VIŇA CHELA RESERVE (2011)—Kick-ass intensity for those intense days we have sometimes at LBHQ (or just read about in the news)

Not one, not two, but THREE friends posted this on my Facebook wall today.

shepherd kills bear

Which, when you think about it, is actually kind of threatening.

When I first saw it I immediately went looking for my friend Scarybear. Not that he’s been known to venture into Bosnia-Herzegovina—or even off the couch—but I was concerned.

It took a bit of a search, but then, sure enough, there he was under the couch, wearing a dress.

"I will kill you if you post that photo, LB."

“I will kill you if you post that photo, LB.”

Which calls for wine, don’t you think? A palpable threat has been evaded. Oh, come on, just because we don’t always like Scary, it doesn’t mean we want him to be dead. Let’s have some vino.
vina chela

VIŇA CHELA RESERVE (2011) is an organic Argentine Malbec vinified from high-altitude grapes from the foot of the Andes. According to the bottle notes, the grapes were harvested early in the morning, then cold-macerated for three days at temperatures not exceeding 10°C to achieve optimal extraction. Then the wine was aged for seven months in French and American oak.

What the hell does all that mean, my fellow inebriates? Cold maceration, also known as the “cold soak method,” was originally introduced for Pinot Noir in an effort to get the finicky grapes to pony up max flavor instead of delivering half-assed astringent wine. Cold soaking proved successful for Pinot, and winemakers followed suit with other varietals, thereby capturing deeper color and elusive aromatics plus higher-quality tannins.


At the very least, letting your grapes sit around at low temperature for a few days allows you to establish their chemistry and see what kind of sugars they’re going to surrender. The downside is you risk some spoilage and rogue fermentation, but cold soakers still swear by the method. Not that the science is precise—adherents’ reasons for cold soaking vary widely. Perhaps, they argue, certain qualities can be extracted best before the sugar develops into ethanol. Results claimed include increased flavors and aromas; higher complexity; more weighty mouthfeel; more intense color; and a higher-quality tannic profile.

But the jury’s still out on cold maceration. To date, few studies have been done. And although I urged my parents to run out and buy an Argentine Malbec that hadn’t been cold-macerated (as a control), they only commented that my alcohol-seeking ploys were getting more creative. Kudos, but no additional wine.

VIŇA CHELA RESERVE it is, then. Not very scientific of us to drink one bottle only, but oh well. Decanted, it looks like dark purple ink, dense and inviting. Off the top you get intense dark fruits and spice with a little bread yeast and cocoa. Not for the faint of heart (and 14% alcohol), VIŇA CHELA RESERVE coats the palate with a concentrated burst—thick and chewy and ripe. As it sits on the tongue it reveals bittersweet chocolate and herbaceous hints beneath buckets of black fruit. This wine is huge, people. Whatever S.A.E.V. Escorihuela did to extract this much fruit, it worked and then some.

And the best part? The bottle was $14. This Malbec is another great find, my fellow inebriates, so try and get your paws on it. If you are a bear, you will need someone with opposable thumbs to help you, which will put you in their debt, which sucks, but it’s better than being strangled by a Bosnian shepherd.

That's what you get for taking on a bear.

Scarybear says: “You just try coming to Canada.”

PUNTO FINAL MALBEC (2011)—Argentina has it going on

My Fellow Inebriates,

Break out the Argentine wine; the papal conclave made its choice today and favored Argentina’s Jorge Bergoglio. Seventy-six years old, sporting just one lung, and newly minted as Pope Francis I, this dude was the front-runner eight years ago when Pope Benedict emerged the victor.

Photo credit: (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)

Photo credit: (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)

The first pope from the Americas as well as the first Jesuit, the new pontiff’s claim to fame is humility. He cooks his own meals, rides the bus, and until now has roomed with an older priest instead of inhabiting the fabulous residence usually occupied by the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

That he’s infinitely less creepy-looking than Pope Benedict should not be taken as a sign that he doesn’t harbor similar fanatical ideas. If you want to marry a same-sex partner or abort your rapist’s baby, don’t go looking to the outspokenly orthodox, conservative Pope Francis. Yup, it’s business as usual for Catholicism.

punto final malbecBut certainly no reason not to indulge in some PUNTO FINAL MALBEC (2011). There’s no reason to imagine this $14.99 wine would ever grace a table at the Vatican, but maybe, with a new budget-oriented pope in charge, it will make the cut. Who knows, maybe Pope Francis has even shared a bottle of PUNTO FINAL with his roomie in the past. Maybe they’ve passed it back and forth on the bus.

Dark and substantial, PUNTO FINAL wafts dark fruit and leather aromas. It strikes the palate with a pleasant roundness and a disciplined balance that stays out of jammy territory. My solid-food-eating friends say it would be excellent with a steak, but it holds its own very nicely for us liquids-only folk. The finish is lengthy and satisfying. While not mind-blowing, this wine is a decent find for moderate money.

Ornery bear? Try an ornery five-year-old. A good reason for URBAN UCO MALBEC TEMPRANILLO (2011)

boris the polar bear root canal2284791-184A0070000005DC-599_964x571He looks a lot like my departed friend Glen Bear, but his name is Boris. He must have been more ornery than usual, because when dentists examined him, they determined that he needed a root canal.

Of course, you don’t just peer into a polar bear’s mouth—dental pain or not. Boris was sedated and tranquillized so medics could perform both the examination and the procedure, which required a 10cm hole to be drilled.

If only Miss V could have been sedated and tranquillized today. Her six-month dental check-up ended prematurely with her wailing and covering her eyes as she permitted the dentist one small glimpse into her noisy mouth. Only when she was invited to select a new toothbrush and toy ring (a prize?? OMG, we deserved a prize for listening to the fussing) did she settle down. Yes, V is a total punk when visiting the dentist (and the doctor, and the shopping-mall Santa for that matter). V is a punk, period.

We all deserve a drink. First, for subjecting ourselves to a sad reminder that Glen Bear is no longer here. And second, for listening to a five-year-old caterwauling because someone is trying to shine a light in her mouth. Holy crap, we deserve a drink. What shall we have?

We need something that packs a wallop: URBAN UCO MALBEC TEMPRANILLO (2011). By wallop I mean 14.5% alcohol carried in an inky, intense wave of oak-aged Argentine red wine. At under $15 you’d expect this to be a bit of a gamble. Tempranillo doesn’t always behave itself (what varietal does?), but it can be less forgiving on the palate when its more expressive notes have full rein. That’s why we chose a 50/50 red, although Malbec couldn’t necessarily be expected to supply enough of a fruit burst to balance the leathery, vegetal tang of its blending partner.

urban uco

Truth be told, my dad has an aversion to Tempranillo, so we bought this one while he was away. But my mother had this idea that we wouldn’t get to it, and opted for 50/50 with Malbec just in case we ended up sharing it with Dad. That, I suppose, is what happens in a good marriage, although it seemed a bit bear-abusive to make me wait five days to enjoy this wine.

URBAN UCO spent three months in oak barrels. Slightly tight upon opening, it begs to be decanted, and if you have the discipline, you’ll be rewarded by letting it breathe for 30-45 minutes. If you don’t, your first glass may seem strident—but still agreeable. The nose is deep and smoky, hinting of dark berries and raisins. The reward for waiting (even if you do have the DTs) is an intense, mouth-filling, plummy wine with a savory, lingering finish. URBAN UCO is bold and baritone if you wait long enough, with Malbec’s characteristic earthiness playing against the Tempranillo bitch-slap nuance. I loved it, people, and for the price, we should buy a case.

V is sleeping soundly now (although she yammered only so heartbreakingly when she discovered that her prize ring from the dentist had been forgotten in a public washroom). Although I’d rather take a polar bear to the dentist than V, I’m glad it’s over, and I’m grateful for the excuse to drink URBAN UCO.