The Winos’ Tasting Series: the Mendoza lineup

By Jesse on July 28, 2011

The perdiz (Spanish for “partridge”) is a medium-sized bird, larger than its cousin the quail, but smaller than its cousin the pheasant.  It’s a native resident of Argentina, and it lends its name to a winery in Mendoza called Las Perdices, whose labels depict a small flock of the stately fowl.  The good people at Vines of Mendoza were kind enough to send the Young Winos a handful of bottles from Las Perdices to taste and evaluate.

We met on an oddly chilly summer night in Jason’s backyard.  The orange glow from the adjacent parking garage did little to warm our spirits, but the full-bodied, unctuous wines toward the end of the lineup stepped in quite nicely.  Of the five wines, we found the most to enjoy in the following three…

The 2006 Las Perdices Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza) threw us for a loop with its wacky nose: notes of seafood, “old mussels,” and “gefilte fish” were tossed around.  “It smells like the garbage at the beach,” offered Leah.  Black olives and celery were also observed.  Before you stop reading, though, the Winos know better than anyone that noses don’t always tell the whole story.  With only mild trepidation, we took our first sips.

Thankfully, the fish weren’t infesting the palate, which we found to be fruit-forward, jammy, and pleasant.  Green pepper notes were abundant, and someone observed that it tasted a bit like bell pepper combined with a cherry Jolly Rancher.  The tannins were light, but present: “it made my tongue feel like it grew hair,” commented Andrew.  Despite the jamminess and lack of any notable structural elements, the wine was pleasant enough, and its $13 price tag seemed reasonable to our tasters.  “What’s it called if you can’t smell anything?” asked Jay.  “If I was that, I would like this wine.”

The 2008 Las Perdices “Reserva” Bonarda (Lujan de Cujo, Mendoza) was a dark, inky pour.  Bonarda (known as Charbono in California) is a grape that fascinates us — of the handful we’ve tasted, we can’t recall one that failed to provoke conversation.  The wines are never uninteresting, in other words, and we had high hopes for this one after smelling the beguiling nose.  Charcoal, hickory and smoke notes were all observed, along with a little pepper and a suggestion of cigar.  Leah picked up notes of “kettle corn,” while others struggled to open up the bouquet on the big, tightly-woven monster.

The palate followed suit, serving up notes of blackberry and cacao.  Sadly, the presence of a distinctive alcoholic character toward the back-end was troubling to a few of the assembled Winos.  “Big sharpness on the back,” lamented Andrew, who was otherwise a fan of the depth and richness of the wine.  The notable espresso bean character on the palate proved divisive as well, but I was pleased by it — the wine, with its notes of chocolate and espresso, had the general character of the closing moments of a delicious meal.  At $22, several Winos thought the bottle merited a return visit.

We wrapped things up with the flagship bottle of this lineup, the 2006 Las Perdices “Tanamu” (Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza), a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Tannat.  The nose was nothing if not expressive: ink, licorice, prunes and pine needles were all observed.  Even “sour apple” and “Expo marker” were overheard.  Tara picked up some butterscotch character — not surprising, perhaps, given its two years in new oak.  “It smells like it could be great,” said Andrew.  We eagerly dove in.

It was indeed great.  Big notes of black pepper, red currant, and ground pepper coated our palates.  The wine was a little rough around the edges, and possibly could’ve used more years in bottle than the three we assume it received, but we still found it to be very approachable.  Adjectives ranged from “solid” to “spectacular,” with the notable exception of those offered by Jason, who found it to be a tad boring.  Nearly everyone else was a fan, however — at least until the price-point was revealed ($52 to $70 at various online retailers), when enthusiasm cooled a bit.

Previously known primarily as a source of inexpensive quaffers with strength and character, if not elegance, Argentina is embracing the higher-end connotations that its more expensive exports provide.  As American customers seek out Argentinian brands to explore, it’s nice to know that there’s something for every budget in the partridge family.

It was a cold one; Sasha, Noah and Haruka offer commentary and criticism; lemons, anyone?

The Young Winos of LA — edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005.

1 Comment

  1. These Young WInos should get themselves to Santa Barbara! Best wine tasting around and it always makes for a great trip up the coast, especially from LA. Don’t get me wrong, LA has some good wine if you look hard enough but SB it flows like water and comes with lots of cheese and crackers, how could you pass that up?! I’m from LA myself and SB is one of my favorite places to escape the city from and drink massive amounts of wine! I’m planning a trip there now for the summer time and it is going to be great, I am so excited. Planning on staying at the Sandman Inn ( Cheap and in a great, centralized location!

    Comment by Tracey — March 1, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

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