Ezequiel Eskenazi, the down-to-earth founder of XumeK, is carving out a wine lifestyle destination a solid two hours drive northwest from Mendoza in San Juan, complete with a life size reproduction of a whale constructed by famed artist Adrian Villar Rojas as a tribute to the site (now upwards of 800 meters above sea level, but which used to be a submerged seabed in ancient times). The wines are fitting tribute to the stark beauty of the site, and their Syrah is a bargain—Crayola does not make a color this purple, and the big blue fruits deliver just about what you would expect from taking a look at the stunning hue of this wine in the glass, with the added bonus of some nice stony, mineral notes. Where the Syrah really shines, though, is in the mouthfeel, where it puts on a clinic for the price-point and will very likely ensure a quickly drained bottle at your next BBQ.
Alamos Chardonnay, made by the high-volume division of the Catena family’s Argentinean wine empire, is pretty good at being what it’s supposed to be. It’s a tasty Chardonnay, with a varietally correct profile of citrus, toasted bread, and vanilla. It’s not too big, drinks easily—and costs under $10 in most places in the US. Overall, the Alamos is actually a lot more pleasant than many other equivalent brands at equivalent prices. What’s missing is a sense of place, a more precise definition of character, beyond the varietal one. That extra layer of personality is something you’d be disappointed not to find in your glass, if you’re going to spend $50 on one of the higher end wines from the Catena Zapata range. But for a pleasant summer quaffer, technical achievement can do the trick. Recommended.
The nose shows plum, concord grape, charred green pepper, and acetone. When first opened the overwhelming flavor was of sweet concord grapes. After a couple of hours the fruit settled down a bit, letting black plum, black pepper, and smoke show through. Overall, this was disjointed and the finish short. Improvement over a few hours hinted it might get better over time, but with so many good Malbecs in the price range, there are better choices. Not recommended.
Interesting, and reasonably priced. A few extra dollars are worth it for a next-tier-up wine. Fruits are deep black, mostly blackberry, made darker with a generous helping of unsweetened chocolate and black pepper. It also has a surprising zing of cayenne pepper, showing through on the mid-palate. There is some wood effect but it is not overpowering. Acids are high, equally matching the generous tannins. It is a little one-dimensional, lacking much evolution from attack to finish, but has depth worth the price. Pair with a Flinstone-sized rack of beef ribs. Recommended.
The Chenin Blanc's contribution is apparent in this sparkling wine of medium-light golden yellow, with a floral, cedar-spice nose. There's a moderate mousse - no heavy bubbling action, but persistent small bubbles. It is somewhat fruity in the mouth, with low apparent acidity in the flavor, yet a fairly long, fruity finish, ending with the acidity that was in there all along. This is a wine to drink with a meal. Try it with the classic dishes that go with Chardonnay but don't hesitate to pair it with more with aromatic dishes such as Moroccan-spiced chicken.
This wine did not fare well in the Palate Press Grand Tasting, scoring only two stars out of five. The wine tastes of a laboratory, not a vineyard. Oak treatment is obvious. The classic apple of chardonnay appears here more like apple flavoring that apples from a tree. The finish falls off quickly, followed by a bitter after-taste. Not recommended.
Palate Press Grand Tasting guests described this wine as "summery," and "subtle and delicious." Cherries and strawberries, rose petals and smoke, come through in layers, while the finish lingers. The Grand Tasting awarded it 4.3 stars out of five. Drink with spicy sausage on a hot summer afternoon.
A special Malbec indeed. An opulent nose with black currant and licorice with some oak (but not overwhelming) at the back. A lively follow through on the palate with soft tannins singing low harmony to a higher range of slightly bittersweet chocolate and dark plums. Finishes with perfect pitch. Very approachable now, should get even better with 2 or 3 more years on it. Match with grilled steak, just as they would do in Argentina. A lovely wine and a superb value. Kudos to the composer—er, winemaker.