Wine Time: Amalaya 2010, Argentina

COST: $16-18


WHAT: The Amalaya 2010 from Argentina is an unusual blend that produces a wonderful mellow, smooth taste you would enjoy on many occasions.

Though the wine is primarily Malbec, it has some Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tannat to make for a more complex, layered taste. The word “Amalaya” means hope for a miracle, a reference to the attitude of the Argentine people who live in the rugged mountainous region where the grapes are grown.

The grapes come from the Calchaqui Valley in the northwestern region of Argentina, in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains.

The vineyards are between 5,250 and 5,580 feet above sea level. The soil and the harsh, dry weather produce excellent growing conditions for great grapes, with hot days and cool nights. The vineyards are sustainably farmed.

A brilliant ruby color leads to aromas of bright cherries and raspberries. The smooth taste is full of ripe, red berry fruit with a touch of spice and pepper. It has a smooth, lingering finish.

Argentina produces great Malbec, and the Amalaya is no exception. It is 75 percent Malbec 10 percent Cabernet Sauvigon, 10 percent Syrah and 5 percent Tannat, with the blend changing depending on the vintage. Malolactic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. Then 20 percent of the wine was aged in French oak for 10 months.

This probably isn’t a wine you want to cellar for long. It is drinking great now.

WINERY: Amalaya, a recent spinoff from Bodega Colomé, is a perennial top value from the northern Salta region, and a part of Hess Family Latin America.

The region’s rugged landscape and high desert didn’t look like a grape-growing area, but Donald Hess saw the potential for great wines. Amalaya and Colome produce flavorful and complex wines that make a case for the Calchaqui Valley as one of the great wine regions of Argentina.

Amalaya’s new home features a modern winery and a trio of vineyards, each with distinct soils and micro-climates that produce compelling fruit. The winery produces an Amalaya Tinto, an Amalaya Blanco and the Amalaya Gran Corte. The Tinto is the only one I have tasted and it is excellent. Hess imported 12,000 cases to the United States.

GOES WITH: After returning from a weekend in Atlanta, my wife, Teri, and I didn’t feel like cooking, so we just had a pizza with this wine. It turned out to be a very good match.

The blend was hearty enough to stand up to the pepperoni and Italian sausage on the pizza and fruity enough to match the tomato sauce.

It also would go well with grilled duck, venison steak, pork chops, red pasta sauces, beef stew and mild and medium cheeses. It also would be good to sip by itself because of its soft, round tannins.


Wine and tapas tasting,
5-6:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $19.99; (706) 722-4805

Wine tasting and wine cruise planning meeting,
4:30-6:30 p.m., 5 O’Clock Bistro, 2111 Kings Way; presentations from Travel Planners and AMA Waterways; $8, reservations required by calling (706) 394-8952 or (706) 736-7999

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; price dependent on flight selection; (706) 922-9463

Wine and beer tasting,
1-6 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; price dependent on flight selection; (706) 922-9463

Wine dinner,
5:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; six courses paired with six Lava Cap wines, $75; reservations, (706) 722-4805

Wine tasting,
5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three white wines and three reds and matching cheeses, $5 with $3 rebate on purchase of featured wine; (803) 279-9522

Wine tasting,
7 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; Frank Family wines; reservations, (706) 922-9463