by Ben Hilzinger
With our own Bob Delf, or Bobby D, as I lovingly refer to him, recently returning from a well-deserved vacation to South America, I thought I might as well write a little bit about a grape booming in popularity from that part of the world. This grape is one of my favorites of all time, Malbec. If a follower of my blogs, you might remember a recent post about The Wine That Changed It All (For Me) "Sauvignon Blanc". This, while being true, is not the whole story. As with most wine drinkers, I started out only drinking sweet white wine. When Sauvignon Blanc came into my life, I was finally able to respect and understand the dryer whites. I did not, however, develop my taste for ANY red until drinking my first glass of Malbec. It took the inky, raisiny, tannic, and bold palette of this grape to open my eyes that not all red wines taste the same. I will forever be grateful to Malbec for drastically changing my life’s direction and now I’ve found the perfect excuse to ramble on about our relationship! Thanks Bobby D for taking a holiday!
Bob tasting in Argentina
Although I did technically say Malbec was from South America, specifically Argentina, that particular association is still a relatively young one. Malbec is originally a Bordeaux red grape variety where its most-planted area is the Cahors region of South West France. Needing a longer growing season and more sun than its friends Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec never quite gained the immense popularity in the viticulture world, but it is still a cherished addition to many of the world’s best red blends. With its inky red, intense profile, any wine missing a little mid-palate pizazz is a damsel in distress waiting for this powerhouse grape. As a standalone grape variety, Malbec tends to be relatively all-over-the-place in consistency (not quality), but maybe thats why I’m always drawn to it. As humans, we are always changing and you never know what side of the bed you’re going to wake up on. Its this shot-in-the-dark acceptance when buying different Malbec from different producers that keeps me young, or maybe it ages me more, who knows. Some stress is good, right? Anyways...
Now, with acreage of Malbec declining in France, Argentina has somewhat branded the grape as its very own local celebrity. In most restaurants, if there’s only one Malbec by the glass, its most likely from Argentina. This, however, does not mean they produce the best version of this grape. Argentinian Malbec tends to be softer, and more silky than its French counterparts. Oddly enough, it seems to have more ageing potential as well. I guess it really depends what you like. After all, thats what this is all about right?
Bob might not want me to pass on his ultimate assessment of his “wine experience” abroad (by the way, I tend to agree with him most of the time), but I’ll just paraphrase his words in a very politically correct way as to not piss anyone off…”Let’s just say Washington makes some damn good wine…”. That being said, Malbec from this part of the world (Washington) is quickly taking a lot of buzz away from Argentina.
Here at Northwest Cellars, we couldn’t be more proud of our most-recent releases of this favorited varietal. Our 2010 Malbec sourced from Phinney Hill and Verhey vineyards was rated 91 point by The International Wine Review. WIth its dark ruby, violet tinge, our Malbec has incredible character in a polished package showing very pure black and blue berry fruit with an earth note. It’s velvet in texture with deep fruit, fine tannins and a hint of graphite adding nuance on the finish. Our 2011 Malbec, sourced solely from Verhey vineyards, is beautifully balanced and aromatic, opening with just a whiff of smoky bacon, mulling spices and dark cherry on the nose. Concentrated flavors of black and blue berries, a touch of cherry cola and black pepper along with lively acidity and soft tannins on a lingering finish will keep you coming back for more!
I could go on forever about this amazing grape, but I think I’m gonna stop and go pour a glass for myself.
Drink Northwest Cellars. Cheers!