Argentina’s Queen of Wine
Susana Balbo is not just a woman of wine, she is a woman of the world. She is as complex and elegant as her celebrated blended wines. Over a four-hour lunch in her new restaurant Osadia de Crear at her Dominio del Plata winery in Mendoza, I was charmed by Susana’s intriguing story of heartbreak, success, motherhood and wine.
I entered the interview knowing that Susana was the definition of a trailblazer. Named one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Wine” by UK’s The Drink Business, Susana was the first woman winemaker in Argentina, the first female to work at Michel Torino winery, the first female president of Wines of Argentina, and the first winemaker to be hired as a consultant outside of Argentina.
When meeting someone so accomplished, I can usually tolerate a certain level of arrogance; but, there is no trace of superiority in Susana’s speech or manner. On the contrary, she is humble and honest with a strength characterized by sensitivity.
Life has not handed Susana success on a silver platter, she has endured obstacles that would have shattered others with less resiliency. Her first winery went bankrupt after being cheated by an unscrupulous businessman; she built a lingerie company from scratch that failed; she parted with a family business due to conflicting visions; and Susana overcame the tragic death of her first husband and father of her children.
Blessed with an eternal sense of optimism, Susana believes that the challenges you confront are the lessons you most need to learn. God does not take something away from you without giving it back in another form—there is always a universal balance. Susana attributes the strength to pick herself up again and keep striving to the responsibilities she had as a mother and sole provider. Failure was never an option. For her children, she would do whatever life demanded of her to succeed.
Today, Susana has built Dominio del Plata, a world-class 47-acre winery producing 3 million bottles of wine per year, sold in 36 countries around the world. She’s renowned for her blends, which are bottled under four major labels including Crios, the most popular and economical, Susana Balbo Signature, which she refines to her own taste preferences, and Nosotros, the high-end Malbec flagship line. Susana exports 97% of Dominio del Plata’s harvest to major markets around the world including the United States, Canada, England and Brazil. Her wines, like most Mendocinian wines, are highly affordable, retailing from $10.00-$35.00, with a level of quality that rivals more established wine regions like California, France and Italy.
The interminable student, Susana spends one month a year in a different wine region around the world to learn from local winemakers and growers. Each harvest, she consistently experiments with new blends to keep evolving her product line. Susana’s children, Jose Lavaglio, 28, and Ana Lavaglio, 26, have chosen to join her business are highly involved in its management. Both are working alongside Susana to open a winery in China, which will debut in 2016. Jose, who is also a trained winemaker and viticulturist, has recently launched two new wines under the label Vaglio (inspired by his last name). This year, Ana launched Dominio del Plata’s first restaurant called Osadia de Crear and manages the day-to-day operations.
The restaurant’s name, which translates to “dare to create,” seems to be a family trait that Susana has passed down to her children in both nurture and nature.
*To arrange a winery tour at Dominio del Plata, or make dining reservations at Osadia de Crear, email email@example.com.
Dominio del Plata Address:
Agrelo - Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
Tel: +54 261 498 9200