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Six from Doña Paula

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South American entrepreneur Ricardo Claro, winemaker Stefano Gandolini and viticulturist Edgardo del Popolo continue to turn out very good to excellent wines at the Doña Paula Estate in Argentina’s Mendoza region, and their second label Los Cardos is also a solid performer in the value-oriented category. Doña Paula owns 1,878 acres of vineyards and the state-of-the-art winery facility is capable of producing over 1 million liters a year. Our friends at Vineyard Brands sent us 6 of their latest efforts to try, and here are our impressions of what we tasted.

2010 Doña Paula Mendoza Sauvignon Blanc Los Cardos, 12% alc., $8.99-9.99: Medium straw color, with a good dose of boxwood/cat spray dominating the flavors and aromas, along with some underlying minerality; medium bodied, with ample acids and a slightly bitter finish. A solid everyday Sauvignon that would be even better with a little more depth of fruit. I’m pretty sure that this is the first wine from the 2010 vintage that we’ve had. Find this wine

2009 Doña Paula Mendoza Chardonnay Los Cardos, 13.5% alc., $8.99-9.99: Pale gold color; shows a note of oak over pineapple, apricot and pear flavors and aromas. Medium-full-to-full bodied, with good acids, depth, intensity and length. A solid everyday Chardonnay. Find this wine

2009 Doña Paula Mendoza Malbec Los Cardos, 14% alc., $8.99-9.99: Clean, dark color, with grapey blackberry and black cherry flavors and aromas graced with a kiss of sweet oak and underscored with some earthy minerality. Full bodied, rich and ripe, with enough structure for at least a few years in the cellar, and enough generous fruit to enjoy with grilled meats tonight. Find this wine

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2008 Doña Paula Mendoza Naked Pulp Viognier, 14.5% alc., $24.99: Pale gold color, with ripe peach and pineapple character that finishes slightly bitter, it is often the case with this variety; there’s also a bit of earthy minerality lurking in the background and even a hint of banana. Full bodied, with more acidity than many of its Californian cousins, which is a plus. There is none of the honeysuckle often associated with Viognier here, but nevertheless, an interesting and enjoyable variation on the theme. The new oak might put some off, but then this also may benefit from a year or two in the cellar. From mature vineyards in the sandy-rocky Vista Flores soils at 3300 feet of elevation, grown under cool conditions that allow for a long hang time; picked when each bunch has a significant amount of shriveled berries, avoiding any green characteristics. Free run juice is chilled, decanted into small steel tanks and fermented at low temperatures, then racked to new (100%) french oak for 8 months aging. Find this wine

2008 Doña Paula Mendoza Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% alc., $11.99: Clean, dark color, with a fragrant nose of black currant, blackberry, blueberry and a nice note of cedar that takes over in the flavors; full-bodied, rich and structured for several years in the cellar, which should help integrate the woodier aspect of the wine. Nice now, better in 3-5 years. Aged in French barrels (33% new) for 10 to 12 months. Find this wine

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2006 Doña Paula Mendoza Salix Vineyard Tannat Malbec, Tannat, 70%/ Malbec 30%, 14.5% alc., $22.99: Inky in color, with a grudging nose that only hints at the surprisingly restrained black currant, blackberry, earth and balsa flavors. This is no wallflower by any means, but neither is it the muscle-bound monster that I half expected; there’s a solid core of fruit here, but it’s very much in a claret style. Full-bodied, with at least 3-5 yrs of structure to (hopefully) integrate the balsa-like characteristic, yet already more than approachable with grilled red meats. Malbec grapes sourced from Selección de Bodega´s old vine block and fully-ripened Tannat from the Salix Vineyard block, both located in Finca el Alto in the Upper Lujan de Cuyo, in Mendoza. Aged 100% in new French barrels for 16 months. Find this wine

As was the case with previous encounters with the wines of Doña Paula, we found both labels to offer very good QPR at their respective price points, and any reservations we may have about oak influence on some of them should be resolved with a few years in the bottle. (Prices listed are based on returns from

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