I have the distinct privilege of having Asado in Argentina, in Mendoza, on the Pampas.
The Asado. It is not just a dish, it is a social gathering, it is a celebration of meat and flame and sauced with liberal amounts of Malbec. The National dish of Argentina, an Asado consists of Beef, sausages and pork cooked over a charcoal fire. Out on La Pampas the cattle graze on the plains overseen by the Gauchos. Beef in Argentina isn't just what's for dinner, it is part of the culture.
It seems only natural to serve up beef with a great bottle of Argentine Malbec. I love Malbec. Bright fruit and refreshing acidity balance out the tannins give Malbec the unique ability to be both a great food wine and easily quaffable while you are waiting for your steak to grill.
Malbec is Argentina's flagship variety, and the country has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. This variety originally comes from South West France, where it is called Cot and features a hard, tannic style. But with high altitudes and cool nights Mendoza can produce Malbec of beautiful aromatics, bold fruit and silky tannins.
There are many great producers of Malbec in Argentina. Just one of my favorites is Familia Zuccardi.
Alberto Zuccardi came to Mendoza in 1950 when he was 30 years old, not to plants grapes and make wine but to install fancy new cement irrigation pipes. He decided the best way to demonstrate his irrigation system was to use it the way they in California – by planting a vineyard. One thing lead to another and by the 1970’s he had winery and had expanded his vineyards and was selling wine in the bulk market.
In 1976 his son Jose had joined him in the family business. It was Jose who saw that future lay in the export market. This was the 1980’s and even though Argentina was the fifth largest producer of wine globally, little if anyone outside of Argentina had tasted let alone heard of Mendoza Malbec. It was that push into the world market that drove the winery and also drove Jose and Alberto to constantly improve the wine both in the winery and vineyards.
In the 2000’s, Jose’s son Sebastien joined the team. It was Sebastien who saw what was happening up higher in the Andes in the Uco Valley. ‘The character of the high-altitude grapes spoke for itself, so looking toward that area was natural.’ So impressed with e grapes they made a wine called Zeta, a blend of Cabernet and Tempranillo. A stand-alone wine of place much like a Bordeaux.
Last year they completed construction on their new 100 percent concrete winery in Altamira. Zuccardi Valle de Uco boasts concrete eggs and amphorae for fermenting, concrete vats and neutral barrels for aging. The concrete vats are made from all natural materials including sand, clay, rocks and silt coming from the land around where the winery was built. The Zuccardi family keep advancing in their search for excellence, for purity and freshness. Oak can hide a lot of mistakes, it can also disguise the true terroir of a place. By removing all the makeup and airbrushing these wines have an honest expression of place.
“Familia Zuccardi produces wines from the local terroir, placing focus on the region and essence of the wine and the variations found in different zones throughout the Uco Valley,” says Sebastian Zuccardi. “We want our wines to have personality and to express the region where they were created.”
The winery is truly state of the art as is the research and development lab. The focus and culture of Zuccardi has always been one of constant improvement. The have planted experimental vineyards all around to see what untapped production areas there might be and what other varietals hold potential in the Uco Valley. Oh and not surprisingly Familia Zuccardi also place emphasis on the study of irrigation and water management, working to preserve the essential resource that is all too scarce in the area.
These are simply some of my favorite Malbec’s.
ZUCCARDI Q MALBEC 2015 $17.99 btl / save $5
“Wow. This is exciting. Blackberries, flowers, dark fruit and hints of walnut shell here follow through to a medium to full body, fine tannins and a juicy finish. This is tight and polished. Give it two or three years to soften, but it is already very pretty.” 94 pts James SucklingZUCCARDI SERIES A MALBEC 2016 $13.99 btl / save $3
“The 2016 Malbec Serie A is sourced from different vineyards across the Valle de Uco (San José, Los Árboles, Tupungato, El Peral, Gualtallary, Vista Flore and La Consulta) and was fermented in concrete vats an used 500-liter French oak barrels. There is more than fruit here, there is some expression of the soil, with subtle nuances and more complexity, hints of aromatic herbs and lower in alcohol (13%). The profile of all the wines is very clean, precise, juicy with good acidity. This is a superb example of it, with even some chalky sensations in the texture. Great value too.” 91 pts Wine AdvocateZUCCARDI Q CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 $19.99 btl / save $3
A refined and savory red, featuring notes of white pepper to the cherry and crushed red plum flavors. A wine of great personality, aromas and black pepper spices. Lengthens out on the palate, with medium-grained tannins. Silky finish. Great aging potential. 92 pts Tim Aiken
Argentine Asado Serves 20 – 30
The National dish of Argentina, an Asado consists of Beef, sausages and pork cooked over an charcoal fire. You can do a simple version of an Asado at home with a charcoal grill, some select cuts of meat and copious amounts of Malbec. The secret to great Asado is patience, sea salt and Fresh ground pepper
2 – 4lbs Rib Eye Steak, cut 2” (Bife ancho)
2 - 4 lbs Short Ribs, cut 2” (Tira de asado)
2 – 4lbs Flank Steak (Vacio)
2 each Pork Tenderloin (Lomo de Puerco)
4 lbs Chorizo (Spanish or Basque)
Coarse ground Sea salt
Coarse ground Black pepper
12 bottles Malbec
4 each Lemons, wedges
4 each Baguettes
One Big Simple green Salad
2 cups Chimichurri Sauce (below)
1. Start your coals. When Coals are ready begin with the Ribeye and Short Ribs. Rub steaks with olive oil and liberally dust salt and pepper. When ribs are about half way done 30 minutes or so turn.
2. To grill add the Flank steak, Pork and Chorizo. Turn after 10 minutes
3. Remove meat to platters and cover and let rest 10 minutes before carving.
4. Serve with lemons, baguettes, salad and Salt & pepper and plenty of Malbec!
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 each Onion, diced
3 ea garlic cloves, minced
½ cup Chopped Parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl of food processor and pulse until well combined.
I recently ventured up to Red Mountain to taste some wines, walk some vineyards and see old friends. There are few places in Washington that produce better wine, some say, some of the best in the world. But, for me it's the people. The Williams' family, the Holmes', the Hedges', the Hightower's, the Frichette's, the Pearson's - Red Mountain is the smallest AVA in the state and it feels more like a neighborhood than an appellation.
If Red Mountain had football team Charlie Hoppes would be the head coach. He is the sergeant at arms, the baby whisperer, Charlie Hoppes is the Wine Boss.
Charlie Hoppes is one of the most respected winemakers in Washington State. A Yakima Valley native with a degree from UC Davis he got his start in 1988 working with Mike Januik at Snoqualmie Winery and followed him to Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1990 becoming the head red wine maker until 1999. After stints at Waterbrook in Walla Walla and Three Rivers he started his own winery Fidelitas. In 2007 he purchased his first 3 acres on Red Mountain and built a tasting room.
Did I mention that he has a degree in economics? Instead of taking up prime vineyard land on Red Mt he has a 30,000 sq ft production facility in nearby Richland - "Wine Boss". There he produces his wines plus makes wine for a half dozen clients. The tasting room on Red Mountain has a beautiful panoramic view of the valley.
I first visited Charlie and the tasting room shortly after it was built. Tasting the wines with the "Wine Boss" himself and eating some of the best tacos I have ever had is one of my fondest memories. Charlie is one of the most generous, easy going and intelligent people working in the Washington wine industry. 2017 marks his 30th vintage, and in that time he has made quite a name for himself including being named Seattle Magazines Winemaker of the Year in 2013. His wine continue to garner high ratings from press - his 2012 Ciel du Cheval Cab rated 94 from Parker and the 2013 Quintessence was ranked #4 in Seattle Metropolitan Magazine Top 100. Recently 6 of his 2014 releases received 93 -95 pt scores from the Wine Advocate!
Did I mention every time I go to Red Mountain I end of having tacos? Just thinking about Red Mountain makes me crave Tacos.
So today I give you my simplified recipe for Tacos Al pastor. Paired with some of Charlie Red Mountain Malbec and you have winner!
FIDELITAS MALBEC RED MOUNTAIN 2014
Tacos al Pastor
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried ground cumin seed
3 chipotle peppers, packed in adobo sauce, plus 2 tablespoon adobo sauce
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon Paprika
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
3 whole cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup pineapple juice from canned pineapple
½ cup water
3 pounds boneless Pork Shoulder
To Finish and Serve:
1 14 ounce canned pineapple diced
20 small flour or Corn tortillas, heated and kept warm
1 medium red onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 ounce Cotijo cheese
1 cup Pico de Gallo, salsa
3 to 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each for serving
1. In bowl of blender combine the ingredients for the marinade. Puree until smooth about 3 minutes.
2. Cut Pork roast into 4 or 5 large pieces toss with marinade. Place into large roasting pan or Rondeau and cover.
3. Place into 275 degrees oven and roast for 4 hours.
4. Remove and let cool. When cool use two forks to pull pork apart. Stir to combine.
5. Serve meat and garnishes immediately with warmed tortillas, pineapple, onions, cilantro, salsa, cotijo, and lime wedges. Meat will be very moist and should be packed into double-stacked tortillas for serving