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.


Viu Manent ViBo Vinedo Centenario 2014

W Vibo 2014Bordeaux Red Blend from Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley, Central Valley, Chile

65% cabernet sauvignon

35% malbec

13.5% alcohol

Opened 31 Jan 2018

els: 9.2/10

Wine Advocate: 91

Colchagua Valley is in the southern and western portions of Rapel Valley, which itself is located in the middle of the 250 mile long Central Valley, all situated between the Andes to the east and the Coastal Ranges to the west. The northern edge of the Colchagua Valley is defined by the life giving, Rapel River and its main tributaries: the Tinguiririca and Cachapoal Rivers. The valley, sheltered from the cold Pacific winds by the Coastal Ranges, has a mild Mediterranean climate, warm but not too hot, or too cold, with rainfall that averages about 24″ per year. The main wine of the valley is Cabernet Sauvignon but in recent years Malbec has been added to the vineyards to capitalize on their Argentinian success on the other side of the Andes. The better wineries of Colchagua Valley have their vineyards located on the eastern slopes of the Coastal Ranges.

In 1935 the Viu family, Catalonian immigrants, founded a Bodega in Santiago, Chile to bottle and market wines locally.   The family, in 1966 purchased a winery and its vineyards in the Colchagua Valley which included very old, pre-Phylloxera, French derived vines.  This purchase marked the beginning of the family’s proprietary production of wine. In 2009, Vibo made its appearance on the Chilean and International markets.

Viu Manent, the Viu family company, operates 3 vineyards, totaling 627 acres, in Colchagua Valley: San Carlos, La Capilla, and El Olivar.  The San Carlos vineyard is 370 acres of 40 year-old plus vines, some more than 100 years old, growing at 800′ above sea level in very thick and porous, silty-sand to clayey-sand soils. The vineyard was established in the 1800s with pre-Phylloxera, French root-stock and vines. The La Capilla vineyard is about 93 acres dedicated to red-wine-only vines growing at 750 feet in a pebbly limestone and limey soil.  The vines are on average 16 years old. The El Olivar is a new land acquisition which the company plans to develop into about 175 acres of vines at an elevation between 500-930′, located on the steep slopes, up to 45°, of the Coastal Range foothills in pebbly-clayey soils.

Vibo Vinedo Centenario is produced from the oldest vines from the San Carlos vineyard. The 2014 growing season was delayed by long spring frosts which eventually led to hot summer days in the low 80s°F but the nights were cooler than normal, resulting in sustained high acidity levels for the grapes until harvest.

The grapes were hand harvested, de-stemmed and crushed in stainless steel tanks. After a 5-day cold water soak the grapes were fermented in natural yeasts.  Malolactic fermentation occurred in oak vats. The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, about 20% which are new oak.

The wine has ruby-red color with a garnet rim. A bouquet of fruity herbs and spice. The tongue stays happy with a great balance of tannins and acidity.  A wonderful finish.

An outstanding wine at a good price.  Serve with cheese, beef, lamb or duck. Drink now, but should last until 2020-2022. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.


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.


Rutini Malbec 2013

W Rutini 2013Malbec from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

100% malbec

14.0% alcohol

Opened 15 Dec 2017

els: 9.0/10

Cellar Tracker: 92

Wine Spectator: 91

Wine and Spirits: 89

Wine Enthusiast: 88

Felipe Rutini was born in 1866, into a winemaking family in the central Italian agricultural Province of Ascoli Piceno, which is less than 20 miles west of the Adriatic Sea. He graduated from the Royal School of Agriculture as an agricultural technician in the city of Ascoli Piceno. Disillusioned with the Italian unification and the constant wars in Europe, he made his way to Mendoza, Argentina at the young age of 18 and a year later founded the La Rural winery in the district of Coquimbito, currently located in the southeastern portion of the Mendoza metro area. People definitely made their mark earlier in life during the days of horses and steam.

His sons, after their father Felipe Rutini’s death in 1919, took over the winery and were the first to plant vineyards in the Uco Valley, around Tupungato, in the year of 1925. The winery eventually established two more vineyards in the southern portion of Uco Valley in the San Carlos Department. All 3 of these vineyards: Gualtallary, The Consultation, and The Altamira; totaling approximately 620 acres, are a source of grapes for this Malbec. In 1994, the Rutini winery and vineyards were sold to Argentinian investors including the wine makers: Nicolas Catena and Jose Benegas Lynch.

The vineyards are situated 3100 to 4100′ above sea level in the shadow of the Andes Mountains and the 21,500′ Tupungato volcano. The soils are well-drained, alluvial to colluvial, rocky sands to loams, one to four feet thick. Temperatures reach into the 80s during the growing season days and dip into the mid-50s at night.  Rain varies from 1 to 3.5 inches per month.

The grapes are manually harvested and the wine spends 12 months in new French and American oak barrels. Later vintages are stored in new and second use oak barrels.

It is a dark plum-colored wine with blackberry and earthy aromas. Huge tannins and shanghaied acidity produce a long grope of a finish. I drank a bottle of this wine several years ago and it was mediocre, plain and uninteresting, at best.  It has aged well in the bottle and exhibits a greater punch and grab now. Also it was about half the price a few years ago, re-enforcing the maxim: buy early, drink later. Serves well with red meat.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.


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.


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

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