I have had the opportunity to dine several times with Anne Bousquet, owner of Domaine Bousquet winery in Mendoza, Argentina. Anne was born to a third-generation vintner in the city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of southern France. When her father, Jean, was in his early 50s, he felt it was time for a new adventure. They did some travelling to scout out vineyard locations and in 1997 settled on the extreme outskirts of Mendoza where the desert meets the Andes. Photographs from the region and era show nothing more than light brown earth framed by snow-covered mountains. In the desert, water is everything, so their first step was to dig a 500-foot well to bring life to their 270-acre plot. Their first harvest was in 2002. Today’s photos show row upon row of vineyards, narrow work roads into the vines, a pond and a modern winery and restaurant to craft their wines as well as educate and entertain.
My most recent meal with Anne was in March 2020 right as Covid was gripping New Yorkers. We were supposed to dine in a restaurant in Mamaroneck, but there was an outbreak a mile or two from the restaurant. We got notice the event was cancelled and I reached out to PR maestra Jane Kettlewell and suggested we move the meal up closer to me in northern Westchester where it was still relatively quiet. She agreed and I contacted Bernard and Sarah Bouissou, owners of Bernard’s Inn at Ridgefield, and asked if we could have a quiet private space for a small media wine event with Anne. They heartily agreed and Anne said Bernard’s famous “Cassoulet was the very best I have had in the U.S. or in France.”
Another meal with Anne was a couple of years prior to that in Manhattan. The reason I bring this up is many vineyards are like ancient bonsai trees where each owner contributes a concept, a direction that is ultimately but a small piece of where the tree or winery is now. But Domaine Bousquet went from desert to lush in the 23 years of ownership and but 19 years since its first harvest. So virtually everything Bousquet is from Anne; her dad, no longer involved and now living back in France; her husband, Labid al Ameri; and her brother, Guillaume. And in the three times I have tasted Bousquet wines with Anne there is clearly an evolution, a maturity of flavors and textures that presents itself with each sip.
Domaine Bousquet has pursued and attained certifications in organic and sustainable vineyard management practices. Its stated mission is to be environmentally responsible and attentive, and the earth will reward its stewards with beautiful fruit to make into beautiful wine. Some areas of the world are not predisposed to organic gardening because of high rain fall, high humidity or predictable insect attacks. But in the Languedoc region and in Mendoza, the dry, hot days followed by chilly nights allow for maximum hang time of the grapes — a necessary component for structured and enticing fruit.
We began our latest, virtual visit with two whites. The first, a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc showed a bracing crispness with lively and fresh citrus flavors and a lingering mouthfeel. Domaine Bousquet’s 2019 Reserve Chardonnay offered a present, pleasant acidity with mandarin orange and zesty lemon. This wine is clearly oak-aged as shown by color and flavor. The Sauvignon Blanc retails for $13 and the Chardonnay for $18. Next we tasted the 2019 Reserve Pinot Noir. Showing blackberry and dark raspberry and distant cinnamon with good depth and texture, it was a case of what Anne calls “low vigor soils creating a wine of depth”. It’s that hang time thing again. Next was the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon with a great dark fruit expression that had a spicy blackberry, layered presence. This is a great winter wine that will keep the conversation lively well into a cold evening. The Pinots retail for $18 and the Cab for $13.
Gaia 2018 Cabernet Franc was next and showed a dark, dense blackberry accented with cinnamon, cedar notes. Good persistent tannins gave it a lingering mouthfeel. And finally we tasted Bousquet’s 2018 Gran-Malbec with deep, dark fruit merging blueberry and blackberry flavors and a tickly spiciness. The Gran-Malbec retails for $25 and the Cab Franc for $20.
All of these wines are affordable and easy to find in most any wine store. Domaine Bousquet exports to more than 50 countries and makes more than seven million bottles a year. These wines are all made with organic grapes with a certified sustainability and are vegan-friendly. Pick up a few bottles, share and discuss. I’m quite certain, as the vines and the winery matures, the wines will almost certainly improve with each vintage.
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