2010 Colomé Malbec Estate Valle Calchaqui Salta
Expert Ratings
ST 91 points
WS 91 points
(Read the full reviews below)
 
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The Vines of Colomé Rattling Tailbones at 10,000 Feet

The first time we tasted Colomé Malbec was with our sommelier tasting group in Manhattan. As always, the wines were served blind, linen draped over each label. The theme was Left Bank Bordeaux. While none of the big boys were present (sommelier budgets don't allow for Lafite, Latour and Mouton), the lineup was strong. When the bottles were disrobed, Lynch Bages, not surprisingly, came out on top. Sociando-Mallet finished just behind. A stunning 2010 Chateau Poitevin finished #3.

But when the most surprising bottle of the evening was disrobed -- the one that finished #4 out of twelve -- all of us were scratching our heads. None of us identified it as an outlier, one grown 5,000 miles away, in the high desert of the Southern Hemisphere. It would only be after we made the trip to Salta, took the tailbone-rattling 5-hour SUV ride to the cactus-strewn landscape of Colomé, that we came to understand why this exquisite 2010 Malbec outpointed most of the Left Bank competition.

There are two ways to get to Colomé. If you're on a budget -- as we were -- you catch the early morning SUV shuttle. If you're a jetsetter, you can sleep in, sip cafe con leche at the hotel, then head to the helicopter pad. We recommend the latter, unless your travel companion is a chiropractor!

Most who make the trip to Donald Hess's high-desert oasis come for the 5-star inn and spa. Not us. We came to see what are said to be the oldest vines in the world, improbably planted 10,000 feet in elevation in Salta's mountain desert.

Bodega Colomé was founded in 1831, purportedly by the Spanish Governor of Salta. In 1854, the governor's daughter, Ascensión, returned from Bordeaux with a satchel full of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon budwood. After a several-day horse ride, those 6-inch canes were carved into alluvial mountain sand. 160 years later, those that took continue to thrive, accounting for the magical richness and complexity of wine #4.

When Hess purchased Colomé in 2001, the Napa Valley icon recognized the challenges of tending biodynamically farmed vineyards in the high desert where few live. Just as Hess broke ground on this breathtaking boutique hotel, another crew began building a mountain village. The housing came first, then the school and finally, a community center. By the time the project was completed, the Swiss industrialist had lured Salta labor to the high ground.

When you first walk these rows, feel the hot sun and the steady breeze, you're struck by the shimmering color of the leaves and the remarkable health of these ancient vines. 160 years after the governor's daughter smuggled in the Bordelais budwood, her vineyard continues to push out a precious crop of thick-skin clusters spiked with high desert sweetness -- buttressed with the fine tannin backbone that speaks far more of Pauillac than anything Argentine.

As Stephen Tanzer wrote, this "is a lot of wine for $30/bottle!" Deepest ruby in color, with explosive aromas of blackberry and currant, raspberries and black cherry, laced with sweet spices and mineral complexity. The attack is rich and sleek, beautifully honed, packed with crushed black fruits, all bracketed by thick-skin, high-ground muscle. Drinking beautifully now, particularly after an hour in a carafe, but don't be afraid to lay this one down for a 5-7 year slumber.



Tasting Notes

2010 Colomé Malbec Estate Valle Calchaqui Salta
"(14.5% alcohol; malbec blended with 8% tannat, 3% cabernet sauvignon and 2% each syrah and petit verdot; aged for 15 months in new and once-used French oak): Full red-ruby. Musky aromas of cherry liqueur, blackberry, violet, roasted coffee and spicy herbs, along with a meaty whiff of reduction. Wonderfully fine-grained and plush on the palate but with no heaviness; perfectly integrated acidity gives the wine a vibrant quality. Finishes with serious but sweet tannins that spread out to coat the palate on the lively, subtle, long aftertaste. A lot of wine for $30."
91 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

"This suave, racy red delivers game, crushed cherry and wild berry notes backed by fine tannins and bright acidity. Compact, yet creamy and well-balanced, with a long, savory finish. Drink now through 2018."
91 points -- Wine Spectator

 

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