When you visit “wine country” just outside Mendoza, Argentina, one of the best restaurants in terms of a gorgeous view, fabulous wine, and food can be found at the Ruca Malen winery.
Ruca Malen’s story began in 1998 when Jean Pierre Thaibaud , former chairman of Bodegas Chandon, and Jacques Louis de Montalembert decided to create a winery and focus on wines of excellence.
The name Ruca Malen is from the legend that Mapuche women used to walk with their eyes fixed on the ground out of fear of confronting a handsome young god. One day a woman looked up and saw this god, and they fell madly in love. The god set the woman up in a gorgeous house over looking incredible scenery, but ultimately he had to move on. As a parting gift, he gave her the house and a magical nectar that would allow her to experience all the joy of his gaze.
Tasting the Wines
Ruca Malen is one of the most well known wineries in Argentina, and you can find their wines on virtually every menu in Buenos Aires.
They have three quality levels – a similar trait among all the wineries, starting with Yauquen, then with Ruca Malen, and finally the top wine Kinien.
After touring the winery, I would venture that what’s key here is the owners’ dedication to quality. The winery is gorgeous, very modern, and the barrel room looks as if an interior decorator had taken his or her hand to it. Lighting is subtle and as elegant as a fine restaurant. A good percentage of the oak is new (expensive winemaking!) and every effort is taken to let the wine “make itself” in terms of minimum intervention and letting the terroir shine through.
The Six Wines
We were able to taste six wines, beginning with the Ruca Malen Chardonnay 2009, very fresh tasting with good balance and tropical notes.
Next was the Yauquen Malbec 2009, a very fruity expression that would pair wonderfully with a juicy steak.
Ruca Malen 2008 was a favorite, very dark and well balanced, with well integrated oak, finesse, and notes of chocolate and slight spice.
Ruca Malen Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was delicious, typical of the region, with cassis, black current, and some chocolate.
Kinien Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was incredibly delicious and well developed for its youth, with good balance, concentrated fruit, and notes of leather and animal on the nose.
The Tasting Menu
Lunch here is an incredible experience. The tables are gorgeously set, and located outdoors where guests can admire the gorgeous view. It’s almost like the kind of upscale, outdoor wedding luncheons you see in the movies, and possibly nicer. You will find tables indoors, but outside is the place to be.
The winery offers a tasting menu only, with wines paired with every dish so that guests can experience all the different wines. The five-course menu offers a wine with every course. For example, a starter of quinoa salad would be paired with Ruca Malen Chardonnay 2009, the pumpkin terrine with Yququen Malbec 2009, red beet and carrot croquet with Ruca Malen Syrah, the main course of grilled beef tenderloin with Ruca Malen Malbec 2008 and Kinien Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, and the apple and walnut cake dessert with Ruca Malen Brut sparkling wine.
It is a fabulous place to enjoy an afternoon, and the wines are incredible. Be sure to book early!