On August 29th 2012, I went to wine tasting luncheon with a winemaker Gonzalo Bertelsen from the Finca El Origen winery located in Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina. Together with me, other invited guests were wine enthusiasts Monica Janek, Tyler Philp and Jennifer Hart. Upon entering the Miller Tavern, we were led to a secluded section designated just for us and were introduced to the winemaker Gonzalo Bertelsen and two Charton Hobbs agents Kristine Bach and Kevin Chisholm (the sponsors) by Bryan McCaw of WineAlign (the organizer). We gathered around a table set with glasses and wines to be tasted and were seated such that we were able to interact with Gonzalo most directly. I myself sat right next to him, allowing me to have one on one conversation and to ask him specific questions.
Gonzalo started off by introducing himself (again), the winery and its relation to its Chilean counterpart Santa Carolina. We then we proceeded to taste the wines, each time being told the description – what and how it is made, type of soil this part of vineyard is on and what are some of the unique features. Of course we were able to ask specific questions and set off discussions to showcase/share our knowledge. As the afternoon progressed and we tasted all of the wines, the atmosphere became more relaxed and informal. As some conversations took other directions, I took the opportunity to ask Gonzalo some more personal questions. I asked: “Gonzalo, if I may inquire, can you please tell me how you got into the wine making, what led you in that direction”. Gonzalo proceeded to tell me that he was accepted into the agricultural program at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and as he was interested in viticulture and oenology, he studied them and got a degree from the program. He then was ‘lucky’ (in his own words) and got a position as a winemaker, but before he came to the at Finca El Origen winery, he obtained Masters in Oenology at The University of Adelaide. I told him that as a scientist I have an understanding and a great appreciation for his profession and mentioned that in an alternate life, I too would love to become a winemaker. He advised me that it is never too late to get into this and that I should follow my heart (to which I replied that “I am”). We also talked about the use of cork, as opposed to screw caps, in his wines (topic that I seems to evoke some emotions from me) and the direction he wants his wines to go.
The 5 wines we tasted and their reviews (click to expand) are listed here:
The 2010 Finca El Origen Chardonnay Reserva, 25% of which was oak aged for 21 days, is medium bodied with appealing notes of green apple, lees and very faint oak. It has a distinct minerality, nice acidity, subtle tannins and a medium, slightly sweeter finish. Drink now and for the next 2-4 years. Drink-how: serve with food or as a standalone sipper. My impression: NICE, 89 pts – the price tag of $10.95 makes it an excellent buy – highly recommended.
The 2011 Finca El Origen Reserva Malbec, composed of 95% Malbec, 3% Bonarda and 2% Syrah aged for 6 months in French Oak, is a medium bodied, fruity wine with an intense aromas of blackberry, prune and cedar at opening and caramel and smoke upon being decanted for 30+ minutes. It has a nice structure with tannins that are refined to tannic (decant for 30-60 min) and a medium to long finish. It can be aged for another 5+ years, drink 2014 on. Drink-how: food friendly as well as a standalone sipper. My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 89-90 pts. Not available at the LCBO, but can be purchased as a consignment – email me if interested.
The 2011 Finca El Origen Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, a single varietal aged in French oak for 6 months, is a medium bodied, fruity wine with intense aromas of red currant, blackberry, violets/cedar and vanilla. It has a nice acidity, distinct minerality, refined tannins (decant for 30+ min) and a medium to long finish. It has ‘evolution’ potential of +1-2 pts, drink 2014 to 2018+. Drink-how: food friendly or a sipper. My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 90 pts – at $15.95 this would be highly recommend by the case if available. Not available at the LCBO, but can be purchased as a consignment – email me if interested.
The 2010 Finca El Origen Gran Reserva Malbec, composed of 95% Malbec, 3% Bonarda and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged for 12 months in French Oak, is a medium bodied, fruity to integrated wine, with intense notes of strawberry, blackberry, black cherry, oak and pronounced vanilla and coconut. It has tannins that are refined to tannic (decant for 30+ min) and a long oaky finish. Drink now or cellar for another 5-10 years. Drink-how: with strong cheeses or gamy meats, or better a standalone sipper. My impression: NICE to BEAUTIFUL, 90 pts – will be released sometime in February 2013.
The 2009 Finca El Origen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, a single varietal aged in French oak for 1 year. It is a medium bodied, integrated wine, with intense aromas of blackberry, black cherry, subtle black currant and cedar. It has a good structure though slightly acidic, has refined tannins (decant for 30+ min), distinct minerality and a long finish. Drink now or cellar for 5-10 years with ‘evolution’ potential of +1 pts. Drink-how: drink as a sipper even though it would go well with food, this wine should be enjoyed by itself. My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 91-92 pts. Well priced at $21.95 and a recommended buy if possible. Not available at the LCBO, but can be purchased as a consignment – email me if interested.
This was an enjoyable aftenoon, where I socialized a lot, learned a bit and hopefully gained some new friends. With that I would like to thank Gonzalo Bertelsen for the eventful and informative afternoon as well as Kristine Bach and Kevin Chisholm from Charton Hobbs and Bryan McCaw from WineAlign.