Friday, June 27, 2014

Visiting the Museo de la Vid y Vino and Domingo Molina Winery

Museo de la Vid y el Vino in Cafayate, Salta
(March 18, 2014) – We started the day with a tour of the Museo de la Vid y el Vino located 2 blocks off the Cafayate Plaza.  It was a delightful experience with walls filled with poetry about wine, as well as the history of wine in the region, and exhibits of winemaking equipment.  Two highlights for me were seeing the old cement wine vats with a space underneath to light fires to insure the fermentation continued.  I had never seen this before, and I thought it was a great idea before the invention of temperature controlled tanks.  The other highlight was the fascinating video of the history of wine around the world.  I begged to buy a copy, but they said it wasn’t for sale.

Domingo Molina Winery – Cactus in the Vineyard

For lunch we headed south of town to visit Domingo Molina Winery, located in the foothills of the Andes, not far from San Pedro Winery.  The winery building itself is more of modern architecture, but is surrounded by vineyards filled with cactus. Nowhere else in the world have I seen tall cactus in the vineyard, and I found it truly fascinating.  Domingo Molina also has a cactus garden for tourists to visit.

Lunch in the Gardens of Domingo Molina Winery
Once again the view from the winery was breath-taking with the valley spread out below and the towering red mountains dominating the eastern skyline.  A round table with a white table cloth was set up under the trees on the front lawn, so we could enjoy a lunch of local meats, cheeses, salads, and empanadas, and gaze at the magnificent view while we sipped Torrontes and tannat.

Our hosts were brothers Osvaldo and Raphael Domingo who explained that they have two wineries – this one for high-end wine, and the much larger Domingo Hermanos in downtown Cafayate for mass market wine.  This location produces only estate wine with a production of around 10,000 cases, of which they export 80%.  Total vineyard size for both wineries is 60 hectares.

Social Sustainability – Indian Village to Give Back to the Community

What fascinated me most about the visit to this winery (besides the great wine and view) was the renovated Indian Village just above it, which we visited after lunch.  Osvaldo explained that their father believed in giving back to the community, so he built the village including a small chapel for the Indians to stay in during the winters.  Apparently many of them still live in the high Andes in the summer months, hunting, gathering herbs, and sleeping outdoors, in the ways of their ancestors.  But in the winter, they prefer to have real houses, so their father created a village of small traditional rock houses for them. 

Winemaking at Domingo Molina

Later we toured the cellars, and again harvest was in full swing.  There were four people at the sorting table, insuring only the best malbec grapes made it into the blend.  Renaldo, the winemaker, explained that they destem, crush, and then pump the must into concrete tanks lined with epoxy.  They try to use natural yeast, and an interesting turbo pigeage machine to punch down the cap.

Rupestre Wine from Domingo Molina
Total maceration time for Domingo Molina is 25 – 30 days maceration, with a fermentation temperature of around 27C.  They also allow ML to start naturally in the concrete tanks.  He explained that they prefer concrete because it maintains a more even temperature and saves electricity.  The wine is aged for around 12 months in oak at 30 – 50% new, depending on the price point.

For Torrontes, they generally harvest at 24 brix with 3. 7 ph, but will add 1 to 1.5 grams of acid to achieve desired 3.2 to 3.3 ph. After destemming and crush, they let the wine sit in tank for 8 hours with skins, then press. Commercial yeast is added, and the wine is fermented in stainless steel at 12 degrees C for around 25 days with no ML.  When finished the wine is racked and allowed to sit in tank for 6 months on light lees to add texture.  With the reserve wine, they may put 5% in oak.

I tasted the Domingo Molina Torrontes on three different occasions during my visit to Salta, and in every case it was excellent – delicate, floral and satisfying.  However, my favorite wine from this estate was the Ruprestre 2011.  It is a blend of 80% malbec, 10% merlot, and 10% tannat with 12 months in oak, 50% new.  The wine is full-bodied with great texture and long finish.  The name, “Ruprestre” is the name of a valley nearby where they actually filled the desert scene for Star Wars.

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