20 Jul Argentina Wine Tour
A TRIP TO ARGENTINA WITH AN ARGENTINIAN RESTAURATEUR
Locals have known, if you want authentic Argentinean food in NYC, El Gauchito in Queens is the place. It has been the go-to spot for over 32 years, that’s right 32years! There are two dining rooms and an on-site butcher shop offering traditional cuts of beef, sausages and their famous homemade empanadas. I’ve been dining there for many years with my friends and family.
El Gauchito is frequented by Argentinians and those that enjoy Argentinian food from near and far for dining in-house or to pick-up an order for a party or BBQ. Located in Elmhurst Queens, this is a convenient location to get your pastries, candies, shirts and other novelties all in one place. Naturally, it’s also a fun place to watch soccer games.
Fortunately, several years ago, I became their wine rep and started working closely with them on their carefully curated wine program. Mario founded the restaurant all those years ago and his son Marcello, has since taken over the day-to-day operations, we quickly became friends along the way.
Marcello and I had the chance to travel together to tour wineries in Mendoza, Argentina. We spent a few days exploring Buenos Aires which was fun, we rented a scooter to zip around town and he has local friends were gracious enough to show us around both the touristic sites and the hidden treasures as well. Then it was off to a busy agenda of touring wineries with the winemakers in Mendoza. I set up meetings, tours, and tastings at some of the most prestigious “bodegas” that I represent in Mendoza.
The seasons are reversed between the US and South America, so in July in Argentina, it was chilly, not too cold but chilly. The vineyards were bare as the harvest season is from February to April. On our first day, we went to the historic 132-year-old Don Miguel Gascon winery which is the first winery in Mendoza still operating in the same location. It was interesting to walk around the same site established by Mr. Gascon in 1884 when he first purchased 17 hectares and started building the historic Bodegas Escorihuela.
Then we went to a wonderful lunch with the award-winning Ms. Susana Balbo. Ms. Balbo is Argentina’s first female winemaker. She met us at her restaurant Osadia in her winery Dominio del Plata with stunning views of her vineyards and the Andes Mountains in the background. As we dinned we learned about her contributions to Argentina as the president of Wines of Argentina and an organization that promotes the countries wines to the world markets. What was especially compelling is understanding her passion for social responsibility. She created a line of highly rated and affordable wines designed to give back to her employees and their families called Crios. susanabalbowines.com
Two more highlights during our Mendoza wine tour was cellar tour and tasting at Bodega Norton est1895 with winemaker David Bonomi. Mr. Bonomi was gracious to pop a few select bottles he blended and explained his process in detail. I scored a signed bottle of Perdriel Centenario 2009, his special blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes from the Lujan De Cuyo vineyards.
Then the absolute must visit was at the most awarded winery in Mendoza the big boss of Malbecs, Achaval Ferrer. First of all the drive up to the winery for me was a treat, surrounded by olive trees along a long driveway. We were greeted warmly by the winemaker Mr. Gustavo Rearte in the general public tasting room. After introductions to the staff, we got down to business in the cellar. That’s where the magic happens, the aging happens, and the flavor is instilled into the juice. Gustavo, pulled samples from various barrels of Altimira, Quimera and of course their single estate Malbec. Each offering intense and unique complexities as designed by the founders Mr. Santiago Achaval and Manuel Ferrer among other visionaries back in 1995.
we stayed a nice small resort, dined at his family’s home. To be hosted by a beautiful warm family in Mendoza doesn’t get any better. There were three generations of smiles around the table as we had a home-cooked feast.