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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Try Colomé Or Amalaya On Malbec World Day

Colomé Estate Malbec 2015, Argentina
Amalaya Malbec 2016, Argentina

Cost: $24-26
$15-17

You might not know it, but Malbec World Day is April 17. It’s not a big day in the United States, and I don’t know of any festivities around Augusta. So if you want to celebrate, you are on your own. But it is certainly a day worth celebrating.

That also is income tax day this year, so you might want to drink some malbec to drown your sorrows.

Malbec is a great wine for any occasion, be it celebration or sorrow. It is one of the six grapes allowed in red Bordeaux wine, but lately it is gaining more fame as the national wine of Argentina. It is a great wine for sipping or with food.

Both of these wines from Bodega Colomé are great examples of malbec, offering lush fruit flavors with a touch of pepper. The Colomé offers bolder tannins while the Amalaya features softer tannins and a delicate lingering finish.

The Colomé ($24-26) has a bright, intense color with beautiful aromas of blackberries and red fruits, with exotic floral notes. It is a very aromatic wine. On the palate ripe and rich black fruit mingles with spiced oak notes and hints of pepper. Fresh acidity balances the bold tannins and ripe fruit.

The wine is 100 percent malbec sourced from four vineyards ranging in elevation from 5,740 to 10,207 feet above sea level. The high altitude vineyards get more sunlight and produce a thicker-skinned grape that delivers a robust taste and sharp acidity. After fermentation the wine spent 15 months in French oak barriques and six months in the bottle before release.

The Amalaya ($15-17) is a brilliant ruby color with violet edges, leading to seductive aromas of strawberries, raspberries and other red fruit with touches of pepper and spice. On the palate you get red fruit flavors with spice and hints of vanilla. It is a smooth wine with lots of fresh fruit.

The wine is 85 percent malbec, 10 percent tannat and 5 percent petit verdot. About 25 percent of the wine spent eight months in French oak barrels.

Amalaya and Colomé produce flavorful and complex wines that make a case for the Calchaqui Valley as one of the great wine regions of Argentina.

Winery: Bodega Colomé is one of the oldest wineries in Argentina. The Spanish governor of the Salta province is believed to have founded the winery in 1831. In 1854 the governor’s daughter brought the first French pre-phylloxera malbec and cabernet sauvignon vines to Colomé. Grapes from three vineyards planted that year are still used in Colomé Reserva wines.

Malbec World Day is celebrated on April 17 because that is believed to be the date Argentine president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento officially made it his mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry. On that day in 1853 he ordered a French soil expert to bring new vines to Argentina.

The Isasmendi-Dávalos families owned Colomé for 170 years before Donald Hess bought it in 2001. Donald and Ursula Hess first visited the Calchaquí Valley in 1998, searching for the perfect terroir and the ideal weather to produce unique Argentinean wines. What they discovered was beyond their expectations: they actually found their second home.

Colomé produces more than 50,000 cases of wine each year, shipping it to more than 40 countries around the world. It has the highest vineyards in the world ranging from 7,545 to 10,206 feet above sea level. Many of its labels feature drawings of the mountain range in their vineyards.

Amalaya is an offshoot of Colomé formed when Hess bought land in the Salta region while looking for new grape territory. When Hess bought the land in Salta it had never been farmed before, not even by the ancient Incas.

It looked like it would take a miracle to grow grapes in the harsh environment of Salta, which included a rugged landscape and high desert, but Hess knew what he was doing. 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 a malbec, a rosé and the Amalaya Gran Corte. All are wonderful wines.

The Amalaya label features a holistic circle which stands for the fertility of the “pachamama” or mother earth. The winery says the hoped for miracle is revealed from the heart of the Cafayate desert in a mystical and magical way resulting in excellent wines.

The Amalaya wines grew out of Hess’ conviction that the New World could produce successful blends such as those found in Europe. In addition to malbec he planted grapes he thought would blend well with malbec.

Hess Family Wine Estates is a family-owned, fourth-generation company with a deep commitment to responsible agricultural and business practices. It was founded in Bern, Switzerland in 1844 and owns wineries in the United States, Argentina and South Africa.

Colomé includes an art museum of more than 18,000 square feet, while the winery in Napa includes 13,000 square feet devoted to the Hess art collection. Another museum featuring the Hess art collection is at the Glen Carlou Winery in South Africa.

Both malbecs went well with our outdoor meal.

Goes with: My wife Teri and I decided to eat dinner on the porch one night last week. It was the perfect time, between pollen and mosquito season, when the air was warm but not hot.

It was Masters Week, so we didn’t really want to cook and just fixed up some leftovers. I had green pepper stew from the freezer and Teri had stuffed vegetarian grape leaves left from Easter dinner.

The food was good, but the wine made the meal. These two malbecs were wonderful with the pepper stew, adding warmth and depth to a hearty dish. I liked both wines, but if forced to pick a favorite I would choose the Amalaya with the stew. The red fruit and soft tannins seemed to bring out the best in the savory stew.

The Amalaya also opened sooner. The longer I sipped the Colomé the better it got. The lesson there is to open the Colomé at least 45 minutes before you drink it.

Malbec is a great food wine, and will go with all kinds of hearty food. You could have it with an empanada muzarella, potato omelet, baked meat with roasted vegetables, dried pasta with ragu, pizza or even bitter chocolate.


The best match probably is steak. I have fond memories of visiting Argentina 20 years ago, drinking rich malbecs with my steak and salad dinners, which I ate after 10 p.m. each night. Good restaurants in Argentina don’t open until 10 p.m. Malbec also is great to pair with an Argentine asado, or barbecue.

My son Michael and I had the same steak experience in Buenos Aires six years ago.

In honor of the malbec-steak connection I offer Amalaya’s recipe for tomahawk steak.

Tomahawk Steak

Ingredients:

4 Tomahawk steaks

1 bunch of fresh rosemary

1 bunch of fresh oregano

Sunflower oil to coat the meat

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Light a fire on a wood grill or barbecue.

Rub each Tomahawk steak with oil, salt and pepper, and immediately place on the grill. Grill the first side until golden brown, then turn over the meat and place the rosemary and oregano on top. Cook for 25 minutes on the grill.

The winery recommends serving the steaks with sliced butternut squash, beets, apples and potatoes cooked on the grill in aluminum foil. They also suggest charring jalapeno or habanero peppers to serve on the steak with a watercress salad.

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