Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec 2015

W Crios Malbec 2015Malbec from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

95% malbec

5% bonarda

14.5% alcohol

Opened 2 Feb 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Advocate: 90

James Suckling: 90

Susana Balbo’s winery, established in the stunning, idyllic eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, within the viticultural region of Uco Valley, is southwest of Mendoza, Argentina. The winery is surrounded by 52 acres of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vines; producing 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 Bonarda grapes are sourced from surrounding non-Balbo vineyards.

The vineyards are at an average elevation of about 3700-3800 feet above sea level where the steppe climate provides a large swing in growing season temperatures ranging from daytime highs in the mid 80s to night-time lows approaching 50°F. The climate is arid and vines receive a paltry 1-1.25″ 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 using the Andes’ snow melted water to provide just the right of amount of essential moisture to produce these flavorful wines.  This vintage’s growing weather was cooler and wetter than normal.

W Balbo Winery

Susan Balbo Winery

The grapes are hand-harvested and spend 25 days in maceration vats.  After maceration the wine spends 9 months in new French oak barrels.

The wine has ruby-red to purple color with a garnet to peach rim. A bouquet of fresh cherries and blackberries. On the palate the wine is very well-balanced and medium bodied.  Very fresh and cooling.

An outstanding wine at a very good price. Serve with lamb or beef steak. Get adventurous and try with a grilled tuna steak. Drink now, but should last until 2022-2023.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$11.99 wine.com

Tilia Bonarda 2016

W Tilia 2016Bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina

100% bonarda (aka: charbono, corbeau de savoie, or douce noire)

12.5% alcohol

Opened 27 Jan 2018

els: 8.7/10

Wine Advocate: 88

Bodegas Esmeralda, founded by Don Juan Fernandez is named in honor of his only daughter: Esmeralda Fernandez. The winery is located in the city of Junin, approximately 300 miles west of Buenos Aires and almost 800 miles east of Mendoza, producing wines both for the local market and for export. The winery’s Tilia labeled wines, named after the Latin name for the Linden tree, are all produced for the export market.

Tilia’s Bonarda vineyard, El Mirador, is located 50 miles to the southeast of Mendoza, at elevations ranging from 1,950 – 2,150’ above sea level. The vineyard is in a true desert climate, receiving less than 1″ of rain per month and is carefully irrigated with the Andes’ snow melt waters flowing down through the Tunuyan River.  Because of the desert conditions the sun shines 90% of time throughout the year, generating hot days and cool nights, perfect for the Bonarda grape.

The grape, also known as the Charbono in California, is a very commonly planted variety, second only to Malbec, in the Mendoza area.  In the desert climate the grapes produce a medium bodied wine of dark fruit and berry flavors with high acidity and medium tannins.

This wine has a deep purple hue with a cherry red rim. A nose full of plums and black fruit hits you hard upon opening.  A medium to full-bodied, but soft on the palate, wine, with an earthy, herbal flavor. It has a medium finish with vivacious tannins, well-nigh a Merlot in character.

A good everyday red at a good price.  Serve with mild cheese, pasta or pizza. Drink now but it should be good through 2020. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$10.99  wine.com

Santa Julia Reserva Malbec 2016

W Julia 2016.jpgMalbec from Uco Valley Mendoza, Argentina

100% malbec

13.0% alcohol

Opened 15 Jan 2018

els: 9.0/10

Wine Advocate: 91-90

Descorchados: 89

Wine Enthusiast: 87

Santa Julia is one of the three brands produced by the Zuccardi Family who have been active in Mendoza area vineyards and bodegas since 1950. The family founded the company in 1963. The Julia brand, named after the founder Jose Alberto Zuccardi’s daughter, was inaugurated in 1982 with the first wines exported in 1990. Today the wines are sold in 45 countries.

Santa Julia Bodega has 2 vineyards in the Uco Valley; Finca La Ribera of 210 acres, and Finca Vista Flores of 106 acres, both at an average elevation of 2900 feet above see level. Temperatures, during the growing season, range from the mid-80s°F during the day to the mid-40s°F at night.  Rainfall averages 1 to 3.5 inches per month with the driest month occurring during April.

The grapes are harvested towards the end of April, fermented at 77°F and allowed to macerate for 20 days. Part of the harvest is then aged in French oak barrels for 10 months.

The wine has a brilliant garnet to ruby-red hue with a faint narrow pink rim.  Light aromas of fruit, red berries and a hint of herbs. A taste of red fruits with a nice dry medium and balanced finish, like a kiss of a pretty, young girl.

An outstanding red wine at a great price.  Serve with cheese, pasta, or pizza. Tastes great slightly chilled: 62-65°F.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$10.99  wine.com

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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