When you are traveling about a region, or about the world, some of the best things you will find are the things you were not even looking for. A happenstance, a stumbling-upon, these are what you will remember of your travels and they will attribute to possibly some of the best memories.
I am back, traveling through my mind of my time in Mendoza. Staying at a local hostel (I like to connect with the locals), I had breakfast with the lady of the house and her son, among a couple others passing through the area. We spoke of politics, the weather and my possible next vacation spot, which is her hometown located in the very northwestern corner of Argentina called Humahuaca, sitting at around 9,000 feet above sea level nestled in a valley surrounded by spectacular, technicolored mountainsides and rock formations. If they have wine there, then upon my visit, I am sure you will hear more about it, but for now we are back on Mendoza. So after a humble breakfast of medialunas (Argentina’s croissant) and good coffee, I was off for some wine tasting. Luckily, the hostel was just down the road from some wineries and a nice little bike ride was all it took to get there.
The air was fresh and light with just a slight hint of autumn, but as the afternoon carried on, the sun warmed my shoulders and the blue skies were electric. After a couple wineries and some tastings, I had a delicious lunch at Tempus Alba on an upper deck showcasing 360 views of the snow-capped mountains all dressed and laced with various vineyards at their edges. Tempus Alba has some great wines as well, and I will probably be writing on them later, but I have not gotten to what I had stumbled upon. Coming out of lunch, just across the way was another winery and our main event today: Viña el Cerno.
The driveway is short and as you pull in to park you are immediately surrounded by close vineyards with the small, rustic winery off to the right. Just under a canopy of vines laid some harvest equipment and workers in the process of crushing grapes that had just arrived. I walked into the tasting room to find rustic wooden tables and chairs with some barrels and wooden vats for their wine. Straight away, I noticed they had some espumante (espumoso as they call it here in Argentina)! If anyone knows me, they know how much I love my bubbles!
The Viña el Cerno Espumoso was lovely and seemingly so versatile. The first taste alone led to some nice inspiration. The nose was of fresh lime zest, fresh lemon drops and almost a salty minerality, like the salt you might taste from your upper lip after a hot afternoon in the garden. The palate is just as fresh and light. The citrus zest continues and leads into lemon and lime juice with hints of yellow grapefruit and green pear. The bubbles were surprisingly fine and delicate and very persistent in the glass. The finish was refreshing with light and balanced acidity to compliment the minerality; perfect for a hot autumn in Mendoza, or anywhere else for that matter.
I, of course, was not going to leave without bringing any back with me! Perhaps you cannot recreate the day or the memory exactly, but it does not hurt every once in a while to make your own, as a hommage to such memory. So that is what I do on occasion, not with simply this one, but others. If you have a chance to get your hands on this bubbly, here is probably the best bite of food you can make. All you need are some cannellini beans, sautéed garlic, lemon juice, flat-leaf parsley, parmesan and a fresh baguette. Make a hummus out of the beans and add the rest to the puree. Oh, almost forgot, get some sardines! Spread some of the cannellini bean hummus on your baguette, top with a bit of the sardine, shave on some Parm, and you have got an amazing snack to start your afternoon or night off alongside the Viña el Cerno espumante.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christie Kiley, International Sommelier and Chef, has over a decade of experience in both restaurants and wineries. She began working kitchens under talented chefs. Nights off from the kitchen, she would work at the same restaurant as a server. Her passion for food grew into the wine industry. She has worked wine harvests in Napa, learning the nature of the product from soil to bottling. Working the back- and front-of-the-house in restaurants and wineries in sales, and as a food and wine educator, has given Christie an in-depth knowledge in both food and wine throughout many aspects. She currently lives in Buenos Aires, where she has just received her International Sommelier Certificate from the Escuela de Argentina Sommeliers (EAS) after two years of study. She works as a wine and food writer and Sommelier at a boutique hotel in Palermo where you can catch her most nights of the week entertaining guests with her unique wine tastings.