"What's the first thing that pops into your head when I mention Argentina?"
That's the question I asked the Wine Goddess, my wife Mary Lee, and she replied, "Eva Peron, the Broadway musical, and the song 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina!'"
It's a good answer, but not the one I was expecting. So I refined the question.
"Think wine and Argentina," I said.
Without hesitation, she tickled me pink with her response -- "Malbec."
Ah, yes, Malbec. It's a great-tasting wine of the old world (Cahors, in southwest France) and the new world (Argentina, Chile), delivering intense dark berry, spicy traits on a smooth frame.
When the weather turns cool in September and October, it's prime time for drinking Malbec and grilling steaks.
So, last weekend, I teased the Wine Butler Mike Pigeon that I had received two new Malbec samples from my good friends at Concha y Toro, Argentina's largest and most successful winery. I was itching to try them, I said, and the Butler took the bait. He offered to buy four Black Angus steaks and vegetables (peppers, onions, mushrooms) if I'd do the grilling and host dinner with our wives. I agreed.
It was a beautiful al-fresco evening with sweaters kept nearby. Once the meal was prepared, along with buttered rolls and garden salad, I opened the wines -- Trivento Reserve Malbec 2015 ($11) and Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2014 ($21). Once in the glasses, these Malbecs showed the classic inky purple and violet colors for which they shine.
The Trivento vineyards are located in Mendoza on elevated plateaus adjacent to the Andes Mountains. The annual rainfall is slight (8 inches per year), but spring snowmelt from the mountains produces enough underground moisture for deep-rooted vines to absorb.
While French Malbecs are more tannic and powerful, Mendoza Malbecs produce fruitier, silkier wines. A lot has to do with the three different winds (Trivento) that circulate cool and warm air at various times of the year, both protecting and nurturing the vines and fruit.
The Trivento Reserve label is aged six months in oak barrels and six months in bottle prior to release. The 2015 we tasted was fresh, smooth and "heavy on the cherry, raspberry, plum flavors," according to the Wine Butler. The women termed it "very satisfying" throughout.
Grapes used in the Trivento Golden Reserve come from a higher-elevation vineyard zone, Lujån de Cuyo. The berries are smaller and more concentrated in flavors, and only the best are hand-selected for this wine. It is aged 12 months in oak barrels and spends additional time in bottle depending on the winemaker's vintage preference.
The 2014 Golden Reserve impressed with its overall elegance. The plum and espresso flavors expanded on a silky-smooth palate, leading to a long, lingering finish. For the extra money, it's well worth the price. There's a bit more alcohol in the Golden Reserve (14.5 percent to Trivento Reserve's 13.5 percent) but it's right in balance with the full-bodied richness.
These Trivento Malbecs have mojo -- and that's nothing to cry for unless you want more.