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Living - October 26, 2007

The Wine Guy: 2005 Clos de los Siete

by Michel Rolland

(Mendoza, Argentina)

(Lunardi's Market - Danville, $18.99)

by Gregory Peebles

Michel Rolland, legendary and controversial winemaker, is a tremendously busy man. His consulting firm, headquartered in Bordeaux, works with over 100 wineries located in roughly a dozen countries. The firm's client list includes some of the luxury wine industry's premier names: Chateaux Belgrave and l'Angélus, Casa Lapostolle, Harlan Estate and my personal fave from Napa Valley, Rutherford's Staglin Family Vineyard. No doubt, Monsieur Rolland is a globetrotter and trendsetter (Wine Enthusiast magazine's "Winemaker of the Year" in 2000).

Michel conceived Clos de los Siete in Argentina's mountainous Mendoza growing region. Seven ("siete" in Spanish) French-owned vineyards nestled in the Andean foothills north of Luján de Cuyo provide all the fruit necessary for this 50,000 case project. It's definitely a full throttle red not for the weak of heart. The '05 vintage is 50 percent Malbec (Argentina's flagship varietal), 30 percent Merlot, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Syrah. The wine is big and hearty, like Argentina itself.

It's massive in color; so inky black and dense, one can clearly see their own reflection in the wine. In the immortal words of the late Harry Caray, Chicago Cubs hall-of-fame announcer, "Holy cow!"

The nose is equally bountiful. Aromas of anise, blackberry, plum, cassis and Bordeaux-like earthiness abound. A bit of green vegetal quality is detectable also, but nothing too overt to spoil the experience.

Rolland loves to slather young red wine with plenty of new oak. Clos de los Siete is no exception. The bouquet fully demonstrates his philosophy: forward and refined essences of cedar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, coffee and vanilla.

One's palate is flooded with young, tight tannins. Give this bruiser another year of bottle age, but not much more. Michel's wines tend to be extremely high in fruit intensity and relatively low in acid. In other words, I think his wines show best a year or two after release and, depending on the specific property, for an additional five or seven years afterward.

Each varietal contributes significantly to the blend. Malbec with its burly tannin structure and flavor of blackberry provides the broad base. Merlot contributes the necessary soft, plumy roundness. Cabernet Sauvignon adds even more black fruit nuances and chewy tannin. Syrah lends spice, red fruit and roasted meat qualities.

As a whole, this is a very interesting, fairly priced red worthy of your attention. It incorporates rustic, bold flavors with world renowned winemaking pedigree and refinement. Think of Clos de los Siete as a cross between a strong, rugged but lovable cowboy like Bonanza's "Hoss" Cartwright and a sophisticated city slicker like Frasier Crane.

Where should "Hoss" and Frasier dine with this wine? A top-notch steakhouse, of course (Dr. Crane and his black American Express card pick-up the tab...). Clos de los Siete begs to be enjoyed with a medium-rare Porterhouse or New York strip, baked potato, onion rings and grilled asparagus.

Let your palate be the judge...

Have comments or questions about wine? Gregory Peebles, wine industry professional and East Bay resident, can be contacted at caledoniawine@sbcglobal.net.

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