Back in March, as I was counting the votes for this year’s Smarts, the awards that honor San Miguel de Allende’s favorite restaurants, I made a little promise to myself. I had to get my bum back on the chairs of some of those old dependables, those very good restaurants that have been in San Miguel as long as I have, restaurants that always get a lot of Smart votes but never enough to be presented with one of the breadboards that go to the top three. I’m talking about restaurants like Hecho en Mexico, Chamonix, Tacos Don Felix and one that I put right on the top of my must go to list, Buenos Aires Bistro.

After years of finishing in the very respectable mid to late teens when votes were counted, the restaurant soared all the way up to number seven in 2019.

Around the same time that I was counting those Smarts votes, I attended a wine tasting and was very impressed by two specific wines, a Chardonnay and a Malbec/Syrah blend, both from the same winery in Argentina.

Argentina? Buenos Aires? I could smell a wine pairing dinner coming on.

I emailed Mariano Alvarez, owner and executive chef of Buenos Aires Bistro and asked him if he was familiar with Familia Rosso, the maker of the two wines; Tutuka, their distributor in Queretaro; or Emiliano Miglietta, the sommelier who had presented the wines so well at the tasting.

“I know Rodolfo Rosso personally”, Mariano wrote me. “He’s a dear friend of mine and I introduced Emiliano Miglietta to the Familia Rosso line of wines so that he could distribute them here in SMA and QRO.”

“I’ve been carrying Rosso wines for five years now”, Mariano continued. “I wanted Emiliano to distribute them as he started to work on his own last year. So we all know each other very well.”

A few days later, I was sending out an invite to Buenos Aires in the Country, a four course dinner paired with Familia Rosso wines. A few nights later, 20 of us were sat in the cozy courtyard of Buenos Aires Bistro.

Four generations of the Rosso family have now been involved in winemaking since they arrived in Argentina from Northern Italy. We began dinner with one of the wines that I had been so taken by at the tasting a few weeks earlier, a wine marketed under Familia Rosso’s Loma Alta label.

Now no grape gets more thumbs up and more thumbs down as Chardonnay. There are those that love the crispy, steely, minerally tastes of old world Chardonnay. There are those that love the buttery, oaky, caramel tastes of new world Chardonnay. And there are those that don’t like either and aren’t shy about telling me.

What I like most about Chardonnay is how it absorbs the terroir of where it’s grown and the style of how the grape is transformed into wine. The Loma Alta Chardonnay is grown in chalky soil at about 1,000 meters above sea level and receives very little aging in oak barrels. The result is a wine that might not even be easily recognized as Chardonnay. There are floral and citrus hints in addition to the more traditional limestone notes of Burgundy and a touch of the tropical fruit aromas of Australia.

If you’re a thumbs down ABC (Anything But Chardonnay), Familia Rosso’s Loma Alta may be the one to change your mind.

The wine worked very well as a welcome drink before we sat down and even better when the first course was served, Mariano Alvarez’ celebrated empanadas sided with grilled Romaine lettuce and shaved Parmesan.

I also have mixed opinions about many Chardonnays but Loma Alta really works for me.

The second Familia Rosso wine that Mariano Alvarez and guest sommelier Emiliano Miglietta had chosen for us was the other wine I had sampled previously, the Loma Alta Malbec/Syrah.

Now most winemakers in Mendoza like to keep their Malbec offerings to the single grape. Rodolfo Rosso blends it with Syrah for more balance and structure. There’s a light taste of oak but there’s mostly spicey, raspberry aromas. If you like your wines young and fruity, you’ll share my enthusiasm.

Buenos Aires Bistro’s grilled Provoleta cheese sizzled its way, showbiz style, to the table but it was almost overshadowed by the restaurant’s homemade chorizo and roast onions that were served with it.

The Loma Altec Malbec/Syrah worked wonderfully with the dish but also would have done well as a partner with the upcoming red meat course.

The wine that Mariano and Emiliano selected to pair with the flank steak bears the premium Familia Rosso label. It is 100% Malbec that with 12 months of aging in oak barrels earns it Reserva status.

About 20 years ago, Argentina and, in particular, the Mendoza region where Familia Rosso is located, really got behind the varietal, planting hundreds of thousands of Malbec vines.

Serious wine drinkers like myself were infatuated with the grape and Malbec received a big share of my wine allowance. Then, I wandered off, like a lot of other wine enthusiasts, mostly to California Cabernet Sauvignons as they became more affordable.

Dinner at Buenos Aires in the Country and a couple of glasses of Familia Rosso Malbec Reserva reminded me (and a few others) how much we missed Malbec. I made a promise that night to find a few spaces for it in my humble cellar.

At the dinner I also made another promise to myself. To eat more flank steak. At the Smart Awards dinner, I said that Buenos Aires Bistro “might just be San Miguel’s best steakhouse” and it didn’t take a ribeye, striploin or other expensive cut to prove it. Plus, with the grilled vegetables, Mariano Alvarez’ kitchen gave just as much attention to cooking the sides perfectly as they did to the beef.

I called Buenos Aires Bistro one of the “old dependables” earlier in this post and they didn’t disappoint. Though they went through a name and menu change a few years ago, Mariano Alvarez has been operating a restaurant at the same location on Mesones for 11 years now. The first wine pairing dinner I ever attended in San Miguel de Allende was there and there has always been a well-selected list of reasonably-priced Argentinean and Mexican wines. All three of the Familia Rosso wines are included on their current carta de vinos.

In Buenos Aires or in your home.

From now until the end of June, Mariano Alvarez is also making the three Familia Rosso wines we enjoyed at the dinner available for ordering and drinking in your own home and, the best news is, at 50% off the price on the restaurant’s wine list. Loma Alta Chardonnay is reduced from $670 to $335 a bottle, Loma Alta Malbec/Syrah from $690 to $345, and Familia Rosso Malbec Reserva from $950 to $475. The minimum order size is a case of each and it’s cash only. You can place your order by emailing Mariano at buenosairesbistro@gmail.com or stop by and see him. Regular prices still apply for Familia Rosso wines consumed at the restaurant.

Buenos Aires Bistro is located at Mesones #62 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open from 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm, seven days a week.

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