2008 Antucura Calcura Vista Flores Mendoza
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Antucura Vineyards Rattling Sabers and the Rolland Protocol

He was born in 1947 at the edge of the Pomerol appellation on Bordeaux's Right Bank. At the time, Pomerol was just a shadow of its current self, and the family's Chateau Bon Pasteur still a fledgling estate. In 1966, he was accepted into the Faculty of Enology in Bordeaux, studying under master enologist, Émile Peynaud. But it wouldn't take long for a young Michel Rolland to rattle sabers in the classroom.

At a time when most of the worlds' Cabernets were under 13% alcohol and featured green-ish, underripe overtones, Rolland advocated trimming back yields, pushing the envelope on phenolic maturity. In the cellar, the young winemaker performed 4-8 day 'cold soaks,' extracting dark color, lavish black fruit intensity, and sneaky, ripe tannins. Then, Rolland went further, opting to vinify his luscious Bordeaux in new French cooperage, carrying out malolactic fermentation in barrel.

Many in France decried Rolland's protocol, calling it atypical, suggesting that the ultra-concentration masked bottles of a sense of place and origin. Michel Rolland pushed back, instead suggesting that growers had become lazy, and were simply fearful of the increased cost of Rolland's approach. In Bordeaux, the debate would prove almost too fiery, but in 1985, out of the blue, Michel Rolland's phone began ringing off the hook. But, the calls weren't so much streaming in from Pauillac, Margaux or St. Emilion. Most were from Napa Valley.

Over the next 20 years, the greatest 'flying winemaker' the wine world's ever known left his mark not just on Bon-Pasteur, Pavie and L'Evangile, but on Araujo, Harlan Estate, Bryant Family, Staglin and Dalla Valle in Napa Valley, and famed Ornellaia in Tuscany. Robert Parker Jr. was smitten by the new, full-throttle protocol, lobbing dozens of 100-point scores on Rolland's clients' Cabernets.

Then, in a move that surprised many, the winemaker who had revolutionized Napa Valley and Bordeaux's Right Bank turned his attention to Mendoza. Most specifically, Rolland would become infatuated with the high ground of Uco Valley, his own Clos de Los Siete and the neighboring property of his friend and client, Anne-Caroline Biancheri. Three summers ago, while in Bordeaux, we spent three hours with Michel in his offices along the Quai, during which he'd describe Uco Valley as like "Napa Valley 20 years ago -- only advancing much more quickly." One taste of Rolland's ultra-concentrated, muscular, black fruit "Calcura," from Anne-Caroline's Antucura, and it's easy to see why.

Since the first cases of "Calcura" -- a mix of super-ripe Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec drawn from vines planted at nearly 3500 feet in elevation -- first made it stateside, Rolland's signature blend has garnered rave 91pt reviews from both Parker's Wine Advocate and Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. But neither the classically structured 2006, nor the more feminine 2007, hold a candle to the powerhouse 2008.

Deep purple/black in color, the nose is of briary blueberry and blackberry, wildly opulent and lush. 15% in alcohol, the attack is pure Rolland -- filled with crushed black fruit preserves, suave and chewy in texture. But it's only now, after almost three years in bottle that the 4 days of cold soak and the extended vinification in new French cooperage is taking center stage. Sneaky, ripe tannins are just beginning to frame the massive Uco Valley concentration, balancing the dark fruit intensity with dusty backbone.

Tasting Notes

2008 Antucura Calcura Vista Flores Mendoza
"Deep purple/black in color, infused with briary blueberry and blackberry, wildly opulent and lush. 15% in alcohol, the attack is pure Rolland -- filled with crushed black fruit preserves, suave and chewy in texture. After almost three years in bottle, the master's sneaky tannin backbone brackets all the full throttle intensity, framing black fruit with dusty backbone. Drink now for its primary fruit juiciness or age for 4-6 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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