I gave up Merlot several years ago. The ones I tried had become too sweet, too mellow, too bland and too uninteresting. I still think Merlot make for an easy introduction to red wine for the novice winedrinker, but overall I've not found one with the rich complexity of a Cabernet or (now) a Malbec.
Tonight's wine comes from the vineyards of Finca La Celia, a Mendoza winery that has been around since 1890. Though I didn't know that little tidbit when I bought the wine, that's got to count for something right? Longevity in the wine business generally means quality (unless it means really, really cheap). At any rate, what really convinced me to try this particular wine was the "Oak Aged" note on the front of the label.
In France, the Malbec grape has gone into somewhat of a decline. Even though it is one of only 5 grape varieties that can be blended to make Bordeaux, its susceptability to various blights and a killing frost in the 1950's really set it into the background, behind Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes which are hardier varietals. Argentina embraced the Malbec grape. Many Argentinian vineyards from a planting or two taken from France. Now, it has practically become the national grape of Argentina. Argentina's highest caliber Malbecs come from the high altitude Mendoza region, which coincidentally, is where Finca La Celia winery is located.
The Malbec grape produces a deep red wine. The La Finca 2011 is so richly red, that if you hold up a glass to the light, you will not be able to see through it. When you get to that last tablespoon of a sip, hold it to the light and you will be rewarded with a beautiful, deep ruby shine. But then, you should go ahead and enjoy that last sip.
The La Finca greets you with an intensely spicy vanilla aroma. The secondary smell you'll get is a rich, black currant, making for a delightful combination on the nose. On your first sip, you'll experience a lovely smooth ripe fruit on the palate, with a warm finish. The tannins are silky, not harsh, and combine with the oakiness for a nice, subtle richness that is delicate at the same time.
Locally, this can only be found at Trader Joe's, so you may not find it in even your best grocer's wine shop. It's modestly priced, and I would recommend for any meat or red sauce pasta dish. It would also be nice for sipping around the patio with friends, on a cool evening.