Clos de los Siete Red BlendDecember has so far been a cold, bleak, windy affair. No snow as of yet, and very little to recommend in terms of scenery. In fact, I would much rather go somewhere else entirely at this time of year. Some far country where I could forget about the artificial urgency of the holidays, truly kick back, and relax. New York winter weather makes me crave wines with opposing qualities: warm, lush, and full of cheer. Big, hearty numbers that shout “it’s time for STEAK, b****!” – or perhaps they’d shout something more mature, yet equally bold. Wines with hot bluster and tannin to match. And because I’m feeling the wallet crunch of the coming Christmas, I also want to enjoy wines that I know cost the makers many millions of dollars. Wine is a form of wealth redistribution I can get behind.

So let’s combine these elements: wine from a far country that has been really, really expensive to realize, but reaches we happy consumers with minimal pocket pinch. “Clos de los Siete” is of the more expensive wine projects in recent history, fitting all of my winter-and-I’m-depressed-tell-me-a-wine-story criteria. Headed by the star oenologist Michel Rolland, this effort focuses on expressing Argentinian terroir while sparing no expense in sourcing and vinifying high-quality grapes. We’re talking over 2000 acres of vines at 1,200 meters above sea level, right at the doorstep of the Andes mountains, turned into wine at seven wineries designed with extravagant attention to detail by master architects. Truly the kind of place where you’d expect fine wine to be made.

And so it is. The 2008 “Clos de los Siete,” the signature wine from this project, is blended personally by Michel Rolland every year, from painstakingly handpicked Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. It’s a big wine, to be sure: a dark ruby red in the glass, with ripe aromas of plum, cassis, and saddle leather. In the mouth, more dark cherry and cassis fruit rage around like Lindsay Lohan on a road trip in the countryside, stomping all over hints of cedar and loam. In a good way. Finishes long, with definite grainy tannins that cloak your tongue; it could well benefit from a year or two more of bottle aging. While expensive to produce, “Clos de los Siete” will cost you only $20: good for breaking winter doldrums without breaking the bank. Begs for roast meats of any kind or caliber.


Been writing an awful lot about rosés lately. Shame, because some of my favorite summer reds are those friendly, approachable blends everyone pretends to pooh-pooh and then swigs as fast as they can when backs are turned. So! Here’s a short and sweet write-up of one of my guilty pleasures.

The 2007 Bodega NQN “Picada” 15 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot produced in Patagonia, Argentina. What a country! What wines! Cooler climate makes for better acidity and more distinct character than Chile overall, while the leading grapes – Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon – are everybody’s favorite, even the trendy wine Poindexters in plaid I so want to stomp.

A nice garnet red in the glass, with dusty berries and other red fruit on the nose, and some fruitcake spice to make it fun. Lush but not flabby mouthfeel, this is a round, medium-bodied treat for the big wine aficionado, the kind of man who wears denim and drinks Sonoma Zinfandel. Or Syrah from the Rhone. And fights bulls. Soft tannins, medium, earthy finish with some pepper notes. $10. Pair this with London Broil and mashed potatoes and green beans, or some juicy rare burgers off the grill.

It is summer. You and some friends are playing Ultimate in the park at midday. Trees, paths and grass are all damp from yesterday’s rain, but it’s hot now, naturally. All around, the smell of cooking meat, barbecue sauce, and perfectly roasted fennel, onions and tomatoes wafts from multiple grills. Someone calls a stop to the game of frisbee, maybe you, and opens a bottle of… what? Many things will do, but what for this occasion?

Enter the 2008 Terra Sparkling Malbec, produced in Mendoza in Argentina, a deep liquid ruby swirl in the glass. Loaded with blueberries and blackberries on the nose, leading to more rich black fruit and currants in the mouth with hints of black pepper and earth. The delicate perlage is reminiscent of a fine Champagne, backed by silky tannins culminating in a clean finish. Terra makes a great aperitif, and pairs with hors d’oeuvres, roast pork, or roast chicken, but I would bring out bigger guns (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah) for heavier meats or real barbecue. $10.

If I had to choose one cheap wine to sip by a pool under the June sun at midday, this would be a serious candidate. Viognier is an ancient grape with an unknown heritage, but was probably originally brought to the Rhône by the Romans. It is a genetic cousin to Nebbiolo, the esteemed varietal responsible for Barolo and Barbaresco. The origins of the name itself are also a mystery. Once a commonly grown grape, Viognier is now something of a curiosity, but it is capable of producing delicious, refreshing wines.

Like Riesling and Muscat, Viognier is known for its distinct floral aromas paired with potent fruit, and it is generally dry. It can be quite versatile as a companion to food. The 2008 Pie de Palo is no exception, showing delightful tropical and citrus aromas paired with flowery notes, and a mouthfeel that is at once soft but possessed of a decent level of acidity. Thank you, Argentina! I would readily pair this with Thai food, sashimi, or obnoxious French cheeses, but it is also good on its own, like Explosion Sauce. $8.