When it comes to South American and wine growing, one might consider Mendoza Argentina the epicenter of Argentine winemaking.

The Mendoza wine region is made up of several distinct areas; Luján De Cuyo, Maipú and Valley de Uco. Both Luján de Cuyo and Maipú are well-established regions that have been producing wines for well over 100 years. The Valle de Uco is relatively new to the Argentine wine industry being only 20 -30 years old. Forging its way early on was Bodegas Salentein.

Bodegas Salentein Vineyards

Bodegas Salentein was established in 1992. Not only was it one of the earliest pioneers of the Valle de Uco, it is largest cool climate estate in Mendoza. Its beginning was by happenstance. When Mijndert Pon, known as MP, retired from the family business of importing cars in Holland, primarily Volkswagens, he decided to sail around the world.

His sailing days came to a halt when a freighter hit his boat in the Panama Canal. This ill-fated incident was the impetus for Bodegas Salentein. On a whim, MP decided to go to Argentina to hunt and fish. This trip ended with the purchase of a farm. That farm with the addition of a couple of other farms is now known as Bodegas Salentein, which is the name of the family’s farm in the Netherlands.

Bodegas Salentein Vineyards, Valle de Uco

Photo: Bodegas Salentein Vineyards. FWT Magazine.

Bodegas Salentein is made up of 2000 hectares of which 800 hectares are planted with vineyards. The vineyards are divided into three estates, known as fincas. They are El Oasis, La Pampa and San Pablo. El Oasis resides at the lowest altitude and has the longest growing season.

The varietals planted here are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. La Pampa is in the middle of the three and consists of alluvial soils. Here Merlot and Pinot Noir are grown. San Pablo sits at the highest elevation growing primarily Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

In the Valle de Uco the weather seems cooler and like the wines of California coast, the mountain breezes that drive the temperatures down at night play a vital role in the grapes growing process.  The estate has at least several different microclimates.

The typography and range of elevations above sea level at the different fincas on the property allow for diversity in the wines. The wines of this region especially Malbec are subtle and velvety with structure and elegance.

Bodegas Salentein’s commitment to the arts

Bodegas Salentein is not just a visit to a winery with a tasting, it offers a unique experience enhanced by both the fine and culinary arts. MP was an avid art collector of contemporary art.

His passion for the arts both visual and culinary is an inherent part of the winery. There is sculpture throughout the grounds and the tasting room facility also houses an art gallery as well as a restaurant.

The gallery known as Killka displays houses the permanent collection and a gallery with revolving Argentine artists. The permanent collection consists of 19th and 20th century Dutch artists and contemporary Argentine Art. It is truly a destination winery.

Killka Gallery, Bodegas Salentein

Photo: Interior of the Killka Gallery at Bodegas Salentein. FWT Magazine.

The concept behind the winery is the union of nature and culture under one roof. Nature is the sun that beats down on the Valle de Uco, the Cordillera winds that sweep down from the Andes and the landscape itself including the vineyards.

This notion is carried down to the buildings, which are constructed of natural materials and almost blend into the landscape. This unification creates a harmonious balance similar to the consistency seen in the wines created at Bodegas Salentein.

Winery design and accommodation

The winery was designed by the architectural firm of Bormida & Yanzon and built like a cruciform cross with a central courtyard.

The two level wings that jet out from the quad create two Bodegas. One floor houses the main area of winery functions, including the tanks and vats for fermentation. The second the underground cellars. The wine flows from one level to another through a gravity flow system.

It is the central area seen from either floor that gives the winery its commanding performance both figuratively and literally. The mosaic tile floor of this rotunda is surrounded by columns and oak barrels making this area become center stage for wine aging as well as a music hall whose audience is the aging wine.

One has to wonder if the concerts are for human enjoyment or the melodic sounds assist in mellowing out the wine enabling humans to appreciate the Salentein wine even more.

To further your appreciation of the winery and the Valle De Uco, Bodegas Salentein offers guest accommodations at the Posada, a small estancia with sixteen guest suites, a pool and restaurant. This boutique hotel is located in the vineyards of finca La Pampa.

The winemakers at Bodegas Salentein

Having visited Bodegas Salentein on a wine focused media trip in 2013 and being able to explore the wines further at a recent tasting in Los Angeles made it quite evident the changes and improvements this winery is having under the influence of their current winemaker José “Pepe” Galante.

José is considered one of the pioneers of the Argentine wine industry. His work with Paul Hobbs helped revolutionize winemaking in Argentina. His career spans over forty years of which thirty of those years was spent at Catena Zapata. Under his tutelage some outstanding wine are being made.

Bodegas Salentein, Primus Room

Photo: Bodegas Salentein – Primus Room or Winery Central Quad. FWT Magazine.

Wine of Bodegas Salentein

Actually the wine speaks for itself. Salentein has several different categories of wines. Beginning with the Portilla a wine that is fermented in steel for about two weeks and aged in bottle for four months. Among the wines of the Portilla label is a marvelous crisp fresh Rosé.

The Killka series pays homage to the art gallery at the winery. Killka also means entry and this is considered one of Salentein’s entry-level wine labels. The bottles feature the artwork of several different artists that are represented at the gallery.

The Torrentos bears the artwork of Antonio Segui called, “Looking for Love in the City”. The Killka Malbec carries the artwork called “The Blue Arm Chair” by Carlos Alonsso, an 80-year-old painter from the Valle du Uco. The chair is empty because it represents the loneliness fault after his daughter died. It is a tribute to the style of Van Gogh. Although the chair is empty, the Malbec within the bottle is not. The wine is light and spicy with aromas of violets. Aging is done in stainless with the addition of staves to add hints of oak.

Salentein’s sparkling wine is represented by their Gold label series. There is the Brut Nature that is created in Méthode Champenoise utilizing the following grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Mineure.

Salentein now produces a single vineyard label. These wines primarily come from the La Pampa Finca. The varieties include Malbec, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In fact the Malbec in this vineyard is the oldest dating back to 1997. The Numbia label is a Bordeaux blend combining Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc.

Finally there is Primus label, which is considered the most prestigious of all Salentein’s labels. The wine created under this series brings together what is considered the finest grapes from the entire estate.

Sustainable in its practices, Bodegas Salentein continues to forge its path and making it imprint on Argentine wine in the Valle de Uco.

Killka Malbec from Bodegas Salentein

Photo: The Killka Malbec with artwork, The Blue Arm Chair by Carlos Alonsso. FWT Magazine.