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Wine & Spirit

Lively Malbecs from Mendoza

October 05, 2005|Leslie Brenner

THE Times tasting panel met last week to blind-taste current releases of Malbecs from Argentina's Mendoza region. On the panel were restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila, columnist Russ Parsons, staff writer Corie Brown, deputy food editor Betty Baboujon and George Cossette, co-owner of Silverlake Wines. Generally, the panel was impressed with these wines, which were from the 2000 through 2004 vintages. The first group of wines tasted were $18 and under; the second group ranged from about $20 to about $67. Wines in the lower price group were judged to be excellent values.

All the wines were a pleasure to sample, which isn't often the case at such a broad tasting. Unlike many New World reds, their fruit was restrained and they were judiciously oaked. The wines were attractive, lively and very drinkable, with enough acid to make them great food wines. Malbec seems to find its expression in Mendoza with a certain pleasant "brambly" green quality, which often comes with chocolate, floral or cigar box aromas.

The wines are listed, within each price category, in order of the panel's preference.

Argentine Malbecs for $18 and under

2003 Bodega Terrazas de Los Andes. A grown-up, earthy wine, with some nice characteristic Malbec brambliness, plum flavors and aromas of berries and spice. At Wine House in West Los Angeles, (310) 479-3731; Fireside Cellars in Santa Monica, (310) 393-2888; and Beverages & More stores, www.bevmo.com, about $17.

2004 Fincas Patagonicas "Zolo." A spicy, fun wine, with palate-forward red fruit, nice acid and herbal aromas. Young and bright, its elements aren't quite integrated yet. At L & K Market, Santa Monica, (310) 396-0784, $11.

2002 Altos Las Hormigas. Smoky, ripe berry aromas, with a little chocolate. Medium body, with flavors of spice and coffee and a pleasant finish. At Wine House; and Woodland Hills Wine Co. in Woodland Hills, (818) 222-1111, about $10.

2003 Lomos del Valle "Kaiken." A clearly faceted wine, with aromas of vanilla, spice and herbs. At Wine Country in Signal Hill, (562) 597-8303; and Wine Exchange in Orange, (714) 974-1454 or (800) 76WINEX, about $10.

2003 Bodega Catena Zapata "Alamos." A little closed, but this wine shows some nice varietal typicity and a bit of pleasant barnyard funkiness. Soft and drinkable. At John & Pete's Fine Wines in West Hollywood, (310) 657-3080; and Fine Wine House in Pasadena, (877) 981-6555, about $10.

2003 Pascual Toso "Maipu Vineyards." A well-balanced, vibrant wine with soft tannins. At Woodland Hills Wine Co.; Beverage Warehouse in Marina del Rey, (310) 306-2822; and Wine Country, about $9.

2002 Bodegas Trapiche "Broquel." Simple but likable, with bracing acid and a ripe berry nose. At Mission Wines in South Pasadena, (626) 403-9463; Wine Country; Beverage Warehouse; and Fireside Cellars, about $14.

*

$20 and up

2002 Mapema. A Gigondas-like wine with salty plum flavors and aromas of black fruit and leather. At the Vintage Shoppe in Playa del Rey, (310) 822-1138; and Fine Wine House, about $20.

2002 Luca Winery "Altos de Mendoza." An attractive wine with rose petal and herbal aromas, cherry flavors, good acid and a long finish. At Beverages & More, $35.

2002 Dominio del Plata "Susanna Balbo." Delicious and bright, with plenty of personality. Cured pork and pretty herbal aromas, lovely texture and a nice finish. At Mission Wines; Du Vin in West Hollywood, (310) 855-1161; Southern Hemisphere Wine Center in Huntington Beach, (800) 504-9463; and Wine Country, about $27.

2002 Altos Las Hormigas "Reserva Vina Hormigas." A nicely balanced, well-integrated wine with soft black fruit flavors. At Wine House; and Woodland Hills Wine Co., about $22.

2003 Dominio del Plata "BenMarco." Beautifully balanced, with rose petal and herbal aromas, sweet fruit and some complexity and length. At Southern Hemisphere Wine Center; and Beverages & More, about $19.

2002 Achaval-Ferrer Finca Altamira "La Consulta." A sweet and zingy wine, with flavors of aged balsamic vinegar, black cherries and white pepper. At Southern Hemisphere Wine Center; Woodland Hills Wine Co.; and Malibu Village Wines in Malibu, (310) 456-2924, about $67.

2004 Vina Cobos "El Felino." Bigger in style, though the fruit is restrained; pleasant and drinkable. Aromas of violets, rose petals and a little leather. At the Wine House; and Liquid Wine & Spirits in Chatsworth, (818) 709-5019, about $27.

-- Leslie Brenner

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