Category Archives: Malbec

Down Argentina Way

“The best measure of a wine’s worth is an empty bottle,”said Germán di Cesare the winemaker for Botega Trivento, the 3,185-acre estate in Mendoza Argentina,as I sat down to lunch with him. Germán is very personable and passionate about wine and an authority on traditional Argentine culture. He is also a skilled cook specializing in Argentinian cuisine.

German di Cesare

German di Cesare

Speaking about the climatic conditions in Mendoza, German told me that he pays close attention to location, soil and climate, and, at Trivento, the “Three Winds” that sweep through Mendoza and forge the identity of the terroir and are the true key to understanding the region. How to harness and work with these distinctive winds can be difficult, but German grew up here and instinctively knows what do.

He said that he is going back to older techniques, using concrete tanks and larger foudres for aging and pulling back on oak treatments. In his wine he is looking for freshness, fruit without heaviness, a wine that is both easy to understand and complex in flavor.

The WinesIMG_8652

Amado Sur Chardonnay, 2013, the production zone is Mendoza, Argentina. Made from Chardonnay with moderate amounts of Pinot Grigio and Viognier. The Chardonnay and Viognier come from the Finca Los Ponchos Vineyard, located in the Tupungato area of the Uco Valley, the highest altitude sub region of Mendoza. The Pinot Grigio comes from the Finca del Alto Vineyard in the prime Lujan de Cuyo region. The grapes are hand picked in the beginning of March and placed in small cases for protection. The 3 grape varieties undergo a period of cold skin contact after they are destemmed and crushed. The juices are fermented separately in stainless steel for 2-3 weeks, preserving the grapes’ rich aromatic flavor. The wines are blended and aged for 2 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of pear, pineapple and peach. $15IMG_8651

Torrontés Reserve 100% Torrontés 2014. Harvest takes place the first week of March. After crushing, a period of cold skin contact follows. The juice is then fermented in stainless steel at 55/60 degrees F for 20 days to preserve the grapes’ aromatics and flavor. The wine has hints of peach and apricot with notes of violets and tropical fruit. $18IMG_8650

Amando Sur Malbec Blend 2013 The soil is alluvial. The grapes are hand harvested in April and undergo cold maceration prior to separate fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Natural malolactic fermentation follows. The separate wines are aged for 8 months in French oak barrels. After assemblage the wine is aged for six months in stainless steel and then another 5 months in bottle before release. It has hints of cherry and strawberry with a touch of vanilla, and a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. $15IMG_8657

Malbec “Golden Reserva” 2013, 2012, 2011 100% Malbec Production zone Luján de Cuy, Mendoza. The grapes are harvested by hand in mid-April. Germán said that the grapes are hand sorted only by women because they have soft hands. The grapes are cold macerated prior to fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging takes place in French oak barrels of second and third passage for 12 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. The wines have hints of berries, plums and notes of coffee and tobacco with a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. The 2011 is drinking the best at this time. All three went very well with the steak.$22

After we finished lunch, Germán looking around the table, repeated what he had said at the start: the best measure of a wine’s worth is an empty bottle.

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Filed under Argentina, Germand Cesare, Malbec, Trivento Winery, White wine

California Dreaming

Could it be possible?  A winemaker who has been making wine in California for over 40 years but still holds on to his French roots?  These questions were soon answered when I was introduced to Bernard Portet.

Bernard Portet

Bernard Portet

As soon as Bernard began to speak, he had me. He said that winemaking is all about place, though at some wineries, technology has replaced terroir.  He stated that wine is not as important as the food.  It is second to the food and Bernard asks his wife what’s for dinner before he chooses the wine, not the other way around.  Of course he only drinks wine with food.  Super ripe, heavily extracted wines with high alcohol are not his style. “Why make Merlots that taste like Syrahs? Where is the charm? Big, alcoholic super extracted wines overpower the palate and sacrifice varietal and regional typicity, as well as complexity.”  In an age when a lot of wine is reaching 16% alcohol his wines range between 13.5 and 14.1 percent of alcohol.IMG_2431Portet’s assemblage winemaking style has become his signature. He does not own any vineyards and buys all of the grapes since he feels that he can buy the best grapes available.  He blends wines from different varieties and terroirs to create finished wines greater than the sum of their parts.  He feels that it is a style that creates unique distinctive wines.Bernard was born in Cognac and his father was a regisseur  (estate manager) at Cháteau Lafite and his mentor.  He explained that the name of the winery Heritance is derived from heritage (his family has been making wine for 9 generations) and inheritance (from his father Andre who taught him all about wine).

The Wines of Bernard PortetIMG_2416

Sauvignon Blanc 2010 made from 91% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Semillon. The Sauvignon Blanc comes from vineyards located in St Helena and the Soscol Hills south of the city of Napa. The wine is aged in stainless steel. No malolactic fermentation. Bernard said that this is more like a white Bordeaux in style. It is a subtle well-balanced wine with hints of herbs, grass, good acidity and a touch of citrus fruit. $24

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 88% Sauvignon Blanc and 12 Rousanne. The Rousanne comes from the Paso Robles area where the soil is well drained sandy-loam. The grapes were hand harvested in mid-September at an average brix of 23.0. Bernard said Rousanne was very much like Sauvignon Blanc and added that this wine was more California in style. It had more body than the 2010 with a touch of grass, citrus aromas and flavors with undertones of ripe grapefruit and tropical fruit. $24 IMG_2421Pinot Noir 2011 Stanly Ranch, Carneros, Napa Valley. Grapes were hand harvested between July 24-August 7 at an average brix of 24.2.  The vineyard is vertically trellised with a density of 1,500 vines per hectare. The soils are mostly alluvial and sedimentary and well drained. Bernard said that Carneros with its marine-influenced climate is considered the best growing area for Pinot Noir in the Napa Valley.  The grapes were cold soaked for several days at 50 degrees F.  Fermentation took place in open top stainless steel tanks.  It is punched down twice a day and pressed after a short maceration. The wine is aged in used French oak barrels. This is a wine with aromas and flavors of red fruit, a hint of cherry and a touch of mint. $24IMG_2424

Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Napa Valley. Made from 94% Cabernet, 4% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. The grapes come from the valley floor vineyards in the St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville and Oak Knoll appellations. The soils are alluvial and gravelly. The vineyards have generally good drainage and although all are drip irrigated very little irrigation was needed in 2010. Because of the cool weather it was a relatively late harvest. Bernard said it was like the weather in France. The grapes were hand harvested in September at an average brix of 23.5 to 24.5
The grapes were cold soaked for a few days to enhance extraction and color and the musts were fermented at around 85 degrees F. for about 10 days. Assemblage of the small lots and varietals took place in various stages. The wines were aged for about 20 months in both new and mature, medium-toast French oak barrels. This is a round and soft wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of blackberry as the wine opens up and a touch of spice. $36

Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Napa Valley 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot. Bernard said the Merlot was necessary to make the wine complete. This wine is full, round and well balanced. There are black fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of violets, and a touch of spice. $36IMG_2422


Malbec 2010 “Nandù” Mendoza, Argentina. 97% Malbec and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon for the acidity. Grapes are from the Maipu area, the vineyards are at 2,624 ft. and Luján de Cuyo area at 3,116 ft. The average vine is 18 years old with a vertical trellis system. The average yield is 5 tons per acre.
Bernard said that the area is semi-desert like with an average temperature of 60 degrees F. Average rainfall is 8% per year, mostly in the summer. The soils are a blend of clay, sand and silt, consisting of a fair amount of gravel and small stones and well drained. Due to the proximity of the Andes mountain range, the nights are fairly cool. All this makes for very good conditions allowing for an even, slow maturation of the grapes. The grapes are hand harvested between March 20 and April 10 in 880 pound bins at an average brix of 23.5. 50% of the wine is aged in stainless steel and concrete tanks and the other half in French oak barrels for 9 months. Bernard called this wine an “Argentine Malbec with a French spirit.” This is difficult to believe but it did not taste like any Malbec from Argentina that I have ever tasted before–in fact it may be the best one I ever tasted. This is a wine with aromas and flavors of plum, blueberry and later blackberry with a touch of cedar. $24IMG_2426Bernard saved a gem of a wine for last.   Cabernet Sauvignon 1972 Clos du Val. Made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. It reminded me of an old Bordeaux when they use to make them in this style. It had red fruit aromas and flavors, more then a hint of cherry and overtones of leather. The waiter made the mistake of leaving the decanter next to me …..

Bernard is co founder of Clos du Val and was there for 40 years. 1972 was his first vintage. Mixing grapes was not done in California in those days.

Bernard and his former colleague at Clos du Val, Don Chas formed Polaris Wines which produces Heritance and Ñandú.

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Filed under Bernard Portet, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wine, Clos du Val, Heritance, Malbec, Nandu, Sauvignon Blanc