Argentina Beyond Malbec: A Duo from Susana Balbo Wines

I was offered sample bottles from Susana Balbo Wines in Argentina and while perusing the list a couple caught my eye. One thing I don’t want to see happen to the country as far as its wines is for it to be pegged as full of Malbec, more Malbec, and nothing but Malbec.

Don’t get me wrong. Malbec from Argentina is some of the best bang-for-the-buck red wine out there. But just as Australia cannot be defined by Shiraz alone, this South American country can spread its wine wings and fly.

So let’s look at a couple slightly heavy (not a fan of weighty packaging) but lovely bottles.

Susana Balbo Wines: Beyond Malbec Category

2017 Susana Balbo Signature Brioso White Blend Valle de Uco ($24)

 

Wow, this is one of the most impressive white wines I’ve had from Argentina. The Brioso is a blend of 45% Semillón, 30% Torrontés, and 25% Sauvignon Blanc. Reminds me a lot of a white Bordeaux, but that floral Torrontés moves it into a more pleasantly perfumed category. Has a definite pear-ness on the finish. A perfect medium-bodied wine.

And, yes, Brioso has some oak to it. (Praise.) Four months total time in wood. Of the barrels, 60% are new and 40% are seeing their second use. The former gives you some pleasant oak notes, the latter a more mellow, textural impact.

2018 Susana Balbo Signature Rosé Valle de Uco ($20)

Argentina Beyond Malbec: A Duo from Susana Balbo Wines

Ok, I sorta lied-ish with the title of my post. This rosé is a blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Pinot Noir. A most unusual mix! Though I found the Pinot Noir to really come through, surprisingly not dominated by Malbec. I’d probably call this a PN rosé if someone made me guess the grape(s) blind. It also shows that Malbec doesn’t have to be an inky-coating blob monster red. It can play a large, yet elegant, role in a rosé.

So the next time you are perusing a wine list or at a retail shop and the Argentina section is all Malbec, make these two points:

  1. Yay for promoting wines from Argentina!
  2. BOO for only having Malbec! (A respectful, lowercase “boo.”)

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Paul Hobbs : A Farmboy at Heart

 

Photograph Copyright Mitch Tobias

Paul Hobbs is one of the most respected and influential winemakers in the world. Paul started his career in 1977 and over the last 40 years has worked with Robert Mondavi, Opus One, Simi and most famously in Argentina with the Catena family and was the first winemaker bottle varietal labeled Malbec. He founded Paul Hobbs Winery in 1991 and Vina Cobos in 1999. Twice named Wine Personality of the Year by Robert Parker, Jr., he continues to be a leading consultant winemaker around the globe. He has made wines everywhere from Hungary to Uruguay.

Paul Hobbs : A Farmboy at Heart
Photograph Copyright Mitch Tobias

Paul is highly regarded as winemaker and has inspired a number of nicknames among the press, from “Trendsetter” to “Prospector”. Forbes recently called him “The Steve Jobs of winemaking”.

In 2004, Paul Hobbs Winery 2002 To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon earned 100 pt score in Wine Advocate and Hobbs was named “Most Important Winemaker in California” by Robert Parker

Paul Hobbs : A Farmboy at Heart

 

Paul Hobbs Winery focuses on single vineyard varietal wines sourced from some of the best sites in Northern California – Hyde, Beckstoffer, Stagecoach to name just a few. A farmer at heart, Paul is a true vigneron. They have put together a solid team of vineyards and growers. It is these strong relationships that the winery is built on. The focus is small production, vineyard designated wines. Meticulous vineyard management, hand harvested, low intervention winemaking, all native ferment, aged in French oak, all unfiltered and un-fined mean that these wines taste of place.

“Terroir- driven chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet are the focus at Paul Hobbs Winery.” –Paul Hobbs

Paul Hobbs : A Farmboy at Heart

In addition to his eponymous winery his second label CrossBarn is not so much a lesser wine but a place to put all that fruit that he finds. CrossBarn began as just one small lot of Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2000 vintage but its popularity has inspired the introduction of chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and more.  With CrossBarn, Paul ventures beyond the vineyards sourced for Paul Hobbs wines while holding to his ideals of sustainable vineyard practices and gentle winemaking techniques, to bring you wines of stunning quality and exceptional value.

With as much as Paul has going on it is not surprising that he needs a little help.

Paul Hobbs : A Farmboy at Heart

Greg Urmini a Sonoma native and graduate of Cal Poly came to work as a summer intern in 2007. Greg progressed up the ranks from Cellar Worker to Production Assistant then to Assistant Winemaker. In 2014, he was promoted to Winemaker at CrossBarn. Then in 2016, Greg was promoted to Director of Winemaking.

“Working for Paul Hobbs has been a true honor and blessing. To learn and grow with an organization makes me feel like I’m part of a family. Paul’s winemaking and personal philosophies coincide with my own. Care and nurture for the fruit from vine to bottle which then turns that great fruit into a beautiful glass of wine. I enjoy waking up each morning with a burning passion for the industry as well as curiosity of how we can make our wines great,” said Greg.

Paul Hobbs : A Farmboy at HeartCrossBarn is named for the Family farm in upstate New York. His father grew apples, as well as few table grapes. He and his father always talked about planting Vinfera and making wine. He tells the story of tasting Chateau Yquem with father at an early age, and how he was transported by the experience. Seems poetic that would name the winery after his Father’s farm. Goes to show you can take the boy out of the farm but you can’t take farm out of the boy.

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Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado

I have the distinct privilege of having Asado in Argentina, in Mendoza, on the Pampas.
The Asado. It is not just a dish, it is a social gathering, it is a celebration of meat and flame and sauced with liberal amounts of Malbec. The National dish of Argentina, an Asado consists of Beef, sausages and pork cooked over a charcoal fire. Out on La Pampas the cattle graze on the plains overseen by the Gauchos. Beef in Argentina isn’t just what’s for dinner, it is part of the culture.
It seems only natural to serve up beef with a great bottle of Argentine Malbec. I love Malbec. Bright fruit and refreshing acidity balance out the tannins give Malbec the unique ability to be both a great food wine and easily quaffable while you are waiting for your steak to grill.
Malbec is Argentina’s flagship variety, and the country has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. This variety originally comes from South West France, where it is called Cot and features a hard, tannic style. But with high altitudes and cool nights Mendoza can produce Malbec of beautiful aromatics, bold fruit and silky tannins.
There are many great producers of Malbec in Argentina. Just one of my favorites is Familia Zuccardi.
Alberto Zuccardi came to Mendoza in 1950 when he was 30 years old, not to plants grapes and make wine but to install fancy new cement irrigation pipes. He decided the best way to demonstrate his irrigation system was to use it the way they in California – by planting a vineyard. One thing lead to another and by the 1970’s he had winery and had expanded his vineyards and was selling wine in the bulk market.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado
In 1976 his son Jose had joined him in the family business. It was Jose who saw that future lay in the export market. This was the 1980’s and even though Argentina was the fifth largest producer of wine globally, little if anyone outside of Argentina had tasted let alone heard of Mendoza Malbec. It was that push into the world market that drove the winery and also drove Jose and Alberto to constantly improve the wine both in the winery and vineyards.
In the 2000’s, Jose’s son Sebastien joined the team. It was Sebastien who saw what was happening up higher in the Andes in the Uco Valley. ‘The character of the high-altitude grapes spoke for itself, so looking toward that area was natural.’ So impressed with e grapes they made a wine called Zeta, a blend of Cabernet and Tempranillo. A stand-alone wine of place much like a Bordeaux.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and AsadoLast year they completed construction on their new 100 percent concrete winery in Altamira. Zuccardi Valle de Uco boasts concrete eggs and amphorae for fermenting, concrete vats and neutral barrels for aging. The concrete vats are made from all natural materials including sand, clay, rocks and silt coming from the land around where the winery was built. The Zuccardi family keep advancing in their search for excellence, for purity and freshness. Oak can hide a lot of mistakes, it can also disguise the true terroir of a place. By removing all the makeup and airbrushing these wines have an honest expression of place.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado
“Familia Zuccardi produces wines from the local terroir, placing focus on the region and essence of the wine and the variations found in different zones throughout 
the Uco Valley,” says Sebastian Zuccardi. “We want our wines to have personality and to express the region where they were created.”
The winery is truly state of the art as is the research and development lab. The focus and culture of Zuccardi has always been one of constant improvement. The have planted experimental vineyards all around to see what untapped production areas there might be and what other varietals hold potential in the Uco Valley. Oh and not surprisingly Familia Zuccardi also place emphasis on the study of irrigation and water management, working to preserve the essential resource that is all too scarce in the area.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado
These are simply some of my favorite Malbec’s.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and AsadoZUCCARDI Q MALBEC 2015 $17.99 btl / save $5
“Wow. This is exciting. Blackberries, flowers, dark fruit and hints of walnut shell here follow through to a medium to full body, fine tannins and a juicy finish. This is tight and polished. Give it two or three years to soften, but it is already very pretty.” 94 pts James Suckling

ZUCCARDI SERIES A MALBEC 2016 $13.99 btl / save $3

 

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado“The 2016 Malbec Serie A is sourced from different vineyards across the Valle de Uco (San José, Los Árboles, Tupungato, El Peral, Gualtallary, Vista Flore and La Consulta) and was fermented in concrete vats an used 500-liter French oak barrels. There is more than fruit here, there is some expression of the soil, with subtle nuances and more complexity, hints of aromatic herbs and lower in alcohol (13%). The profile of all the wines is very clean, precise, juicy with good acidity. This is a superb example of it, with even some chalky sensations in the texture. Great value too.” 91 pts Wine Advocate

ZUCCARDI Q CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 $19.99 btl / save $3
Familia Zuccardi Malbec and AsadoA refined and savory red, featuring notes of white pepper to the cherry and crushed red plum flavors. A wine of great personality, aromas and black pepper spices. Lengthens out on the palate, with medium-grained tannins. Silky finish. Great aging potential. 92 pts Tim Aiken

 

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado

Argentine Asado
Serves 20 – 30

The National dish of Argentina, an Asado consists of Beef, sausages and pork cooked over an charcoal fire. You can do a simple version of an Asado at home with a charcoal grill, some select cuts of meat and copious amounts of Malbec. The secret to great Asado is patience, sea salt and Fresh ground pepper

Ingredients:

2 – 4lbs Rib Eye Steak, cut 2” (Bife ancho)
2 – 4 lbs Short Ribs, cut 2” (Tira de asado)
2 – 4lbs Flank Steak (Vacio)
2 each Pork Tenderloin (Lomo de Puerco)
4 lbs Chorizo (Spanish or Basque)
Coarse ground Sea salt
Coarse ground Black pepper
Olive Oil
12 bottles Malbec
4 each Lemons, wedges
4 each Baguettes
One Big Simple green Salad
2 cups Chimichurri Sauce (below)

1. Start your coals. When Coals are ready begin with the Ribeye and Short Ribs. Rub steaks with olive oil and liberally dust salt and pepper. When ribs are about half way done 30 minutes or so turn.
2. To grill add the Flank steak, Pork and Chorizo. Turn after 10 minutes
3. Remove meat to platters and cover and let rest 10 minutes before carving.
4. Serve with lemons, baguettes, salad and Salt & pepper and plenty of Malbec!

Chimichurri Sauce
________________________________________

Ingredients:
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 each Onion, diced
3 ea garlic cloves, minced
½ cup Chopped Parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in bowl of food processor and pulse until well combined.

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