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Five Wine Regions on the Cusp of Greatness

Although Chilean wines are more familiar to Americans, Argentina is the South American country to watch, and Mendoza is where the action is—some 600 wineries' worth. Spectacularly set against the snowcapped peaks of the Andes, the terroir of these vineyards expresses itself most impressively with Malbec, a grape variety used for blending in red Bordeaux.

Aficionados should see the legendary Bodega y Cavas de Weinert (5923 San Martín, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza; 54-261/496-0825), as well as Trapiche (Nueva Mayorga FN, Maipú, Mendoza; 54-261/497-2388), where French superstar wine maker Michel Rolland has been producing stunning wines in collaboration with Trapiche's own vintner, Angel Mendoza. Less well known in the United States, La Agrícola (Fray Luis Beltrán, Maipú, Mendoza; 54-261/427-2027) is worth visiting for its new Familia Zuccardi "Q" line of wines—not to mention the gaucho-style horseback vineyard tours with stops at "tasting stations" along the way, followed by lunch of Argentinean beef. Escorihuela winery (1188 Belgrano, Mendoza; 54-261/424-2282), in the Godoy Cruz district, is home to a 63,000-liter barrel—the world's largest. But savvy travelers come for its restaurant, 1884 Restaurante Francis Mallman (54-261/424-2698; dinner for two $50), where Patagonia-raised Mallman, a chef renowned throughout South America, treats diners to his alta cocina creations on a shady patio.

The town of Mendoza, founded by Spanish settlers in the 16th century, is the perfect home base. The historic Plaza Hotel, with its graceful 19th-century Spanish façade, has just reopened as the Park Hyatt Mendoza (1124 Chile, Mendoza; 800/233-1234 or 54-261/441-1234). The hotel's stylish wine bar, Uvas, and Bistro M, with its impressive "wine library" snaking up a central spiral staircase, serve the best vintages of the region.

The newest official American Viticultural Area is Long Island, New York, producing some of the most exciting wines in the country. Determined not to jump on the California bandwagon of heavily oaked, high-alcohol wines, top Long Island producers such as Paumanok (1074 Main Rd., Aquebogue; 631/722-8800), Bedell (Rte. 25, Cutchogue; 631/734-7537), Palmer (108 Sound Ave., Aquebogue; 631/722-9463), and Wölffer Estate (139 Sagg Rd., Sagaponack; 631/537-5106) have been developing, over the past 10 years, an exquisitely balanced style that makes the most of their own unique terroir. Meanwhile, wine tourism has become so popular on Long Island that vintners wonder how they'll continue to supply their tasting rooms.

Most of the wine is produced on the North Fork, a rural area that lies between Long Island Sound and a series of small bays. Long Island's star varietal, Cabernet Franc, tends to be richer and more intense than the light red version from France's Loire Valley. Excellent Merlots—often finer and more complex than their West Coast counterparts—are being made as well. In whites, attractive, steely Chardonnays invite oyster-slurping on a warm early-summer afternoon.

On the island's South Fork, Duckwalk Vineyards (231 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill; 631/726-7555) draws huge crowds, but those in the know head to Wölffer Estate, on a former potato farm. Besides the winery and tasting room, the 170-acre property also has an equestrian center, as well as Wölffer Farmstand, where visitors can pick up farmstead cheese, vegetables, and verjus, or sour grape juice.

Hotels and restaurants haven't kept pace with the rapidly developing wineries on the North Fork. One option is to stay at Sunset Beach (35 Shore Rd.; 631/749-2001) on Shelter Island, a short ferry ride from both Sag Harbor and the North Fork. André Balazs's beachy-chic 20-room inn and restaurant has become the watering hole of choice among the Hamptons' glitterati.


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