Next stop, Mendoza. Touching down as dusk painted the Andes pink. Breathtaking. Eyes held open by matchsticks by this point and a dip in the ice cold roof pool was the only option... much to Rob’s disappointment as obviously he couldn’t be shown up by a girl and was forced to take the plunge too.
|Hawksmoor and Bancroft enjoying a glass of bubbly with Soledad from Luigi Bosca|
Next stop was the impressive cellar. A barrel tasting of the single varietal components of the blended Gala range – including knock out Cabernet Sauvignon – how is this grape not receiving more attention in the UK? The experimentation apparently does not stop in the vineyards as we tasted from experimental Mongolian oak barrels, and Acacia wood for fermenting the Finca Los Nobles Chardonnay before maturation in French oak. Acacia they have found enhances the floral complexity of these old vine grapes. This is better than Willy Wonka’s factory, and no scary orange men to contend with.
We sat down to a tasting with Gustavo Arizu, each wine greeted with a murmur of contentment by the Hawksmoor/Bancroft team, especially the Finca Los Nobles Chardonnay 2010, the La Linda Bonarda 2010, the de Sangre 2009 (Cab/Syrah/Merlot) and the Finca Los Nobles Malbec Verdot 2008 - apparently great with slow cooked goat. We finished with the aptly named Icono 2008, a wonderful broodingly intense Malbec/Cab blend that is rightfully up with the crème de la crème of Argentina vinous royalty.
A drive through the city of Mendoza, up to the San Martin park entirely filled with alien irrigated vegetation and the impressive Cerra de la Gloria with the monument to the Army of the Andes gave us an over view of this incredible city set amidst the barren, mountainous scrub of the Andes foothills. A vain attempt to make room for more steak and red wine sent the Hawksmoor contingent for a ‘walk’ (beer?!) and the Bancroft team for an enthusiastic run – somewhat less enthusiastic when forced to factor in the humidity, altitude and perilous irrigation ditches!
Dinner that night was at the stunning Francis Mallmann 1884 restaurant. Sipping the wonderfully rich yet fresh Bosca La Bohème Brut in the candle lit garden, greedily eying up what looked like dinosaur steaks as they were carried past we reminisced on a day well spent. Starter was paired with the Luigi Bosca Riesling, the world’s largest and juiciest steak with the Gala 4 2008 (Cabernet Franc/Malbec) and finally we just managed to squeeze in some desert with the gorgeous late harvest Gewurztraminer – absolutely the cherry on the cake! Full and happy we rolled into town for a digestive or two (minding the irrigation ditches along the way).
Day 2 in Mendoza and it was time to sort the men from the boys as we climbed aboard the landy and raced through the dust and scrub, littered with the bleached bones of long dead animals (or at least I hope that’s what they were) to find a remote corral housing our steeds. Mounting up we rode gaucho style through the hard and beautiful mountains.
Sitting western style, cowboy hat cocked against the sun, it was the only way to view the valley and the vineyards below. Regardless of prior equestrian experience it was not long until we were all cantering along the ridges whooping with joy (or was that just me?). I have to say nothing has ever tasted as good as the ice cold La Linda Torrontes 2011 waiting for us when we dismounted hot and dusty, while the open fire was stoked and prepared for the meat feast about to be cooked.
Sadly that was where we had a temporary parting of ways as Tom and Mark sat back in the shade of the lean-to enjoying the sun and the wine while Rob and I had to hot foot it to the airport to catch a flight over the Andes into Chile where the adventures would continue...
Written by Alex Harper, London Trade Sales