Photo: Haarth winery's Terry Martens
In 2009, Maple Ridge businessman Terry Martens, 55, was
persuaded to invest in a winery in Argentina.
As it turned out, his prospective partner could not come up
with his half of the money. Terry found himself one of that handful of
Canadians with an Argentina
The winery is Haarth Organic Wines, an old family winery
near San Rafael
with a century-long history. Haarth once owned perhaps 2,000 hectares of
vineyards and more than two dozen bodegas. It had fallen on hard times after
the death of the scion of the family.
However, Terry and his erstwhile partner were able to pick
up the Haarth’s family’s original winery, a lovely bodega with a small country
in and 20 hectares of vines. It is run
entirely by the Martens family but Terry would still like to have a partner.
The Haarth vineyard includes some old Bonarda vines, a red
variety sometimes overshadowed by Malbec. Terry believes it is a variety on the
rise. “Bonarda is becoming well known and talked about,” he believes. “People
say that is the next Malbec [in popularity]. I think they are right.”
Terry came to wine through business. Raised on an Alberta farm, he went on
to get degrees in mechanical engineering. That led to a long career working
with Caterpillar as a designer and trouble shooter on mining equipment. He
continues to consult internationally to operators of mining equipment, even during
the months he spends at the winery.
“A lot of mining companies will call me and I will do
consulting,” he says. “Everything I do, I can do from the winery. I just need a
good internet line.”
During his career, he spent so much time on South America
that he and his family are comfortable
speaking Spanish. It was in Chile
where he acquired a taste for wine.
“There were some wonderful wines around and they were so
cheap,” he remembers. “When I went down to South America
I never drank wine. But I got tired of beer, and you can only drink so much
scotch. Wine was a great alternative.”
When he became interested in investing in Argentina’s
wine industry, Terry and his former partner looked at about a dozen
opportunities. They kept coming back to Haarth because of the mature vines in
its vineyard. Some of those vines are believed to be almost 90 years old,
capable of delivering rich and deeply flavoured wines.
Terry has completed the transition to organic viticulture
that had just been started by the former owners at Haarth. The winery, which is
producing about 12,500 cases a year, has a portfolio of both organic and non-organic
There is a good demand for organic wines, Terry believes, if
they are well-made. “One of the biggest hurdles we have had to overcome is that
organic wines of the past haven’t been very good,” he says, somewhat
He has had numerous comments from consumers claiming they
can drink Haarth wines without the headaches that other wines sometimes give
The Haarth wines are being distributed in both the United States
and in select Canadian markets. In Western Canada
Terry’s son, Peter, operates an agency called Natural Wines & Spirits that
distributes the wines through private wine stores.
Here is a diversion about the varietal called Bonarda in Argentina
According to Wine Grapes
Robinson et al, the proper name is Douce Noire. It was widely grown in eastern France
and may have originated in Piedmont in Italy
although the Italian Bonarda is a different grape.
Douce Noire – can you picture that on the label of a bottle
of wine? – exists under various names, including Charbono in California.
according to this book, Bonarda “generally produces good-value fruity quaffing
wines, although if allowed to ripen fully, there is more quality potential than
is generally realized in the bottle …”
Here are notes on some of the current organic releases.
Haarth Malbec Rosé
2013 ($15). This is a full-bodied and full-texture rosé with a dark hue and
with a fruit bowl of flavour – cherry, plum and strawberry. 89.
Haarth Bonarda 2011 ($19).
This is a concentrated red with flavours of plum, black currant and prune.
There is liquorice, a touch of tobacco and graphite on the finish. The latter
is probably a reflection of the minerality the old vines are pulling up from
deep in the soil. 89-90.
Haarth Malbec 2011 ($19).
This is the classic Argentina Malbec, with aromas of cherry and strawberry and
bold flavours of blueberry and black cherry and long ripe tannins. 89.
Sauvignon 2011 ($19). This is a firm but elegant wine with aromas and
flavours of black cherry, black currant and blackberry, nicely framed with
spice and vanilla from the barrels. 90.
2011 ($14). This wine is not organic wine but it is tasty nonetheless. It has
aromas and flavours of red and black currants with spice and vanilla on the