A Footprint in Argentina

Argentine wines have made a name for their country with the ever increasing quality of their Malbec varietal.

Juan-Manuel Fangio (right) and Patrick Duffeler (left) discussing the planning of the ’77 Grand Prix of Argentina.

When I was involved in Formula 1 Racing in the seventies and then as the Intl CEO of a fragrance company in the early eighties, I flew regularly to Buenos Aires. I had found the country to be very European in culture (over half of the Argentinians are of Italian descent), with beautiful landscape and extreme hospitality. A few years back, Matthew, our winemaker, flew down to Argentina and was captivated by the vitality of their wine industry.

Endless vineyards with the Andes as a backdrop.

Just last year, when presenting our wines at the London International Wine Fair, Matthew was in conversation with Steven Spurrier of Decanter Magazine, over the Williamsburg Winery wines and the fact that we were experimenting with a new block of Malbec on our vineyards. Matthew became intrigued by the praise of Steven Spurrier for a new Argentine wine that was in the latter’s opinion a rather extraordinary Malbec. An opinion of Steven Spurrier warrants immediate follow up.

Matthew trekked over to the small booth and met Gerardo Cartellone, the owner of A16, a new boutique winery near Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. The Malbec that had generated that comment was called “Apogeo”. A conversation followed a tasting of the nectar, and Sr. Cartellone agreed to stop in at the Williamsburg Winery when next in the US.

Gerardo Cartellone at his winery.

In October of last year, we had the pleasure of hosting Mr Cartellone at Wedmore Place and he visited the winery and tasted our wines with Matthew. Over dinner, with a bottle of that fabulous “Apogeo” we got to know each other well while sharing views of the direction of the wine world and our respective goals for the long term future. We agreed to meet at his winery around the time of harvest in the Southern hemisphere (March-April). Our interest became focused on an opportunity for Matthew to participate in the creation of a limited edition Malbec wine from Argentina.

Matthew and Elena, his wife who has been very involved in the trade sales of the Williamsburg Winery, Francoise and I arrived in Mendoza on Thursday, April 3, after long flights. (Patrick II and Kristen stayed in Williamsburg after the very recent birth of Robert Henry, their son and my sixth granchild.) On Friday, we drove to the A16 winery and visited the marvelously engineered “garage operation” where that unique Malbec was created. We drove around the vineyards noticing that the orientation of the rows were different from how the other wineries in the area had been set.

Matthew, Mabel, PGD, Francoise, Gerardo and Elena in front of the rows bearing our names.

Grilled meats (beef and goat) along with grilled vegetables.

Argentine hospitality entails a traditional “asado” (see picture) for lunch to be enjoyed with wine, of course. For dessert, Mr. Cartellone took us for a short walk and surprised us with the fact that he had named a couple rows of his Malbec vineyard in the name of Matthew and Elena as well as in Francoise’s and mine. By the end of the day we had agreed on purchasing a small amount of the cases of “Apogeo” for our Wine Club Members as well as presentation to friends of the winery as a very special project.

Clay and rocky soil of the Mendoza area.

The balance of our stay was spent visiting numerous wineries to evaluate and understand the region in terms of its soil as well as its climate. As it was, the weather was less than what is meant to be normal. During January through April, they had experienced  a very unusual level of precipitation. The area is known for its dry climate and its water source derived from the glaciers of the Andes. The soil is clay mixed with a high proportion of rocks and drains very well.

Llamas Guanacos on a peaceful farm. In the background, the snow covered peaks of the Andes.

The cases of “Apogeo” wines will be shipped to Norfolk prior to the summer months and will need to quietly settle here at the winery in temperature-controlled space before the release of this beautiful  wine. We are all excited about our Footprint in Argentina, adding a new international dimension to the activities of the Williamsburg Winery.

In the meantime, our vineyard crew was busy spreading Dolomitic stone powder, gypsum and other minerals to improve the quality and micro-biological life of our vineyards. Healthier soils result in healthier vines and better grapes.  We are also expanding our vineyards on site with the planting of Albariño and researching the possibility of other vineyard sites in Virginia.  This will allow us to secure the highest quality of grapes to make more good wines.  We remain always mindful that in the wine world, in Argentine, in Virginia or anywhere else, everything begins with the grapes.

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

The new planting of Albariño at the Wessex Hundred vineyard.

 

 

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