Tag Archives: Argentine wines

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #Malbec on #MalbecWorldDay

17 Apr

Darlings, I miss you!

Señorita Vino has been hitting the books, burning the midnight oil, and every other academic cliche you can think of to make it through her MBA program. But even as I drown in a sea of standard deviations, you, my lovely readers, are never far from my heart. Final exams are on the horizon, but I had to take some time to wish you all a happy #MalbecWorldDay. Here’s a re-blog of a “Mucho Gusto” featuring…you guessed it–Malbec. 

There’s nothing Señorita Vino loves more than a fiesta, and today happens to be a big fiesta in the Wonderful World of Wine. Happy Malbec World Day, chicos y chicas! It’s possible that Malbec is the first Latin American wine you tasted, or at least the one that’s easiest to find this side of the Rio Grande.

In honor of this auspicious day, here’s the scoop on Argentina’s most popular wine.

DSC_0738
HOLA, ME LLAMO: Malbec is a red wine that has become Argentina’s signature vino.

MY ROOTS: Depending on which wine reference book you’re reading, Malbec is believed to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region or in Auxerrois in northern Burgundy. It’s known as Cot in most of France and today makes up at least 70 percent of the blend in the Cahors AC. Malbec was first brought to Argentina in the early 1850s from Chile.

ALL ABOUT ME: A dry red wine with bold, fruity aromas, Malbec has gorgeous purple hues and lush, velvety tannins. Besides ripe black fruit, Argentinean Malbecs may give you a whiff of violets and sweet spice. You may even get hints of coffee. A Malbec from Cahors will present more raisiny flavors, as well as tobacco and coffee notes. Malbec from high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo province displays a crisp acidity. At such a high altitude, the grapes ripen more slowly and can stay on the vine longer, which means you’ll get more concentrated, balanced flavors.

FOODS I LOVE: There’s no better wine for grilled meat and barbecue than Malbec, which is only fitting given Argentina’s reputation for quality beef and (vegetarians, cover your eyes) rockin’ parrilladas. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can still enjoy Malbec with tagliatelle in a mushroom ragout sauce, or with a veggie empanada.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: You can get a decent Malbec for $14-$20. Higher-end labels will cost a bit more. If you’re going all out with a fine cut of meat, it may be worth the splurge. Wines with “Salta” or “Luján de Cuyo” on the label come from vineyards at the highest altitudes. Recommended labels include Norton, Bodegas Poesía “Clos des Andes,” Catena, Luigi Bosca and Crios de Susana Balbo.

So round up your besties, grab some steak and your favorite bottle of Malbec and celebrate Malbec World Day con pasión, che! Tango music optional. ¡Salud!

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #Malbec on #MalbecWorldDay

17 Apr

There’s nothing Señorita Vino loves more than a fiesta, and today happens to be a big fiesta in the Wonderful World of Wine. Happy Malbec World Day, chicos y chicas! It’s possible that Malbec is the first Latin American wine you tasted, or at least the one that’s easiest to find this side of the Rio Grande.

In honor of this auspicious day, here’s the scoop on Argentina’s most popular wine.

DSC_0738
HOLA, ME LLAMO: Malbec is a red wine that has become Argentina’s signature vino.

MY ROOTS: Depending on which wine reference book you’re reading, Malbec is believed to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region or in Auxerrois in northern Burgundy. It’s known as Cot in most of France and today makes up at least 70 percent of the blend in the Cahors AC.  Malbec was first brought to Argentina in the early 1850s from Chile.

ALL ABOUT ME: A dry red wine with bold, fruity aromas, Malbec has gorgeous purple hues and lush, velvety tannins. Besides ripe black fruit, Argentinean Malbecs may give you a whiff of violets and sweet spice. You may even get hints of coffee. A Malbec from Cahors will present more raisiny flavors, as well as tobacco and coffee notes. Malbec from high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo province displays a crisp acidity. At such a high altitude, the grapes ripen more slowly and can stay on the vine longer, which means you’ll get more concentrated, balanced flavors.

FOODS I LOVE: There’s no better wine for grilled meat and barbecue than Malbec, which is only fitting given Argentina’s reputation for quality beef and (vegetarians, cover your eyes) rockin’ parrilladas. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can still enjoy Malbec with tagliatelle in a mushroom ragout sauce, or with a veggie empanada.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: You can get a decent Malbec for $14-$20. Higher-end labels will cost a bit more. If you’re going all out with a fine cut of meat, it may be worth the splurge. Wines with “Salta” or “Luján de Cuyo” on the label come from vineyards at the highest altitudes. Recommended labels include Norton, Bodegas Poesía “Clos des Andes,” Catena, Luigi Bosca and Crios de Susana Balbo.

So round up your besties, grab some steak and your favorite bottle of Malbec and celebrate Malbec World Day in style. ¡Salud!

 

 

Popes and Bonarda: Argentina’s newest exports

14 Mar

I almost fell off the pew at the news that our new pope was from Argentina, home of tango, soccer stars and Evita. Of course my thoughts turned to wine, and whether Torrontés and Malbec would see a surge in sales thanks to Pope Francis I’s new stint at the Vatican.

Scenes from a Cathedral: The main cathedral in Buenos Aires, former home of Pope Francis I.

Scenes from a Cathedral: The main cathedral in Buenos Aires, former home of Pope Francis I.

One Argentine grape I’d love to see more of at my friendly neighborhood wine shop is Bonarda. Depending on who you talk to, this luscious red grape originated in France or Italy, and it’s fast becoming a rising star in the Argentine vino world (look out, Malbec!).

Earth First is an organic Bonarda produced in Argentina and available in the U.S.

Earth First is an organic Bonarda produced in Argentina and available in the U.S.

Bonarda is slowly making its way into the U.S. market, where I predict it will gain a following thanks to its exotic, spicy profile and food-friendly pairings. Want to know more about Bonarda? Read my article, published yesterday by TheLatinKitchen.com, Latina magazine’s fab foodie website.

Oh, and say a prayer that one of Pope Francis’s first reforms is to serve late-harvest Torrontés at Communion.

Amen y ¡salud!

A taste of Buenos Aires in Los Angeles

7 Mar

Señorita Vino left her heart in Buenos Aires three years ago. To be precise, she left her entire person at Ezeiza International Airport after missing a connecting flight to Lima en route to Los Angeles. Her excuse: Perfume shopping in the duty-free section. Lame, I know. Or as my Buenos Aires cousins might have said after I boarded a rescheduled flight the next day, “¡Qué boluda!”

Argentina didn’t cry for me, but I certainly cried after realizing I couldn’t bring home any of the beautiful bottles of Malbec I bought in a hip little airport bodega, all because my bags had the good sense to make the flight and were, at that moment, Lima-bound without me. I’m sure by now my Argentine cousins have put those bottles to good use, their prize for rescuing me from the prospect of spending the night on the floor of International Terminal A.

Imagine my nostalgia-ridden joy when I stumbled across a gem of an Argentinian eatery in Los Angeles. Carlitos Gardel Restaurant sits on a nondescript stretch of the tourist mecca that is Melrose Avenue, about halfway between the stuck-in-the-the-80s boutiques and the posh Beverly Hills end. For those of you who may not be familiar with Carlos Gardel, you’ll certainly know who he is about five minutes after stepping into the restaurant’s retro-elegant interior. Framed reprints of newspaper clippings and old photographs line the walls, telling the story of one of Argentina’s most beloved musical figures, known to some as the godfather of tango music.

Tango Bar: An image of Carlos Gardel taken in a Buenos Aires milonga, or neighborhood tango hall.

Sultry tango rhythms drifting in from the audio system serve as a fitting soundtrack for a menu of traditional Argentinian dishes: Empanadas, melted provolone and steak classics including milanesa, entraña a la parilla and churrasco. Signature Italian influenced-plates feature gnocchi, ravioli and seafood pasta.

The wine list is curated by the restaurant’s Buenos Aires-born sommelier, who is at the ready with helpful advice and pairing suggestions. I decided to take a break from Malbec and try what in my opinion is Argentina’s true wine star, Bonarda. This is a red grape with a wonderfully fruity character and a smooth feel on the palate. I chose a 2007 Lamadrid Reserva Bonarda. Gorgeous violet aromas, a hint of chocolate and lots of ripe red fruit. In a word, ¡Fantástico!

Next time you're in the mood for Argentine wines, give Bonarda a try.

Bonarda was the perfect match for my Italian-influenced appetizer of burrata and prosciutto. The wine’s flavor and structure also complemented the main course, entraña (grilled skirt steak) served with pumpkin-infused mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Mamma mia! An influx of Italian immigrants to Argentina starting in the mid-1800s gives the nation's cuisine a decidedly Italian flair.

During my first trip to Buenos Aires, my cousins took me to a tango dinner theater where I proceeded to consume a juicy steak about the size of a coffee table. This, of course, while watching lithe dancers flit about the stage in spangled, form-fitting dresses. It’s a good thing my gym doesn’t have a branch in Buenos Aires, because I probably would have spent the next 24 hours on the treadmill. The portions at Carlitos Gardel are more than generous, much like every restaurant I tried in Argentina. This time, I showed some restraint and had enough leftovers for two more meals.

Dessert at Carlitos Gardel is the best incentive not to go loca on your main course. The peach layer cake with dulce de leche and whipped frosting is like nothing I had in Buenos Aires. The great thing about that is knowing I can enjoy it without having to board a plane  – and risk missing another connection.

Carlitos Gardel Restaurant. 7963 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046. 323.655.0891 Dinner M-Sat, 6 – 11 p.m.; Sun, 5 – 10 p.m.  Lunch M-F, 11:30 – 2:30.

Holiday gifts for vino lovers

8 Dec

¡Ay, caramba! Seventeen shopping days ’til Navidad, chicas y chicos!

Señorita Vino feels your pain, which is why we’re soothing your pre-holiday stress with our first annual Holiday Gift Guide for Vino Lovers. Of course, a glass of wine probably works better, but you’ve got gifts to buy, so don’t get too relaxed there, cowgirl (or cowboy). We’ve combed the vineyards and wine shops of the world – virtual and real – to bring you some fun, delectable, practical and educational-but-not-boring gift ideas for your favorite vino lover. Even if that person happens to be you.

If you’ve read El Full Disclosure, all of the items below were selected randomly by me, and purchased with my own dinero, unless otherwise noted. Should you be inspired to buy any of the featured items this holiday season, spread the holiday amor and tell ’em Señorita Vino sent you.

So here you go, in no particular order, our picks for this year’s best gifts for wine lovin’ newbies (and you more seasoned folks, too). Feliz shopping!

1. If you think life is all fun and games, so is learning about wine! I picked up Viti Vini in the gift store of a San Luis Obispo tasting room last month to add a little oomph to my wine studies coursework (not that the material was boring – I’m just an over-achiever). But I’m also a giving kind of a chica, and I realized that a good friend of mine may appreciate it more than I would. The  party hostesses and hosts on your gift list might enjoy a new addition to their cocktail party repertoire. As an alternative, you may want to buy your own game, bone up on some useful wine facts and figures, and be the cocktail party repertoire. $24.95 at VitiVini.com.

2. Wine and chocolate go together like Diego Forlan and a soccer jersey. No need to feel guilty about indulging this holiday season with Wine Lover’s Chocolate. This takes the guesswork out of pairing chocolate and wine, because they’ve done it for you! The collection features chocolate with varying percentages of cacao made to pair with a particular red wine varietal. I bought the formula made to pair with Pinot Noir for my husband. I stumbled across it at Alapay Cellars in Avila Beach, Calif. last month, but it’s also available online at $5.99 a tin, or $18.95 and up for variety packs.

3. Ah, vino…what gift says Feliz Navidad better than a nice bottle of wine. I could go on and on recommending scores of world-class wines I’ve had the privilege of tasting this year, and I hope to post more wine reviews in 2012 (Señorita Vino has started her New Year’s resolutions list). But for now, I wanted to recommend the 2009 Bonarda Earth First from Mendoza, Argentina. The reason is simple: I’m giving two bottles to my father for Christmas (Shhhhh! It’s a surprise). This is what we poured at Thanksgiving this year, and I only wish I could have recorded my dad’s reaction, because he said it with such gravitas: “Éste es un vino excelente.” Bonarda is becoming a hot grape in Argentina, giving Malbec a run for its money. If you like fig and raisin flavors, bold tannins and luscious fruity aromas, you can’t go wrong. What’s more, I’m highly selective about the wines I give my father, and this one is a winner. Earth First is an organic wine, so the granola crowd on your list will appreciate it. I found it at Uncorked: The Wine Shop in Hermosa Beach, Calif. for $13.99

4. One of my favorite memories is of my dear friend “Joy” (not her real name) who, at a holiday bacchanalia, attempted to uncork a bottle of wine while walking down a flight of stairs. She took a graceful tumble but managed to right herself, bottle (and ego) intact. If you have friends like Joy who like to show off their multitasking skills, or others who couldn’t work a corkscrew to save their lives, take the pressure off by giving them a wine opener that doesn’t require a Ph.D. to operate. My husband bought me mine for Christmas last year, and it’s among my top 5 most frequently used kitchen gadgets. This one’s called the Compact Wine Opener, and it sells for $40.00.

A little somethin’ for the stocking: Don’t you hate it when a rogue piece of spinach commandeers your front teeth, and no one around you has the decency to say anything? If you love red wine like I do, you may have noticed the chompers start to take on a purplish hue after a few sips. Hopefully people around you are too tipsy to notice, but do a friend – or yourself – a favor and don’t leave home without your Wine Wipes. Tear open a pack, discreetly wipe, et voila! You’ve got the whitest teeth in the room. Until your next glass, that is. (El Full Disclosure: I was handed a few Wine Wipes as samples at a wine festival this summer). $6.99 for a 10-pack at Amazon.com.

Stay tuned…last minute gift ideas for your favorite Vinorita or Vinorito are coming up!

Torrontes and Peruvian Comfort Food

30 Sep

Whoa – storm clouds are gathering outside my window, thunder is pealing, and I feel cheated out of Southern California’s version of an Indian Summer. This calls for comfort food.

In case you missed my Hispanic Heritage Month guest post, here’s the full article and the recipe for Peruvian seco de pollo. Pair this with an Argentinean Torrontes and add a little Southern Hemisphere warmth to a blustery fall day. ¡Provecho!

Seco de Pollo – Peruvian comfort food

Picture Los Angeles, circa 1970. A pale blue ‘64 Chevy Impala is cruising north on L.A.’s I-5 freeway. In the front seat, a striking couple from Perú argues in Spanish about whose family has produced the best cooks. In back, a little girl in a fuzzy white alpaca sweater gazes out the passenger side window. The destination: One of a handful of Peruvian restaurants in Southern California.

That little girl is me, and the lively pair in the front seat are my parents.  Once or twice a month, we’d leave the Orange County suburbs and make the hour-long trip north to Los Angeles in search of anticuchos, picarones, papa a la huancaina and a frosty bottle of Inka Cola. Long-gone hole-in-the-wall restaurants with stately names like El Tumi and Inca Palace were the only places my homesick parents could enjoy Peruvian delicacies featuring ingredients not readily available at the neighborhood chain grocery store.

There was one dish, however, that my father could make at home which didn’t involve an elaborate ingredient scavenger hunt: Seco de pollo, a Peruvian stew with chicken, potatoes and cilantro.

Heavy on the garlic and onions, laden with succulent chicken, and emerald-green from the cilantro, my father’s seco was the menu item of choice when relatives flew in from Lima, or for boyfriends having dinner at our home for the first time. But seco was not just for special occasions.

Weeknights, the herby-garlicky aroma of a hearty seco would waft from the kitchen into my bedroom, signaling a much-needed homework break. During a soggy El Niño year, my high school suspended classes one afternoon because of the deluge. I came home to steamy kitchen windows and a massive, chipped casserole of seco bubbling away on the stove.  Later that evening, perched on our lemon-yellow plastic dinette chairs, my family warmed up with heavenly-hot helpings of seco de pollo while the rain relentlessly pounded the house.

With apologies to my father, once I left home I adapted his seco recipe to accommodate my own style of healthy cooking. The flavor is still authentic, and thanks to globalization and big-box stores, I can use Peruvian beer in the preparation.

Peruvian cuisine is today’s culinary media darling, and the recent surge in trendy Peruvian restaurants has made the family car trip in search of comida peruana a distant memory. Still, nothing beats a homemade seco, chipped casserole and all.

Papi’s Seco de Pollo (Peruvian chicken stew)

Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS:

3 lbs. boned and skinned chicken breast

Marinade

5 large garlic cloves

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground black pepper

½ cup red wine or apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Stew

3 ½ tbsp olive oil

1 seeded and minced jalapeño pepper (if you like it spicy, make it 2 jalapeños)

6 small yellow onions, chopped

1 tbsp salt

8 oz. of Cuzqueña beer (or any pale lager if you can’t find Peruvian beer)

2 cups of chicken broth

1 cup of the juice left over after browning chicken

6 small red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped and tightly packed

½ bag frozen green peas, thawed

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut the chicken breast to about 2-inch cubes and set aside in a glass bowl.
  2. Peel and crush the garlic with a garlic press. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic, cumin, black pepper and salt to a paste. Mix in the vinegar, then add the olive oil and stir vigorously.
  3. Pour the mixture over the chicken, stirring to make sure each piece is evenly coated. Tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap and marinate for three hours.
  4. In a large casserole, heat the olive oil at high heat, then add the chicken and brown it on all sides (10 – 15 minutes). Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Reserve residual juice in a measuring cup or bowl.
  5. Using the same casserole, stir in the onions, salt and jalapeño peppers and sauté until the onions are golden (about 15 minutes). Pour in the beer, reduce the heat and cook until the beer has completely evaporated.
  6. Add the browned chicken, the reserved juice and the chicken broth. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook for about 30 minutes.
  7. Add the potatoes, cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and the potatoes are cooked.
  8. Check occasionally and stir. Add more stock if needed.
  9. Add the peas and cilantro. Stir thoroughly and cover and cook for about six minutes.

10. Serve hot with steamed white rice. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro, if desired.

Food and Vino – A Family Affair

19 Jun

Causa, a Peruvian appetizer made of molded potatoes topped with seafood or chicken salad.

Yep, I’m a Daddy’s Girl. And on this Father’s Day, it’s fitting that I pay tribute to the man who cultivated my lifelong passion for breaking bread with family, friends and new acquaintances, and who loves his Valpolicella despite what any wine snob thinks.

I was introduced to wine at an early age thanks to my father’s Italian roots, although I didn’t fully begin appreciating it until college. Now, before you go getting all Child Protective Services on me, let me be clear that my early indoctrination into the world of wine was much like it is in some Mediterranean and Latin American households – a small splash served with a multi-course, midday meal that usually went until 5 or later. A pour that was seldom finished by any of the kids because we had far more important things on our minds, like dessert.

But back to my father. He is in his element in the kitchen, where he’ll pull marathon stints constructing masterpieces from El recetario nicolini, Peru’s own version of “The Joy of Cooking.” Over time, my father’s culinary talents have created a small legion of Peruvian food aficionados among my circle of friends. As for my own Peruvian cooking repertoire, let’s just say I’ve mastered one dish, which leaves me with about 999 to learn.

Yes, mis amigos, the diversity of Peruvian cuisine is 1,000 dishes strong, according to one Peruvian restauranteur. If I were to attempt the Peruvian version of Julie y Julia, I’d be at it for about three years.

Arroz con mariscos, a Peruvian seafood and rice stir-fry influenced by Perú's Asian immigrant population.

My father is no-nonsense when it comes to wine. In other words, whatever is on the counter or in the fridge is what you’ll get with your meal. For those of you who are not quite as free-wheeling, wine pairing with Peruvian food is not as esoteric as it may seem. I recently enjoyed a five-course Peruvian meal with three Argentine wines that blended beautifully with the diversity of the food. A Torrontés paired seamlessly with the seafood dishes, a Malbec complemented a lamb and cilantro stew, and a dry Argentine Sauvignon Blanc with heady white floral notes capped off a dessert of kiwicha (or amaranth) pudding with mazamorra morada, a popular Peruvian treat made from purple corn.

So here’s to my papi. A Father’s Day toast to you and the thousands of hours logged in the kitchen for love of familia, food, and life. ¡Salud! 

Pescado chorrillano, sea bass in an ají amarillo (yellow chili) wine sauce with onions and tomatoes. ¡Delicioso!


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