On Monday, August 19 Lady Tocqueville, her parents, and I were treated to a very special wine experience in Mendoza, Argentina at the Bodega La Rural. Before we delve into this magical event, hosted by Ariel Menniti who is their North American brand manager, let me give you some background on how we received this generously sponsored event from Bodega La Rural.
In our home of Charlotte, NC, Argentinian wine distribution is growing. While many wine stores, like Total Wine, carry many different varieties of Argentinian wine, there aren´t that many restaurants which have caught on. One restaurant in particular which is near our house, Villa Antonio, has an excellent selection of Argentina´s wines to complement their thoughtfully prepared Italian Food. While I am not an Italian Food expert, I have always had a pleasant experience there and received great value for money on freshly prepared dishes. Anthony Garcia, the General Manager, works very hard to source quality food and drink ingredients, including Argentinian wines.
We hosted an Argentinian wine tasting for 30 friends back in November at Villa Antonio. Anthony and his team worked hard to prepare a fixed-price menu and a sampling of Argentina´s wines. After this I mentioned to him how Lady Tocqueville and I were heading to Argentina on our Trip of a Million Lifetimes. He jumped at the opportunity to link us up with his distributors in Argentina. He linked us up with Peter Uliciansky at the Prestige Wine group, who distributes for Bodega La Rural in Mendoza. Peter generously offered us a private tour of the facilities and a tasting with the brand Manager once we were there. We graciously took him up on this.
So with this back story in mind, we arrived as guests of Villa Antonio and Prestige Wine Group to learn more about Bodega La Rural in Maipu, just outside of Mendoza, Argentina.
When we arrived it was a cool, early spring morning, and after giving our named we were waived through the security desk. Once inside, one of the staff greeted us and gave us a tour of the production facilities and on-site wine museum. The Rutini family started Bodega La Rural in the late 19th century. These immigrants from Italy irrigated the land to provide water for their grapes in this dry region. For over the last 100 years, they have successfully been producing wine in the Mendoza region. They were one of the early adopters. The ownership to the business changed hands in the late 20th century, and while the current management is not part of the family, the Rutini (and Trumpeter, their other line) wines live on. Only in the last 20 years has Bodega La Rural begun exporting their excellent San Felipe and Trumpeter wines outside of Argentina.
The view of a beautiful spring morning, with many of the original 19th century wine farming and irrigation tools beautifully on display.
More of the wine tools on display, from hand tools all the way to John Deere tractors.
After our tour, we were directed to Ariel Menniti who leveraged the beautiful day to do our tasting and wine knowledge session outside in their wonderful garden. By this time, the temperature was about 75 Fahrenheit, and the birds were humming for our noon wine tasting.
We really enjoyed the kindness and conversation of Ariel. He walked us through four of the Bodega La Rural lines while nibbling on cheese and discussing wine and popular culture in the United States and Argentina.
We first sampled two whites [the first two from the left, above]: San Felipe Chardonnay and Trumpeter Extra Brut sparkling wine. I particularly enjoyed the San Felipe paired with some semi-soft local cheese with nuts in it. The sparking wine was a 2009 and paired great with the brie. These wines are less than $25USD at the store in the US, and expect a bit of a mark-up from that at your favorite restaurant.
Then came the two reds, the San Felipe Malbec and Trumpeter Cabernet-Sauvignon. Malbec in general has exploded in the last 20 years and helped put Argentina´s wines on the map. This Malbec was excellent, and you could really smell the aromas from the terroir the grapes came from. In particular for me, I got some nice notes of pepper and even a little tobacco. To me, the Trumpeter Cabernet-Sauvignon did not stand up to the Malbec´s full flavor, however at the lower price-point for Trumpeter, it would make a very attractive house wine, or just something casual to sip on a cool evening.
After a very pleasant hour chat, we thanked Ariel for his time and parted ways. We learned a great deal about Bodega La Rural and its Trumpeter and San Felipe wines. These wines are not at Total Wine yet, although I have to believe Peter and the team at Prestige are going to work hard to get them there. Seek these out as you begin experimenting with Argentina´s wine.
Our Trip of a Million Lifetimes, currently in progress, has been a dream come true. And it is thanks to interactive, thoughtful cultural experiences like the time we spent with Ariel and Bodega La Rural.
Winery: Bodega La Rural in Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Distributor: Peter Uliciansky, Prestige Wine Group [email@example.com]
Where to Stay: Wine Farm Cavieres Posada about 5 miles away