I recently received a bottle of 2010 Ñabdú Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, along with some print material. I got to taste it shortly thereafter, and simply loved the wine.

What I love more, though, is Bernard Portet’s current story. Years ago I met Bernard Portet, while I was traveling doing one of the wine festivals… I’m thinking it was Aspen, but it could have been Vermont. Those days are a huge blur, as I was traveling well over 60,000 miles a year, attending every wine festival that was happening…. Like so many other wine Road Warrior Survivors.

Bernard was an admirable man. Perhaps some of the easy attraction is that my maternal grandparents were Peter and Abby Bernier (rhymes with Viognier). I understand that I spoke a lot of French before the age of five. While studying two years of it in high school, my grandmother told me that I had beautiful intonation. Now, that’s a blur, too, but meeting Bernard is not a blur; a genuine man is not soon forgotten.

Forty years ago, winemaker Bernard Portet left his native France, to travel the world. He was seeking a place where he could and would make wine. What he left behind was very deep viticultural and winemaking roots. He was born and raised in a vineyard that his family had owned since the 1600s. He not only learned from his father, but he also studied enology and vit, and then became an explorer of four continents (Europe, Chile and Argentina, Australia, and then to Napa Valley).

It was Napa Valley which captured his heart, while vineyard tendrils enveloped his soul. Bernard co-founded Clos du Val, which I often refer to, because it’s a great marketing 101 lesson about labels. Bernard worked at Clos du Val for 35 years, and then retired.

While you can take the man out of the winemaking process, you can’t take the process out of the man. It should not be a surprise, therefore, that Bernard Portet has re-emerged. Less than a year ago, he began Polaris Wines, Inc., with partner Don Chase. Polaris is offering two wines, to date:

  1. Ñabdú ~ the 2010 Argentinian Malbec
  2. Heritance ~ 2010 Heritance Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley) and a 2008 Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)

The family tradition is also continuing, as Olivier Portet, Bernard’s son is Polaris Wines’ national sales manager… 10th generation vintner.

According to Portet:

The… Ñabdú 2010 Malbec… is the sixth vintage of this wine that I have made since our inaugural 2003 release. Serendipitously, our Ñabdú has come full circle as I produce our first blend with my son Olivier in 2004. Now, we are working together again to import and distribute it nationally through Polaris Wines.

I travel to Argentina a couple of times each year, and when I visited the winery in 2011, I tasted different lots of the 2010 vintage to see what parcels of vineyards and which lots of wines would be best for our next assemblage. Each year, the percentage we use of each varietal fluctuates, as each year Mother Nature gives us a new set of rules with which we must play.

[IMAGE: Left to right: Don Chase, Bernard Portet, Olivier Portet.]

The vineyards are located in Mendoza, Argentina:

  • Maípu area, at an elevation of 2,624 feet
  • Luján de Cuyo area, the elevation is 3,1116 feet

Average age of the vines is 18 years old, a vertical trellis system is used, and the average yield is five tons per acre.

As a SIDEBAR, in the event that you don’t know this yet, for years most of Argentina’s Malbec was thought to be Merlot. Malbec is very adapted to Argentina, much the same way that Petite Sirah has adapted well to California. I think of Malbec as a signature wine for Mendoza, having worked with a Grove Street Malbec for years (with the Hambrecht Wine Group).


Nose: Fresh aromas of blueberries and cranberries wafted up from the glass as I poured this medium bodied wine. I knew I would really be enjoying it, before I even swirled to find more complex aromas, including a welcoming spice at the end…

Palate: A very well balanced wine with round, sensual flavors enveloped my palate… concentrated Maine blueberries and heavenly ripe plums found a home…

Finish: As a medium-bodied wine, the tannins were well managed and soft, the flavors of wild blackberries lingered longer than I expected, and made me thankful that I had now discovered Ñabdú Malbec.

Food suggestions: I can’t beat what the tasting notes offer… some of my favorite foods: French Onion Soup,  Empanadas, and Barbecued steak…

Case Production: 2,300 cases

Suggested retail: $17.00 (It’s a steal of a deal)


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One Family, Nine Generations of Winemaking, Four Continents ~ Bernard Portet Celebrates 40 Accomplished Years