Category Archives: Wineries

The Tasting Room Presents Justin Vajgert Of Reininger Winery

Wine Guy Mike

Wine Guy Mike

Live Stream The Tasting Room Click Here on KFGM 105.5 FM from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm MDT

This week The Tasting Room presents Justin Vajgert of Reininger Winery in the Walla Walla Valley AVA.  Today’s guest is  Justin Vajgert, National Brand Sales Manager for the Reininger Winery and Helix wines. Today’s Podcast Click Here 

Justin Vajgert of Reininger Winery and Helix Wines

Justin Vajgert of Reininger Winery and Helix Wines

Justin and I are talking about the Walla Walla Valley area in Washington State and its wine. Walla Walla officially became an American Viticulture Area in 1984 but it was settled by Italian immigrants in the 1850’s who realized its potential to grow grapes. Chuck Reininger is the owner and head winemaker at Reininger Winery but first I want to give you a little background on today’s guest.

Chuck Reininger Head Winemaker of Reininger Winery

Chuck Reininger Head Winemaker of Reininger Winery

Justin’s background is a similar journey of many guests I have the pleasure of talking with on The Tasting Room. Justin grew up just outside of Chicago and relocated to the Walla Walla area in 2005 to attend the Institute for Viticulture and Enology. He worked the grape harvest in 2005 with Waterbrook Winery in Walla Walla. It was shortly thereafter that he joined forces with the Reininger Winery in November of 2005.

The Reininger Winery is located in the heart of the Walla Walla Valley. Head winemaker, Chuck Reininger, specializes in crafting elegant and finely structured red wines from hand-harvested, ultra premium grapes.

Reininger Winery tasting room in Walla Walla

Reininger Winery tasting room in Walla Walla

Glacial Lake Missoula was a prehistoric glacial lake in Western Montana that existed periodically at the end of the last ice age.  As warming periodically occurred Lake Missoula would flood carrying its alluvial soil matter to Washington State, and to the Walla Walla American Viticulture Area.

The Walla Walla area soils are composed of alluvial soil material and layers of volcanic ash from eruptions throughout history. These layers of soil and rock have created ideal soil conditions to grow grapes in.  The days are warm to hot and the night air is cool, perfect for growing world-class grapes that make fabulous wines.

Justin worked at Reininger Winery all through school doing everything from cellar work, to pouring wine in the tasting room, to painting bathrooms, when you work at a winery everyone does what needs to be done.

It was during Justin’s tenure that his roles evolved and he moved into a sales role beginning with local sales and then after the school moved into his current national sales position.  He’s been doing that ever since.  Distribution for the Reininger and Helix brands has grown to 17 states.  Justin eventually would like to make wine though, it’s his passion.

Let’s sit back and listen to my conversation with Justin Vajgert from the Reininger and Helix wine labels and learn a little more about these gems from Walla Walla.

Tasting Notes

The 2011 Reininger Merlot grapes are from the Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills Vineyards and are 100% Merlot. This wine has been barrel aged in 53% French, 47% American, and 5% new oak for 2 years.

2011 Reininger Merlot Walla Walla Valley

2011 Reininger Merlot Walla Walla Valley

This is a big, powerful, and robust Merlot, with very ripe fruit balanced by sweet oak spice from the French and American oak.  The fruit aromatics and flavors are of dark cherry, ripe plum, spicy tobacco, caramel and toasty oak. A touch of acidity lifts the fruit forward toward the end for a long, bright finish.

The Helix 2013 Pomotia is a blend of grapes from the Pepper Bridge, Phinny Hill, Seven Hills, Stillwater Creek, Stone Tree, Weinbau and XL vineyards. The blend is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 18% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and has been barrel aged for 2 years. The nose is lovely and rich, sweet yet spicy, black currant, plum, cardamom, and violets an aroma that is downright captivating.

2013 Helix Pomatia Columbia Valley

2013 Helix Pomatia Columbia Valley

Its velvety texture bathes the palate with luscious black cherry and succulent dried dark fruit that’s stimulated by a soft yet vibrant acidity. On the finish, a gentle wave of focused fruit is a bobbing streak of perfumed wood spice impregnated with specs of loam. This wine is delicious!

The 2011 Helix Syrah is 100% Syrah; grapes are from the Phinny Hill, Stone Tree & Clifton Hill Vineyards, and is 100% Merlot. On the nose black currant, red berries, cherry, and a delicate sweetness.

2011 Helix Syrah Columbia Valley

2011 Helix Syrah Columbia Valley

The palate does not disappoint, rich and round with flavors of blue fruits and wonderful savory quality with a finish of tea and wet slate, this is a good thing. This wine has been barrel aged in 100% French Oak for 2 years.

I hope you enjoyed today’s wine program The Tasting Room. Please join me again next Sunday for a live interview with Boo Walker, Head of Global Sales and Marketing, and Author from Hedges Family Estate. Until then I will see you on the radio.

From my table to yours,

Discovering The New Wine Frontier Of South Africa

South Africa

This new frontier of viticulture is not so new at all, for the last 350 years European settlers explored and put down roots quite literally.  In this case rootstock from the Vitis Vinifera species which is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe.

South African topography and geology is a direct result of cataclysmic continental activity. It’s a rare opportunity when you can actually see what the French call terroir, or sense of place.  But in this new frontier of wine country you can look at the topography and understand how it lends itself to “sense of place.”

There are three distinct types of vineyard terroir in South Africa, the Western Cape area that receives ample natural moisture while the mountains loom close to the sea.  The mountains rose up from the earth due to molten lava beneath the earth.  This Western Coastal region enjoys a Mediterranean like climate with constant wind.  Erosion from the wind and weather left sandstone on top of granite like rock from the eroding mountain sides, leaving idyllic conditions to grow grapes.  The constant winds blowing through the vineyards in this area are known as the “Cape Doctor.”  This ever present winds help vineyards to remain disease free by not allowing disease carrying insects to take up residence on the grapevine leaves.

This area which is rich in soil benefits from the Mediterranean climate.  In fact it produces perhaps the largest number of grape varietals in South Africa.

On the leeward side of the mountains rainfall is generally about half of what is normal on the coastal side.  This is still enough moisture to naturally irrigate the vineyards that line the mountain foothills.  Soils of the foothills are laden with decomposed granite and shale which lends itself to great drainage for grapes to grow.  Grape farmers pay great attention to elevation and direction of the foothill slopes.  These are important factors that determine what type of grape varieties are able to be grown and the characteristics that the fruit will produce.

The shape of the mountain faces and flat topped bluffs that look like what are referred to in Eastern Montana as “buffalo jumps” may be more interesting than any other grape growing region.  The actual shape of these mountains and bluffs serve as great mediators of climate, funneling in coastal moisture late in the day.  Heat from the foothills is greeted by cool afternoon wind currents that circulates through the vineyards, slowing the ripening of the grapes.  This allows what is referred to as proper seasonal “hang time” on the vines.

The vast inland valley areas are rich and fertile, perfect for growing grapes.  The vines are irrigated with water from the rivers that run through these inland river areas.  The soil is rich with alluvial soil matter that sits atop clay in these South African valley’s.  The result are grapes that tend to be more viscous than that of their counterparts from the coastal region and inland foothills located on the dryer side of the mountains.

South Africa is a new frontier for growing grapes with the constant discovery of new growing areas.   Winemaking is steeped in European tradition and the wines are fun, refreshing, and offer the wine lover terrific consumer value.


The vineyards of South Africa are influenced by the constant confluence of ancient geology, coastal breezes, foothill slopes, and mountains.  The Western Cape is one of the greatest areas of floral biodiversity, in fact it is recognized as the smallest yet richest of the top 6 floral kingdoms of the world.  Translation; this area brings diverse benefits for the many varietals of wine produced in South Africa.

There are currently 25 different wine growing regions in South Africa, each one featuring various viticulture attributes.  Most of the regions are influenced by two of the world’s mighty oceans, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.  Mild Mediterranean weather, cool sea breezes, coastal fog, unique topography, and a variety of soil composition all come together to produce individual wines of character and complexity.


Winemaking in South Africa is nothing new, it actually dates back 350 years and has been driven by many different European occupancies and cultural influences.  For the wine drinker this is a huge benefit, you can expect Old World wine-making technique and New World focus of fruit, viticulture, and terroir or sense of place.


Shale and schist were deposited long ago in a marine basin at an elevation of 60 -700ft.  Due to tectonic upheaval this soil matter eroded into what is now foothills.  Plutons are intrusions of magma deep within the earth that rose up and cooled slowly resulting in the formation of Granite dome shaped mountains.  Some of the flat topped domes are located in the Paarl and Darling Hills, and Perdeberg Mountains (600-1,300ft.).  Erosion has covered many of these domes with sandstone like the Table and Simonsberg Mountan regions (3,300-4,300ft.).  The foothills of these domed hill and mountain ranges are rolling substrata’s composed of shale deposits.  These geological features make up what are the 3 most important geologic impacts of growing grapes; location, incline, and altitude.

In this southern hemisphere temperamental varietals such as Sauvignon blanc and Pinot Noir are grown on the cooler southern and eastern slopes.  Altitude and location impact the amount of the sun exposure, wind currents, temperature effect on grape vines.  The northern and western slopes are warmer due to the more direct effects from the sun’s rays.  The Eastern slopes warm faster and the Western slopes cool faster.


The soils of the Western Cape are diverse but today the coastal zone is mainly sandstone mountain with underlying granite, and at the base is shale.  Shale is predominantly found inland mixed with river deposits.

Sandstone is synonymous with poor nutrient value and low water retention while the granite is common on the foothill slopes and hills.  The granite rich areas are reddish to yellow in color, maintain good water retention and the soil is acidic in nature.  The shale based soil is brownish in color, has very good structure and water retention qualities.  Duplex soil is common in the lowlands of the coastal region, these soils are composed of sand and a coarse granitic material with clay under the surface.


Viticulture today in South Africa takes place between 27°S and 34°S latitude, as it has for the last 350 years.  This fairly narrow band of latitude exemplifies a Mediterranean like climate while the coastal areas weather is moderated by the ocean and its cool ocean breezes.  The climate is temperate, warm summers, cool winters with no frost.

Viticulture climate terminology is referenced with three different terms; Macroclimate, Mesoclimate, and Microclimate.  Macroclimate refers to the overall climate of a region, Mesoclimate identifies climatic differences from vineyard to vineyard, and these climatic variances are due to various components of terroir.  Microclimates reference climate variance potentially within the same block of land within a vineyard, this can be caused by circumstances of vine and canopy management.

The Wines

Mulderbosch Vineyards, as seen on ABC TV , is one of South Africa’s wine producers that have captured the very best of Old World technique and New World viticulture.  Click on this link to view the tasting notes of a flight of eight wines presented at a recent WineGuyMike wine show.  Great wines offering great consumer value; Wines of South Africa

Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana TV – Kingston Family Vineyards

Join me live for Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana. Wine Time airs bi-monthly on Friday’s during the 5:30PM news cast.  The next feature airs on 10/11/2013.

This week on Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana TV learn about Kingston Family Vineyards in the Casablanca Valley of Chile. 

Courtney Kingston is the owner of Kingston Family Vineyards in the Casablanca Valley of Chile.  Kingston was a past guest on the WineGuyMike Radio Show™ and Mike had a chance to sit down with Courtney on Wine Time and find out what’s new at her family vineyards and most importantly talk about her family’s wines.

This is a story of sustainability and it was at Stanford while completing her graduate studies that she solved an age old problem; how to sustain a ranch beyond 3 generations.  Kingston’s answer, plant grapes to sell to other wine producers and use 10% of the premium harvest to produce wines under the Kingston Family Vineyards label.

Kingston’s grandfather was a mining engineer from Michigan who in 1906 relocated to Chile to work for a gold mining company.  While he never realized that dream of striking gold he married a Chilean woman and settled what 5 generations of the Kingston clan have known as the “Farm”.

The “Farm” is a large cattle ranch and dairy farm located 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the western hills of the Casablanca Valley in Chile.  There are three distinct climates ranging east to west and three main growing regions from north to south that make up the terroir of Chile’s grape growing areas.  The Coastal Region is a cool climate, the Central Valley is warm, and the Andes Mountains can be cool or warm depending on the location.

The major grape growing regions of Chile are the Casablanca Valley featuring (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir), the Maipo Valley featuring (Cabernet Sauvignon), and the Rapel & Colchaqua Valley’s that feature (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Merlot).

Kingston’s grandfather was not the only risk taker in the family, Courtney’s strategic plan included growing not only Sauvignon Blanc which was common to this region but she planned to also grow Syrah and Pinot Noir which was not.  Kingston enlisted the help of winemaker Byron Kosuge and the rest is history.  Sauvignon Blanc was planted in the flat sections of the farm while the Syrah and Pinot Noir were planted to the higher hill sides.

Kingston Family Vineyards goal has been to produce premium wine at affordable price points offering true consumer value.  They have accomplished this goal and these wines receive the WineGuyMike Seal of Approval™.  The Tobiano Pinot Noir and Cariblanco Sauvignon Blanc are available at the Market on Front.




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From my table to yours,

Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana – Hedges Family Estate Wines

Join me live for Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana. Wine Time airs bi-monthly on Friday’s during the 5:30PM news cast.  The next feature airs on 08/30/2013.

This week on Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana I’m talking about Hedges Family Estate Wines from the Red Mountain AVA in the Columbia Valley of Washington State.

Visit www.WineGuyMike.comto learn more, please subscribe to my blog an newsletter while visiting my site so you get my weekly updates.

From my table to yours,

This WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© “The Long and Winding Road” to Waitiri Creek Winery

Join me live for Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana. Wine Time airs bi-monthly on Friday’s during the 5:30PM news cast.  The next feature airs on 7/19/2013.

This week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© perhaps Paul McCartney said it best on the Beatles Let It Be album; “The long and winding road, That leads to your door, Will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before, It always leads me here, Lead me to your door”.

Paula Ramage and her husband Allistar Ward have traveled extensively and lived abroad in different places throughout the world but home for them is the Central Otago wine region on the South Island of New Zealand.  This is the southernmost grape growing region in the world, but they produce very good wine.  Paula grew up in Alexandra and the Ward family farmed for many years on Malaghan’s Road, near Arrowtown.  Last week’s blog provided an overview of New Zealand as a wine country;  This is a land that is breathtakingly beautiful and produces some of the finest single varietal wines available.

Paula Ramage has had at least 5 careers that she can recall but in spending time with her on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© this week I’ll forevermore think of her as Ambassador of New Zealand and the New Zealand wine industry.  Needless to say she is a terrific spokesperson and extremely knowledgeable about her country and the wine industry in New Zealand and throughout the world.  Paula handles all of Waitiri Creek’s administrative business and development of offshore markets, a natural for a “reformed barrister”.  She has a lovely Kiwi accent that you cannot help loving too.

Allistar Ward is a merchant banking consultant full time, although he makes time to focus on vineyard development and as Paula puts it, “he juggles all the balls and keep them in the air”.

Viticulture Crew, Mark and Jason

Viticulture Crew, Mark and Jason

Jason Thomson is their very accomplished viticulturist along with his team Mark Naismith and Scott Culpan who run the day to day operations.  Interestingly the Waitiri Creek winemaker is a woman, Jen, from the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  As I mentioned last week many winemakers are now traveling winemakers who work in the Northern Hemisphere during its summer months and the Southern Hemisphere during their summer.  With the Willamette and Central Otago sharing similar latitudes with a focus on cool weather grape varietals it is a natural for winemakers like Jen.

Shanagolden Block in Summer

Shanagolden Block in Summer

In 1993 Paula and Allistar purchased their first vineyard the Shanagolden Block in Gibbston and planted Chardonnay in 1994.   The northerly facing block was ideal for sustainable viticulture and the lower half of this area provided a perfect location for the future wine tasting venue.

The Shanagolden Block was originally settled in 1867 by James Leslie, a Scot who had emigrated to New Zealand at the age of 17.  He and his partner, Thomas Kinross followed the Dunstan gold rush.  Kinross established the Gibbston store and Post Office and James Leslie was the butcher and baker but also continued to prospect for gold.

The vineyard has a micro-climate that produces ripe fruit earlier than most in the general area.  The soil composition is made up of glacial deposits and free draining alluvial soil matter (scheist).  This terrior is well suited to the cool weather grape varietals that Waitiri Creek produces.  This is where Jens’s Willamette Valley winemaking experience really shines.

Waitiri Creek’s portfolio of wines includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc.  The grape vines  of Waitiri Creek are all hand pruned and hand harvested.  New Zealand is aiming for all of its vineyards to be sustainably accredited by the end of 2012.  Compliance currently stands at about 93% – Waitiri Creek has been fully sustainable for some years.  Another interesting fact about New Zealand wines, 75% of the bottles are all screw tops.  The Kiwi’s are an environmentally conscience country and I applaud them for this effort.

Chardonnay Grape Harvest

Chardonnay Grape Harvest

The first vintage of Chardonnay was produced in 1998 and full production of three different varietals in 1999.   In 1996  Paula and Allistar decided that an old church building would serve as the Waitiri Creek tasting room, they needed a structure that would be harmonious with the terroir of the Shanagolden vineyard.  So a search which led them all over the lower part of the South Island, culminating in a visit to Wangaloa, near Kaitangata in 1998.  On first sight, the former Wangaloa Presbyterian Church would have sent less hardy souls running in the opposite direction….but not Paula and Allistar.  Negotiations began with the local community and ownership of the church was secured a year later.

Cellar Door

Cellar Door

The Waitiri Creek tasting room just celebrated its 10th anniversary at its new vineyard home.   This former Presbyterian church, built in 1893 was moved to its new location at Waitiri Creek 300km in one piece on the Shanagolden Block in 2000.

I want to thank my new friend Paula Ramage for sharing this rich history of the Central Otago wine region, New Zealand, and the Waitiri Creek Winery with the WineGuyMike™ audience.  From my home in Montana to the “The Long and Winding Road” down under, Happy Holidays to my friends in New Zealand and Waitiri Creek.

Waitiri Creek Wines

One of the keys to increased demand for Waitiri Creek wines is consistant quality.   Waitiri Creek has been recognized at domestic and international competitions every year since 1999 across their entire portfolio.  Their expansion into Bannockburn with the purchase of additional Central Otago fruit has now expanded their portfolio to include Rosé, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.

Pinot Noir

Waitiri Creek Pinot Noir 2007 The nose shows rich varietal layers of cherry and plums supported by an earthy complexity. The depth of fruit on the nose continues on the palate supported by a fine tannin structure, good integration of oak and a length of flavor that lingers on the tongue.

The nose displays complex notes of stewed cherries, cedar and mushrooms. This Pinot Noir shows the elegance of the 2008 vintage with a bright garnet hue and the perfume of violets and rose petals. The fruit driven palate has flavors of wild raspberries with hints of cinnamon, red cherries and succulent plums. On the finish there is a note of thyme and mushrooms. The silky tannins are woven seamlessly into a structure balanced by savory French oak and alcohol.


Rich strawberry and raspberry aromas dominate the nose and are supported by perfumed floral notes. The palate shows good berry fruit weight with strawberry and white peach aided by creamy texture. This wine is well balanced with a long, lingering, strawberry finish.


Made in a fruit-driven New World style, this wine shows all the influences of classic Old World winemaking. The palate is rich and succulent with an appealing texture and displays outstanding primary fruit.

Handpicked grapes were whole bunch pressed and the juice cold settled for two days before being racked to barrels with light yeast. The wine was then cool fermented using both commercial and indigenous yeasts. This Chardonnay spent 10 months in 100% French oak (22% new oak) and underwent 100% malolatic fermentation with weekly lees stirring. The finished wine was then racked, lightly fined and filtered prior to bottling in late-March 2009.


This Riesling shows complex aromas of mandarin, pear, honeysuckle and orange blossom on the nose. The body has crisp citrus flavors, offset with spice and good length of finish. This wine has great cellaring potential and additional characters will develop in the bottle over time.

Riesling grapes from two different blocks were handpicked and combined. The grapes were whole bunch pressed using a bag press and then the juice was left to cold settle overnight, before being racked and inoculated with yeast.

Fermentation lasted several weeks with temperatures being maintained less than 13 degrees to retain optimum flavor. Once fermentation was complete the wine was sulphured, racked and blended. The wine was then lightly fined and cold and protein stabilized prior to sterile filtration and bottling in September 2008.

Pinot Gris

Floral and pear notes on the nose lead into a richly textured palate of nashi pear, citrus and spice flavors. The long finish is balanced by fine acidity.

First vintage fruit from Legends (Legends Vineyard, Felton Road) was hand-harvested.  One tank of the Legends juice was chilled with daily lees stirring for four days.  It was then racked taking light lees to blend with the second tank of Legends juice which was settled for one night and then racked clean to blend.  A portion of this juice went to a neutral French Oak barrel.  The blended Legends juice was warmed naturally to 14ºC and innoculated with an aromatic yeast before undergoing cool fermentation until optimal balance was achieved.

The fruit from Annika’s (Annika’s Vineyard, Wanaka Road) was hand-harvested with 50% left on skins overnight while the balance was cold settled overnight and racked with light lees.  The fruit with extended skin contact was racked cleanly.  The two Annika’s components were blended, warmed naturally to 14ºC and fermented using aromatic yeast.  A percentage of this juice was fermented in two neutral French Oak barrels.

The three barrels were stirred regularly after the peak of fermentation and then blended. The two separate tank blends were blended in August and underwent cold and protein stabilization before being lightly fined with isinglass and sterile filtered before bottling.

Sauvignon Blanc

For her 6th birthday, our niece Stella Paris Columbia B. Ramage who lives in Sydney and loves art had a wine named after her. This is a single vineyard, Gibbston fruit.



A nose of passionfruit, gooseberry and capsicum aromas lead to a lively palate displaying good balance and zesty acidity. Best served lightly chilled.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes were handpicked and then was de-stemmed and crushed prior to gentle pressing. The resulting juice was cool stainless steel fermented to retain fruit character. The wine was left on yeast lees for two months to help with mouth feel and complexity. The resulting wine was fined with milk casein prior to filtration and bottling.

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Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana – Hand of God Wines

Join me live for Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana. Wine Time airs bi-monthly on Friday’s during the 5:30PM news cast.  The next feature airs on 7/05/2013.

This week on Wine Time™ with WineGuyMike™ on ABC Montana I’m talking about two special wines from Argentina.

ABC Montana TV Feature with Hand of God Wines;

The term Hand of God Moment is so profound and endearing that every Argentinean is intimately familiar with it.  This term is not used lightly in fact it is a term that is sacred for this South American culture.In 1986 during the finals of the World Cup Soccer Tournament Argentina was competing against England and the game was tied at 1-1, that was until a teammate of Diego Maradona who was at that time as revered as David Beckham is today, kicked the soccer ball to Maradona who lunged with his head and couldn’t reach the ball except with his fist.
Maradona thrust his fist toward the ball guiding it past the goalie and into the goal and winning the game for Argentina.  This play known as “The Hand of God Moment” is forever ingrained in the minds of the Argentineans as the thrill of victory and for England the agony of defeat.

For two Stanford alums enjoying a glass of wine or two together it became their personal Hand of God moment.  Jon Staenberg, a.k.a “El Jefe”, and Santiago Achával, a.k.a “Master of Malbec” dubbed by The Wine Spectator magazine, this was their special moment, the moment when inspiration, friendship, and passion intersected as one.  This was there Hand of God moment, it was also the beginning of Hand of God Wines in the Mendoza appellation of Argentina.

These two Stanford alums met as they studied business at Stanford University.  After school both of these men went their own ways, Santiago as an entrepreneur who enjoyed success in the cement business in Argentina and Jon who is also an interesting entrepreneur in the field of technology, spending the bulk of his career with a little company called Microsoft.

It was on a trip to visit Argentina that Jon decided to look up Santiago and have a glass of wine together.  It was this Hand of God reunion that over a glass of wine or two that the passion and love for wine resulted in a winery in Argentina which produces the Hand of God Wines.

Staenberg is the owner and proprietor and Achával is the winemaker.  This is a partnership made in heaven hence the name Hand of God Wines.  When anything happens that is special and perhaps other worldly this is when the Argentineans look to the heavens and make reference to a Hand of God moment.

Thankfully for you and I, the wine drinker, this divine intervention came to be in the form of Hand of God Wines.  Vineyard land in Mendoza is 150 times less to purchase than land in the Napa Valley of California and it is also land that is in Achával’s soul.  This is where he is from, this is what he loves and calls home, and for WineGuyMike this is also a component of terroir, a true sense of place.

South American vineyard land can be very special, just look at Chile and Argentina, very different yet both produce very good wine in the hands of a skilled winemaker such as Santiago Achával.  Location is everything and after an exhaustive search Staenberg and Achával found two perfect vineyards in which they now produce world-class wines.  A third white wine that I know will be equally as impressive is on its way very soon.



Hand of God Wines is a boutique winery that produces hand crafted wines that of exceptional quality.  When Wine Spectator magazine referred to Achával as “The Master of Malbec” they were not exaggerating.  The wines he is making at Hand of God Wines are so important to the world because it is acknowledgement of quality of land and soil composition, elevation of land, climate, prevailing wind patterns, and pristine alpine water that bless this land.  This is what Achával brings to the world as a gift in the form of a bottle of wine that exemplifies terroir of two very special vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina.

Valle de Uco, Appellation Mendoza, Argentina

The Hand of God vineyards are located a little over sixty miles from one another.  The Stolen Horse Vineyard is an old vine Malbec property with vines nearing 100 years of age.  This vineyard produces fruit with a complexity and quality that that only aged vines are able.  The fruit in this vineyard is intense, concentrated, with , layers of flavor and aroma, that which only can be produced from old vine fruit.

The 2010 vintage of Old Vine Malbec from Stolen Horse Vineyard is extremely well made featuring structure, balance, and restraint which is difficult in a wine this powerful.  This wine can be enjoyed now if decanted for an hour giving it a twirl in the decanter a couple times during that time.

2010 Old Vine Malbec

This wine like a great Bordeaux or a Beckstoffer To Kalon wine from California will be best in 5 years but is so well made can be laid down for 15-25 years.  I hope I live that long because I do want to taste this very special wine then.

Stolen Horse Vineyard Maipú

This bottle of wine is perfectly balanced in fruit, acid and tannin.  The minerality and earthen quality is terrific but for me I love what the French refer to as anime, a meat like quality that makes this wine particularly special.  This wine is so good that honestly should only be paired with quality dry aged beef or Elk, it is just that good.

The second wine that Achával has crafted for the Hand of God Wines is a red blend wine that is so uncommon to Argentina that I dare call it a rarity.  The 2010 Fingerprint Series Red Wine is a French Style Rhone blend that is ready to go now.

2010 Fingerprint Series Red Wine

This wine is fluid and elegant, honestly better than most Rhone wine available in the United States.  This blend is 55% Malbec, 35% Syrah, and 10% Petit Verdot and is beautiful on the nose and the palate.  The finish leaves you in thought, wondering just what this vineyard looks like as it is still horse plowed and fruit that is hand harvested.  This is why both of these treasures from Achával are so individual and thought provoking.  This is not common wine, this is special and it is important to share wines that in a world of so much commonality amongst wines that there are some that are so distinct that they stand alone.  This is the wine that Santiago Achával makes and I thank him for that.

Sobremesa Vineyard

This wine is so synonymous when paired with Wild Game, Wild Fowl, Grilled Chicken, and just perfect with well-marbled meats.  Well-made sauces for any of these entrees would also complement perfectly.  This wine is concentrated with fruit yet is so delicate, delicious aroma, and layer upon layer of flavor is reveled with an understated dusting of fine white pepper.  A finish that begs for more.

Hand of God Wines are not only lovely they are provoking and I have been so fortunate to taste the nectar of God, this was my Hand of God moment.  Thank you Jon Staenberg and Santiago Achával for your passion and commitment to do something very special.

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From my table to yours,