92 Insider Points


An American Winemaker in Cafayete

That's what I'd call it if it was a horror movie. Luckily, this wine is everything but, and it shows me what I continually look for in the Malbec grape.

Violet flowers and purple fruit on the nose. Medium-full bodied with spicy black raspberry, black cherry and tobacco leaf on the palate. Refreshing acidity through the finish. The next time you see a full moon rising, you'll be keen to pop this one open. Don't be afraid if you start howling from your enjoyment. 92 Points - JZ Aug '18

    Calchaqui Valley, Argentina
  • SIZE

High in the foothills of the Andes, California winemaker William Knuttel found his Shangri-la: dry-farmed Malbec cultivated on the sort of soils that would have any vintner in Bordeaux green with envy, benefitting from a dry, sunny climate cooled by fresh mountain breezes. After more than 40 years of making award-winning wine in Napa and Sonoma, Knuttel recognized terrific red wine country when he saw it. This 2015 Malbec released under his Tentadora label is a fitting reward for Knuttle’s adventurous leap and a terrific buy for any lover of California Cab.
Knuttel may not be the first of California’s great winemakers to discover the amazing terroir of northwestern Argentina (Paul Hobbs, for one, helped to catapult this far-lung region into the big leagues). One taste of this powerful though still elegant red was enough to have our Tasting Panel nominate the Tentadora for best-value red from South America and Knuttel the most talented expat working in Argentina today.

·       The Cafayate Valley is a high-altitude outpost in the northernmost region of Argentina. Its vineyards are planted on sandy, clay-rich soil irrigated naturally by snowmelt from the nearby Andes Mountains.

·       Cafayate is home to the highest vineyard on the planet, an isolated plot of vines located at an astounding 10,206 feet above sea level.

·       “This high-altitude enclave is home to some of the world's most exciting Malbec,” writes the Wine Enthusiast in 2017.

·       Before striking out with his own label and its Argentine offshoot, Tentadora, veteran oenologist William Knuttel worked as head winemaker at Saintsbury from 1983-1996, Chalk Hill (1996-2003), and Dry Creek Vineyard 2003-2011. He was also President of the California Cabernet Society from 1999 to 2003.


A spicy, warm, and fruit forward wine. Notes of plum and black cherry as well as blackberry make for a delicious taste that will please your palate. 


From the winery:

William Knuttel’s philosophy has long been to make an enormous range of wines in various styles in any given vintage, for the simple reason that a winemaker only gets to make a limited number of vintages over his lifetime. This wealth of experience has led directly to his adherence to traditional winemaking practices, which lead to balanced, elegant wines that pair well with foods and have excellent aging potential—the hallmarks of classic wine. He has been head winemaker at Saintsbury from 1983-1996, Charlk Hill 1996-2003, and Dry Creek Vineyard 2003-2011. He has his own label William Knuttel, and consults on multiple projects throughout California.

Following in the trend of winemakers like Paul Hobbs, Rob Lawson, and Jason Woodbridge, Knuttel has expanded his portfolio to include a wonderful Malbec from Cafayate Argentina. Cafayate is part of Valles Calchaquies in the province of Salta in northwestern Argentina.  The Valles Calchaquies is the second most popular wine region in Argentina behind Mendoza.  High in elevation, low amounts of precipitation, and cool climate with low humidity, allow the vines to work harder and dig deeper, pulling up more complexity from the different soil layers.


This will pair with any spicy dish, roasted pork, or a savory skirt steak.