cry for yourselves, my gauchos, if you're not able to join Sally and me
for an Argentine wine dinner at Casa Goldberg, 7 PM on Saturday, January
will fly on a number of bottles that accompanied us back from the Andes a
couple of years ago, plus a few others acquired in the States.
Malbec is likely to be the primary subject of the evening's
deliberations, but we'll also sip some other varietals along the way.
As for the food -- lots of beef.
Lots of beef, and not very many vegetables. This IS Argentina we're
read a most intriguing email we received from MoCool
Emeritus Joel Goldberg (right, with a big plate of chorizo) sometime
in mid-December, inviting us to what was sure to be an interesting and
unusual fete at Casa Goldberg, to say the least.
arrived at the home of our hosts at the appointed hour, where we were
greeted by Joel and Sally, along with fellow guests Mike
and Deborah Cole, and the Healds, Ray and Eleanor.
We were soon thereafter joined by Rich and Karen Brown
and Sally’s parents, Joy and Louis Rome, and with that, we
got right down to sampling the food and drink. We started off with some bubbles, along with a picada spread
featuring sopressata (a thinly sliced Italian-styled salami), heart of
palm, proscuito, Por Salut (not Port Salut!) cheese, olives, chips, and
duck and Armagnac paté.
Fresco Brut, Bodegas Chandon, 47% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay, 11%
Semillon, 12.3% alc.: The ripe pear flavors of this pale golden bubbly
from Chandon’s Argentine operation seems to reflect the Semillon in the
blend, and there’s a nice touch of yeast and a hint of smoke to go along
with it. There was plenty of
spritz in the mouth, despite a so-so bead from the first bottle poured; a
second bottle looked considerably livelier, but both were pleasant and
Chateau Vieux, Bodegas Lopez, Mendoza: You couldn’t make out much on
the label of this rusty ruby garnet; a field blend of whatever, it spent
several years in large wooden foudres before bottling.
The wine was drinking better than anyone expected however, as the
medium bodied, slightly oxidized black cherry and red currant flavors were
fairly round, with good acidity and seemed less maderized than the
somewhat sherried stewed prune nose.
An intellectual experience and then some, this was likely made from
overcropped, underripe, flood irrigated flatland fruit, according to
Eleanor. Amazingly, it
Syrah, Bodega Escorihuela Gascon, Mendoza: This slightly cloudy dark garnet, a Catena project,
was an experimental wine made by one of the few women winemakers in
featured earthy, smoky plum on the nose, with some added black cherry and
a note of something like rhubarb on the palate, and had a decent finish.
Not too tannic and medium full bodied at best, this was an
interesting, fairly tasty and not necessarily unsuccessful Syrah, and a
good match with Sally’s marvelous empanadas (beef tenderloin meat pies,
shown below and right, with their creator) with
Chimichurri dipping sauce. (Joel told us that Estela says that she has to
be twice as good as the male Argentine winemakers just to get by, and that
they hold a lot of resentment towards her.)
Fresco, Bodegas Chandon
Chateau Vieus, Bodegas Lopez, Mendoza
Syrah, Bodega Escorihuela Gascon, Mendoza
Tacama Seleccion Especial”
Seña Cabernet Sauvignon, Mondavi / Chadwick, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Catena Alta, Tikal Vineyard (Rows 80 through 120), Bodega Esmerelda
Catena Zapata, Estiba SF (San Felicien Gran Reserva), Bodega Esmerelda
Catena, Lulunta Vineyard, Nicolas Catena, Mendoza
Rutini, Bodegas La Rural (Catena), Lujan de Cuyo
Catena Alta, Angelica Vineyard (Rows 30 through 160), Bodega Esmerelda
Yacochuya, Michel Rolland, Cafayate
1999 Cobos, Marchiori Vineyard, Paul Hobbs, Mendoza
Accolades for Gang of Pour site
1998 Seña Red
Table Wine Aconcagua
Valley, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Carmenère, 5% Merlot: Kim and I
really enjoyed this dark garnet Mondavi – Eduardo Chadwick collaboration
when we had it only a
few weeks before, but some of the others present on this evening were
less complimentary. Kim noted
a “sweaty armpit, piney nose,” while Eleanor described “a little
bell pepper, even jalapeno,” which she attributed to not quite ripe
fruit; “even Eduardo admits it,” she said.
Joel said this had “very noticeable flaws,” and the consensus
was that it’s a really good $20 wine (he got in on the same closeout
that Mike Brenton turned us on to), but $65?
No way. Nevertheless,
Mike and this taster like the stuff better than most of the rest of the
attendees, and we even took a second pour later in the evening to prove
At that point, we were summoned to the dinner table, where
the real feast began in earnest, with a succulent succession of beef tenderloin kabobs á la Ray Heald, short ribs, skirt
steak and Chorizo sausage, accompanied by Chimichurri sauce, cilantro
rice, and a green salad with vinaigrette dressing. Oh yes,
and there was also a steady succession of fine Argentine wines!
Alta Cabernet Sauvignon, Tikal Vineyard (Rows 80 through 120), Bodega
Esmerelda (Catena), Mendoza: “So young,” Joel exclaimed about this
deep, dark garnet, and indeed the tannins were formidable, but so was the
fruit, showing flavors and aromas of deep, rich cassis and plum, with just
the right kiss of oak. Rich,
round and delicious, the finish was somewhat indeterminate, because of
both the aforementioned tannins and that hot, spicey Chimichurri sauce!
This one’s on the way up with plenty of years of improvement
ahead of it.
Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon, Estiba SF (San Felicien Gran Reserva), Bodega
Esmerelda (Catena) Mendoza: Fragrant, floral and of course, dark
garnet in color, this was all about silky, refined elegance, with its
lovely cassis and red currant character, and Kim mentioned a note of Pine-Sol®, of all things. There
were still some good tannins present, but not as much as in the Catena
Alta, making for one promising Cabernet that’s more than approachable
Catena Malbec, Lunlunta Vineyard, Nicolas Catena, Mendoza (courtesy of
the Browns): This dark garnet showed a big kiss of oak, but not too big,
making for flavors and aromas reminiscent of chocolate, cassis, plum and
some nutmeg, according to Kim. It
wasn’t too tannic, and more chocolate emerged with air; it paired well
with the skirt steak. Very
Malbec, Bodega La Rural (Catena), Lujan de Cuyo: Eleanor commented on
a nice note of anise in this one; otherwise, it had a harder edged cassis
and blackcurrant personality than the Catena Lunlunta, not being as rich
and round. It’s good with
food though, and like its predecessor, worked well with the skirt steak.
Alta Malbec, Angelica Vineyard (Rows 30 through 160), Bodega Esmerelda
(Catena), Mendoza (courtesy of the Healds): A slightly cloudy dark
garnet, with a deeper, darker character than the last two, this was like
chocolate, red currant and cassis on the nose and the palate.
Not to tannic, with zippy acidity and a nice finish, it was also
skirt steak friendly; my final written comment was simply, “Yum!”
Yacochuya Malbec, Michel Rolland, Cafayate: This inky garnet showed
more restrained oak than the Angelica, with cassis and black currant
aromatics that carried over into the fairly tannic flavors; a bite of the
skirt steak brought out some oak and chocolate, and took this up a notch.
Louis opined that it was “just on the verge of being corked,”
and there WAS just a hint of that wet cardboard thingie going on, so Joel
opened another, and it seemed even more so.
This one needs time, but it’ll be worth it, if yours aren’t
Malbec, Marchiori Vineyard, Paul Hobbs, Mendoza: This one showed the
most oak of the lot, with a rather odd initial impression of big milk
chocolate and wet dog fur. As
it opened, plenty of red currant and black cherry came to the fore, along
with more chocolate and some vanilla.
It wasn’t fat, but rather big, rich and smooth, and although the
tannins needed some time yet, this was already drinking well.
(dessert) consisted of assorted alfajores (chocolate covered cookies) and
Dulce de Leche ice cream, topped by warm Dulce de Leche and Grand Marnier
sauce, along with yerba mata, a slightly smoky, seriously tannic tea, and
even I had to partake, contrary to my usual reticence toward such after dinner
sweets, and I was not unhappy that I did.
This was a
wonderful opportunity to experience some of the food and wines of
Argentina, a region that Kim and this taster have precious little
experience with, and for that we are most grateful.
The food was excellent and the wines were all interesting at least,
with the Cabernets and Malbecs being downright delicious. (The wine
industry is one of the very few profitable segments of an otherwise
bankrupt Argentine economy, and it would appear to be so for good reason.)
While those showed noticeable levels of oak, all seemed to be in judicious
proportion, with the possible exception of the Cobos Malbec, and even that
was well received.
It was a wonderful evening, and our thanks go not only to Joel and Sally for the marvelous hospitality and generosity, but to all the attendees for their contributions, and their friendship as well.