WHAT: Mountain wines always seem to have a little something extra going for them. Perhaps it’s because the vines have to struggle so hard to get nourishment in rocky soil. Often it is because the grapes get such intense sunlight. Sometimes a huge temperature swing from night to day can intensify the flavors in grapes.
With the El Porvenir wines all of those factors come into play. Grown in the foothills of the Andes Mountains a mile above sea level, the grapes produce wonderful wines packed with intense, complex flavors.
You know this wine is going to be good even before you pop the cork because it is imported by Paul Hobbs Imports, which has earned a reputation for finding distinctive wines from around the world, especially from South America.
The Amauta Corte I, also called Inspiration, is a lush, full-bodied wine that packs a punch. It is a perfect blend of 60 percent Malbec, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Syrah.
In the glass it is a beautiful deep ruby red, with pleasant strawberry and spice aromas. It has a sensuous, velvety mouthfeel, full of ripe cherries and flowers. The finish is long, smooth and complex. There are some ripe tannins, but they are muted and mellow.
This is the kind of wine you could serve with elegant dinners and also enjoy sitting around a campfire, or with a burger.
After a cold soak of four days, the grapes spend 14 days in stainless steel tanks for primary fermentation. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation follows after that. The wine then is aged eight months in second-use French and American oak barrels.
When we drank the wine, I opened it 30 minutes before dinner and decanted it. The wine continued to get better as we drank, so I probably should have opened it at least an hour before drinking.
This is such a robust wine it should continue to be at its peak for another six-eight years or so.
WINERY: El Porvenir de Cafayate is owned by the Romero family, who have been making wine in the Salta region of Argentina for more than 40 years. In 2000, the family bought an old winery in the small Cafayate Valley and its adjacent El Retiro vineyard, 45 acres planted with 50-year-old Torrontes and Tannat vines.
That was the start of El Porvenir de Cafayate, dedicated to small batches of high quality wine. Lucia Romero-Marcuzzi manages the winery, drawing on family traditions instilled with an innovative spirit. The winery now owns 192 acres.
The family has modernized the old winery, restored the old vineyards and planted a new vineyard with Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. They utilize sustainable farming practices.
The valley is nestled against the Andes Mountains, about 520 miles north of Mendoza in the northwest part of Argentina. The valley’s semi-desert climate and high elevations feature warm days, cool nights, little rainfall and more than 320 days of sunlight per year. At 5,740 feet above sea level, the vineyards are in an ideal climate for growing great grapes.
Since 2010, famed winemaker and importer Paul Hobbs has collaborated with El Porvenir’s vineyard and winemaking team. In 2015, the winery joined Paul Hobbs Imports’ portfolio of small, family-owned, estate-driven wineries.
In the original culture of the region, the Amauta was the great teacher, the wise man. He was respected for his knowledge of man, nature and the universe.
The winery says it has created four blends named for the family’s values – this wine is Inspiration. The others are Respect, Reflection and Innovation. They also make single varietal wines of Torrontes and Tannat.
The Amauta label wines sell for about $16 while the Laborum label Torrontes is $22 and the Laborum Tannat is $34. All are excellent wines, reflecting the region.
Paul Hobbs Imports was founded in 1994 and is a division of Paul Hobbs Wines. It was the first importer to successfully import Argentine Malbec to the United States.
PHI also imports Felino, Bramare and Cobos wines from Hobbs’ own Argentine winery, Viña Cobos, as well as other Argentine wines of distinction including Pulenta Estate, Riglos, Finca 8, and Alto Limay, in addition to Viña Pérez Cruz from Chile and Stratus from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
GOES WITH: We like leftovers, so when we cook we often make enough for a second meal. That also allows us to have small portions of two entrees. The night my wife, Teri, and I tasted the Amauta we had meatloaf and pizza.
That’s not a meal I would have very often, but that was what was in the refrigerator. It also gave us a chance to taste this wine with very different foods.
The wine was great with both entrees, but I thought it was much better with the meatloaf. The wine’s rich, full, fruity taste didn’t have to compete with spices or sauces. The plain ground beef allowed the complex flavors of the wine to dominate.
I liked the Amauta with the pizza as well, but the spices in the pizza competed a little too much with the wine flavors.
This wine also would go well with steaks, pork chops, ribs, mild stews or smooth, creamy cheeses.