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WINE BRIEFS XumAeK TASTING NOTES: XumeK Reserva 2008 (SRP $30) 60% Malbec, 40% Syrah blend. Produced solely from Santa Sylvia’s La Leona vine- yard, it has a rich nose of berries, plums and vanilla to match its inky black-red color. The palate is fruit-forward, and full bodied with earthy depth, a touch of white pepper, tobacco and caramel, and a long finish. XumeK Syrah 2009 (SRP $18) Fifteen percent aged in second- use French and American oak for a year, this relatively high- alcohol wine has a berry and barbeque nose, with chewy flavors of blackberries, ripe apple, pepper and a long tannic finish. XumeK Chardonnay 2009 (SRP $18) Lightly oaked, with bright color, a harvest fruit nose, palate of bright berry, apple, pear and peach notes, and a dry finish Zonda Chardonnay-Viognier 2009 (SRP $14) This 50/50 blend, only 10% oaked for 3 months, is an easy drinker with a nose of harvest fruits and a little honey, and palate of apple, pear, peach, and apricot. XumeK and Zonda are imported by Eco Valley and Caná selections. For more information, please contact U.S. marketing agent Jennifer Tincknell at 86 / the tasting panel / december 2010 AN INVESTMENT IN ARGENTINA’S UNEXPLORED TERRITORY by E. C. Gladstone rgentina is not just one appellation. In fact, the country, which is already the fifth-largest wine producer in the world (and eighth-largest consumer), has several regions with a wide variety of terroirs, producing many varietals. One of the more interesting is the Valle de Zonda, where a 3,000-foot elevation—combined with hot sun, high winds and irrigation with rich Andes water—provides an ideal cli- mate for low-yield, naturally pestilence-resistant grapes. The Zonda, near Argentina’s second wine capital, San Juan, is dominated by Santa Sylvia’s 10,000-hectare finca and natural reserve. Here, grapes are harvested for several major Mendoza-based wineries, while those used for Santa Sylvia’s own XumeK and Zonda brands come from select single vineyards. XumeK (pronounced “soo-mek”) wines are the labor of love for Ezequiel Eskenazi of parent company Grupo Petersen, who began cultivating the land in 1997, planting more than 490 acres of vines—and nearly as many olive trees. “The place had a magic,” Eskenazi tells THE TASTING PANEL. “Semi-deserted . . . still unexplored . . . a big virgin place. So after fighting quite a bit with my father, who said he wasn’t going to invest in ‘that piece of stony desert,’ I finally convinced him.” His hard-won faith paid off quickly. The very first XumeK Malbec and Syrah, from the 2002 vintage, both won medals in international competitions, notably THE TASTING PANEL’S WSWA Wine Competition. “It was like an explosion,” Eskenazi recalls. They expanded the range of varieties (including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Viognier) and began experimenting with planting at different elevations, from 2,600 to 4,900 feet above sea level, but taking care “never to be a wine factory.” Since 2008, winemaking consultant Paul Hobbs, one of the major forces in the Argentinian wine revolution of the last decade, has worked with XumeK alongside winemaker Daniel Ekkert. In particular, Hobbs has instigated changes in crop cover, canopy management, pruning and soil amendment that have brought significant improvements. “Paul is like a painter,” Eskenazi enthuses. “He’s been working a long time in Argentina, but he’s exclusive with us in San Juan. He wants to make our wines the best in the country.” Internationally-respected winemaker Roberto Cipresso is also looking to collaborate with XumeK, Eskenazi reports. “Xumek” means “sun” in the language of the Huarpe, original natives of the region. “Zonda” refers to area’s fierce winds, lasting from May through November. The valley, which Eskenazi says holds a huge native burial ground, is believed to have mystic energy. Now Eskenazi is looking forward to what he expects will be XumeK’s greatest achievement, a reserve bottling of Malbec and Syrah he’s calling Black Widow (a tribute to the vineyards’ arachnid residents). “We want it to be a real icon wine,” says Eskenazi. “But Paul has to do the last touch.” “The place had a magic; semi-deserted . . . still unexplored . . . a big virgin place.”

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