Local wine sellers explore Argentine vineyard hotspots
By Holly Duchmann
Marcello’s Wine Market owner Gene Todaro and his wife, Nicole, recently spent a week in Argentina thanks to a very generous invitation by Vino del Sol, a wine supplier that specializes in Argentinian wines. The couple explored the country’s wine region, Mendoza, one glass of wine at a time.
The province of Mendoza is considered one of the nine Great Wine Capitals of the world and produces nearly 70 percent of Argentina’s wine. Although the province is located in a desert region, Mendoza sits in the eastern foothills of the Andes, which provides irrigation for the vineyards and agriculture from the snow melting in the mountains.
In Mendoza, vineyards mostly grow Malbec grapes, which is a blending grape that was brought from France. In France, it’s used to blend with cabernets and merlots to give wines a little more structure and color, but it’s really found its home in Argentina and Mendoza.
“They produce some beautiful, beautifully structured wines, not as heavy as the cabernet sauvignon,” Nicole said. “I would say more like a merlot or a red zinfandel.”
The pair stayed at bed-and-breakfast Club Tapiz, the now-converted original winery. Nicole said she especially enjoyed the bed-and-breakfast’s lovely turn-of-the-century style and surrounding 22 acres of vineyards and olive groves. Tapiz recently built a state-of-the-art winery at the foot of the Andes to be able to produce wine at a higher elevation, creating a higher quality Malbec.
For lunch one day, the two rode horseback through vineyards at the foot of the Andes to reach one of the lake houses belonging to Patricia Ortiz for lunch. Ortiz, a mother of five and a former nephrologist, is the president and owner of Tapiz and Zolo wineries as well as Club Tapiz.
The couple also ate at closed-door restaurants, a sort of underground restaurant located in chefs’ homes that is becoming increasingly popular in Argentina. Nicole described one of the evenings as she and a party of seven were sitting at a few tables in the chef’s living room drinking wines from Patagonia among the homeowner’s dogs while three people were in a tiny kitchen preparing the meal.
“They just have this passion to feed and enjoy life, and they have this passion of enjoying food, life and family, and camaraderie,” said Nicole. “There’s quite a few people where that’s their passion, that’s what they’ll do. They’ll work during the day and they’ll have a little restaurant in their home at night.”