How can you resist trying Tempranillo, Syrah, and Sangiovese in this scenario. Tempranillo fascinated me because the altitude and arid growing area of Mendoza are at least reminiscent of Spain. Syrah grows all over the world quite well, so that could be tasty. Sangiovese is tougher. I have only found a few grown outside of Italy that taste 'correct.' Too many are over extracted, perhaps interesting, red wines that bear no resemblance to the grape. However, many Italians moved to Argentina, perhaps some Sangiovese magic followed them.
Gouguenheim Tempranillo 2005 - From Tupungato, farmed at 3,600 feet, this is also aged with French oak inner staves, while the wine rests in stainless steel. Elegant red fruit, this is a lovely drink. Well made, good balance and full of pretty fruit. 2nd day - Lovely, red fruit nose, showing older fruit on the palate today. I like this. I find it juicier than many Spanish versions with less obvious tannin. Well done. 3rd day - Great red fruit nose still, the palate is becoming a bit tired, but the wine is still solid. Importer - ? check the website, http://www.bodegagouguenheim.com.ar/ I know Pinnacle no longer represents them, but the other states should be accurate. $10-$12
Casa Marguery Tinto 2006 - From La Consulta in Mendoza, the wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Malbec and is aged for 12 months in oak. Oak on the nose is a bit raw, but with enough fruit to match up. There are good base notes of fruit and it is very reimiscent of Bordeaux, with lovely minerality. 2nd day - Again, very Bordeaux, but with prettier fruit. A tad stewy on the back end but this is good. 3rd day - Cinammon, red fruit, lifted, still very solid. Showing some fatigue on the back, but the final finish is still good. A solid wine if you can find it. Reactions were split from other tasters. I think this is 'real' wine and someone expecting a flashier style might be disappointed. Importer - Southern (only in Oregon?), another in Texas and none on the east coast apparently. see website - http://www.marguerywines.com/puntos-de-venta-usa_en.htm. $14-16
The next two wines are overseen by Michel Rolland. The globetrotting consultant makes wildly extracted wines, opaque in the glass, and bursting with new oak. Generally I find his wines to be roughly the equivalent of junk food. Delicious, a bit more expensive than something more natural, full of flavor and perhaps some guilty pleasure, but not something you want every day. I also find that his wines rarely survive overnight, the fruit fades, the wine gets tired and lacks the intensity it once had. I believe that comes from his more labor intense manipulation of the fruit in the winery. The grapes did all they could to reach the explosive level Michel produces, they have nothing left in reserve. Others feel very differently about his style and the wines routinely get fantastic reviews.
For more on Michel Rolland, the loss of a sense of place in wine (terroir), and a thoroughly engaging film, see Mondo Vino http://www.mondovinofilm.com/. Admittedly, there is a slant to this film, it clearly has an agenda - and it is not in favor of Monsieur Rolland. So beware of a not so even hand. I fall in the camp of wanting more sense of place and natural wine, rather than the slicker, sleeker, international style for which Michel Rolland has become the poster/whipping boy. I still enjoy wines like that, but only as a decadent change of pace, not as a regular occurrence.
Benegas Syrah 2005 - From 30 year old vines, all estate, in Maipu, Mendoza. The wine spends 12 months in French oak, and I believe it to be all new. It is classic Rolland styled wine, with deep, sweet, dark fruit and plenty of oak on the nose, the fruit is sufficient to stand up to the oak. There is more of the same on the palate with some leather note. This is hedonistic Syrah! 2nd day - Coffee is very pronounced today on the nose, the wine is soft, juicy, flashy, and a bit alcoholic today. The fruit has faded, but not as much as I feared. 3rd day - Leather is now dominant on the nose, the fruit is gone - nothing but coffee and tannin on the finish. Another taster's note, "A mess." I find this to be a very drinkable style of flashy, international wine, just be sure to polish off the entire bottle the night you open it. Serve with grilled meats, or hearty red sauces. Importer - Pinnacle International. $22-$25
Benegas Sangiovese 2005 - Again, 100% from Maipu in Mendoza, with twelve months in French oak (I assume mostly new). The wine is made from vines with an average age of 55 years. You will not confuse this with Tuscan style Sangiovese, but red fruit does dominate. There is some lovely spicy oak on the finish and cherry notes do show through, they are just juicier than I expected. Not a bad thing at all. 2nd day - Nose mostly mute today, but the Sangiovese shows through on the finish. Big wine, with lovely dried cherry mingling with some leather on the finish. Solid. 3rd day - Smoky cherry, a tad too oaky now for the fruit, but leather coming on nicely, wild. Overall, damn impressive and a mostly correct example of Sangiovese that allows it's true character to shine through all of the oak and flash. Would be a fantastic match with Bolognese sauce, meatballs and grilled sausages. Importer - Pinnacle International. $19-$22