Cafayate: Wine, Wine, Wine! (part 1)
I am so impressed by the wines of Cafayate and have been on a mission to try as many from the top level bodegas as possible. I have had so many great experiences that I have to split this into two parts.
Part 1 is all about the bodegas.
In Part 2, I will share my favorite places in Cafayate to try wines and my other top wine picks.
I have been to 7 bodegas.
I know that sounds like a lot, but Cafayate is set up different from other wine areas I have visited such as Mendoza, Argentina and Paso Robles, California. There are several bodegas right in town and some just a few kilometers outside of town, so it is easy to visit 2 or 3 in an afternoon.
If you ever visit Cafayate (and I think you should), these are the top 3 bodega experiences I suggest.
My Top 3 Bodega Experiences
El Porvenir de Los Andes
Based on the suggestion from Cafayate Wine Resort, I booked a tasting with El Porvenir de los Andes. This bodega is located in the center of town. The wonderful Adriana received me and gave me a quick tour of the impressive, historical grounds.
The bodega was started in 1890 by a family of Italian immigrants and abandoned at some point for about 20 years. In 1999, the Romero-Marcuzzi family bought it and only wanted to make wines de alta gama (high-end). The cosecha (harvest) is all done by hand. They only produce 200,000 bottles per year.
The well-known American wine consultant Paul Hobbs was brought in for the 2010 and 2011 production. This was the first time I had heard this name, and it would not be the last. I have decided that Paul Hobbs is a genius and has the best job in the world.
El Porvenir produces 3 lines, and they are all de alta gama. No low-end, cheapies here.
The Amauta line is their lowest level because they spend less time in the oak barrels. But what makes these wines still taste amazing with a lot of depth is that they spend more time in the bottles. In the stores right now, you will find 2006 and 2007 bottles.
Cool label, don’t you think?
Laborum is the middle line and spends a little more time in barrels. Porvenir is the reserva, a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, and Syrah from the year 2006.
My Wine Picks from El Porvenir de Los Andes
I tried A LOT of wines at El Porvenir de Los Andes.
It was a real learning experience for me because I got to compare different years, different blends, and different time spent in oak barrels. With Adriana’s help, I was able to pick out the different smells and flavors.
Without further ado, here are my top picks.
Laborum Malbec 2007
Hints of spice, leather, and tobacco. I love a spicy, full-bodied wine.
Laborum Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Sweet but balanced with smooth tannins.
Laborum Tannat 2007
A very dry wine with hints of herbs, including basil, oregano, and rosemary. Different but tasty.
Visit El Porvenir de Los Andes
Tours are by appointment only. Book 24 hours in advance via email. If you are staying at Viñas de Cafayate Wine Resort, they can book it for you. The regular tasting is AR$45 for 4 wines.
Drink El Porvenir de Los Andes
The good news is that you can get this wine in other parts of the world. Check out this page of distributors in Argentina, other parts of Latin America, the US, Canada, and Europe.
Finca Las Nubes/ J.L. Mounier
Again based on the suggestion from Viñas de Cafayate Wine Resort, I booked a tasting at Finca Las Nubes, located just 2km from the resort. J.L. Mounier is a family-run vineyard that started 13 years ago. They limit their production in order to focus on quality. In their words, “estamos buscando calidad not cantidad” (we are looking for quality not quantity).
Their bodega/ restaurant Finca Las Nubes located in the middle of the finca (farm) is know not only its gorgeous setting but also for delicious food and high quality wines. I decided to try a little of both.
A Picada or a Meal?
This picada completely filled me up, and I couldn’t even finish it all. Excellent quality meats and cheeses.
My Wine Picks from J.L. Mounier
I tried 4 wines, and one really stood out.
The Finca Las Nubes Cabernet Malbec 2011 is quite good for a young wine that only spent 2 months in oak. It is slightly peppery with a strong fruit smell.
With the food, the wine, and this view, how could you not visit?
Visit Finca Las Nubes
Book your tasting 24 hours in advance, especially if you would like to eat at the restaurant. If you are staying at Viñas de Cafayate Wine Resort, they can book it for you. There is a menu fijo (fine) for the gourmands, and judging by the quality of the picada, I bet this is incredible.
Drink J.L. Mounier
For those of you who live in Switzerland and Australia, they export to those countries.
The Amalaya tinto (red) blend is a wine I discovered when living in Buenos Aires last year. When I found out that the Amalaya vineyard is about 50 meters from where I am staying, I was thrilled but then found out that they are not yet open to the public for tours.
Luckily, my friend Nigel from 0800 Vinos in Buenos Aires has some good contacts, and I got a private tour and tasting from the winemaker Paco.
The good news is they will be opening their Visitor Center in December of this year, so everyone will be able to enjoy the beautiful finca…
… and taste their delicious wines.
If you know much about wine, you will recognize the name of the Switzerland-based Hess Family Estates. Amalaya is a recent addition to the family and is already producing three unique and excellent value blends at their organic vineyard.
What separates their Torrontés from other bodegas is that it is mixed with about 15% Reisling. This is done to make it more suitable for food pairings.
Vino Tinto (Azul) and Gran Corte
I have had the Vino Tinto , and I was anxious to try their next level up, the Gran Corte. It is 90% Malbec with a bit of Cabernet Franc and Tannat. It is a perfect blend of berries with spice and has soft tannins.
It did not disappoint.
At around AR$85, it is an impressive wine at a bargain price.
The Visitor Center will be opening in December of 2012. Check the Amalaya website for details.
Even if you do not get to Cafayate, Amalaya wines are distributed throughout Argentina and can easily be found in vinotecas and nicer restaurants. It is also exported to Canada, Europe, Asia, and other parts of Latin America. Click on the Trade and Press link and download the Distribuidores spreadsheet for a list.