaux Wine Council!

UPDATE 2: We’ve just been written up in a wonderful article by Eric Pfanner in The New York Times!

Ward Kadel - Le Wine Buff ScreenshotThe CIVB have put together an incredibly informative, yet easily accessible website, with a wonderful story to tell about the history of Bordeaux.  Learn about all of the many Bordeaux sub-appellations.  Or, find out where to buy value-packed Bordeaux wines near you.  Need a food pairing for your wine, check out the outstanding food and wine pairing web app.  You can also keep up to date on all of the Bordeaux wine and food events happening near you!

Le Wine Buff - EnjoyBordeaux.comJoin me, starting next week at 9pm PST on Monday 11/09/09, as I broadcast my first live Video Chat session as one of Le Wine Buff, here to answer all of your Bordeaux and wine-related questions on live video and in real-time!

Submit your questions at the link below (a lot more will be rolled out next week) or tweet them me @drXeNo or to @BordeauxWines.  You can also ask me questions on my Facebook or even better, on the great Bordeaux Wine Facebook Fan Page.

I will also be a good resource for the local SF Bay Area winos who need to find where to get these wines that pack in quaffable value. Logon and drink some Bordeaux wine with me!

Disclosure: I will be reimbursed for each broadcast.

Bordeaux Appellation Map