Vino Mendocino – 2

On Saturday I was collected at 08:15 by the guide, Consuela (Coti for short), and the driver, Oscar. We picked up the only two others on the tour, Matt & Melinda, a very sweet and very young Canadian couple, all of 18 years old, from near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island! They were very friendly but not really ideal for sharing the wine-tasting experience with. They were still just below the legal drinking age in British Columbia.

We drove 100km south through the pre-cordillera hills into the Valle de Uco, and to our first stop at Bodega Bombal set in the beautiful family estate Estancia Anc√≥n which gives its name to their best wines. The family has a long history of wine production but until recently it was mass-market high-volume stuff. The current generation changed all that and has switched to boutique production. The estancia and the bodega are beautiful, and the ‘chateau’ is now a very expensive country hotel. Lovely wines, especially their top-flight blend, the Gran Reserva de la Familia 2001 which I’ll try to hunt down when back home. They make a super chardonnay which is only sold at the bodega, at an amazing AR$15, so I bought a bottle and later drank it in BsAs with Jeannette.

Next stop Bodega Andeluna with great views of the Andes. It’s a very new bodega but built in a successful traditional-modern fusion with local materials. We tasted three of their wines, including their top-flight Pasionado, and I persuaded our guide to let us try the very good Malbec too. All competent but very much in a this-is-what-the-market-wants and we’re-going-to-sell-them-to-rich-americans way.

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Our third stop was the amazingly futuristic O. Fournier bodega. Is it a space-ship landing pad? Is it an airport? No, it’s a high-tech gravity-system bodega. The grapes go in at the top level, and travel down through fermentation and maceration into oak casks at the lowest cellar level. But that was the after-lunch tour. Lunch was amazing, where within ten minutes we were the only guests at a window table with wonderful views. Roughly speaking we had:

  • A trio of purees or soups – potato with truffle, courgette, and pumpkin with parsely sauce – with Uco Sauvignon Blanc 2004.
  • Escabiche of red pepper, green pepper and aubergine – with Uco Tempranillo 2004.
  • Humita (traditional sweetcorn stew, very thick) – with B Crux 2003.
  • An excellent steak with roasted vegetables – with A Crux 2002, an excellent wine.
  • Sorbet de melon.
  • Baked apple with very rich cream.
  • Coffee

All served and described with restrained but friendly correctness by our great waiter. We took about two hours. Lovely.

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The tour was also excellent, and we got to see ‘pump-over’ in action. The macerating wine forms a cap of floating grape skins and to increase the contact and break up the cap, every four to six hours wine is pumped from the bottom of the tank to the top, and sometimes as here, a great big stainless steel poker is used from the top to help break up the cap. The cellar is a further work of art, set below the central plaza separating the bodega and restaurant. The only snag is that the wine prices reflect the investment levels!!

The drive back involved quite a bit of sleeping, it has to be said. An excellent day.

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