Who: Bodega Nanni
Family owned and operated for over 110 years in northern Argentina, Bodega Nanni is one of the growing number of certified organic wineries in South America. It is now controlled by the fourth generation of the Nanni Family. The cellar door/winery is located in the central part of Cafayate, as are most tasting rooms. It is easy to walk from anywhere you stay in town. Reservations are not required and tastings cost 30 pesos (about $3).
Where: Cafayate, Salta Province, Argentina
Located in a remote area of northwestern Argentina, Cafayate is little-known to the wine drinking pubic, and only recognized by a few sommeliers for its iconic Torrontes varietal wine.
Argentina is the only area of the world where the Torrontes Riojano variety grows. It is very light and smooth with apricot aromas, similar to Gewurztraminer. Torrontes is actually a New World cross of the Palomino (aka Mission) and Muscat of Alexandria (aka Mostcatel de Seturbal in Portugal) grapes. But for red drinkers, Tannat, Malbec, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bonarda (aka Charbono in CA) are also grown in Cafayate. The Tannat, in particular, has found a nice home here. The reds are normally blended together in a cuvee. These are all full bodied, tannic reds that need extra hangtime to ripen in the high altitude desert climate of Cafayate.
Bodega Nanni produces single varietal wines on each of those types, along with a stunning flagship blend called Arcanus Gran Reserva. Arcanus is Latin for "secret", and the exact blend is kept confidential, although I believe it is Tannat/Malbec/Cab/Bonarda, which is a successful combination in this region. This robust, smooth wine with dark fruit is super satisfying.
A 100% certified organic winery is still a rarity in Argentina, especially compared to Europe and the US. Nanni's lower label wines are not particularly impressive, but the Reserva varietals are decent and the Arcanus is outstanding. We shipped home a bottle of Arcanus in our "best of Argentina" package. The visit to Nanni is more organized and personal compared to other Cafayate cellar doors. The tasting room is adjacent to the wine production facility, and we witnessed bottling operations during our visit.
The Vines of Mendoza Wine Bar/Shop
There is a wine bar in the heart of central Mendoza called the Vines of Mendoza (creative!). Their claim to fame is that they collect the best wines of the region for sampling and purchase. This is mostly geared toward those tourists who don't have time to visit many wineries themselves, and I was skeptical of their quality before visiting.
My initial doubt was misplaced, because VoM really does have an impressively good wine offering. We started by sampling four glasses, which quickly evolved into a full-on tasting and the decision to buy 12 bottles.
Side Story: In Cafayate, we purchased seven bottles of wine with the intent that we would ship six home, along with six we were to acquire in Mendoza. We couldn't have been more naïve. Shipping wine from outside the U.S. is nearly impossible. We investigated all our options upon arriving in Mendoza. The UPS clerk laughed us out of his office. Not even possible. The DHL guy was very helpful, but it would cost $500 per dozen or $350 for six because they have a special (costly) relationship with a licensed alcohol distributor.
We were out of options and fearing the worst. Once we reached VoM, we had an idea. They would ship our six wines home for $220, and if we bought 12 bottles from them, shipping only costs $1. The deal seems to-good-to-be-true, but it's legitimate.
So began our wine tasting odyssey. We quickly struck up a friendship with Justin and Kate, two Americans from D.C. sitting next to us. Julia from VoM gave us the royal treatment, even opening up new bottles just so we could give them a try. It was such a fun, social experience. Hats off to Vines of Mendoza for not just living up to, but exceeding their reputation. We made some tough decisions, and settled upon these wines (including a few multiple purchases):
Bressia Monteagrelo Syrah 2008
Bressia Monteagrelo Cab Franc 2009
Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Vin Blend 2007
Cuvelier Los Andes Colección Blend 2008
Enamore Blend 2009
Lindaflor La Violeta Malbec 2007
Lindaflor Malbec 2008
Gran Lorca Poético Petit Verdot 2008
Gauchezco Plata Malbec 2009
Bonomo y Montiel Malbec 2012
Gran Malbec de Angeles 2009
By far, our favorite wines were the Gran Malbec de Angeles, the Culvelier Los Andes Grand Vin, and the Lindaflor La Violeta. They were simply incredible wines. When they're in stock, you can find these on VoM's website, because they also serve as the importer for these labels.