After a month travelling USA’s East and West Coast, my final, final fling took place in New York City.
In fact three days of Argentine wine fun were lined up. First was a sip-off at The Ten Bells biodynamic wine bar with Zuma NYC’s sommelier Mariah Bryand, Altos Las Hormigas‘ winemaker Leo Erazo and wife Zjos Vlaminck and sommelier/journalist Gabriel Dvoskin.
One of Mariah’s favourite wine bars in Manhattan – and she won’t begrudge me an inch for saying I know she’s supped at a few – it brings back fond memories from her days studying to be a sommelier, hiding out in its dark corners sampling the extensive biodynamic list with fellow student Gabriel. One memorable sip was a 2014 Rkatsiteli from Kakheti, Georgia, a high acidity white with those curious earthy, oxidised notes that come from ageing in kvevris (earthenware vessels buried underground).
The gang then headed off for a night on the sake while I had a date with my bed in Chinatown to be up and at ’em for a breakfast interview with Virgilio Martínez of Central Restaurant.
Round two was a special winemakers’ terroir and tasting sesh at The International Culinary Center and who better to explain Uco Valley’s lands by Sebastián Zuccardi from Familia Zuccardi. Fresh in from Argentina that morning, regardless he reminded his audience that Mendoza’s wine come from “a mountain-driven climate”, and that “climate and altitude are linked.”
Sampling a range of Malbecs made from Uco grapes, of Poligónos from the San Pablo district, Seba said: “This is very much a San Pablo wine made with Malbec” as opposed to a Malbec from that area. Typically floral and loaded with red fruit such as cherry and cranberry, rhubarb was also made a refreshing appearance.
Another hit was Concreto 2014, this line’s first vintage, which comes from Paraje Altamira, an area loaded with granite covered chalk rocks. “I wanted to show off the chalk and its texture and how it influences the wine” said Seba and that it does so to a T. The inky wine is loaded with black fruit and that slightly damp chalkiness in the middle of the tongue teamed with blackcurrant, black cherry, mocha and even a hint of dill.
Chilean winemaker Leo Erazo also pulled out some big guns from his own artillery, including Malbec from Altos Las Hormigas where he works as well as numbers from his own project Roguevine, including Revolver Chardonnay from Gualtallary in Uco Valley and a stunning Itata, Chile, Rogue Vine, white field blend made with Muscatel, Semillon, Torrontés and Riesling.
Later that evening, I attended the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards for the first time, covering it for Condé Nast Traveller. Excessive AC at the ceremony led my typing fingers almost seizing up but with copy delivered by 11pm, freedom and being showered with Italian bubbles by the world’s best chef Massimo Bottura from Osteria Francescana beckoned.
Descorchados wine fair
As for day three, I dipped into Descorchados Chilean and Argentine wine fair organised by Chilean wine writer Patricio Tapia, the reason so many players were in town. This one-day tasting event brought in plenty of friendly faces, including Matías Riccitelli, who flew in his incredible new Semillion from old Patagonian vines for the occasion; Gerardo Michelini and Andrea Muffato from Gen del Alma; Matías Michelini from Passionate Wine; Juan Pablo Michelini from Zorzal Wines; Seba Zuccardi from Familia Zuccardi; Leo and Zjos in their third appearance (with me) in as many days; and Finca Blousson’s Patrick Blousson and Victoria Jones.
Sadly, with a flight back to Buenos Aires beckoning in about three hours and a queasy belly following the previous night’s 50 Best after-fiesta frivolities at Eleven Madison Park, I didn’t sample much from the Chilean section. Mental note to get over the Andes, and soon.