We recently visited the beautiful Andeluna Winery in Argentina on a unique visit to taste their wines, have lunch and as a special treat, learn how to make empanadas from the winery’s chef.
Andeluna takes its name from the Andes Mountains where its vineyards lie adjacent to their base and from the spiritual influence of the moon.
This is a magical and beautiful place located at one of the highest elevations of any vineyard on the planet. 200 acres of estate vineyards, their winery and gorgeous tasting area sit at an elevation of 1300 metres (4,600 feet) above sea level.
This extreme altitude helps contribute to their unique terroir. At this elevation sunshine is the norm with over 250 sunny days per year.
There is also a huge swing in diurnal temperatures: hot days and cold nights. Those hot days allow for the grapes to fully ripen in almost all vintages. Those cold nights allow the vines to recuperate from the stress-inducing heat of the day and to preserve some of the natural acidity that the heat wants to dissipate away. Not easy to farm in these conditions, but the resulting wines show the effort is worth it.
Andeluna finds itself in the Gualtallary, the rugged wine region within the larger Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina’s best-known wine region.
Gualtallary is a long, narrow region with alluvial soils deposited by long-since dried rivers and seabeds. These soils are inter-laced with sand and limestone. This gives lots of drainage and the very low levels of rainfall mean that the vines must struggle to rise up from the ground and the roots must dig deep to find water. As a result, the vines produce small berries of greater concentration and deep colour. The limestone soil is thought to contribute minerality to the wines from the region. Though some scientists would dispute this as the cause, there is no doubt that limestone-based, calcareous soils are found in numerous top wine regions (notably Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, among others). Fully ripe wines of modest alcohol and fresh acidity and deep concentration characterize the region.
Andeluna was founded in 2003 by American investor Ward Lay, son of the founder of the Frito-Lay Company. Mr. Lay passed away in 2011 and the winery was purchased by the Barale Family which then owned Finca Martha in San Rafael, Mendoza. The Barales have focused on maintaining and improving the quality at Andeluna.
When we arrived at Andeluna we were introduced to Pablo Marigliano, executive chef at the winery.
Pablo is a real character with a wonderful twinkle in his eye. He is also an amazing chef! His goal was to teach 9 thirsty wine drinkers from North America how to make the traditional Argentinian food from pastry dough, the empanada. Empanadas are made by taking pastry or dough and folding it over a filling, similar to a turnover. The word comes from the Spanish “empanar” which literally means “embreaded”. The Argentinians take their empanadas seriously and have competitions to see who makes the best.
Pablo and his staff at Andeluna made our dough for us before we arrived, relieving us of all that kneading and long waiting times for the dough to rise.
We got right down to choosing our fillings, which the kitchen staff had set out for us, and developing our talent at folding the dough over and sealing the edge. Fillings can be sweet or savoury and are as many as there are chefs. In Mendoza the empanada is baked in a clay oven and our rag-tag attempts were placed in the winery’s authentic clay oven and then bites were served to one of the winery’s staff to judge. While we thought our attempts were quite delicious, we failed to impress the judge. We did not come home with a medal, but we did come home with a valuable new skill!
After the cook-off finished, we sat down for a delicious lunch in Andeluna’s dining room and enjoyed their wines.
This high-altitude winery produces brilliant wines across the board and sells them for very fair prices. Andeluna labels their wines in three different series.
The entry level is called 1300 (after the vineyards being at elevations above 1300 metres). A step up is Altitud and their best offering is Passionada. Having the wines paired with special dishes from Pablo’s kitchen showed the best of the wine and the best of the food. As Pablo told us “people need a healthy balance. Good wine and good food put you in balance”.
2019 Andeluna 1300 Torrontes
The Torrontes grape is Argentina’s contribution to the wine world where most of the vineyards are found, outside of a few in Spain and Chile. Floral and aromatic on the nose and dry on the palate with lively acidity. Flavours of green apple mix with pear and minerals. Great with a spicy empanada!
2019 Andeluna 1300 Chardonnay
Vineyards at this altitude have hot days and cool nights accounting for the juxtaposition of rich texture together with crisp acidity that this Chardonnay shows. Flavours tend towards tropical like guava as well as pear with citrus on the finish. Medium body and well balanced.
2017 Andeluna Altitud Malbec
Very intense flavours of blueberry and plum with a long, long finish punctuated by black pepper notes. The texture is very smooth and quite full. There is power here, but it takes a background position letting the wine’s elegance and finesse speak first. The balance is right at the fulcrum. Already complex, but a few years in the cellar will likely add even more development. Delicious!
2015 Andeluna Passionado Cuatro Cepas
Cuatro Cepas is Spanish for four grapes. Here the blend is of 4 classic Bordeaux varieties: Malbec (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (17%), Merlot (23%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).
Each variety is vinified separately and provided the oak treatment specifically to that grape’s best result. The finished wines are then blended and kept in bottle for 8 months at the winery before release. The result is just stunning! Flavours of black cherry and blueberry are long and intense. The body is medium+ and very smooth. The finesse on this wine is quite extraordinary. There is a subtle richness to this wine creating an impression of great class.
Ruta Provincial 89 s/n. Km 11 Gualtallary, Tupungato (M5561XAB). Mendoza, Argentina