Some 10 years ago I visited Argentina and met with the winery Dona Paula. I have followed their path on and off throughout the years because I remembered the incredible setting and the wines. I have tried their Malbec and Torrontes, both friendly, easy to drink wines. Today, by chance, I also tried their Cabernet from the Los Cardos line.
I actually had a couple of glasses of it with an amazing classic New York Strip steak at Delmonico’s. I was celebrating with my Dad our first work lunch together at the beginning of my career many years ago.
We went to Delmonico’s and I wanted to recreate the tradition. I don’t remember what we drank all those years ago. The restaurant was darker and more formal at that time but I enjoyed this new version as well. The Dona Paula wine fit today’s expression of Delmonico’s. More approachable, more democratic and a better value. I was happy to revisit an Argentinan winery. I had a small obsession with everything from Argentina and the tango years ago. I miss the dance and the wines and it was fun to step back in for a moment in time.
I went to Argentina in March of 2007. It was an eye opening experience. I went to Buenos Aires for a very short time and tried to go to the dance halls. It was quite shocking to see how different the dancing was and how much more intense and difficult it is there than in the United States or Italy. The style is much tighter and the movements are very restricted because of space constraints. While my tango wasn’t what I might have wanted, I loved Buenos Aires, a combination of Paris, Palermo and Seville all rolled into one.
I stayed in the San Telmo neighborhood at a tango hotel, the Mansion Dandi Royal. Tango is performed in the streets in Buenos Aires including in places like La Boca, a neighborhood well known for its colored homes which were initially painted by fisherman from Genova, Italy at the end of the 19th century. Tango is said to come from this area and at its inception was danced by men with other men as they waited their turn to visit the ladies of the night…
The neighborhood is also very famous because of its soccer team Boca Juniors. When I was there, I thought I saw Maradona. Still a favored son, there is a look alike (a sosia in Italian) who parades around La Boca so silly tourists like me can fall for the gag and take pictures.
I also stayed in Recoleta at a chic little hotel called the Art Hotel. Recoleta looks and feels like Paris. I highly recommend the experience. One of things people do in Buenos Aires is visit the nearby cemetery where Evita Peron is buried. I dutifully went to see her tomb and the many other beautifully sculpted monuments. It reminded me a bit of the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan. I had never seen such elaborate tombs.
In addition to wine and tango, I love art so this was a heady experience for me. Buenos Aires has many art museums including the Museo de Arte Latinamericano de Buenos Aires or the Malba where Latin American artists are featured, I discovered many painters that I knew nothing about from Brazil, Uruguay and of course, Argentina.
Argentina also has a long, complicated political history, forever marked by the period of the desaparecidos which ran from 1976 to 1983, when thousands disappeared and were murdered by the military. Protests continue to this day in front of the Casa Rosada, the Argentinean President’s palace.
While that terrible history will not disappear, Buenos Aires is a very cosmopolitan city with numerous neighborhoods, a financial center, a design center, a port called Puerto Madero and beautiful gardens. This fabulous bridge known as the bridge of the woman was built by Santiago Calatrava and is said to represent a couple dancing tango. It is wonderfully lyrical.
Palermo Viejo, a very posh neighborhood reminded me of Georgetown in Washington D.C and some stately homes in New Orleans. Lush and green with maids running around in uniforms and gardeners at work, it was a very calm oasis after the crush of some parts of the city.
After all this sightseeing, I needed a drink and finally went to meet a friend in Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. Of course, I ran into Robert Duvall, the actor and avid tango fanatic in the airport. His movie Assassination Tango starred Pablo Veron and a former teacher of mine as well who now teaches in Central Italy.
Mendoza is a beautiful little city that has been transformed by the popularity of Argentinean wines. It is also home to a fabulous restaurant where I had the best steak of my life, except for the one at Peter Lugar’s where I had my first solo dinner with my dad when I was 10 years old and literally wearing white knee socks…
Francis Mallman’s 1884 is a delight both for the ambiance and the food. Located in an urban winery, it has been called one of the 10 best restaurants in the world. I had a succulent wonderful steak that melted into my mouth. Today’s experience with the steak at Delmonico’s is a contender for world’s best steak though. Memories.