Emma’s Note: Emma Walsh here, managing editor at Rogue Economics.
As regular Diary readers know, over a decade ago, Bill bought a ranch high up in the mountains of Northwestern Argentina. Soon after, he discovered it included a small, overgrown vineyard of malbec grapes.
And it turns out, the wine made in small batches from these extreme-altitude grapes is excellent.
But getting the wine from Argentina’s rocky Calchaquí Valley to his table in Florida proved complicated… until Bill’s son, Will, came up with a novel way to import it. The Bonner Private Wine Partnership was born.
This Thanksgiving weekend, why not reserve some of the Calchaquí Valley’s greatest wines… delivered right to your door. Then read on below for some tips from Will on the best way to serve it.
“Have you seen the price of turkey this year?”
If that sounds like a recent conversation within your family, you are not alone.
This year, American families spent almost 20% more on a bird than last year…
Here’s our suggestion for the rest of the weekend: Forget the turkey. Instead, fire up that grill for a gaucho Thanksgiving feast…
Step 1: Preparing Your Parrilla
An asado is an old Argentine cowboy tradition of spending all Sunday afternoon on a big, lingering meal.
Imagine a little green oasis, with a stream of pure snowmelt running through it.
You find the shade of a tree (the high altitudes in Northwestern Argentina mean UV rays are 80% more intense than at sea level).
You lie back, your head propped on a saddle bag, as you snack on cheese and olives, while the main course cooks.
A cousin strums on a Spanish guitar.
A sibling passes a bottle of wine around.
A gaucho Thanksgiving
The centerpiece of the asado is the grill – the parrilla. Build a fire. Toss in some pinecones as a fire starter (try not to use briquettes).
The heat should be hot enough to char the outer layer of your steak. Don’t worry too much about overcooking. With the right cut, the right prep, and the sides (and wine), you should be fine.
Just remember: low and slow.
Step 2: Picking Your Meats
Bife de lomo is THE cut in Argentina. That’s tenderloin. But tira de asado, or short ribs, are also popular.
Step 3: The Argentine Secret to Ultra-Tender Meat
The Argentine secret to ultra-tender meat is actually quite simple: rock salt.
Coat the meat with rock salt. (Don’t skimp!) Then get it on the grill (the cooking will take a little while).
Step 4: Picadas, Salad, and Wine
Here’s where you break out some sharp cheese (gouda), jamón or salami, and olives for snacking.
You’ll also want to open a bottle of malbec. Can’t go wrong with an extreme-altitude malbec over 200 years in the making…
A dark-red malbec from Northwestern Argentina
At this point, someone in your party should be at work on the salad. Rather than heaps of grilled vegetables, the Argentines have figured out that the best compliment to a steak is a simple mix of fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion drizzled with olive oil and white wine vinegar.
(Optional: mashed potatoes and oven-roasted carrots. Just don’t overdo it.)
Step 5: Throw on Some Chorizo and Blood Sausage
The first course of an asado isn’t a light soup or salad (the salad we mentioned above is consumed with the meat), it’s sausage in a French baguette.
Quarter or half a sausage per person. Sausage should be the last thing on the grill and the first thing off it. Then take the chorizo or morcilla and immediately stick it in that piece of baguette.
Don’t use ketchup or mustard. The juices from the sausage will be more than enough.
Step 6: A Round of Applause for the Asador
If you must season your meat after it’s off the grill, stick to more salt.
Eaten with the aforementioned salad, you’ll find you don’t need (and, in fact, don’t want) any condiments on your meat. (Just trust us here…)
Keep pouring the wine (open another bottle, if necessary – if you have multiple vintage years, start younger and go older).
When you finally sit down at the table, it is customary for the other diners to give the asador (that’s you) a round of applause.
Step 7: When in Doubt, More Wine
As it turns out, we weren’t the first to come up with this next step…
All across the Calchaquí Valley, in Northwestern Argentina, in little valleys hidden away from the world, a small brotherhood of winemakers has toiled away in near obscurity for 200 years… using techniques passed down from father to son… making wines unlike any others you’ve ever had.
The secret lies in the extreme conditions that their grapes must survive each passing season – daily blasts of UV light 80% more intense than in Bordeaux… and nightly temperature swings of up to 70 degrees…
The vines drink pure, nutrient-rich snowmelt that trickles down from 10,000 feet.
A pure snowmelt stream out in Argentina’s northwest
And because of the altitude, there is less need to drench the vines in chemicals (which can’t be said of many wine regions).
Nor will the winemakers insult them by mixing in “oak” extracts, or excess sugar (in fact, the resulting wines are 99% lower in residual sugar than other wines we tested).
Yet, until recently, you pretty much had to be a near-billionaire (or at least friends with one) to even get your hands on a bottle of one of these exclusive, extreme-altitude wines…
After all, most of these wineries are too small and too remote for a major importer to spend time on.
High-altitude vineyard at the edge of the Earth
That’s how I came up with the idea of a wine partnership. I would band together some good friends to import the world’s great wines to American shores – sometimes for the first time ever. If we could just get enough people together to fill an entire shipping container, we could make it work.
And so began the Bonner Private Wine Partnership. When we first opened, we had so little wine, we had to limit membership to just 1,000 members.
It’s not an easy business. Members of my team have almost died at least twice getting out to these isolated little valleys. Currency fluctuations, tariffs, and shipping costs make it hell on a balance sheet.
But in France, they say that a great wine comes not from the grape, but from the character of the man who made it.
It takes a special kind of character to live out so high above the world, at what feels like the edge of the Earth.
And it takes a special kind of character to forego the luxury so common in other wine regions like Mendoza or Napa in search of something different.
At the Bonner Private Wine Partnership, we figure if we can keep these isolated winemakers going, the difficulty will be worth it.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend,
P.S. Care to taste extreme-altitude malbec 200 years in the making? Today, you can reserve some of the Calchaquí Valley’s greatest wines… and have them brought straight to your doorstep…
No shipping delays, no inflated prices, no middlemen. You can reserve your Calchaquí wines by clicking here…
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