Categorized | Argentina, General

Bodegas Catena Zapata

 

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         City Winery                                                                                                 Vino Argentino

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                                                                                                    The Wines of Catena Zapata

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                                                                                                                          Laura Catena

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                                                                                                      Laura Catena

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                                                                         Laura Catena

Reaching the Promised Land: 100 years and four generations in Argentine wine.

 

It is part of our family’s folklore that our forefather Nicola Catena, who sailed from Italy to Argentina in 1898, celebrated leaving the famine in Europe for this plentiful new land by eating a piece of virtually raw steak for breakfast each morning. Best described as a tireless optimist, he firmly believed that he had found the promised land in Mendoza, where he planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. Malbec had been a blending grape in Bordeaux. But Nicola suspected it would find its hidden splendor in the Argentine Andes. Domingo, his son, inherited that dream and took the family winery to the next level, becoming one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza.

By 1994, Nicolás and his team felt that they had identified their best vineyard lots for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. First with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1994 José Galante, head winemaker since 1975, bottled a small cuvée from the oldest and most uniform lots in the La Pirámide vineyard. Three hundred cases of Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon were made. In 1995, José bottled his first Chardonnay from cool climate Tupungato region, sourcing the fruit from Lot 4 of the Domingo vineyard for the Catena Alta Chardonnay. The next year, in 1996, two acres of lot 18 of the Angélica vineyard produced the best Malbec, and Nicolás made his first Catena Alta Malbec.

Nicolás set out to develop his own selection of Argentine Malbec clones planting 145 clones in the La Pirámide vineyard. Of these, he selected the best five and began to plant them in different terroirs and altitudes. The results became more than clear in 2003 when his best Malbec came from the Altamira vineyard where the five clones had been planted in separate rows.

In 2001 Nicolas’ daughter Laura took over the Research & Development program at Bodega Catena Zapata. An Emergency Room physician with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, Laura brought a very strong science background to the family winery’s R & D project. She immediately set about working with the high altitude Malbec that her father had planted. Laura was sure that this Argentine varietal, planted in these extreme microclimates, would yield something truly special.

Laura’s determination to produce a world class Malbec lead her and the viticulture team to conduct an actual plant by plant selection of the top Malbec lots in their high altitude vineyards. These Zapata plants were managed and harvested separately to isolate their incredible potential.

We were fortunate to attend the “Argentina Unmasked : The Wines Of Catena”, at The City Winery in New York City.  The delicious four course meal, prepared by Chef Andres Barrera was accompanied by eight Catena Zapata wines.

The 2009 Catena Chardonnay was good with citrus, minerals and spice, the 2008 Catena Alta Chardonnay  was very good with pear, apple and rich hazelnut finish.  The 2008 Catena Malbec was full bodied with dark fruit and spice, a good value wine, the 2007 Catena Alta Malbec was full flavored with black currants, vanilla and spice, a very good wine.

The highlight of the evening was the pouring of their Reserve Malbec’s;  the 2007 Catena Zapata Malbec  was delicious, full bodied with black and red currants,  velvet chocolate and spice with a long finish;  the 2007 Catena Zapata Malbec Adrianna was good with dark fruit, cassis and licorice;  the 2007 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino was rich and full bodied with blueberry, tar and spice; and the 2007 Catena Zapata Nicolas Catena Zapata was very smooth and outstanding, with black cherry, dark chocolate, earth and spice.

Laura Catena, President and Worldwide Ambassador of Catena Zapata was a gracious, entertaining and great host for this special evening. She did a drawing for six autographed copies of her new book, Vino Argentino, which I was lucky to have a winning ticket for one of those books.

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