This wine adventure begins in the early 2000s, when Rose and I decided to travel to Argentina to explore their great wines. We had been enthusiasts of Argentine wines since the early 1990s, when we had annointed Malbecs as the next great value in wines. So, although we did not make it to Mendoza on this trip (we instead hung out at Iguazu Falls, and then at Punte del Este), we tasted a large variety of Argentine Malbecs in Buenos Aires.
We tasted the price range, from lower priced wines to several of the high-priced ones; as usual, the best values were in a notch above the lowest prices. Of course, we tasted the wines with food, and the pampas beef and the puffy fries were our favorites. And on our last night, we had an excellent dinner at a restaurant near the dock area–a bit out of the way.
While we had tasted some very good wines, even by our last evening in BA we had not found our expected noteworthy and outstanding bargain. And then on the wine list, we spotted a wine we had missed in all our adventures. A 2002 Bodegas Salentein Malbec, at a very reasonable price. We very much enjoyed it with our last dinner in BA.
Finding this wine in BA was one thing; finding it in the USA was another. The importer had apparently brought in quite a bit of the 2001, and was not inclined to bring in the 2002 until they had moved most of the 2001. We tried some of the 2001, but it was not as good. But with constant pestering, we finally prevailed; it took nearly a year from our return to get our case of Salentein, a 2003 Malbec–never got the 2002. And the 2003 was worth the wait; the improvement seems to have been continuous.
Fast-forward nine years. I was in the Netherlands in early 2013, and as I walked into the restaurant of our hotel, I noticed two magnums of Salentein Malbec 2010. I had known that Salentein had a connection with the Netherlands, but had never imagined that we’d run into the wine in Nijkerk, about 60KM East of Amsterdam. The hotel staff explained that the Salentein owner lived nearby, had been an executive at Volkswagen, and also has a restaurant nearby–where we were scheduled to eat the following night!
I immediately reserved these stellar wines for our dinner our first night (they only had two magnums), and our group of twelve project managers finished them off quickly. They were outstanding. Because the magnums were gone, and we had not yet had dessert, I ordered several 750ml bottles to go with our desserts. They were not quite as good, a little more acidic–more bottle age or longer breathing would reduce the acid. All in all, an excellent rediscovery! Of course, restaurant prices are not nearly as good as my in-trade wholesale–we regretted paying 3x markups.
The next night was even better! The Salentein restaurant serves an excellent meal, and has an incredibly interesting selection of Salentein wines. I was tempted to bring home a bunch of them, both because they are so good, and because the labels are so unique. But sometimes US customs is difficult when you try to bring in more than two bottles. We again tasted the magnums; and they were again exceptional. The waitstaff is helpful and very knowledgeable. I’d recommend this restaurant–-and the wines–to anyone who is fortunate to be in the area.
Our server, who has not yet made it to Mendoza (but plans to visit next year) was extremely competent and helpful; he offered us some of the single-vinyard 2010, but I suggested that instead I should bring it home for Rose to taste. She is the one who spotted the Salentein in Argentina–it is only fair that she gets to taste their latest magic. And we will have a chance to post our observations on this wine as well, after it recovers from its travel-induced bottle-shock.
Meanwhile, if you are near Nijkerk, we suggest that you visit the Salentein Restaurant; you can begin by exploring the link at TripAdvisor. Enjoy!