Poetry In Motion

Pair of Poesia, 94 & 96 pts!

Argentine wine lovers should get to know Poesia. We all should! The remarkable team of Hélène Garcin and winemaker-husband Patrice Lévêque, who reign over four Bordeaux chateaux, shrewdly purchased an old vine vineyard in Mendoza during the 2001 financial crisis there. I enjoyed visiting them during the 2007 March harvest. Hélène reciprocated with a visit to Tarpon Springs last month and to share these recent releases. The 2006 is a rich style more akin to Hélène’s Pomerol, Chateau Clos L’Eglise; rich and elegant, lovely now. The 2008 Poesia is more youthful, has more cabernet drive, it seems; long, with a seriously intense finish, more resembling Hélène’s cabernet based Chateau Branon. Poesia may be the most sophisticated wine in Argentina.


2006 Poesia

…nose of smoky new oak, mineral, damp earth, black currant, black cherry, and blackberry followed by a plush, nearly opulent wine… notes of espresso and chocolate emerging on the palate, superb grip, and 5-7 years of aging potential….

2008 Poesia

…The wine’s dense blue/purple color is followed by notes of
blueberry liqueur, scorched earth, graphite, blackberries and a hint of white
chocolate. It should age effortlessly for 15-20 years….


Susana Balbo Takes Malbec To 92 points!

Susana BalboSusana Balbo is a passionate and forceful advocate for malbec. I’ve seen her operation in Mendoza and I’m very impressed. You are too if you met her in Tarpon Springs last year or if you tasted the malbec in her best-selling Crios line. But this bottling is truly the signature wine of Argentina and also of Balbo’s ambitious wine making. This malbec is smoking, full bore yet elegant. Not a little black number but a big one, dark purple, blackberry and black cherry, dark chocolate and espresso, fire and spice. This the kind of malbec that earned the name “black wine” and wears it with style. If you know and love Balbo for her Crios wines, you’ll be thrilled with the sophistication of the 2009 Signature. You’ll want plenty for your cellar, and at this price you can sure have them. Run-n-tell that.

2009 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec2009 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec

“…Attractive aromas of pain grille, smoke, mocha, spice box, and black cherry set the stage for a plush, full-bodied, succulent wine with intense flavors and a seamless finish….”  92 Points, Wine Advocate





Catena climbs even higher: WA ranks ’07s at 95 and 98!

Laura Catena and ShannonHow high can Catena take Argentine cab and malbec? At the top of their game and near the top of the Andes, Catena has elevated the wines of Argentina to world class heights. Don’t think it’s just New World with an odd grape for a signature. Not Catena’s top level Zapata Malbecs. These are excellent and they make three, each an exquisite and powerful display of the varietal. The single vineyard Nicasia is full of dark berries and softened by aging in two rounds of new French oak, making for a heady mix of dark chocolate and coffee. The Adrianna is pure high altitude, big purple and berry flavors wrapped in exotic spices. The Argentino is a magnificent blend of the two, and somehow richer and silkier. Tanzer calls it a knockout. Yet the best of the lot is probably the cabernet/malbec blend with punch of cab franc and petit verdot, all the espresso cocoa and toast as well as ripe fruit. Amazing. All are remarkably seamless with very long finishes; they are still evolving for the next five years and will age happily in your cellar for another ten or 20. In short, these are $100 wines. Not here, not for my friends who believe in the greatness of Argentine wines. Every Argentine connoisseur will want them all. Run-n-tell that.

2007 Nicasia Malbec

Offers good density to the blueberry, raspberry and blackberry coulis flavors that are backed by vibrant acidity. Floral and mineral notes play out on the long, tangy finish. Drink now through 2014. 8,000 cases imported.  95 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2007 Zapata Cabernet

Offers good density to the blueberry, raspberry and blackberry coulis flavors that are backed by vibrant acidity. Floral and mineral notes play out on the long, tangy finish. Drink now through 2014. 8,000 cases imported.  98 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

Best Buy In Argentina: 2009 Colome Malbec, 92 WA!

Don HessWish I could say we discovered Colome. The winery was founded way high up in Salta in 1831. Makes it older than any winery in California or our part of the Americas. Don’t know how good the wine was then, but Colome’s malbec has been knocking the critics back for the last few years. It has made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 for the 2007 and 2008 vintages and now the 2009 gets a 92 from Senor Parker. That’s high attitude to match the altitude. Colome has the kind of fruit I like in a wine, lots of berries that are very fresh, jammy but with very little sugar, lots of tang and tingle. It’s layered with licorice, fig and chocolate, some of which may come from the splash of cab and syrah in it. Only way I can make it better is my price, and I’m offering it to you as low as it can be.  Colome’s price has never been so low. Run-n-tell-that.

2009 Colome Malbec2009 Colome Malbec

Offers good density to the blueberry, raspberry and blackberry coulis flavors that are backed by vibrant acidity. Floral and mineral notes play out on the long, tangy finish. Drink now through 2014. 8,000 cases imported.  92 Points, Robert Parker’s WA





Top 100 Again: Catena’s Magnificent Malbec, 91 WS!

2009 Catena MalbecIn the majestic cellars of Bodega Catena Zapata, Nicolas Catena and daughter Laura set new standards for Argentina winemaking. Making Wine Spectator’s Top 100 routinely, Familia Catena (Laura has also made it there with her Luca wines) has done it again this year with the 2009 Catena Malbec. Full-bodied, spicy, sweet and silky, this is a textbook example of what Malbec can be. I wonder if the folks in Bordeaux drink these wines and wonder why they don’t use more Malbec. It may be the mountain air in their high altitude sites, or the experience and know how of the Catenas. Whatever it is, the family has provided another priced to buy and drink with impunity or pleasure if you prefer. You’re gonna want that.

2009 Catena Malbec

“A rich red, with ripe layers of linzer torte, plum pudding and fig paste flavors backed by layers of mesquite, olive paste and grilled herbs. Grippy tannins add weight to the long, vibrant finish. Drink now through 2013…”  91 Points, Wine Spectator & Top 100 Wines of 2011, #58

Magnificent ’07s: Tignanello, Mondavi Reserve, Zapata, 95 points and up

The 2007 vintage was one of the those rare years that produced great wines around the world. Couldn’t have been the same weather in Napa, Tuscany and Mendoza yet somehow in each region their legendary reds reached extraordinary heights. The wine gods were in three places at once and you should be too. In Argentina, Nicolas Catena’s Zapata, the top Cab cuvee masterminded by Laura Catena, is so sumptuous, full and elegant, Parker scored it 98 points. The Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napawas outstanding, the best since 2002, and one of the great vintages for the wine; Parker says it’s 95+ and when we poured it at our
tastings, you agreed. Of course Antinori’s Tignanello is always lush, but the 2007 is especially luxurious, rich and silky and truly super. Every one of these is a great wine at the top of its form. At these prices, one of each should be in your cellar. You’re gonna want that.

2007 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

“…revealing notes of spring flowers, toasty oak, creme de cassis, licorice, and graphite.”  95 Points, Robert Parker, WA

2007 Nicolas Catena Zapata2007 Nicolas Catena Zapata, Mendoza

“It delivers an enthralling aromatic array of pain grille, pencil lead, mineral, espresso, mocha, incense, lavender, black currant, black cherry, and blackberry.”  98 Points, Robert Parker, WA

2007 Antinori Tignanello, Tuscany2007 Antinori Tignanello, Tuscany

“Displays sweet plum and berry aromas and flavors, with hints of toasty oak and cappuccino. Full-bodied, yet reserved and fine.”  95 Points, Robert Parker, WA

Santa Julia to the rescue: Organic wine for Sweetwater Farm

Lots of people say they want local produce, grown sustainably without pesticides and insecticides. The folks at Sweetwater Organic Farm (www.sweetwater-organic.org) did something about it. Nine years ago they started a cooperative  farm on a few acres near the Veteran’s Expressway in in Town ‘n Country stretch of Tampa. The way it works is that a family  invests in a farm for a yearly fee and then shares in the farm’s produce very week (good harvest and bad alike). It’s like having a huge garden– and a crew of young foodies to work it, although you can pitch in.  Watching what shows up in your bag (s), four turnips three heads of kale, broccoli cilantro etc.,  every week is a keen alert to Florida’s seasons.  Sweetwater kicks g off the beginning of its October-May harvest this Saturday with an outdoor Planters’ Ball and potluck supper amid the barns, potting sheds and early crops.  What wine do you pair with that?  I say Santa Julia Organica, handsomely, sustainably made wine from the Zuccardi family in Argentina. All of their property is sustainably managed, relying on green fertilizers, organic yeast, clean water from the Andes and dry-pest-killing breezes.  The good people at Zuccardi agreed and donated several cases for the party (my favorite is the malbec).  Join Sweetwater for food and wine as well as music at 6 p.m  Saturday night (bring a covered dish and $10) or browse the farmer’s market any Sunday this winter. 6942 West Comanche Ave.Tampa, Florida 33634.  And open a bottle of Santa Julia wherever you are.

Modern, schmodern: Rioja the new and very old.

Fernando of Remirez de GanuzaHad an armada of Spanish vintners  invade the store for our annual grand Latin tasting this weekend. The grandees of the Rioja were there, the sweetheart of Montilla-Moriles , ambassadors from Argentina (and Franco-Argentina too) and emissaries of the booming central winelands of Borja and beyond.

If you couldn’t make it, I expect you next year. You missed an intriguing discussion on what and who is traditional or modern in Rioja. Spain’s most famous wine region, like others around the world, is sometimes divided along these lines. By age you would say Remirez de Ganuza is modern at not quite 30 while Bodegas Riojanas at 125 is the grandaddy.  Luis Martinez of Remirez would not have either distinction. “We are contemporary,” Good point. I would go further. Remirez and Riojanas are both old in undeniable ways. Best vines in the Rioja can be 50, 80 100 years old. More important, the dry, rocky soil is ancient, as old as, well, dirt. The mountains, the wind and the position between the Atlantic and Mediterranean is the same as it was thousands of years ago. Grapes the same too: Tempranillo, tempranillo and tempranillo. That’s mighty old.

I would argue that all the Riojas are new and young too, especialy if you met Sara Agos Olano. from Riojanas, which was a newbie in the pioneering post-phylloxera days. Today all of Rioja has smarter ways of planting, access to microbiological testing and shiny equipment.  And new pride and vibrant marketing.

Secrets of A-21: How the Rothschild’s went from banking to winemaking.

Rothschild FamEver notice the circle of five arrows clenched as in a fist on a bottle of Lafite-Rothschild or any of their colonies in Argentina, Chile or the Languedoc? We have this answer from our tasting of Rothschild wines, Argentinean and Bordelaise.  Those arrows represent the five brothers in the family 200 years ago. And the wisdom of a father who didn’t want all his sons hanging around the family home and business in Frankfurt.  Get out, see the world, said he  and make new business.  He sent one to London, one to Paris, one to Vienna another to Naples, and one stayed in Frankfurt.  They succeeded in expanding the bank business, lending money to among others, wine merchants and chateau owners.  Some in the new generation got the idea that Rothschild’s could own as well as finance vineyards. Ironically, the father who had sent them afield had been opposed to that much adventuring outside the traditional business.  Finally the brothers prevailed and their arrows certainly hit the target. Exploration has continued, so much so that the Rothschild’s biggest single label, and over half their production, is … Los Vascos from Chile.

Taste of Spain and beyond

2008 Mas Doix DoixOut of 109 wines, like we had at this weekend’s tasting and sale, how do you pick a favorite?  Although some would zero in on the 2008 Mas Doix Doix, remarkable Priorat, like licking slate in the rain, I can’t narrow my favorites down so far. I had too many pleasures. Call me promiscuous.  Best reds under $10: 2010 Castano Monastrell and 2010 Santa Julia Organica. Best reds under $20: Zuccardi Malbec Serie Q, 2009 Tres Picos and 2010 Resalso.  Best reds $20 to $40: 2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza, 2008 Luca Besorde Dante, 2006 Lindaflor Malbec.  Top dollar reds: 2001 Fincas de Ganuza, 2005 Torre Muga, 2007 Catena Adrianna, 2008 Mas Doix Doix. Best whites: 2009 Louro do Godello, Lindaflor Chardonnay.  Most fun in a bottle: 1927 Alvear Solera PX.


Parker’s Must-Have ’07 Cabs: 95+ Mondavi Reserve, 98 Catena Zapata

There are many good Cabernet Sauvignons, you know the ones that regularly hit 89, 90 and 91, but there are very few great Cabernets. For me, breeding always tells, greatness runs deep. The Robert Mondavi Reserve from the To Kalon Vineyard is one of them and in 2007 it was a stunner. So intense and and stout hearted Parker rated it at 95+ and it’s at least that much in my book, because this has the tannins and strength to go 20 years in your cellar. This power is a testimony to deep roots, a pioneer Oakville vineyard that goes back 150 years and a winery almost 50 years old. A wine to treasure. For the most brilliant Cabernet of South America, look to Nicolas Catena, the Mondavi of Argentina, and the 2007 Zapata. Laura Catena created this signature wine ten years before in tribute to her
family. The Zapata is exuberant and seductive in its youth, well built and enticingly perfumed with the body and structure to age with elegance. No wonder Parker went head over heels and gave it a 98. I’m in love too. These are two masterpieces from great families of American wine-making, North and South, in the best of vintages. I’ve marked down prices substantially, 10 to 20 percent, to make sure your cellar has a couple of each. You’re gonna want that.

2007 Catena Zapata

2007 Nicolas Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon

“It delivers an enthralling aromatic array of pain grille, pencil lead, mineral, espresso, mocha, incense, lavender, black currant, black cherry, and blackberry. This leads to a full-bodied, powerful yet elegant effort with great depth and volume, precision balance, and a voluptuous personality (a D-cup of a wine)…”  98 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2007 Mondavi Reserve


2007 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa)

“The full-bodied, powerful, pure 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is another outstanding effort revealing notes of spring flowers, toasty oak, creme de cassis, licorice, and graphite. One would have to go back to the 1990, 1991, 2001, or 2002 to find a Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve this impressive…”  95+ Points, Robert Parker’s WA

Our best travel tips for Mendoza wine country.

Medoza, ArgentinaThere are so many places to go and see, how do you narrow your choices down? Where do you start? Here are some helpful tips to make the most of your Mendoza winetasting adventure.

  • Group your bodega visits by region if possible given the size and distance between bodegas.
  • Appointments are required for all bodega visits. Make an appointment and DON’T be late.
  • Most bodegas are closed on Sundays.
  • Generally you will only have time to visit 2-3 bodegas in a day.
  • Several bodegas now offer visitors a traditional, delicious Argentine lunch of, what else, Argentine beef!
  • Most bodegas require a short tour of the bodega before a tasting of 1-3 wines are offered. Some bodegas charge a nominal fee for the tour and tasting.
  • Consider hiring a car or guide for the day. Or bring a map and a sense of adventure!

Just hanging out drinking wine

  • Vines of Mendoza Tasting Room (across the street from the Park Hyatt)
  • Park Hyatt – deep Argentine list.

Mendoza Hotels

  • Sheraton Mendoza— New and elegant, well-situated, with spacious and comfortable rooms. Full spa. $$$
  • Park Hyatt – The place to stay if you are staying in Mendoza City. Full spa. $$$
  • Cavas Wine Lodge – If you want to literally stay in the vineyards. Great rooms, food, spa. $$$$
  • Club Tapiz – In the former Navarro Correas winery. Small, upscale, with spa. $$$
  • Park Suites Executive Hotel – New and nice, less expensive and good location. $$
  • Hotel Argentino – Central location, clean and reasonable. $$

Argentinian Steak with ChimichurriMendoza Restaurants
Winery Restaurants:

  • Casa del Visitante at La Familia ZuccardiA phenomenol restaurant with a tasting menu that is very unique. Gorgeous estate.
  • O. Fournier – One of the best lunches in Mendoza with the best view of the Andes.

Fancier Argentine:

  • 1884– Francis Mallman’s Mendoza location & best food in town. Eat outside if the weather permits.
  • Siete Cocinas- A fantastic new restaurant by Buenos Aires-born chef Pablo del Rio, whose cooking is inspired by seven
    regional Argentine cuisines.
  • Terruñosen Club Tapiz – excellent food
  • Cavas Wine Lodge – excellent food


  • Francesco– good handmade pasta, pretty setting


  • Azafran– part wine shop, part restaurant. Go for the smoked meat plates and some wine.
  • Don Mario (Guaymallen location) – go for the whole grilled goat! Order ahead.
  • La Posada del Jamon – 100% pork-based and delicious (in Vista Flores in the Uco Valley)
  • La Bourgogne – fancy French/Argentine at Carlos Pulenta’s Vistalba Winery
  • Almacen del Sur – lunch place where everything is grown there (located in Maipu)

The Spanish are coming TOMORROW:100 bottles from Spain and Argentina!

Spain & Latin American TastingLatin winemakers have won our hearts and palates with their world-class talent and their very special grapes: Elegant tempranillo, sexy monastrell, robust malbec, perfumed albarino  and decadent bad boy Pedro Ximenez.  If you know and love them – and especially if you don’t – you must come to our grand Spanish and Latin American tasting tomorrow Sunday Oct. 9. arranged by my colleague Summer Martin, our intrepid Spanish explorer.  You can sample a full spectrum, more than 100 wines (and buy at one-time only special prices. And meet ambassadors from top firms in both hemispheres : Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja Remirez de Ganuza, Alvear, Moriles, Jorge Ordonez, Eric Solomon from Spain and Monteviejo and Amancaya from Argentina.

As usual we’ll have private seminars in the intimate setting of A-21 on:  the Rothschild/Catena partnership behind Amancaya, a
presentation by Sra. Alvear of her richly fortified wines and the creation of Alto Moncayo in Campo de Borja. Seats for those are limited, so get your bids in now.

Malbec, Cab From Scratch: Mendoza’s High-Altitude Decero

DeceroSome of the smartest folks in the Argentina wine business built this winery and vineyard in the 1990’s from the ground up from scratch. Decero as they say in Spanish, “from zero”. And the ground was already up high, 3500 feet, on the slopes of the Andes , hot, dry, and windy, perfect for deep roots and long ripening reds, it’s all they grow. Btw, they don’t call the wind Mariah the name’s “remolinos,” little whirlwinds that breeze through the vineyard and keep the grapes clean and dry. I like the fact that Decero is so focused, all pure varietals and every step done by hand. Doesn’t mean the wines are rustic, the Malbec has big black fruit and dark chocolate, yet it’s quite approachable and suave in its polish. The muscular Cabernet also has smooth fruit that dips into licorice, soy and bacon fat and wears a hint of mint and smoke. These wines demand that you fire up the grill. You’re gonna want that.

2009 Decero Malbec, Remolinos Vineyard

“Medium ruby-red. Complex and inviting aromas of boysenberry, blackberry, bitter chocolate and violet. Sweet, pliant and aromatic, with black fruit flavors enlivened by an inner-mouth floral character…”  89 Points, Stephen Tanzer’s IWC

2008 Finca Decero Cabernet Sauvignon, Remolinos Vineyard

“Varietally accurate aromas of cherry, cassis, tobacco and licorice are lifted by a floral topnote. Supple, vinous and suave, with good lift to the red fruit and spicy oak flavors…”  88 Points, Stephen Tanzer’s IWC

2007 Decero Amano Remolinos Vineyard, Agrelo

“Dark cherry, currant, mocha, leather, violet and smoky, spicy oak on the nose, plus a whiff of caraway seed. Suave on entry, then tight and minerally in the middle, with lovely lift and perfume to the black raspberry, dark chocolate and graphite flavors…”  90 Points, Stephen Tanzer’s IWC