Santiago, me and Fernando

Santiago Mayorga, the assistant winemaker for Nieto Senetiner, recently came through Dallas with Fernando Salmain, the export director for the winery as well as Kelly Elder, representing Foley Family Wines, to talk about the past, present and future of their wines.

This is a storied winery dating back to 1888, when Italian immigrants founded the winery in Mendoza.  In 1969, the company was acquired by the families Nieto and Senetiner, who brought new world techniques and technology, but kept the old world quality.  In 1998, it was acquired by the Grupo de Negocios de Molinos Río de la Plata, but the family is still very involved.   So you find a mixture of cultures – the Spanish, the Argentinian and the Italian.

The present is Santiago’s focus is the higher end Nieto wines.  He works closely with Roberto González, who has served as the lead wine maker for 20 years.  He brings a boutique perspective from his previous employer.  He joined Nieto Senetiner because it was an amazing opportunity to chart a course for an important winery in Mendoza. 

He talked about his passion for winemaking and how there is “no recipe.”  It’s about the quality of wines and the importance of the terroir over three estate vineyards in three different valleys. 

We tried a line-up of wines, which were all great and the quality for the price was an incredible find.  We started with the 2013 Torrontes, which was a very intense white with notes of rose petals, lemon curd, grapefruit, peach and a richness that kept drawing me back. 

Our next wine was the 2013 Pinot Noir, which was the first Argentinian Pinot Noir that impressed me.  It’s not yet in the Dallas market, but will come soon.  It was full of ripe cherry, cranberry and had hints of the earth.  Niento Senetiner buys the grapes for both the Torrontes and the Pinot Noir, but grows the rest on their own vineyards.

We moved to the 2012 Nieto Senetiner Bonarda.  This was my first experience a 100 percent Bonarda wine, which is the second most planted grape in Argentina after Malbec and is used often for blending.  It was fabulous – intense with smoke, chocolate, raspberry, herbs and oak notes.  Very complex and layered – I definitely want to try more.

The next wine was the 2012 Malbec, a new vintage full of plum, cassis, spice and vanilla.  It was very drinkable – with or without food.  We then moved to the 2012 Cabernet, which was full of blackberry, spice and notes of vanilla and oak.

Our final wines were amazing.  We had the 2011 Don Nicanor, a Malbec Reserve that was named after the founder.  In Spanish, it translates into “of noble origin.”  This wine, which shockingly retails for under $20 at Whole Foods and Central Market, was complex with notes of black cherry, violet, cassis, plum, Dijon mustard (it rocked – trust me) and a nuttiness.  I loved this and will be buying it.

The last wine was the Nieto Senetiner Terroir Blend Malbec, a blend of three vineyards with very different elevations and characteristics.  At $35, it was a special occasion wine without the special occasion price.  It was a beautiful symphony of flavors that brought together the past and the present in a compelling way.  I am looking forward to trying the future.