A Life in Travel

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Wine tasting in Mendoza: The joy of La Azul

According to Ruth and David, our insider wine experts and co-owners of Arista Wine Cellars in Edmonds, WA, wine retailers “Buy on bread and sell on cheese.” That’s because bread and crackers cleanse the palate best for tasting, but when it comes to serving and selling wine give ‘em cheese because the proteins in the dairy smooth out the flavors in wine and often make it more desirable.
Our Wildland Adventures Argentina tour group in the cavernous cellars of Salentine.
On this day we ate lots of bread and cheese and had the opportunity to contrast select wines in the Uco Valley from among the biggest producers in the region to one of the smallest. We start out at Salentine vineyards, at over 1 million bottles a year it is among the biggest producers. Then we compared their massive high tech tanks and expansive cask cellars  with the tiny garage bodega of La Azul one of the smallest producers  in the area where we made empanadas and sat down to dinner in their lovely family home.
Among all the vineyards we experienced in Mendoza, La Azul was my favorite. It is a personal, hands-on operation that arose after the founding family enterprise was passed down among several siblings and the youngest son, Ezequiel Fadel took up the enterprise to create his own little winery, a warm and simple producer of premium wines made onsite at his family’s home. At first we met Pablo, an old family friend who acts, looks and sounds as much a New Yorker as an Argentine. He and Ezequiel are childhood friends and since Pablo speaks perfect English and is a natural “MC” he acts as the public face of La Azul interacting with guests.
The garage bodega at La Azul...standing room only with
winemaker Ezequiel and his friend and spokesperson, Pablo.

A far cry from the smooth hired-hand factory tours and tasting of Salentine, Ezequiel is not only a hands on boutique wine producer, he’s a self-made Argentine with a long pony tail who hunts wild boar by hand every week with a knife and his pack of dogs. He has the massively long scar from his wrist all the way up his arm to show for it after his blade missed the mark one time.

Making bread for dinner on a food adventure in Argentina!
Most visitors to La Azul just come for tasting and some stay for lunch, but for small groups like ours Chef Jaime Baeza and his staff will plan a cooking lesson and private dinner. On this night of our tour of Argentina’s wine and gastronomy we presented each member of the group an embroidered apron that read “Wildland Adventures Argentina 2013” and proceeded to make a mess preparing flat bread and empanadas baked in the bodega’s clay oven.
Hand made empanadas...hmmmm!
Ezequiel had been standing in the background, but when he saw we were laughing so much and enjoying his wines he overcame his language trepidation and began to share more with us about his life in Mendoza, his wife and kids, his brother a famous Argentine filmmaker currently at the premier opening of his latest motion picture in France, and exuding pride for the wine he produces and loves to share with the world: “Having our own vineyards permits us an incredible control of the grapes quality and so on the wine. All this work finishes in each bottle that then will found you and will try you have a joy moment.”
One of my joy moments at La Azul on our
gastronomy and wine tour of Argentina.
Ezequiel was right, this night was a high ‘joy moment’ for us all. Perhaps it was the wine (he was so inspired by our appreciation that he broke out a few bottles—out of a total of 2,000 produced--of his 2009 Gran Reserva 65% Malbec and 35% Cabernet aged 2 years 30% in American oak and 70% French oak, then in the bottle for 1 ½ years), not to mention his bright eyes and gleaming smiles and Pablo’s robust enthusiasm. For sure it was also the incredible 4 course dinner including crispy zucchini with smoked salmon, pissa argula with prosciutto, empanadas, main course of grilled pork or beef steak or the most delicious mushroom risotto I’ve ever had, and a panqueque of dulce de leche for dessert. 
Winemaker and host, Ezequiel Fadel, with long hair tied up in back
breaks out the Gran Reserva with only 2,000 bottles produced.
Deliciously and joyfully plated in the kitchen at La Azul.
Beef steak entre.
Fried zucchini with smoked salmon appeitizer.
See more information about Wildland Adventures in Argentina and contact our expert program director: Kirsten Gardner This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Read Ruta Arista's blog about this part of our adventure: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
keeping it wild,

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