If you flip Williamsburg over to the southern side of the equator, you get pretty close to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. Just a few hundred miles further east and south than our exact “twin” southern hemisphere location, Mendoza is spread across a flat plain at the base of the jagged Andes mountains. It happens to be a magnificent place to grow wine grapes, and where winemaker Matthew Meyer is spearheading a new partnership for us with a winery called Bodega A16.
When we meet people we like, we look for ways to work with them, and we like Gerardo Cartellone. The original “Most Interesting Man in the World,” Gerardo is a skilled businessman with a strong artistic bent. His winery has a board of directors that includes business experts but also artists, an opera singer, a poet and a philosopher.
“He wanted this project to be something that really reflects who he is,” Matthew says “He wants to build something slowly and create a little oasis.” Gerardo has plans to grow his winery into a destination that eventually includes an amphitheatre, a hotel, three restaurants, a polo field and a lake. The property is already dotted with art sculptures.
Matthew met Gerardo at the London International Wine Fair five years ago, when wine expert Steven Spurrier told Matthew that A16’s Malbec “Apogeo” was “the most elegant” he’d ever had. “Gerardo and I had an instant connection,” Matthew says. “We immediately started talking about possibly importing his wines and maybe working on a special project.”
A few weeks later, Gerardo called from a business trip in New York to arrange a visit to Williamsburg. And the following year, Matthew, Elena, and winery owners Patrick and Francoise Duffeler visited Mendoza. Matthew has gone back for the past three years to begin importing the Apogeo to sell at our winery, and to create a new series of wines from both companies.
Ours is a true partnership, with A16 and Williamsburg Winery sharing all costs and profits. We spark ideas for them – like recommending a particular French barrel manufacturer. They also inspire changes here – like the concrete eggs we use for aging wines. Several of their winemaking staff have visited us. And Matthew goes every spring (their fall), to taste and blend that year’s harvest and help with bottling previous vintages.
“The soil there is perfect, the temperature is perfect, there are no bugs, no humidity and very little rain,” Matthew says. “The wines are fantastic.” Malbec is king, and 80% of the wines made in Argentina are reds.
Importantly, Argentinian grapes are not grafted. This is rare. Phylloxera parasites feed on vinifera roots, and nearly wiped out European and American vines starting in the mid 1800s. As a result, most vines now consist of wine grapes grafted onto sturdy Phylloxera-resistent root stock.
But Argentina has never had Phylloxera, so Malbec grapes are growing on Malbec roots. “I don’t care what anyone says, there’s no way a wine on its own root stock is not going to be better,” he says.
What we see here in America is usually Argentina’s entry level wines, the classic being the $9 - $12 Malbec. They’re good, but we’ve learned that Argentina has so much more to offer. And their style of wines complement ours.
“Virginia makes a much more European style. An Old World wine, with a lot of finesse,” Matthew explains. “Argentina makes bigger, New World style wines. They are big, but with great complexity and elegance. These are for people who like wines with more fruit, tannins and concentration.”
Our 2015 and 2016 vintages are straight Malbec. But for 2017 Matthew mixed in a little Petit Verdot. “People will be blown away,” he says. “The 2017 is very masculine. It’s big, tannic and concentrated, but balanced. The 2016 is more feminine and elegant, not as big and tannic. It has lots of color and finesse.”
Matthew bottled the 2015 vintage last month, and a limited number of those bottles are on the way through customs and headed for Williamsburg. Soon, visitors to our wine store will be able to buy the very first fruits of our partnership.
Bodega A16 is so named because Gerardo’s family owns 16 companies in Argentina. The “A” stands for a new beginning.
It’s a new beginning for us. Matthew decided to name our new wines “Reflective,” signifying our locations on opposite sides of the equator, and the mirrored images of “WW” for Williamsburg Winery and “MM” of Matthew Meyer.
We look in the mirror and see balance – a partnership, a friendship, new types of wines and a cross-global connection that will only grow stronger. That’s how we like to do business.