Susana Balbo Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

W Balbo 2014Cabernet Sauvignon from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

95% cabernet sauvignon

5% merlot

14.3% alcohol

Opened 21 Nov 2017

els 9.2/10

James Suckling 93

Wine Advocate 91

Vinaceous 91

Susana Balbo’s winery, established in the stunning, idyllic eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, within the viticultural region of Uco Valley, which lies southwest of Mendoza, Argentina; is surrounded by 52 acres of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vines; produces 4 brands of wines with distinct and complex personalities that appreciate long, secluded years in their bottles: Crios, Ben Marco, Nostros and Susana Balbo Signature.

The vineyards are at an average elevation of about 3800 feet above sea level where the

W Balbo Winery

The Susana Balbo Winery and Vineyards. Photo by Susana Balbo Winery.

steppe climate provides a large swing in growing season temperatures ranging from daytime highs in the mid 80s to night-time lows approaching 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with arid conditions that receive a paltry 1 to 1.25 inches of rain per month. To compensate for the semi-desert conditions and the well-drained alluvial soils of Uco Valley, the vineyards are drip irrigated from the Andes’ snow melted water to provide just the right of amount of essential moisture to produce these flavorful wines.

The grapes are hand-picked and fermented in concrete vessels and finished with 13 months in 70% second use and 30% first use French oak barrels.  The wine has a clear, bright ruby color with aromas of black berries and a very subtle hint of mint and earth. A long, full, dry finish with close to perfect tannins. Wonderful.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$20.99 wine.com

Trivento Malbec Reserve 2015

W Trivento Malbec 2015Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina

100% malbec

13.5% alcohol

Opened 29 Oct 2017

els 8.9/10

Decanter 95

Guia Descorchados 90

Bodega Trivento, the Three Winds Winery, sources its Malbec grapes from the Andean alluvial and colluvium soils of Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley, south of Mendoza, Argentina. The vineyards are at an altitude of approximately 3400 feet, soaking up 250 days per year of intense sun, in the dry, thin air; temperatures ranging in the summer growing season from highs of 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the days to 55 degrees at night. The semi-arid climate sparingly doles out less than 1.5 inches of rain per month during the growing season, forcing the growers to add drip irrigation to  assuage the vines thirst.

This inexpensive wine has a wonderful, clear, ruby-red color begging you to further investigate its aromas of cherry and strawberries, its soft tannins, and velvety, favorable finish. Chocolates and pasta will pair well with this Malbec.  Remember to decant and aerate the wine for an hour or two, it will help immensely.

$8.99 wine.com.

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2013

W Kaiken Malbec 2013Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina
100% malbec
14.5% alcohol by volume

els 8.7/10

James Suckling 93

Wine Spectator 90

The Kaiken Winery, named after the gregarious caiquen goose, is located a few miles southwest of Mendoza, Argentina on a medial position of an alluvial fan born from sediment disgorged from the towering Andes to the west, and a few stones throw north of the spirited, flowing braids of the Rio Mendoza.

The malbec grapes are harvested from 3 vineyards north and south of Mendoza, ranging from 950-1250 meters above sea level, rendering thirsty, hot days and dry, cool nights, partnering with the sandy, loamy soils in providing temperament and complexion to the impending wines.

With a clear ruby-red color the wine exudes a black cherry and plum bouquet with a mild vanilla sweetness coming later. This malbec is smooth all around; pleasant and mellow tannins with a simple and balanced finish. On a better day I might rate this wine 9.0/10 but it just doesn’t manifest the pizzazz, personally, to push it to that level.

The 2013 vintage is very difficult to find but there is a similarly rated 2015 Kaiken Ultra Malbec available for $18.99 wine.com.

Tercos Bonarda 2015

W Tercos BonardaBonarda from Mendoza, Argentina

100% bonarda

13.9% alcohol by volume

els 9.1/10

James Suckling 93

Ricardo Santos Winery produce two types of wines from their vineyards in the foothills of the Andes near Mendoza, Argentina: the eponymous Ricardo Santos and Tercos.

Tercos was developed by Ricardo Santos’ sons, Pedro and Patricio. The wine’s iconic, humorous and possibly triple entendre wine label of 4-donkeys in 3-piece suits is suggestive of a play on the word stubborn, the literal Spanish to English translation of Tercos, insinuating the difficulty of producing a superb wine from the local dry and poor volcanic soils, and finally, they may be donkeys, but they dress up rather nicely.

The bonarda grape, aka the Italian charbono, is grown on the Finca La Pitonisa, or in English, the Witch Estate, which is in the evening shadows of the inactive Andean stratovolcano Tupungato which towers another 5400-meters over the 1100-meters above sea level vineyards. The volcano contributes to the silica rich, sandy loams of vineyard soils containing various amounts of aluminum, calcium, sodium, magnesium, zinc and iron which augment the flavors and body of this wine. The vines were planted between 1977 and 1990 placing them mostly into the old vine category of lower yield but concentrated grapes.

This is a satisfying wine with a pleasing, dark ruby-red to violet color. The aroma is easy with berries, plums and raisins in the forefront with a hint of cloves and spice. The taste is very smooth all around and the balanced finish lasts well into your next sip.

$12.99 wine.com

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