Denveater walks into a golf club…totally the beginning of a bad joke. (And she said “Ouch! A bar’s got nothin’ on a club!” Etc.)
But it really wasn’t that bad—on the contrary, Argonaut’s Chilean & Argentine wine tasting to benefit the Positive Project at the Park Hill Golf Club was quite the unexpected treat. Dreading the setting based on prejudices formed, oh, as a Jew growing up in a bookish household in right white Oklahoma—you can extrapolate from there, no?—I sort of slouched in to await the arrival of my pals & fellow bloggers Beth of Living the Mile-High Life (whose color commentary you’ll find below in italics) & Rebecca of From Argentina with Love only to find myself in a function room so nondescript that minus the view of the course could’ve been any old lobby.
Park Hill is definitely past its glory days. Or maybe the state of the carpet reflects priorities: the golf course looked much better maintained than the club.
Anyway, for $25, I wasn’t looking for opulence; on the contrary, a tasting roster of some 150 wines + hors d’oeuvres seemed like a bit of a steal. Not a big steal, mind you—maybe just a shoplifting incident—but a steal nonetheless. And there was the loot, the room ringed round with 19 tables manned by distributors’ reps, each lined with wines—from as few as 5 to as many as 16. In the center of the ring, the buffet was certainly no worse than it could have been,
half-dead bruschetta aside,
what with lots of cheese, crackers & fresh fruit as well as
empanadas, croquettes & platters of veggies both grilled & raw with dip.
Finally, the fact that my aforementioned accomplices in ransacking said loot were in fine funny form meant the whole eve pretty much rocked back & forth & side to side.
Here’s my take on most of the 15 or so wines I got around to trying (for convenience’s sake, my faves are tagged with stars)—all available, of course, at Argonaut:
I wasn’t terribly familiar with the signature Argentine varietal for whites before this tasting. I’m still not—like that Mitch Hedberg joke, “I used to do drugs. I still do. But I used to, too”—but I can waste at least a breath or 2 on, above all,
the ¶2008 Santa Julia Torrontés Organica, described to me as “floral like viognier, but with more acidity.” What I got from it was grapefruit & more refreshing grapefruit. At $9.99, it was the cheapest & best of the bunch of 3 I sampled.
The 2007 Colomé Torrontés ($13.99),
Rebecca explained to us, comes from Salta, the highest grape-growing province in Argentina. My first thought upon tasting it was “white grapes,” which I’d like to think might not be as stupid as it sounds. After all, not all wine tastes like the fruit it’s made from; this one does. In short it was a touch sweeter, though not heavier, than the Santa Julia.
Beth & I followed that with the 2007 Tamari Torrontés ($12.49), which has “great balance” according to the winemaker’s tasting notes but tipped so far toward citrus in my mouth it fell over, causing a mighty puckering. Later Beth called it an “attack wine.” Rawhr! No, the attack wine was the Malbec at the same table. I liked all the Torrontes I tried. Oops. But didn’t you call it “thin & harsh”? Or were you complimenting me? Heh.
A guy named Dale recommended the 2006 Tupun Viognier from Argentina ($11.99) because he’d just opened it, so it still had the “initial dry flash” that dissipates after the wine has breathed for awhile. I caught an odd sparkler-style twinge; Rebecca concurred, noting that “it would be so good bubbly.” Too bad it’s not. Certainly it didn’t distinguish itself for me like the 2007 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc from Chile ($9.99), all lychee whee.
I’ve never heard of an “initial dry flash,” have you? Sounds menopausal. I think some of these guys are just making stuff up. Heh, yeah, like those wines under the label Mommy’s Time Out Rebecca has told me about. They could make like a 2009 Post-Menses Pinot that would have an initial dry flash.
You may have noticed a recurrent theme in this here blog, something along the lines of ¡I Y ARGENTINE MALBEC! And the ¶2006 Altosur Malbec ($10.99) was no exception. I described it then as the velvet covering grapes in an oil still life, & I’ll stand by that assessment—soft yet lush.
A close second for me was the 2008 Santa Julia Malbec Organica ($9.99), which I was brainwashed by a particularly touchy-feely wine rep (ask Rebecca) to believe was all about blueberries, & I’ll stand by that too. Or wobble by it, whatever, because as I compared it to the 2007 Dona Julia Estate Malbec ($16.99), I realized I was beginning to get tipsy & paying no attention to any given sip. As Rebecca put it when I pointed out the tasting was winding down, “Shit, man, I gotta drink up.”
Her favorite, meanwhile, was the 2006 Melipal Malbec Reserve, at $44.99 the most expensive wine at the tasting. Two of the other expensive wines were all gone by the time we wanted them. Next time we’ll have to head for the expensive wines first. Indeed. As for this one, distinct & lovely as the violet aroma was, the taste was too understated for my buds. (This blogger’s tasting notes say plum, black cherry & bay leaf; fair enough.) Meanwhile, far from understated were
¶2005 & ¶2007 Enrique Foster Malbecs ($25.99 & $11.49, respectively);
the former, a reserve, was fully complex—the viticultural equivalent of hazel eyes, changing character depending on the context, the given sip—while the latter was full-on chocolatey.
Chilean carménère is the ancestor of a long-lost bordeaux varietal & quickly becoming a fave of mine. Of 3 I tried, 2 caught my fancy:
the ¶2006 Arenal Carménère ($10.99)
has some of the roundness of a good ol’ merlot, but it doesn’t stop there, adding plenty of pepper for good piquant measure. By contrast, the ¶2007 Calina Carménère ($7.99) smelled not merely of earth but downright dirt, & tasted…springy. Like springy dirt. And yes, that’s a plus; points for intrigue.
The tasting notes for the MontGras Carménère Reserva ($10.99), meanwhile, contained words like “subtle” & “soft” & “velvety,” but the tasting itself sure didn’t contain its referents. I don’t mind tannic wines, but this was sharp. Rebecca said it smelled like rotten walnuts before calling herself a bitter, angry biatch. Which is the way I like ’em.
Next up on the Argonaut–Park Hill tasting calendar—southern Italian wines, June 11. Think aglianico, primitivo, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, & me pounding.