Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Xumek Reserve, San Juan, Argentina

There is a hot, dry wind blowing through the San Juan province of Argentina. It blows down from the arid mountains; blasting the poor soil and taming the vegetation into subjugation.

   It is the Zonda.

   Zonda is the name for both the wind that blows relentlessly from May through November and also the valley that it lives in. It is this place, the Zonda Valley, that some of the most exciting viticulture in Argentina is taking place today.

  Looking at San Juan province, it is located about 200 miles north of Mendoza province, which wine-lovers the world over have been falling in love with for the past decade or more. Mendoza is home to over 1100 wineries and is the largest wine production area in the country. San Juan is the second largest producer of wine not only in the country, but in all of South America... an area known recently more for it's oil and mineral exploration then for it's viticulture, San Juan is now a hotbed for winemaking activity .

   And in that valley named Zonda, in the southern part of San Juan resting against the mighty Andes mountains, in the very upper reaches lies the relatively new winery known as Santa Sylvia. It was started by the Ezkanazi family who, in Argentina, are better known once again for mineral exploration then they are for winemaking... at least that used to be the case.

   When Eziquiel Ezkanazi decided to build a winery, he used all of his families' experience in mineral exploration, banking, engineering.... what he did he did well and he only hired the best people. Among those persons-of-interest is none other then Mr Paul Hobbs~! Paul Hobbs was the wunderkinder who crafted Catena wines into one of the absolute crown jewels of the Argentinian wine industry, starting with them in the late 1980's when Malbec  was a foreign word.

   Now Paul has found himself on the edge of a new frontier; the outer edges of San Juan and a winery that boasts almost 500 acres of vines and almost the same in olives (I'm told the olive oil is extraordinary). Where Paul and Eziquiel can take us with this new adventure I can only guess. My educated guess however, is that this wine will quickly become a fixture in our Malbec oriented firmament.

2006 Xumek Malbec-Syrah
    **** EXCELLENT VALUE ****
running mid-$30 range in BC, speciality wine stores only

100% estate grown, manually harvested
vines planted in 1995
  • visual:  clear; ultra deep (full+ intense) garnet core with slightest cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense developing bouquet of red and black cherries, blackberries, blueberries, black floral notes like irises, dark cocoa background, light Asian peppercorn finish
  • palate: clean, dry, moderate+ (currant/cassis) acids, moderate+ (smooth, silty) tannins, moderate+ to fully intense and developing flavors that mimick well the nose; emphasis on cinnamon/peppery finish (what I call Asian pepper) and deep earthy undercurrant. Extremely well balanced, excellent structure and long length
  • conclusion:   showing much better then I would ever guess from 11-year vines.. drink now and enjoy this wine is peaking and will last another 18 months to possibly 3 years. Will NOT improve with further aging
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   all Argentians love barbeque; it's a fact. Well anyone would love a barbeque if it was paired with this wine~! Consider applewood smoked boneless beef rib on fried onion buns with celeriac remoulade and Xumek poached plum tomato

   Worthy of note? Not only did Wine Access magazine (http://www.wineaccess.ca/) vote the Xumek Malbec as the "Champion Malbec of 2011", but the Argentinian Sommelier Association has voted the Xumek Syrah as one of the top 50 wines of the country~! As for the LittlestStudentofWine, she was was so moved by the wine she started yoga a little early.

As always, I look forward to your questions and comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!