World Malbec Day is April 17 – let’s get ready!

April 8, 2019

I was informed by Donna White of White Communications that April 17 is World Malbec Day. She sent me a beautiful recipe for braised lamb with roast veggies and several wine selections from Hess Collections. I learned some of the Colomé root stock dates to 1831 and is still producing today. With the exception of some recent plantings in Tibet, these are the highest-elevation vineyards in the world. Colomé associated with Hess Family Wine Estates, a fifth-generation-owned business, in 2001. Donald Hess saw the potential for the region. He planted another vineyard, Amalaya, in 2010. Regulars know I enjoy Hess Allomi Napa Cab. I wrote of the 2012 a few years ago when it was selling for $23. Hope you bought some. It is now selling at $65-plus and drinking wonderfully. The 2016 got mixed reviews, but I’m at 91 points and think it is a bargain; add 1 price point under $25. Bouquet of forest floor, cab fruit, mushroom and barrel notes. Medium body, dry palate shows raspberry, plum and spicy vanilla barrel nuance. Integrated tannins and proper acidity frame support all. Wine is ready now with decanting but a few years in cellar will improve.

I tried the lamb recipe with the Colomé Estate Malbec 2016 and the 2017 Amalaya Malbec. I expected darker color and higher tannic bite from the Amalaya due to skin thickening from high-altitude sun exposure and extremely dry conditions. These originate in the Salta region of the high Argentine desert. Bright ruby color foretold good winemaking. Not a tannin bomb. Mixed red fruit bouquet followed by less herbal than expected, juicy, fine tannins and fresh. Very good value under $15, 90 McD points. The 2016 Colomé Estate Malbec shows great promise, needs about two years. Aerating allowed violet and blueberry aromas followed by a fresh wine that is slightly tannic. The color, black fruit flavors and oak notes confirmed its potential, 91 points. The Autentico Malbec 2017 from Colomé is another with fine potential. A bit pricier around $30; I would advise searching out the 2014. Previously there has been little price appreciation over time. Best for cellarers would be a case with four each of the 2014, 2016 (raspberry, cedar and plum, yum yum) and 2017. I saw a 12/case of the 2016 at Saratoga Wine Exchange for $243. Great buy! The 2017 is a solid 92 McD. Bramble berry, cherry, white pepper and slate mineral, herbal nose. Sweet tannin and high-altitude acidity frame support flavors of chocolate, plums, berries and saline. This dry wine finishes long and clean with fruit-driven sweetness.

Colomé Torrontes is normally a top-flight wine. Avoid the 2017, which is just OK, and buy the 2015, 2016 or the 2018 if you are not in a rush; it was bottled in May 2018. It may not be on the shelves yet. Torrontes is becoming the star of Argentine whites. FYI, there are three varietals encompassed therein: Torrontes Sanjuanino, Torrontes Mendocino and Torrontes Riojano. Riojano is reputed to produce the best quality in most cases. The grapes are grown at high altitude in the Salta. This means colder, therefore less ripe, therefore higher acidity. Fresh wine with rose and lime blossom aromas. Flows to citrus lychee, nutmeg and slate minerality, on the palate. Great with Asian and Mexican food, 89 McD. You should be able to find any of these three vintages priced under $14, great QPR.

A bit off track, but I couldn’t resist. Joseph Campbell’s 1949 book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is well worth your time. It is a fascinating look at mythologies, their impact on religions, modern psychology and the Cosmogonic Cycle (origin of the universe and yes, I had to look it up), over the span of written and aural history. A well-footnoted and end-noted read. There are many pictures of artifacts as well. I wish I had read this 50 years ago. Campbell and  coauthor Henry Robinson exposed Thornton Wilder’s Bidenization of “Finnegan’s Wake” themes and language in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play, “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Wilder later admitted, “There were some similarities.” What saved Wilder from being labeled a plagiarist was he didn’t use the flow-of-thought, stream-of-consciousness style in the play that Joyce employed while writing “Finnegan’s Wake.” If you haven’t read Joyce, ya oughta. Pith to pique your interest can be found here: Start with “The Dubliners”; “Finnegan’s Wake” and “Ulysses” are his best works but are brain-wrackers.