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For Carnivores Curious About Wine...

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I am the first to jokingly admit that my personal knowledge of wine more often than not limits me to two single tasting notes: "I like it" or "I don't like it." This handicap is perhaps what compels me to accept invitations to wine tasting events, so that I can not only enjoy carefully selected wines with thoughtful food pairings, but that I can also (hopefully) soak up a little bit more savvy from industry professionals.

Earlier this month the well-known steakhouse chain Morton's held a Malbec tasting at two of their area locations to showcase a selection of wines from 2006 through 2008 from the Mendoza and the Cafayate Valley in Argentina paired with signature items from Morton's menu. At Morton's in Burbank I joined the other wine enthusiasts in attendance to sample these pours and small bites and benefit from the knowledge of the experts on hand.

Some basics about Malbec: It is a medium to full-bodied red wine with ripe fruit flavors of plum and blackberry with earthy characteristics. It is the "major red varietal planted" in Argentina, and has "characteristics that fall somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot," explains the WinePros.

The Morton's event featured reasonably priced wines that are available for purchase now from most independent wine shops; if it's not in stock most stores should be able to order in the item for you. Being poured at this open-to-the-public special event were the following: Trapiche, Torrontes (2008); Trapiche, “Oak Cask” (2007); Michel Torino, “Don David” (2006); Broquel (2006); and Trapiche, “Adriana Venturin” (2006).

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After tasting all the selections, two clear favorites emerged: The Michel Torino "Don David" (around $14.99 retail) was pleasing with its slightly spicy-sweet taste and clean, bright finish, while the Trapiche "Oak Cask" ($9.99-12.99 retail) was delightfully fruity and robust.

The wines were paired with food including a totally unremarkable cheese/cracker/fruit platter; tender, plump broiled sea scallops paired with an apricot chutney that actually got in the way of the scallop; beautiful sliced tenderloin with a Chimichurri sauce and a disappointingly mild horseradish sauce; and Morton’s miniature "Legendary Hot Chocolate Cakes" which offered a satisfying sweet end to the evening. (As the photos will attest, it seems whoever was in charge of plating the two mini-cakes topped with one fresh raspberry each might have had a naughty sense of humor.)

Morton's frequently has Special Events like this Malbec tasting, which require a reservation and a fee (in this case, $45). The value most likely rests in the combination of the generous pours of multiple wines and the generous servings of food with the opportunity to learn about the wine from a knowledgeable representative. Although it wasn't a sit-down dinner (a definite excess of standing, actually) it was effortless to make a meal of the food on hand. If you are a carnivore curious about wine, you may be interested in future Morton's tastings. And if you are interested in any of the wines mentioned here, contact your local independent wine seller.