Brazil native Eugenio Jardim is a Bay Area wine consultant and educator. Sunset Magazine named him Sommelier of the Year in 2010. He ran the wine program at Jardinière for 11 years and conducts very high-profile wine tasting groups in the U.S. and Brazil.
His approach to wine is fun but professional, educational and nonthreatening, creating an enjoyable experience rather than an intimidating one. Jardim’s philosophy is driven by his passion, and he has built a reputation for seeking out the new and exciting wines of the world.
Eugenio is currently visiting Argentina on an intensive educational trip nicknamed “Malbec Camp” and is sharing with us a few of his notes (and pictures) from the road!
Malbec Camp Day One: First Stop, Buenos Aires!
A few months ago when I received an invitation to participate in a malbec intensive immersion course in Mendoza, Argentina, it took me about a half second to say yes! I am not a fool. The invitation had come from Lady Malbec herself, Dr. Laura Catena, a San Francisco resident, a UCSF ER doctor, the mother of three beautiful kids, the head of research and development for Catena Zapata winery, the owner of Luca Wines; you get the picture, the woman is amazing!
The follow-up email came from another outstanding human being, the Colombian-born Jorge Liloy, Catena’s brand manager for the U.S., and that was enough to seal the deal!
They are bringing influential American wine buyers and other wine professionals to Argentina to experience firsthand not only how and why the malbec grape and the wines of Argentina have taken the world by storm, but also to see what they’ve done and learned in the relatively young history of the Catena Zapata brand. I am still pinching myself for being included in such a small and special group.
My first day was spent enjoying the street culture of Buenos Aires. It was a relatively chilly and quiet Sunday due to the national elections for Congress and Senate. A glass of Catena Zapata malbec from Adrianna Vineyard sounded like the perfect way to start my day of explorations. However, the Argentine people take their politics almost as seriously as their soccer and absolutely no alcoholic beverages were sold anywhere before 6pm.
I had to entertain myself with my other favorite pastimes: shopping and eating! I learned from a very savvy taxi driver named Juan that my favorite neighborhood, Palermo, has not just one but three different sections—Palermo Viejo, Palermo Soho, and Palermo Hollywood—and they’ve undergone an incredible transformation.
I chose to explore Palermo Viejo, where you will find all the fun and funky shops, supercool bars, and trendy restaurants, not to mention a lot of beautiful people walking around or just hanging out at the sidewalk cafés. I found a street market where local artisans sell beautiful handcrafted jewelry and leather goods at Plaza Serrano. Despite being a holiday, the plaza was packed with locals and tourists going up and down all the surrounding streets, especially Honduras Street.
After a few exhausting hours of making sure I’d seen, tasted, and purchased everything I could, it was time to get serious and to start thinking about dinner. I can easily remember all the good experiences from my first trip to Argentina a few years back, and a particular restaurant in BA (that’s Buenos Aires for those in the know) named Sucre came to mind.
This is a “modern gone classic” restaurant located on the street of the same name, not too far from Palermo. I have recommended Sucre to everyone who asked me for a place to eat in Argentina. It has since become their favorite place in BA to eat as well.
The building used to house an old bank, which was transformed into a chic restaurant that features the chef’s very contemporary take on the foods of Latin America and Spain. The old bank’s vault has been aptly converted into a gorgeous wine cellar, the 20-foot-high concrete wall is now covered with a colorful selection of spirits, and the main floor of the restaurant is filled with dark wood tables of different sizes and heights, marked with excellent-quality wineglasses.
Everything made us feel right at home, from the creative cocktails served to us by Adrian the superfriendly bartender to the sincere and passionate approach of the sommelier, Alma. We received a warm greeting from the drop-dead gorgeous hostess, and the amazingly energetic and friendly young female manager made sure we were well taken care of. Dinner was superb and we overindulged on Sucre’s all-Argentine wine list. After this visit I will continue to recommend this place and will look forward to returning for more of their delicious food.
Tomorrow I am off to Mendoza to settle in at the Vendimia, the Catenas’ gorgeous 100-year-old vacation home in the district of Rivadavia.
Eugenio Jardim; photo courtesy of Jardinière.