Meeting Jose Antonio “Pepe” Galante – winemaker at Bodega Salentein
One of the benefits of wine blogging is an occasional invitation to meet with winery owners and winemakers. This invitation was special. We were invited by Balzac Communications to a dinner with Pepe Galante. Pepe was here in the U.S. on tour to promote Bodega Salentein wines and to celebrate his 40 years of winemaking in Argentina. The dinner was held at the Osso Steakhouse on Nob Hill in San Francisco. How fitting to have a dinner with Pepe at a famous San Francisco steakhouse. We know how much Argentina loves its beef.
Janelle and I, along with blogger friends Mike and Mary, had the good fortunate to visit Bodega Salentein in the Uco Valley of Mendoza in March of 2009. That’s the harvest season in South America. We stayed in their wine lodge, Posada Salentein, for three nights. Salentein is a first-class winery and wine lodge, with amazing views of the vineyards against the Andes Mountains. We were treated to wonderful meals, wine, and a tour and tasting at Bodega Salentein. Salentein is owned by Mijndert Pon, a Dutchman who imported cars to Holland. The year after we visited Salentein, Pepe Galante was appointed as head winemaker at Bodega Salentein. Prior to that, Pepe had been the winemaker at the famous Bodega Catena Zapata winery in Mendoza, Argentina.
Our dinner at Osso was delicious, but more importantly was the chance to sit and talk with Pepe Galante. He indeed is one of the great Argentine winemakers and recognized for his skills throughout the world. He has an amazing passion for creating wines at Salentein and for teaching young winemakers what he has learned over the past 40 vintages. He left Catena because he felt he needed a change and a new challenge. When Pepe explored the Salentein Vineyards, he was greatly impressed with the soils of the land and the higher-elevation vineyards. He immediate saw the potential in the terroir. The Salentein wines were good in 2009 when we visited and, after tasting our dinner wines, what a difference a winemaker can make! These wines are absolutely delicious.
We were treated to four fantastic wines with our dinner. First was from the Killka label, a more affordable line of wines. This wine was a refreshing Torrontes from Mendoza. We were also served a 100% single-vineyard Chardonnay. Wow! What an amazing Chardonnay, and in so many ways like a White Burgundy wine. These two wines were paired with traditional San Francisco crab cakes. I will get back to the Chardonnay shortly. With our delicious Filet Mignon entrée, we were were served two reds. We had a 100% Malbec and a 100% Cabernet Franc, both from Salentein’s high-end line of wines. Both wines paired very well with the veggies and the wonderful, juicy filet. As we finished dinner, Pepe poured himself a small glass of the Chardonnay. He noticed that I was curious about this, so he offered me a glass and said, “You will notice something more.” The Chardonnay flavor virtually exploded in my mouth, along with a finish of great depth. Pepe said that there is something about this Chardonnay that finishes off a heavy meal. Delightful! I am always on the search for excellent wines at a value price. These Salentein wines are so much so. I have had good success locating Salentein’s Portillo, usually under $10, and Bodega Salentein Reserve labels under $20. The single-vineyard wines we tasted range in price from $35-$65. Use wine-searcher.com to find Bodega Salentein wines near you.
If you have the chance to travel the wine country of Argentina, you should consider a stay at the Posada Salentein (lodging and dining) and a tour and tasting at the winery, Bodega Salentein. Here is a little more information on Mendoza wine country of Argentina.