Our stomachs began to growl after the Mendoza wine tour at Bodega Antucura and ‘procuring’ a forgotten bunch of lonesome, wrinkly grapes from Antucura’s nearly bare vines would not cut it. We needed real food and lots of it. So we hopped back on the Mendoza wine route and set out for boutique Argentina winery La Azul, also based in Valley de Uco but in Tupungato on a more well traveled Mendoza wine tasting road, ‘Ruta 98′ where you can find Argentine wine giants such as Salentein, Andeluna and Rutini.
Bodega La Azul was quite a contrast to the pre-mentioned Argentine wineries that surround it; it was literally tiny! But as men will continuously remind us, size is not everything. I have heard La Azul’s name pop up on more than occasion whilst on my quest to taste the best Argentina wine so this might just be the only occasion were the famous ‘size’ quote rings true. However, the La Azul winery tour would have to wait, there was a feast of Mendoza cuisine to be destroyed first.
Bodega La Azul’s restaurant was bonafied heaven. Sat in the middle of nowhere desert, the small plain concrete house was filled with strategically placed vintage trinkets that gave it a old-world, homely feel while still retaining a touch of class. A somewhat ramshackle but pretty veranda lies out front of the restaurant to protect diners from the hot Mendoza midday sun. But the best part, with out a shadow of a doubt, was the unbroken view of the Andes Mountains and the silence. Pure and golden silence. This is the kind of place where you sit back and say “Wow. Life is good”.
We opted for the degustation lunch menu matched with wine pairings, basically a gluttonous feast. We were started off with a chat from the waiter about La Azul boutique production and where the name ‘La Azul’ (the blue) comes from. A prosperous Argentine divided his land in 4 sections, one for each of his sons to inherit. To save any brotherly squabbles over who got what, each plot of land was given a corresponding coloured ribbon (red, blue, green and yellow) which were ‘put into a hat’. When the time came, each son blindly choose a ribbon, thereby making them new landowner of the red, blue, green or yellow zones respectively. The winner of the blue zone built Bodega La Azul on it.
We were started with a baked potato, with grated Parmesan cheese drizzled in pesto and cherry tomatoes to match to La Azul Sauvignon Blanc 2012. Light lemony green flickers highlighted its youth with the nose just reinforce the beauty of the day, with elderflowers, lemon, daffodil and a touch of grassiness. In the mouth it was extremely well balanced with a gentle and subtle entrance the culminated in a strong lime and grapefruit note. Delicate and refreshing, this was a superb example of great Argentine white wine.
Next up was La Azul’s Malbec 2012, with a 15,000 bottle production in stainless steel, 8 moths in oak and 6 months in bottle before release paired with a classic fried empanada. A classic characteristically purple Malbec with quite a unique nose. Certainly there were the typical fruits like plum and cherry jam but then there was a touch of burnt charcoal or something earthy hanging at the back. The theme continued in the mouth with a warm finish (14.8% alcohol) and a smattering of flint flavor at the very end.
Following from the same line as the Malbec came the Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 and while this was the waiters favorite on the list, I found it a little less intriguing than the other wines. There were stronger dark fruit notes of blackberry and boysenberries, blackcurrant jam as well as sweeter caramel hints and some aromatic menthol quality. The body was medium full with a short finish, and intense fruit flavour. This was paired with a deliciously salty entrana steak (skirt steak), which I actually favoured over the wine.
Finally, the sticky, bomb of a dessert, flan and dulce de leche. Senor Rico looked at me with disgust as I licked the bowl while downing the 2009 Blend of 60% Malbec, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in second use barrels 70% in American oak and 30% in French oak for a 15month period before being aged 1 year in bottle. This was more my kind of wine! The deep ruby colour matched the depths of the nose. Intense plums, treacle, cedar and cinnamon followed through to the big rounded body with more treacle, caramelised plum and coffee. It had a surprisingly short finish but paired wonderfully with the richness of the flan and dulce de leche.
We need to move around after so much food, so continued with a brief tour of the small winery, which has not produced a 2013 vintage so it was eerily quiet and lacking atmosphere. However there was a cask of aging of 2011 Gran Reserve Malbec, that we tried directly from the barrel….something to look out for in the future.
La Azul was a fabulous place to lunch if you find yourself Mendoza wine tasting up in the high altitude wine producing zones. But be sure to take a bulging wallet with you…beauty has a pretty price!