Ten Stunning Wineries

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Ten Stunning Wineries

The “new world” of wine regions offers vintners the opportunity to build wineries with latest technology. Bórmida & Yanzón Arquitectos is a very important Architectural firm in Argentina that has designed over 20 spectacular wineries…

Beautiful Wineries, And Great Wine Tasting

If you are looking for interesting wineries that are beautiful and have great wine tasting experiences, I have some amazing wineries for you to consider.  The “new world” of wine regions offers vintners the opportunity to build wineries with the latest of technology and hires the most talented architects to design these magnificent structures.  One such architectural firm in Argentina is Bórmida & Yanzón Arquitectos.  It has designed some 20 wineries of spectacular nature, four of which I have personally visited, and will share with you here.

Design is not just the visual excitement; it is also the wine flow through the winery.  These techniques can both ease the workflow for employees through the winemaking process, and provide a gentler handling of the wine, caring for its movement to maximize the quality.

These are all interesting things to learn on a winery tour at one of these new innovative wineries.  Wine is always an interesting education, not just the delightfulness in the mouth.

MOST INNOVATE WINERY

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The O. Fournier Winery is at the southernmost end of the new up-and-coming Valle de Uco wine region in Mendoza, Argentina.  This is the ultimate in innovative wineries.  O. Fournier is an architectural masterpiece… from its spectacular exterior design that won an architectural gold medal (Bórmida & Yanzón Arquitectos), to an infrastructure designed to gently handle the grapes and wines as they transition through the winery and to ease the workflow for their employees.  The result… wines that are winning the “Top 100 Wines of the Year” award on multiple occasions, plus achieving scores as high as 94 points.

A helicopter landing pad over a winery, you wonder?  It’s the winery’s outdoor roof, designed with the aerodynamics of an aircraft wing to create airflow below, keeping the grapes and workers cool.  Innovation in the winery is everywhere.  The entire wine-making process uses primarily gravity.  From sorting downward to fermentation, to aging, to bottling… they minimize pumps to maximize gentleness with the grapes, juice and wine.  The winery even has a built-in canal system within the concrete floors to capture water used in meticulously cleaning the environment.  Above the aging cellar grows rosemary to naturally hydrate the cellar in this dry desert environment.

The winery tour here is extensive.  A fantastic learning experience.  Followed by wine tasting across a wide platform of the wines produced here.  An even better wine tasting experience is at O. Fournier’s restaurant Urban, which won the world’s greatest winery restaurant award, where you can enjoy exquisite food paired with the winery’s wines.  Plus, the ambiance of its cube minimalist structure and decor, with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, every table looks out across the lake front, through vineyards, allowing the Andes Mountains to be admired.  On warm days, you can sit outside on the desk, lakeside.

The Highest Scoring Wines In Argentina 

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Bodega Achaval-Ferrer, in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, was formed by four friends who wanted to make the best Malbec possible.  And just 12 years later, Achaval-Ferrer boasted four of the five highest rated wines in Argentina history, as judged by Wine Spectator, who awarded their 2010 Finca Bella Vista as one of the “Top 10” best wines in the world.  Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, says they are the highest rated Argentine wines to date, giving their 2004 Finca Altamira Malbec a whopping 98 points!

Wine tasting is equally as impressive in this beautiful tasting room, pictured above.  A classy environment for tasting sophisticated wines.  The vineyard tour is the best part, as their secret to their great wine comes from their meticulous attention to the vines.  I call their passion: Kobe Grape.  They love their grapes like the Japanese love their cows! Reservations required.

Premium Blended Wines

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The vision with Bodega Vistalba (in the Vistalba sub-appellation of Luján de Cuyo, Mendozais to create sophisticated blends in the French Bordeaux style of big wines with long aging potential.  Malbec is their primary grape, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda used for blending perfection.

Built in the 21st century gave them the opportunity of incorporating modern technologies and innovations into all aspects of their winery from design-up of this state-of-the-art facility.  The winery is completely gravity fed.  No pumps are used for the most gentle handling of the grapes, their juice and ultimately the wines.  The grapes are harvested manually, stems and berries are meticulously sorted twice, and their temperature reduced in a cooling tunnel to 15˚F.  The grapes are gently placed in concrete fermentation tanks (photo above), where, after three to four days of cold maceration, fermentation begins, vinified using natural yeasts.  Inside the tank walls are water pipes that circulate water to control temperatures, with advantages of thermal inertia and micro-oxygenation, all done by computer.

Tours are extensive, informative and interesting.  Their underground wine cellar has the tasting room where the dug-out dirt remains exposed as one of the walls, so you can see the content of the alluvial soil.  Guides are extremely knowledgeable.  The wines are amazing.  And, they have two rooms if you would like to stay on the property above the winery.

Nature, Art, Culture, Food And Great Wine All Come Together

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The Bodegas Salentein winery, in Valle de Uco, Mendoza, was designed by Bórmida & Yanzón Arquitectos in the shape of a cross for both beauty and functionality.  In each of the cross’s four wings is a small winery in-and-of-itself to focus on optimizing quality distinctly.  Two levels allow a gentle flow of the grapes from tanks to barrels by a traditional gravity transfer system, and reducing the distance wine needs to be moved between winemaking steps.  The ground level houses stainless steel tanks and French wooden vats for fermentation and storage, and the underground for aging wine in oak casks.  The four wings converge in a circular central chamber, which resembles an amphitheater and was inspired by ancient classical temples with 5,000 oak barrels aging their precious wine.

Bodegas Salentein is likely the largest winery estate in Valle de Uco with 5,000 acres (2,000 planted with vineyards), stretching 14 linear miles through elevation of 3,400 to 5,600 feet, well into the foothills of the Andes Mountains where the growing cycle is short and the climate cool.  Head on up to their horse corral and get yourself a gaucho (cowboy) to take you horseback riding up into the high elevations of their property.  Meander through walnut orchards and towering alamos trees while experiencing history as you pass the ruins of Casa Grande, an old farmhouse of indigenous Jesuit missionaries who came to the region in the 17th century.

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Chief Winemaker José Galante has made it his mission to understand the micro-climates occurring throughout this massive estate, and with such knowledge of this land, he can deliver wines with strong personalities and varietal expression.  In the cellar, he plays music to his wines as they rest, aging (see first photo), Galante is the maestro of his wizardly skills in bringing forth a masterpiece of classical wines.

Imagine a place where nature, art, culture, food and great wine all come together for an awe-inspiring experience for the day, and more.  In a breathtaking atmosphere of native plants and natural materials used for construction, comes art… sculptures within the landscape and buildings, modern architecture and design, a museum of 19th- and 20th-century Dutch paintings, an art gallery of local artist expressing thought-provoking Argentine culture, chefs express their art and taste on the plate, and an innovate winery where great wines are created.  Take in the architectural marvels, all under the backdrop of the Andes Mountains surrounded by vineyards in every direction.  And you could stay there for a few days, as there is so much to do at their Posada Salentein, a 16-room hotel amid their La Pampa vineyards, privately tucked away from the tourism area.

A Beautiful Family, Wine & Asado Experience

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Giménez Riili is the first winery in a very cool project called The Winemakers Village… a boutique collection of 12 small, high-quality wineries that are joined by a walking path along a meandering stream of snowmelt Andes water, located in Tunuyán, Valle de Uco, Mendoza.

Enjoy the warmth of the Riili family’s friendship and spend the afternoon with them.  Tour their winery, see the tanks, barrels and vintage gallery.  Wander their gardens and learn about the native flora and wildlife of the valley.  And, join them for their daily traditional Argentine (BBQ) under outdoor cabanas overlooking vineyards and the Andes mountains.  It is an all-you-can-eat five-course menu of fresh-baked empanadas in their clay oven, grilled trout salad with beets and guacamole, chicken stew in an open pot of vegetables, herbs and spices, Asado of rib eye and tenderloin, and a dessert of Malbec-infused peaches served with homemade vanilla ice cream… all paired with a different wine.

19th Century Hacienda

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At Bodego El Esteco, they view their region, the Calchaquí Valley, as a magical place to be admired, not understood.  Of course it does not make sense… this is like no other wine region in the world.  Very high altitude. Extremely poor soil. Extreme temperatures. It resembles Mars, or some other odd-looking planet. It does not make sense that extraordinary wines can be produced in this harsh environment.  El Esteco is located adjacent to the little village of Cafayate, Salta, in northwest Argentina in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

El Esteco and its hotel Patios de Cafayate are in a beautiful Spanish-style hacienda, the former home of the Michel Torina family, founders of El Esteco Winery in 1892.  Thirty-two bedrooms with private baths surrounded by courtyards and elegant gardens of colonial beauty in what today is a luxury boutique hotel.  Enjoy the peaceful serene environment of this hotel and winery set amidst 1,000 acres of vineyards, and well off the road down a long driveway after a guarded entrance into the grounds and then through a majestic iron gate into a private world of the hacienda.  It is tranquil.  Romantic.  A grandeur of luxury of an era past.

The hotel will arrange special tours of the vineyards and the winery, and for specific tastings of their wines.  I recommend a food & wine paring at the hotel restaurant sitting pool-side on their patio, enjoying the uniqueness of an east-facing sunset.  The hills light-up with magnificent colors from the desert-sun setting behind the hotel and onto the palate of your view.

El Esteco produces eight different labels with 50 different wines in 13 million bottles annually, and yet they are all premium wines.  I tasted across their various labels, at least a dozen different wines, and I can tell you the results are admirable, quite admirable!  Each label has a concept, and in that concept, the wine has a purpose exploiting a specific style or characteristic of wine.  Their wines are interesting, with very attractive flavor profiles, some are very high-end premium results, with numerous awards to show.  The wines are magnificent.

Paradise, in the Middle of Nowhere

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After leaving the Salta airport, you have about a four-hour drive on primarily dirt roads, across mountain ranges, through quaint little villages, and even a riverbed (yes, you will make it) to reach Bodega Colome.  They are about 30 minutes outside the town of Molinos (even Google cannot find Molinos) in upper part of the Calchaquí Valley.  My suggestion, make this a day trip, as there will be so many wonderful places to stop along the way.

Bodega Colomé was founded in 1831 and purchased, completely renovated and revitalized in 2001 by Donald Hess of Napa Valley, CA.  Bodega Colomé has all new winery facilities with the latest technology and equipment, a beautiful visitors center with gourmet restaurant, and a boutique hotel, which is a private-style layout with central courtyard and nine very luxurious rooms surrounding an authentic Spanish courtyard complete with antiques and central fountain to set the mood for kicking your feet up.  Plus, a 4,000 sq’ modern art museum by James Turrell, one of the world’s most renowned contemporary artists whose work plays with the perception and effects of light within a created space.

Bodega Colomé focuses on extreme high-altitude farming of the two traditional Argentine varietals of Malbec and Torrontés.  Bodega Colomé vineyards are the highest in the world, ranging from 7,500’ to 10,206’ elevations.  This altitude has a significant impact on the quality of the grapes.  The higher the altitude, the greater exposure of the fruit to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.  Grapes develop thicker darker skins to protect themselves from the sun’s rays, which later accounts for more intense wines in color, aromas and flavors.  The result is receiving high awards and will capture your palate’s attention.

Newest Wine Region Creates Amazing Wines

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The world’s newest wine region has recently been born in Neuquén, Patagonia!  Not that long ago, at the turn of the century, the concept of a brand-new wine region was realized by planting 5,000 acres of Patagonia desert with grapevines into a terroir that would ultimately produce exclusively top-quality, premium wines.  Today, there are five wineries producing more wine than the rest of Patagonia combined.

Julio Viola was the visionary here who conducted significant research on the soil, climate and other conditions, finding out that the Neuquén terroir surrounding San Patricio del Chañar had ideal conditions for vitis vinifera, the wine grape species of the vine.  And especially Pinot Noir.  Viola then hired Patagonia’s most prominent Master Oenoligist Marcelo Miras and renowned French winemaker/consultant Michel Rolland to create his winery Del Fin Del Mundo (translated: The End of the World).  The result is beautiful wine.  I absolutely love their Pinot Noir wines.  The Patagonia style is softer like Burgundy France and Willamette Valley in Oregon, USA.  Plus, their thicker skin grapes bring immense color and more concentrated juice that resemble the bigger Pinot Noir style of California.  This Pinot Noir brings the best of all worlds, at the end of the world!

This winery makes for a fantastic tour as they have built a skywalk which crosses through the winery at elevation, so you can oversee the production of their many winemaking activities.  The guided tour begins with a glass of sparkling wine as you are educated about the different aspects of the winery and the winemaking process step by step.  You will get to taste wines directly from the stainless steel tanks and from the oak barrels to learn about the differences among the different stages of the winemaking process.  During harvest, February, March and April, you can also tour the vineyards in an educational experience of grape growing, which includes harvesting your own grapes.  In July and August, you can participate in their vine-pruning activities.  This is actually a critical activity in preparing the vines for the coming year’s harvest.  They will explain the unique Patagonian vineyard systems, irrigation, pruning techniques and their benefits as you tour the vineyards.

Hightly Advanced Winery

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The Schroeder family were also pioneers of this new wine region of Neuquén, planting their first vineyards in 2001 and building their winery in 2003 and becoming the largest producers of sparkling wines in Patagonia.  Their success comes from producing extremely high-quality wines, many of which are unique and innovative, setting them apart from their competition.  Considering the vines were 10 years old in 2011, releasing many of their red wines in 2014, the Familia Schroeder winery is now at the pinnacle of showing off their impressive creations.

Engaging Oenologist Leonardo Puppato and renowned American winemaker/consultant Paul Hobbs, they designed the most technologically advanced winery you can possibly imagine!  This includes the technical aspects of the building design itself, as well as incorporating innovative equipment and processes inside the winery.  From the moment the grapes enter the winery, they are received in a spacious cold room to bring their temperature down prior to hand-sorting.  As the grapes move through the winery, there is almost no pumping whatsoever to maintain the highly delicate handling of their precious fruit.  To achieve this, the winery was built on the side of a slope to take advantage of gravity moving the wine through each step in the winemaking process.

They created a special design for “hanging” the fermentation tanks (versus sitting on the floor) allowing them to drop the fruit from above into the fermentation tanks and then release them at the bottom as they continue to move though the winery without pumping.  This also allows for better control of the solids and cleaning.  The temperature of all of the tanks (both storage and fermentation) is controlled from a centralized master panel, along with controlled humidity and temperature in the aging cellars.  This is a total integral designed to allow the production of controlled quality with the highest standards.

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As the wine flows to the lowest level of the winery for aging in the cellars, it passes through an exhibit of the remains of a dinosaur discovered during the construction.  When they conducted excavations for the cellar, they found fossilized remains of a titanosaurid, one of the largest dinosaurs found wandering this land millions of years ago.  Today you can see the remains of Panamericansaurus Schroederi in a space specially fitted inside the cellar in the exact place it was found.  Saurus is now the label for many of the Familia Schroeder wines in honor of its ancestors of this land once lived.

Written by Michael C. Higgins, PhD, author/photographer of Exploring Wine Regions – Argentina, a 352-page travel guide, which details an insider’s perspective to Argentina’s wine regions with more than 500 beautiful color photographs.  If you love wine, make the time to go to Argentina. You are going to have a wonderful time for sure!

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