Not long after I started this blog (five years ago last week), I realized that I really enjoyed writing about the stories behind or connected to a wine. To me, that is the unique aspect of wine that makes it so compelling—there are stories about how the wine got into the bottle as well as what happened around the bottle as it was poured.
I have developed one fairly stringent rule about those stories: I must have either heard it or experienced it. I have no desire to regurgitate (or worse, cut and paste) stories that others have written about a particular wine or winery. I am also reluctant to include any PR materials from either an agency or a winery. Sure, I might borrow certain tidbits if they are germane to my writing, but “borrowing” a previously published tale is not for me.
Why this stance?
For me, writing is personal. I am of the opinion that the best writing comes from specific events and how they are interpreted by the writer. I also feel that people are here to read what I write (as scary as that sounds)—if they were looking for information from the winery, they could Google.
Today, however, I break with that “rule” if ever so slightly. A few weeks ago, I received several wines from the Argentinian producer, Salentein. I have never been to South America, much less Argentina or the Uco Valley, but in researching the wines a bit, I came across this video below produced by the winery.
I do not know specifically what it was about the video that I found so compelling (but I am sure the incredible mountain vistas in the background played a major role), but watching the outdoor scenes (I lost interest when the camera went indoors), I knew there were a ton of stories there to be found.
The wines? In a word: Fantastic. It is rare (at least for me) to find wines that successfully combine Old World charm and sophistication with New World fruit and panache, but all of the Salentein wines I tried seemed to do just that.
2015 Salentein Reserve Chardonnay Valle de Uco Mendoza Argentina: Retail $20. Slightly golden in the glass with plenty of tropical notes. On the palate, bright and fresh with pineapple predominant, with no sign of oak. Nicely balanced with a decent finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2013 Salentein Single Vineyard Chardonnay San Pablo Estate Plot No. 2 Valle de Uco Mendoza: Retail $35. More of a traditional style Chardonnay with plenty of lemon zest, a bit of butter, and noticeable but subtle oak. The same holds all the way through with fruit, depth, and balance. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Bodegas Salentein Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Valle de Uco Argentina: Retail $25. Lovely rich nose of blackberry pie, licorice, and tar. Initially a wave of fruit before the subtle tartness inches its way forward, followed by the slightly drying tannins. This was much better after a decant, suggesting this has a considerable life ahead of it. I would hold on to this for at least 3-5 years, maybe longer. Lovely. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Bodegas Salentein Malbec Reserve Valle de Uco Argentina: Retail $25. 100% Malbec. A rich, ever slow slightly translucent inky purple in the glass, with cassis, blackberry, and a floral aspect on the nose. Simply lovely on the palate, like silk pajamas sliding under the sheets. Good fruit and even better balance, even though the wine spent a year in oak, it only plays a backup role. Excellent now, but I would not hesitate to keep this another 5-8 years. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2013 Salentein Numina Spirit Vineyard Gran Corte Uco Valley, Argentina: Retail $35. 62% Malbec, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot. A blend of five of the classic Bordeaux varieties, it rests inky dark in the glass with bunches of berry fruit (blackberry and cassis), with smoke and vanilla playing minor roles. On the palate, all seems to be well integrated with fruit up front, some nice acid throughout, and a lengthy finish. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2013 Salentein Pr1mus Malbec Uco Valley, Mendoza: Retail $45. I have never been to Argentina, but this is the type of wine that will likely get me there. Argentina is known for its Malbec: rich, inky, unctuous, full-throttle. Well, this is really none of those. I guess it is inky, and a bit rich, but it stops well short of unctuous. Nice berry (both black and red) and plenty of spice (clove, sage), but the acidity keeps it young and vibrant. Excellent now, but will age well for a good 5-10 years. Just short of a Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.