Today our plan is to visit the Tapiz winery located in the Maipu Valley and the Melipal winery located in Lujan de Cuyo. These are two of the four wine regions of Mendoza, the other two are the Valle de Uco and San Rafael, which is in south Mendoza. We were surprised to learn that the elevation here is over a 1000 feet and as high as 4500 feet for some vineyards in the Valle de Uco. These wine regions are experiencing tremendous growth as foreign investors see the potential for wine in this area. The Mendoza wine region will continue to grow as long as there is enough water. Mendoza receives very little rainfall during the year because it is east of the Andes. The snowmelt from the Andes is the key to providing irrigation for all the vineyards. Aqueducts and well water have been utilized extensively to capture the valuable runoff.
This winery once belonged to Jess Jackson, owner of the Jackson Family Wines. Jackson found too many obstacles including the “dot com” bust to make the winery a financial success. In 2003, he sold the winery to the Ortiz Family of Argentina. This is quite the opposite of what is happening in Argentina today, as many of the Argentine landowners are finding is very lucrative to sell land to foreign businesses.
We took an hour-and-a-half tour and tasting at Tapiz. The most fun was the horse-drawn carriage ride around the vineyards. We stopped once to get off the carriage and study rows of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The winery has an immense operation, producing about 500,000 cases of wine per year. Our guide asks if we have found Tapiz wines in the U.S. “Yes,”we tell her, we have seen them at Beverages & More. The Tapiz wines at BevMo are the Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec. These are terrific wines and are currently part of the BevMo 5-cent sale. At $8.05 a bottle this is a steal. However, our favorite wine among the four of us, the Beltrans and Becerras, was the Malbec Rosé. This is a very dark Rosé, almost like a light Pinot Noir in color. This is a wonderful wine that is just out of this world. Unfortunately, our guide thinks this wine isn’t exported to the U.S.
This is one of the many new wineries in Argentina with a first vintage of 2003. The emphasis here is small and handcrafted. When we hear the term “handcrafted,”we always think of it as a PR buzzword but here the term fits. For example, we watched a crew of harvesters pick at slow pace and place the grapes into small bins rather than the normal half-ton bins. We watched three young ladies carefully pasting labels on individual bottles. The winery produces 35,000 cases of wine annually and their wines are spectacular.
Following the tour we sat down for a memorable lunch, a five-course meal paired with the Melipal wines. The highlight was the grilled beef tenderloin served with a squash salad. They served the beef with a roasted bell pepper emulsion that was so delicious that we have to learn how to make this at home. We were poured their best wine for this course, the Melipal Malbec Reserve 2006 made from 100% Malbec grapes from a 1923 old vineyard. What a delight!