Historic Park Hyatt Mendoza
You need a bottle of sunscreen and a good driver to explore wineries in Mendoza, Argentina—a virtual desert with about 920 wineries dotting its dusty, picturesque roads. Mendoza isn’t like Napa or Châteauneuf-du-Pape where you can spit and hit a winery. To get to the region’s gems you have to drive deep into the countryside with little more than vines to keep you company. Lucky for StarChefs.com, Park Hyatt hosts an annual Masters of Food & Wine
Mendoza (in addition to events in DC, Zurich, and Shanghai in 2011) escorting guests and journalists to premier wineries and filling them with food from international chefs.
Welcome to Wine Country
Tango dancers at the American Airlines Cocktail Reception
After nearly a day of travel (from New York to Buenos Aires to Mendoza), Park Hyatt greeted Masters of Food & Wine guests at the American Airline Cocktail reception, featuring 15 chefs with dishes representing cuisine from their home countries. Chef Rodrigo Pacheco
of Cuisine Standard in Cumbaya, Ecuador presented a salad of protein-rich Black Amaranth with Pesto-filled Potato Chips
. Italian-born Chefs Nicola
and Fabrizio Cara
of Miami’s Quattro
served delicate Risotto with Malbec Sauce, and Chef Luis Acuña
of El Pobre Luis
in Buenos Aires demonstrated his barbecuing prowess with Roasted Cabrito. Regional wineries, including Catena Zapata, Cheval des Andes, Rutini Wines, Terrazas de los Andes, Trapiche, and Familia Zuccardi, poured free-flowing glasses of wine. And hotel pastry chefs designed a Willy Wonka-esque room with desserts—Dulce de Leche Custard, Malbec Bonbons, Strawberry Marshmallows, a Chocolate Wall, and more—covering every surface.
Fountain and courtyard at La Alboroza, gallery and residence of Artist Sergio Roggerone
Friday morning Artist Sergio Roggerone hosted us at his home and gallery, La Alborozo, in the Mendoza countryside for a pastry tasting with Pastry Chef Andrew Shotts
of Garrison Confections
in Providence, Rhode Island. Nespresso espresso shots and sweets—like Pithivier, Pastry Cream with Berry Compote and Cookie Crumble, Dulce de Leche, and Bonbons—waked up palates and readied bleary-eyed travelers for a full day of wine tasting.
A Family Affair
Next, we toured Bodega Familia Zuccardi’s winery and olive oil plant. The Zuccardi family planted its first vines in the 60s, and today Head Winemaker José Alberto Zuccardi’s children, Sebastián, Miguel, and Julia, join their father in maintaining and growing the family tradition.
Warming a glass of olive oil to release its volatile aromatic compounds
The youngest, Miguel, manages Zuelo, the family’s olive oil production facility, where the air is perfumed with the intense, herbal scent of freshly pressed oil. We tasted Zuelo’s unfiltered extra virgin olive oil; it was bright green and thick and had a peppery bite and light herbal flavors. Later in the morning, we toured to the domain of third-generation Winemaker Sebastián Zuccardi, who leads the winery’s R&D operation and manages Zuccardi’s Uco Valley vineyard. Among the wines we tasted at Zuccardi, the Zuccardi Serie A Torrontés 2009 stood out for its floral nose and lemon notes on the palate, and the Zuccardi Serie A Bornardo 2009 had a bouquet of rich red fruit and a velvety finish.
We enjoyed Zuccardi wines again at a lunch prepared by Chef Rodrigo Pacheco of Cuisine Standard in Cumbaya, Ecuador and Pastry Chef Ernesto Ruiz of Grand Hyatt in Santiago, Chile. Pacheco’s dishes, including Viscacha (a guinea pig relative) Consommé Bound with Chestnut Purée and Toasts with Viscacha Confit and Candied Fig Vinaigrette, were served beneath sunshine and a vine-draped canopy outside the winery’s restaurant, Casa de Visitante, managed by daughter, Julia.
Dinner and a Song
For our first dinner, we enjoyed the blending of Italian and Argentine cultures at the historic Trapiche Winery in Maipu. In the late 1800s, Argentina welcomed a wave of Italian immigrants, some of whom migrated to Mendoza to start wineries in the country’s dry west. For our meal at Trapiche, the Carro brothers prepared an Italian feast—the highlight of which was the Baked Eggplant Layered with Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, and Basil paired with Trapiche’s Broquel Torrontés. And Mendoza choir members rose from their dinner seats flash mob-style to serenade dinner guests with Italian music.
Pyramids and Mountains
Catena Zapata Winery modeled after the Tikal pyramid in Guatemala
On Saturday morning, we rolled through miles (and miles) of vineyards before arriving at Bodega Catena Zapata
. Although the winemaking family is originally Italian, the winery at Catena Zapata is modeled after the Mayan pyramid Tikal in Guatemala. From the top of the pyramid, views of vineyards are only interrupted by the towering Andes Mountains to the east. But it’s the guts of the building that house the winery’s best barrels and bottles. Once underground, we listened to Head Winemaker Alejandro Vigil
speak about the blending process for Catena Zapata Malbec Argentina 2007—a 100 percent Malbec made from grapes grown at multiple vineyards and different elevations (with its lush cassis, chocolate, red fruit, and leather notes, it was our favorite wine of the trip). Third-generation winemaker Laura Catena still plays a key role at her family’s winery, and she’s spreading the gospel of Argentine wine in her recent book, Vino Argentina
First Look at Rutini Winery
Views of vineyards in the Uco Valley and the Andes Mountains from Rutini Winery
For this year’s Masters of Food & Wine, Rutini
opened its new Uco Valley winery for the first time to the public, and the industrial facility—outfitted with an R&D lab and a large production space—is plopped onto a little slice of vineyard heaven, with the Andes watching over nearby vines. Greeted by Head Winemaker Mariano Di Paola and glasses of bubbly Rutini Brut Nature 2007, we embarked on a tour of the shiny-and-new facility before sitting down to lunch prepared by Chef Rodrigo Oliveira
in São Paulo, Brazil and Pastry Chef Osvaldo Gross
of Instituto Argentino de Gastronomía in Buenos Aires. Sommelier Rodrigo Kohn of Grand Hyatt São Paulo paired wines for lunch. Oliveria’s Fried Tapioca and Coalho Cheese Cubes with Mango Pepper Sauce and his Amazonian Fish Salad with Butter Beans, Tomatoes, Peppers, Brazil Nuts, and Micro Greens best represented his style of Northeaster Brazilian cuisine. And Gross ensured we got an extra shot of vino by soaking Chocolate Cake in Rutini Dulce Encabezado Malbec.
The posh Moët Hennessy estate, Terrazas de los Andes, hosted the last dinner of the weekend with Argentine Chef Martín Molteni of Puratierra in Buenos Aires, along with Pastry Chef Shotts. Known for exploring indigenous Argentine ingredients, Molteni prepared dishes like Pacú (a piranha relative) with Preserved Lemon, Mozzarella Chupe, Andean Potatoes, and Ollucos Sauce; chocolate master Shotts crafted a Chocolate Dome with Crème Brulée Center, Caramel Mousse, and Hazelnut Biscuit. The latter dish was paired with a delicious Afincado Tardio Petit Manseng dessert wine with notes of almonds and banana; Estate Director Hervé Birnie-Scott has a special affinity for the Basque Manseng grape, which the winery harvests late in the year (shriveled and covered in mold) to produce this gem of a wine.
Cut short by a day to return to the realities of New York, our experience at Masters of Food & Wine Mendoza ended much like it began—with a big cocktail party back at the Park Hyatt headquarters. Weekend revelers carried a weary, over-wined-and-dined look, but the stars of the weekend—chefs, winemakers, and sommeliers—finally had a chance to drink, relax, and show off dance moves. Masters of Food & Wine whet our appetites for more travel to Argentina—it was a great introduction—and we’d love a chance to get back and dig further into the wine-soaked culture of Mendoza.