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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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LEO - 2013 Torrontes - Valentin Bianchi / Lemony Lentil Bisque

Leo_Torrontes_BottleLeo Messi is a huge soccer star worldwide. So much so that in countries where soccer is the predominant sport you only need say “Leo” and everyone knows who you’re speaking of. In addition to soccer, Leo is deeply involved in raising money for a good cause. His charity strives to help underprivileged kids with healthcare and education. One of his recent money raising endeavors is a partnership with Argentina’s Valentin Bianchi to produce a handful of wines with his name on them. I recently looked at the Malbec’s and here’s a look at the newly released whit wine in the line. The LEO 2013 Torrontes was produced and bottled by Valentin Bianchi. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Mendoza. The Estate vineyard sits more than 750 meters above sea level. This offering is 100% Torrontes. The grapes were harvested and sorted manually. Fermentation took place over 10 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. A month of bottle aging followed prior to release. 9,000 cases of this wine were imported into the US and it has a suggested retail price of $16.99. A bright nose filled with Lychee fruit, bits of almond and subtle vanilla bean fills the nose of this wine. The palate is even keeled and dry with stone and tropical fruit flavors accompanied by tingling spice notes. Wisps of zesty citrus lead the finish, along with a touch of limestone, and white melon flavors. This wine works extremely well on its own but is also a versatile food wine. I enjoyed it with a Lemony Lentil Bisque (see below for recipe) and was knocked out by the combination.

The folks at Valentin Bianchi make a wide range of quality wines in an array of price points and styles. Leo Messi chose wisely in aligning himself with them for his line of charity-driven wines. This Torrontes like the other wines they produce is a food friendly offering. It offers complexity and depth for the money as well and most importantly delicious drinking. So buy a bottle of Leo Torrontes and in addition to your taste buds doing a happy dance, you will be helping a good cause.

Lemony Lentil Bisque

2 Carrots 2 Celery Stalks 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil 1 ½ cups Split Red Lentils 1 Large Potato, peeled and cubed 1 Large Spanish Onion 1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin 3 Bay Leaves ¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper 5 Cups of Vegetable or Chicken Stock 10 Minced Garlic Cloves 2 Teaspoons Parsley Flakes ¼ Teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest 2 Un-waxed Lemons Salt & Pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Toss in chopped carrots, celery, onion and potato. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened. Stir in garlic, lemon zest, parsley, cumin and cayenne pepper; cook for 5 more minutes. Add in the lentils and stir so they are well integrated. Add in the stock and bay leaves. Slice the lemon in half and add it to the pot. Bring it to a boil, lower it to a simmer, cover it and allow it to cook for about 40 minutes until everything has softened. Remove bay leaves and lemon halves. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the soup. Using an immersion blender or food processor, completely puree the soup. Add salt if needed and black pepper to taste as well as additional cayenne pepper if you want more heat. Cook an additional 5 or so minutes and serve. Serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe adapted from The Ultimate Soup Bible.

Santa Julia + - 2010 Torrontés / 2010 Malbec

The Zuccardi Family in Argentina has been making wine since 1963 and they have more than 2,800 acres under vine. They’re committed to sustainable farming practices and making natural wines. Their latest project is the Santa Julia + line. These are budget priced offerings that sell for around $10. Today I’ll look at two wines in this line. The Santa Julia + 2010 Torrontés was produced using fruit sourced from their sustainably farmed Estate Vineyards in the Mendoza region of Argentina. Grapes were picked over a two week period at the end of March 2010. Temperature controlled fermentation was accomplished with select yeasts. This offering is 100% Torrontés and it has a suggested retail price of $10.

Aromas of white flowers and stone fruit fill the lovely nose of this 2010 Torrontés. The palate is quite fruity and juicy, yet perfectly dry. Apricot and peach flavors play a large role. Hints of mango chip in as well. Almond, hazelnut, vanilla bean and grapefruit characteristics are part of the finish which is crisp and clean with zippy acidity. This wine is a nice value in Torrontés, it’s refreshing and it shows off wonderful varietal character.

The Santa Julia + 2010 Malbec was produced from grapes grown on sustainably farmed Estate Vineyards in three distinct areas of Argentina. This offering is 100% Malbec. Following 20 days of maceration 30% of the wine was aged in French oak for four months. The barrels included were 1st, 2nd and 3rd time used. This wine has a suggested retail price of $10.

The deep, dark purple hue of this wine is striking the moment you pour it into the glass. Aromas of lavender and violets fill the nose along with brooding dark fruits. Plum and blackberry flavors are quite prominent throughout the palate along with both red and black raspberry. Wisps of toasty oak, white pepper as well as bits of dark chocolate are all part of the finish which has more than reasonable length for this category. Fine acidity keeps things in check.

These wines are emblematic of the value coming out of Argentina. These two offerings represent the key white and red varietals they offer. For less than $10 apiece if you shop around these wines are great everyday values that show off pure fruit flavors.

Cuma - 2010 Torrontes

Many wine styles and varietals are more popular for late spring and summer drinking than during the rest of the year. Torrontes is a grape that certainly fits in that category. When they’re well made they’re floral, spicy and quite refreshing. Today I’ll look at one from Cuma that fits that description. The Cuma 2010 Torrontes is an Organic Wine. The Cuma label is part of the Michael Torino Estate and represents their Organic offerings. This selection was produced from fruit sourced in the Cafayete Valley of Argentina. It is 100% Torrontes, fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel tanks. This offering has a suggested retail price of $12.99.

Aromas of lychee fruit, apricot and white flowers fill the fresh and vibrant nose of this 2010 Torrontes. White peach, and nectarine are in abundance throughout the palate; wisps of vanilla play a supporting role. Additional spices such as nutmeg emerge and lead to the finish which is of medium length. It’s crisp and refreshing with a final drying characteristic providing the last note.

The body and spice components of this Torrontes bring to mind Gewurztraminer that sells for twice the price. That said this is a very nice example of Torrontes, with excellent varietal character, that will work perfectly well for summer sipping or paired with lighter foods. If you’re having a Memorial Day BBQ, keep plenty of this wine on ice and you’re sure to have a yard full of happy guests. If you shop around you’ll find this wine available for about $10 which is an excellent value for a very enjoyable bottle.

Valentin Bianchi - 2009 Elsa Torrontés / Trapiche - 2009 Torrontés

In addition to Rosé, warm weather has me longing for white wines more and more often. One of the white varietals I reach for a lot in the summer in Torrontés. In case you’re unfamiliar it’s the signature white grape of Argentina. Over the last handful of years it’s starting to make serious inroads on US shelves, both in stores and in consumer’s homes. Its appealing nature, when well made, assures it won’t spend to long on your wine rack once you do get it home. I tasted quite a few examples of this grape over the last week; here are two that I found particularly appealing. First is the 2009 Elsa Torrontés from Valentin Bianchi. Grapes for this selection were sourced from the Dona Elsa Estate vineyards which sit about 760 meters above sea level. This selection is 100% Torrontés. Fermentation occurred over 10 days in temperature controlled stainless steel. 2,000 cases of this offering were imported and the suggested retail price is $8.99.

Hazelnut, orange and Golden Delicious apple aromas waft invitingly from the powerful nose of this 2009 Torrontés. Throughout the palate, citrus and tropical fruit flavors spar with each other for dominance. Ultimately they work together to form a tasty core of flavors. Towards the finish the fruit flavors take on a savory bite which leads to a solid quantity of spice as well. Firm acidity keeps things in balance here.

The second selection that stood out was the Trapiche 2009 Torrontés. This offering is also 100% Torrontés. Fermentation took place over 21 days at controlled temperatures in stainless steel. Fining and filtering followed prior to bottling. The suggested retail price for this wine is approximately $7.99.

Aromas of lychee fruit, hibiscus and apple are all part of the lovely and fresh nose of this wine. Lychee which plays a major role here continues through the palate where it’s joined by copious amounts of citrus and an underlying layer of tropical fruit flavors. Hints of honey as well as almond emerge on the finish along with white pepper and wisps of vanilla. This is a crisp, dry, mouthwatering wine.

Both of these wines are fine examples of Torrontés. Each of them is well priced for everyday drinking. Pair them with light summer fair, spicy food or drink them on their own. They’re fresh, lively and provide a lot of drinking pleasure for a very modest price.

Trapiche - 2008 Torrontes

When it comes to white varietals from Argentina, Torrontes is poised to be the star of theTorrontes_jpg show. It’s emerging here but not quite on the tip of every wine drinkers tongue yet. The question isn’t if Torrontes is going to break out and be everywhere, it’s when. This is an excellent varietal which most often produces floral wines with diverse food pairing possibilities. Today I’m going to look at a current release from Trapiche. If you shop for Argentine wines the name Trapiche is likely familiar; they make a wide range of offerings in several tiers. The Torrontes I’m examining today is from their varietals tier. These wines are under $15 and aimed at everyday affordability and enjoyment. The Trapiche 2008 Torrontes is made from fruit sourced in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This offering is 100% Torrontes. This selection can often be found on store shelves for less than $10.

The light yellow hue of this wine is offset by a tinge of green. Hazelnut, vanilla, lemon zest and a touch of Valencia Orange are part of the lovely and evocative nose. Yellow peach and continued underlying citrus characteristics are present through the palate. Toasted nut, white pepper and additional vanilla emerge in the nice finish. This Torrontes has excellent acidity. Trapiche offers a wine that will pair well with a variety of  lighter cuisine. However I really like to use is as a welcome wine when guests first come over.

As I mentioned above Torrontes is primed to become a bigger and bigger player on US shelves in the upcoming years. Right now it’s still under many peoples radar though. That gives you a great opportunity to surprise your friends with something unique they may have not tasted before. While you’re making friends, if you like this wine you may want to hit up the folks at Trapiche who have setup a Facebook page to connect with fans.

Bottom line for me is that this wine is very tasty and well priced. A safe summer bet and one you can bust open no matter how many people you have over.

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Elsa - 2008 Torrontes

In the wine world as in other industries things go in and out of favor. That of course has its pluses and minuses. Personally I love the fact that Elsa_Torrontes_Label_mainwe're getting away from over oaked Chardonnay. Sometimes though a varietal hits our radar for the first time and starts to make inroads. Such is the case with Torrontes. Most familiar with Argentine wine know Malbec. Without question that is Argentina's signature red grape. How many though know that Torrontes is its flagship white varietal? Thankfully that number has been rising steadily the last few years. Each spring for the last few years it seems there are more and more options on US shelves of this varietal. Today I'll look at one from Valentin Bianchi, a consistent producer of quality wine across a host of price points. The 2008 Elsa Torrontes is produced from fruit sourced in San Rafael, Mendoza. This offering is 100% varietal. 2,000 cases of this wine were imported. The suggested retail price is $8.99.

Good examples of this varietal tend to have a lovely nose, and the Elsa does. Citrus, lychee, and orchard fruit are most prominent. The palate is refreshing and dry with continued lychee fruit, hints of hazelnut and oranges notes that echo through the finish. Crisp, clean and mouthwatering are the terms that first come to mind with the medium length finish. This wine beckons you back to the glass for sip after sip. Good acidity keeps everything in check

This Torrontes from Valentin Bianchi is the sort of wine I look towards in Spring and Summer as a "welcome wine" when I have friends over. It's refreshing, interesting and light enough not to bog anyones palate down out of the box. It also makes an excellent accompaniment to lighter cuisine. Another fine, value priced offering from Valentin Bianchi.

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Finca La Linda - 2007 Torrontés

The first grape that comes to mind when most wine drinkers think of Argentina is Malbec. That's not surprising since Argentina makes most of the world's best Malbec. Torrontés, is a white grape and pretty soon it's likely people will be as aware of it as they are of Malbec today. In general I find Torrontés to be an excellent choice as a welcome wine when you have people over for a party or long meal. Additionally, they tend to pair with a wide array of lighter cuisine. The 2007 Finca La Linda Torrontés is 100% varietal. Vines for this offering are grown at 1,700 meters above sea level in sandy/stony soil. The suggested retail price for this wine is $10.99.

The nose of this wine is full of honey, lychee fruit and floral notes. From the very first sip there is an avalanche of peach notes. All the fruit in the nose and through the palate gives the impression of sweetness. In actuality this offering is well balanced and presents tremendous acidity. This wine will pair well white meats such as grilled chicken. It'll also be an excellent match for spicy Asian dishes as well as curry.

What I like best about Torrontés is general is how incredibly aromatic and expressive the nose tends to be. The Finca La Linda Torrontés from Luigi Bosca falls within that tendency. This is a nice little wine that will delight those who are already familiar with this grape and surprise those new to it. Most of the Torrontés available in the US marketplace at this point is under $15. In many cases, as with this example, for around $10, it's quite a deal.

Up Next: Pinot Noir from Argentina’s Luigi Bosca

Imported by: Testa Wines of The World Ltd.

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