Not many Americans can name more than a few small, family-run wineries in Argentina. The shelves in American shops are dominated by big producers and their many brands. But Gimenez Riili, thanks to its affiliation with The Vines of Mendoza, is an exception - and it's coming to the United States for the first time.
We first tried Gimenez Riili's wines about seven years ago on a visit to The Vines' tasting room in downtown Mendoza. Back then, The Vines - a joint venture between Michael Evans and the Gimenez Riili family - was just starting to sell small vineyard plots with private winemaking services, and Gimenez Riili was very much a boutique winery. Today, both enterprises have grown. The Vines is now a nexus of wine tourism in Mendoza, especially for Americans, and Gimenez Riili has launched its latest line with much fanfare.
In general, these are wines of strong character that stay true to their varieties. The torrontes, with grapes from La Rioja, runs sharp and herbal rather than sweet; the merlot, from Mendoza, has the sort of dark intensity that would make a Bordeaux vigneron proud. And the trademark blend, the Joyas de Familia red, is a worldbeater of exceptional finesse and flavor.
The family's malbec vines in the Valle de Uco are more than forty years old, and the winery itself dates back even further. At the moment, however, the third generation of Gimenez Riilis is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in new vines and infrastructure, including a manor house set to open in September 2014.
Overseeing this growth have been Pablo Gimenez Riili, who works with Evans at The Vines, and Federico Gimenez Riili (pictured above), who has been the chief executive of the winery since 2003. "The family actively participates in deciding the makeup of the blends together with our consulting winemaker Pablo Martorell," he says. "You can feel the family's passion for quality in them."
Federico says more than 500 Americans pass through the winery each month, which has helped brand recognition in this country. "With respect to the market in the United States, we have great expectations for growth," he adds. His wines are likely to be a hot commodity, with just 15,000 cases covering the whole line each year. Salud!