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Source: Northern Ohio Live
By: Patricia Latimer

Argentina took me by surprise. Being in the majestic presence of the snow-capped Andes during spring in the Argentine wine country was an eye-opening experience. Here, food and wine reign supreme.

For most of my life, I have written about the wines of the world. Last year, when I was invited to Argentina by photographer Katherine Prelat, the producers of Argentine malbec and the country's chefs were receiving world recognition.

Our first stop was the gorgeous, 2,000 acre-Algodon Wine Estates, a rustic Argentine resort, with vineyards, orchards, and views of the Sierra Pintada foothills. Located in San Rafael in Mendoza, home of 70 percent of the Argentine wine production, Algodon offers polo, golf, archery, horseback riding and culinary arts classes.

We rode Argentine ponies through lush vineyards, by the river, across arid lands to the modern Algodon Winery. Winemaker Paula Bagnato showed us the vineyards and winery winery before hosting a winetasting. Chef Gaston Langlois prepared an exotic luncheon made in the Algodon's outdoor kitchen. It consisted of rich, velvety-smoked salmon, herbal-smoked trout, barbecued venison, cherry wood-smoked pheasant, sweet wild duck, tender wild hare, tantalizing heirloom tomatoes, sweet carrots, earthy eggplant, Tybo cheese with herbs, olive oil, baked garlic; Camembert goat cheese, rustic bread, and olive and tomato bread.

At dinner, chef Langlois prepared authentic Argentine cuisine, which resembles Southern European cuisine. Among Argentina's most revered ingredients is premium grass-fed beef, and many meals feature the specialty product. Typically, malbec pairs well with grilled or roasted beef, lamb, pork and chicken. Chef Langlois suggested a traditional chicken sauté al disco, cooked in an outdoor pine-fired pit in a large disc-shaped cooking vessel, mounted on a tripod. The chef demonstrated each step, and we participated in the cooking process.

From San Rafael, we headed north to Lujan de Cuyo to Vina Cobos, one of Argentina's most distinguished new wineries. Vineyard manager Andrea Marchiori and winemaker Luis Barraud, a brilliant husband and wife team, partnered with consultant Paul Hobbs, hailed for his namesake California wines. Vina Cobos was founded in 1998 on the substance and pedigree of the 134-acre Marchiori Vineyards, home to 50- to 80-year-old malbec vines, and one of Mendoza's oldest vineyards. We tasted several levels of Vina Cobos premium wines.

Our next visit in Lujan de Cuyo was the Bodega Catena Zapata, a replica of the Tikal Temple in Guatemala. Nicolas Catena, the modern-day catalyst behind Argentina's wine industry, visited the Napa Valley and hired consultant Paul Hobbs. They transformed Catena's century-old Malbec vineyards, introducing cutting-edge winegrowing and winemaking. They grow high-altitude malbecs and other grapes beneath the Andes to produce world-class wines. His daughter, Laura Catena, a physician, oversees three winemaking ventures: Catena, Luca and Tikal.
Author Patricia Latimer prepares chicken sauté al disco Chef Gaston Langlois of Algodon Winery gives a cooking demo

Algodon Wine Notes

2008 Chardonnay Reserve - A 100 percent Chardonnay, a brilliant pale yellow, aromas of tropical fruits, citrus and pears, a buttery flavor, with vanilla and oak touches.

2008 Malbec Rose - A soft purple, elegant, fresh, aromas of plum and cherry, with the rich sweetness of the Malbec grape.

2004 Bonarda - A dark red garnet, intense aromas of figs, plums, hints of chocolate and vanilla, full flavored with a lushness on the palate, and a lingering finish.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah - An intense red, bouquet of bell peppers, cassis and spice, round and full, chocolate and vanilla flavors, berry tannins, and a pleasing finale.

2004 Malbec - A deep dark purple, bursts of fruit and smoke, a complex juicy sensation that is sweet, acidic and tannic, with a prolonged ending.

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