Having guests for dinner is a fantastic way to get through a couple of bottles of wine. And instead of serving two of the same bottle, I usually try to compare and contrast wines. For tonight's "Gaucho Grill" - a smorgassboard of meat (beef, chicken and sausage), marinated in an Argentine chimichuri sauce and barbequed to perfection (in my opinion...) - I thought a Malbec would be best. But lacking a second bottle, I dove into my California collection for a backup:
2004 Clos de Los Siete
2004 Steltzner Claret
Clos de los Siete is a new Argentine operation established by seven French investors, with Michel Rolland the winemaker. The 2004 Clos de Los Siete has captured a number of positive reviews, but the overwhelming message was "wait!". I ignored the warning, and gave this wine a 2-hour decant instead. Deep, dense purple in colour, this Malbec blend had a lovely nose of almonds, blackberry, blueberry, pepper, tea, cinnamon, and leathery oak. It was a full-bodied wine, with big, fat tannins, nice fruit, and a long finish. I was shocked at the high alcohol - it was not dominant on the nose or the palate. Very complex and enjoyable and a good match for the grilled meats, but it needs time in the cellar. (I hope I can find some more...)
Price: C$24 (SAQ)
The 2004 Steltzner Claret was one of my favourite finds of last year's Napa trip, and is one of my Top 50 Cellar Picks - an excellent New World Claret at an affordable price, in a region that is not known for 'values'. Cheerful, cherry-red in hue, the nose covered a range of pleasing aromas - cedar, pepper, coffee, strawberry, mushroom, mint and vegetal aromas. A dry, tannic mouthfeel, it softened up over the evening, delivering strawberry-flavoured coffee. An excellent match for the steak, but perhaps a bit overpowering for the grilled chicken and sausage.
Price: C$28 (Opimian)
With five adult wine lovers and two bottles of wine I was seriously unprepared for the evening, as we polished those off in no time. To maintain my "Good Host" status, after-dinner I uncorked a 2004 Ravenswood Vintners' Blend Zinfandel. It has been a few years since I have had this wine and quite some time since I enjoyed a Zin, so I had low expectations - I was very wrong. A lovely example of Zinfandel at an affordable price, with an uncharacteristicly low alcohol level - only 13.5%. Flavourful and balanced, it was not your typical overdone California Zin - at this price it should be everyone's go-to inexpensive Zin. No score - I was not really in a proper state of mind to score this one...