Monday, August 23, 2010

A visit to Trapiche

Adam here. In April of 2007 I was lucky enough to be invited by Fredrick Wildman Wine Imports to travel to Argentina to visit a couple of the wineries that they represent. I of course jumped at the chance. I had never been to South America before and goodness knows I was fond of the wines. I figured since Carla from Trapiche was coming to visit Star this week I would tell you about my visit.

After spending some time in Buenos Aires as well as a few days in the Cafayate Valley we finally arrived in Mendoza, the Argentine city that is considered the heart of wine country. Despite a population of over 4 million people Mendoza has a very laid back quality to it. Sidewalk cafes are everywhere and they are shaded by large leafy trees making them a great spot to relax with a nice pisco sour or Fernet and Coke. The first thing our tour leader Francine warned us about were the irrigation ditches that ran along the side of the street. These ditches are about 3 feet deep and she told us she was not fishing any of us out if we fell in after too many drinks. Fair enough.
Trapiche is located right near the foot of the Andes mountains and they have growers at all different elevations. We visited the Dos Palmas vineyards which are very close to the winery. Our tour of the vineyard was given by Carla herself, which is why we are so looking forward to seeing her again.

One of the most striking this about the vineyards in Argentina is that the grapes actually need to be protected from getting too much sun. So they grow the vines onto trellises and allow the leaves to shade the grapes. I had never seen this before. However since the Argentine wine country is on the edge of some of the largest, steepest mountains in the world it does make sense. These mountains block almost all of the percipitaion that would otherwise be coming from the Pacific Ocean. Rain and clouds are a rare thing here. All the water for irrigating the grapes and everything else flows down out of the mountains. Hence the forementioned irrigation ditches.After seeing the vineyards we went to the winery for a tasting and a tour followed up by lunch. The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the winery were 2 goats being roasted on spits over an open fire. (They looked like they were being crucified.) So we knew we were in for a good time. When I visited Trapiche had yet to build their gorgeous new visitor's center which Jerry saw this last spring but that did not take anything away from the winery. The cellars which were stacked with barrel after barrel of wine aging away were decorated with large pieces of artwork at the end of each row. Just stunning.
We then had a tasting of all of Trapiche's wines. This is at least a dozen or so wines. Most wine professionals will spit every single drop at a wine tasting so as to keep their head completely clear. Dear friends when you are from Wisconsin and many of the other people on your trip are from all different parts of the U.S. it becomes clear right away that our tolerance for alcohol is much higher than anyone else's. It may sound like an old wives' tale but I have seen it proven again and again. So I will admit that I did not spit everything. Anyway we were having lunch right after the tasting, right?

I will not take the time here to review all the wines. Join us on Thursday and try them for yourself but I do want to mention the Single Vineyard wines. Trapiche makes a lot of wine. So they have a lot of growers. Every year each grower submits a bottle of his Malbec for a blind tasting. Out of all these wines they pick 3. They are then bottled and sold as Trapiche Single Vineyard Malbec with the grower's name on the label to distinguish one from the other. Oh Mama are these wine good. It is my personal opinion that if these wines were from California or France they would fetch around $100/bottle. Since they are from Argentina they go for about half that. Make sure you try these on Thursday because they are stunning!

Now it was time for lunch. We started with empenadas. Which are everywhere in Argentina and everyone will tell you that the ones from their region are the best. Honestly, I loved them all. People fighting over which meat pie is best and they want me to try them all and decide. Done and done! At Trapiche they cooked the empenadas in a large stone oven on the deck near where we had done the tasting. They were darn good but most of the excitement came when the trellised vines above the deck caught fire because the stone oven had gotten too hot. No worries though disaster was averted and lunch continued. Those goats were indeed for us along with probably a half dozen other roasted meats, which is how we ate the whole time in Argentina. The wine and laughter flowed as the afternoon wore on. We tried port and grappa the winemaker was experimenting with and they were wonderful. We ate desserts made with dolce de leche which seems to be in every sweet treat made in Argentina. No problem there though because it is yummy.

Finally our visit came to an end. It was also almost time for us to head home to the U.S. of A. but we all knew that our experience here had been worth the whole trip. We had met wonderful people and drank wonderful wine. We had feasted and laughed until our bellies were full and our faces hurt from smiling so much. As we drove away in the bus I for one made a promise to myself that someday I would visit again. Until that day I have the wonderful wines of Trapiche and all of Argentina to spark the great memories.
Now for the shamless plug:
Thursday, August 26th 4pm to 7pm
15% off all Trapiche Wines!!!
MEET Carla Castorina the winemaker who was nice enough to show us around.
Sample many grilled goodies to go along with these great Argentine wines!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It truly is a GREAT taste!

Remember when you were a kid, what it was like to wake up on your birthday? For the first couple seconds the day was just like any other. Then you would realize that it was a special day and all kinds of great fun and good stuff was coming your way. Well my friends, that is what it is like to wake up on the morning of the Great Taste of the Midwest.

After many years of attending this event there are a few things I have learned. First, a good breakfast is important and will help one prolong the enjoyment of their day. Second, applying sunscreen is a must. Even if the sun is not out when you leave the house it may come out later when you are in a less practical mindset. Finally, did I mention breakfast? Oh, yes I did.

Once you arrive at the park it is important to remember to have a plan of attack. Then once you have a wristband and glass you should take that plan and throw it away because there is way too much good beer and are way too many cool people for your silly plan to hold up. Seriously, nice try. Maybe next year it will work. With the number of really awesome and special brews available it is often just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. This year I had a good friend and brewer pour me half a glass of 3 Floyd’s Dark Lord 07 just because I missed it and he didn’t. Then you have all the people telling you about things you just have to try. I always try to heed this advice unless said beer is too far away. Then I just duck into the nearest tent and hope I make it around to their suggestion later. So it goes at the Great Taste.

One of the most amazing things about the Great Taste is how smoothly it runs considering how much people are drinking. People generally hold it together pretty well and have a pretty great time. There is always an idiot or two but out of 6000 people that is not too shabby. Just don’t be that person and your day will be awesome.

For as hard as it is to get tickets and as much as people build this up to be a fantastic time every single year it lives up to expectations. It usually even surpasses them.

Tickets go on sale Sunday May 1st, 2011 at noon. The first people got in line at Star this year at about 11pm. The fest itself is on Saturday August 13th, 2011. It will be awesome.

See you there.
(photos courtesy of Lyndsey Winchel)