After naming the grill master and author of the book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way the executive chef of Siete Fuegos, the restaurant at the Vines Resort & Spa in the Uco Valley, Vines took the famed chef on a whirlwind tour of several US cities to celebrate with a menu of grilled sweetbreads, five hour rib eye, skirt steak, and a salt crusted salmon infiernillo with aioli. Everything was paired with Recuerdo Wines, now available in the US, which are produced at the Vines of Mendoza’s vineyards.
Michael Evans was a political consultant working with John Kerry and Rock the Vote, then went on vacation to Mendoza, Argentina in 2004. A year later, with co-founder Pablo Gimenez, he began Vines of Mendoza, a wine entrepreneurship program in the Uco Valley where owners, with help from Argentina’s most acclaimed viticulturalist Santiago Achaval, learn winemaking and create their own superior quality wine. In a few short years the project has grown to encompass a wine club, online wine store, tasting room in Mendoza, and soon a resort and spa.
I tend to travel home with lots of bottles. Rum, pisco, Cachaça, wine, etc. When I’m in Mendoza in particular, I tend to be stretching the limit of my legally allowed alcohol allowance. Also, considering if you are not buying from Duty Free and if you have a connecting flight in the United States, wine cannot be transported in your hand luggage. It has to be packed. Although I’ve never had a bottle brake in transit, I know it is coming.
Aesthetically, I have come to appreciate O. Fournier maybe more than any other winery in Mendoza. The dramatic architecture, cutting edge technology, glass enclosed restaurant, and art filled wine cellar have made the bodega here one of the most recognizable in Mendoza. During a visit to their Uco Valley winery in 2010 I found the team there to be surprisingly down to earth and approachable. Co-founder Jose Manuel and his wife Nadia Haron, the executive chef, were out chatting with the guests. Their daughter helped wait tables. This combination of elements all becomes reflected in the wine they produce.
For more than 120 years Mendoza, Argentina’s Mercado Central (central market) has occupied the same place a few minutes from the center plaza. Not overly polished or touristy, it’s an inexpensive break from the slick eateries that dominate central Mendoza. There’s no glossy finish, just the raw, grit deal. Butcher’s chop up bloody innards. Spice stalls intoxicate. Old school yellers push fish or meat or slices of pizza.
n Torrontés, from Argentina (Wines of The Times) the New York Times proclaims that torrontés, one of Argentina’s other blossoming white wines (another is viognier) has begun to take the United States by storm. In 2004, less than 30,00 cases of torrontés were exported to the U.S. In 2010, that number ballooned to 231,000 cases, the Times reports via Wines of Argentina.
Malbec grapes grow in Argentina like nowhere else on earth; just as grass fed cows have no prettier place to graze than on the country’s endless plains. These are two iconic elements of the country. On their own they spin legends, but pair the two and this is where they form something special. Something only experienced in Argentina.
Francis Mallman is Argentina’s most identifiable chefs. His signature restaurant, 1884, in Mendoza is the preeminent restaurant for meat in the world’s most preeminent meat country. His book, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, is basically the bible of cooking Argentine meat. The emphasis on the food here is rustic. Many dishes are cooked over an open fire or in a clay oven. Mallman gravitates not toward the European influenced kitchens of Buenos Aires, but the gaucho ways of Patagonia and beyond.
Oilve oil production in Argentina is still in its infancy. This year is expected to be a poor one because of the falling price of the euro and the fact that Argentineans only consume .15 liters of olive oil annually, compared with 25 liters in Greece. Still, as I discovered at Duty Free in Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza airport while loading up on wine, the country is producing some excellent olive oils.
While Chardonnay and to a lesser extent Torrentes and Sauvignon Blanc are almost always given the nod as South America’s favorite white wines, dry, refreshing Viognier is slowly carving out a name for itself. It pairs well with shellfish, seafood, sushi, and even curry and the wine is drunk best young.