There is a French connection with our first visit. Altavista is French owned and they have applied old world technique to new world style. The facility is a wonderful recontruction of a winery from the 1800s. From our Altavista visit, I became more aware of the importance of terroir in Mendoza. Altavista has a fetish of separating or blending wines from different terroirs. I learned that grapes from Uco Valley(where we went yesterday) show deeper structure , color, tannins and minerality than grapes grown in Lujan de Cuyo. This is due primarily because of the higher elevation (over 3,000 ft) and the wide temperature swings between day and night which cause the grapes to develop thicker skins.
We started our tasting with a Torrontés 2009, pressed in Salta but vinified in Mendoza. White peach, jasmin, tropical fruit aromas. Our guide called it a liar because it is sweet in the nose but dry in taste.
We continued with Atemporal Blend 2007 which has malbec(43%),cab(36%),syrah(11%), and petit verdot(10%). However I preferred their 2 malbecs which we tried: the Terroir Selection 2007 which is 100% malbec from 4 vineyards: 2 in Lujan, 2 in Uco. This vintage has 85% Uco grapes which gives it a noticeable fruit forward character with good tannic structure. The floral aromas rather than fruit are also due to being grown in Uco.
Our last wine was the Single Vineyard Temis 2007 which came from the Uco valley. You immediately notice the spicey red fruit and minerality.
After a delicious five step alfresco lunch at Ruca Malen winery paired with their wines, we were off to my old friends at Mendel Winery. This is an almost impossible to find winery that makes dynamite malbecs. I first met the owner, Roberto de la Mota, in Connecticut and visited his winery the following year. I was sad to hear that Roberto is confined to a wheelchair because of an automobile accident. However his assistant Sante is maintaining the high quality levels. This is a small (120,000 bottle) winery and we tasted their Semillon 2010 barrel, one of the very few produced in Argentina; malbec 2010 barrel from a single vineyard in Lujan, lighter in body and color but still delightful in its youth; malbec 2009 barrel from Uco, dark, tannic, brooding with a deep cherry aroma and taste. It comes from 4 different parcels in Uco and Mendoza; Unus 2009 a blend of malbec (70%) and cab(30%), tannic, deep red fruit with fruit bomb dimensions; Finca Remota 2008 from the Uco Valley, their most expensive wine at $80 and with 95 points from Parker, fruit forward yet with a strong structure that says taste me in 20 years. We ended with the Mendel malbec 2007, with half of the grapes each from Uco and Lujan. This was my favorite: deep red color, superb red fruit flavors