While this may make them the new kids on the block in terms of producing Malbec from what has become the iconic home of Malbec, the Pulenta Family has been making wine in Mendoza, Argentina for generations and it's here that Agustin Huneeus had his interest fueled and realized a dream he and his father shared for making a wine on the other side of the Andes.
The Wine: 2006 Cruz Andina Malbec, as mentioned earlier is a blend which means it's not pure varietal.
Varietal Composition: The wine expresses Malbec’s exceptional concentration with a soft, supple texture at 85%. Cabernet Sauvignon at 10.5%, Merlot at 3% and Bonarda at 1.5% are blended for complexity, structure and delicate mouthfeel.
First Swirl: In the glass there's a beautiful shimmering nearly opaque core of garnet color, fleeing to the cerise colored rim.
First Sniff: After the wine had been decanted for about an hour or so, I poured the wine in my glass and gave it a couple of good swirls, it offered up superb aromas of toasty oak, violets, mineral, black currant, blueberry, and black cherry.
First Sip: Out onto my palate like a layered cake this wine hit me with gobs of ripe fruit, a plush texture, outstanding balance, and several years of aging potential (not that many buyers will be laying this down). This lengthy, plush effort over-delivers and then some!
Full Disclosure: This wine was a sample sent to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for review.
The Wine Maker: Álvaro Espinoza who had been working with them at Veramonte. According to WS, "Espinoza is one of Chile’s most talented winemakers (he also gets most of the credit for helping to sort out the Carmenère/Merlot mix up in Chile)" great credentials!
His Approach: In referring to their reasons for having him onboard for this new project it was stated, "Espinoza has a minimalist approach to winemaking and a sensibility for producing elegant wines" which means he's the perfect fit for the style of Malbec Quintessa desired to produce". When I read that statement, before I tasted the wine, I took an subjective step back and thought this going to be an old-world style of wine. After evaluating the wine, nothing could be further from the truth and my pre-formed opinion was instantly changed by the sheer caliber of this wine and apologies to Alvaro, but there's nothing minimalist about this wine, except perhaps the method of production, meaning bio-dynamics. In which case there is a minimalist style in the approach of farming techniques, which does not carry over to what goes into the bottle.
The Vineyards: While the Cruz Andina Malbec comes primarily from the Pulenta Vistalba vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, whose vines are some of the oldest in Mendoza, planted in 1948, at about 3200 feet in the Lujan de Cuyo appellation. Other Malbec fruit was sourced from the Los Alamos area. This wine is a blend and grapes for the other players Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon come from the Los Alamos vineyard in Uco Valley, an appellation just south of Lujan de Cuyo 80 miles from the city of Mendoza. The Los Alamos vines are 25-years old and at an altitude of nearly 4,000 feet above sea level.
Aging and Release Date: This wonderful Malbec spent 16 months in 100% French oak, only 30% of it was new and was just released for sale September 2009. This means if I am doing my math correctly that this wine has been in the bottle for a little over 20 months. The 2006 Malbecs are drinking wonderfully right now!
Price and Alcohol: This wine sells for just under $20 and can be found at Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido. By the way this was the only store in San Diego where I could find this label. The alcohol is 14.5% with no signs appreciable 'hotness'.
Climate and Soil: The area’s well-draining alluvial soils and constant breeze from the Andes moderates growth and provides intensity and concentration in the grapes.
Recommendation: Another QPR Winner! With only 900 cases made and selling for a paltry $20, it would behoove the savvy shopper to buy as much as they can afford. Once the word about this wine gets out and I've already seen a few other reviews on this wine, it's going to sell out very quickly. With nearly three years of separation between vintages, it will be a long wait for 2010, so run don't walk and grab yourself some these great values.
Other Voices: Robert Whitley of Whitley On Wine radio had this to say: Cruz 2006 'Andina' Malbec, Argentina ($19) — An absolutely stunning Argentine malbec for the money, Cruz Andina impresses visually first, with an inky purple hue as it splashes into the glass. The palate is voluptuous, showing layers of blueberry and blackberry fruit, licorice and spice with firm structure. This lip-smacking red seals the deal with a long, sensuous finish. Rating: 92.