Artist Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, “Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”
Wine offers us time to take pause. It knows it has a reputation for being elusive, and because of that, asks us to surrender to its poetry, become its muse. During one in a series of March Nor’easters, a group of intrepid wine professionals braved the elements to do just that, with the help of gracious Argentine winemaker, Marcelo Bocardo of Proemio Wines.
Marcelo was in town with his elegant and graceful new lineup of wines, alongside Nora Favelukes of New York-based QW Wine Experts. Nora, also from Argentina, “but from Buenos Aries,” she says with a wink, is a passionate advocate for South American wines and the families behind them.
Marcelo is a third generation winemaker and descendant of Italian immigrants. He and his wife Patricia launched Proemio Wines in 2001, with the intention to respect and retain his ancestor’s passion for winemaking, and to leave a legacy for future generations, which includes daughter Antonella and son Nicolás. They strive to make wines of value, which express terroir-the marriage of climate, geography, and the individual intentions of a winemaker to make wines that speak truthfully of their place. Proemio means “prologue” in Old Medieval Spanish, and stands for kick-start, which was Marcelo and Patricia’s mission, to jump start Argentina’s potential for making wines of exceptional quality.
Protected by the Andes Mountains, whose spring melt-off provides necessary irrigation to the vineyards, Mendoza is Argentina’s largest wine growing region, home to some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world. Because the growing season is long, hot, and arid, high altitude is a saving grace, as is the cool air from the mountains, which helps the grapes retain acidity, which is necessary for structure. Proemio’s vineyards are located in the top sub regions in Mendoza, within three estates: The Russell Estate in Maipú, the Perdriel Estate in Luján de Cuyo, and the Paraje El Cepillo Estate in Uco Valley.
Once known mostly for bulk wine production, the trend over the past two decades has been to upgrade facilities and modernize winemaking.
“The key,” Marcelo says, “is honoring tradition, family lineage. Modern facilities cannot create soul. Making wine, you need time, and patience, it cannot be rushed,” he says. “My grandfather and father started with only three hectares. They grew grapes, and sold them for bulk. It was business. But I saw how deeply they cared for their vines, their grapes, the care they took at harvest,” he says, “It hurt them to sell the grapes, I could see. I was 12; I watched in silence. I wanted to ask why, but I remained silent. They taught me by doing, and I learned by watching. I learned patience.”
Marcelo spoke softly, rhythmically, and with him we time traveled to the foot of the Andes Mountains, where harvest was actually underway. We imagined staring up at the magnitude of power from that mountain range, its beauty gazing down upon us, the purity in the air, the sun on our backs, the warm grapes at perfect ripeness in the palms of our hands.
Lunch was prepared to pair with the wines. Chef Anthony Caturano prepared several wonderful dishes, starting with grilled quail and lentils. With that we explored a soft and supple 2017 Terroir Blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and petit verdot, alongside a velvety 2015 blend of Syrah and Garnacha. With braised beef and gnocchi, we sampled a seductive 2015 reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a smoky and textured 2015 pettit verdot. With truffled pecorino and tallegio, was a stately and complex 2013 Grand Reserva Winemaker’s Selection blend of Malbec, cabernet sauvignon, Syrah, and Garnacha.
Marcelo raised his glass. Our afternoon was winding down. “I want to offer you a taste of my 2011 Icon Barrel Selection, a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and petit verdot, from my oldest vineyards in Maipú, to thank you for coming.” It was a perfect wine with which to finish. We had slowed our pace, and captured the muse.