Thursday, September 9, 2010
Tapas Dinner and 1974 Malbec at Bodega Norton, Mendoza, Argentina
(Sept. 2, 2010) After the forum, we had time for a 45 minute break at Club Tapiz Resort, and then we climbed back into the van for the short drive to Bodega Norton. I was very much looking forward to this dinner, because Bodega Norton produces my husband’s favorite malbec – the Bodega Norton Malbec Reserve. He has been buying it for the last couple of years at Costco and is very impressed with the taste, price point ($13), and high scores it receives.
We arrived at Bodega Norton around 9:30pm and were immediately greeted with a glass of sparkling chardonnay, extra brut called Bodega Norton Cosecha Especial NV. It was delicious and set off the evening with a nice festive mood. Luis, the CEO, then escorted us on a winery tour through the cellars and barrel room. The winery is quite large – usually ranked 4th or 5th largest in Argentina. Founded in 1895 by an Englishman named Norton, it is now owned by the Swarovski family in Austria (producer of the famous crystals). I was impressed by the custom stainless steel tanks which Luis had designed to match those used by Chateau Haut-Brion in Bordeaux –with the split tanks.
The tour ended in a hospitality suite with a long bar, comfortable chairs and low tables to relax and eat. This dinner was less formal and with fewer people, since many of us were tired after the long day at the forum. However, the mood soon became more festive as wine flowed and food was brought to the table. We started with the Bodega Norton Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (amazing to think 2010 wines are already on the market, since we haven’t even harvested our 2010 grapes in the Northern Hemisphere). It was like drinking a delightful glass of grapefruit juice – very fruity with a cleansing acid, but none of the gooseberry, grassy style you find in Chile or New Zealand. Actually all of the sauv blancs I tasted in Argentina were more similar to the California style.
The first tray of tapas was the traditional meat and cheese selection with many different types of salamis and prosciuttos. Next came some tasty empanadas filled with spinach and spicy meat. There were small bowls of fish chowder, mozzarella balls, and later chocolate petite fours. We paired all of these with a series of malbecs, starting with the Reserva, then moving onto the more distinctive Bodega Norton Malbec DOC 2008. The winery is actually in the center of Argentina’s only DOC, the Lujan de Cuyo region. The wine that really blew me away was the Bodega Norton Gernot Langes Cosecha 2003. It reminded me of a 2nd growth Bordeaux with excellent balance and complexity, as well as elegance with its fine-grained tannins and very long finish.
However the highlight of the evening was when Luis pulled out two dusty old bottles of malbec from the cellar. They were 1974 Bodega Norton vintage and not labeled. He wanted to prove to us that malbec does age well, and by the end of the evening we all agreed with him. However, it took about 10 minutes to open the bottle with two people attempting it (see video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38bRiGiKHfg). The cork was nearly all black when it finally came out to loud applause and cheers. We all savored the spicy, earthy flavor with a hint of dried berry and leather – almost all secondary and tertiary notes. It was more delicate than modern day malbecs, with excellent acid and smooth tannins. Again, it reminded me of drinking old Bordeaux. It was a perfect conclusion to a very wonderful and special experience at Bodega Norton.