You’ll see the name Catena on the shelves of many wine stores here in the US. Being a big fan of women in the wine industry I had heard about Laura Catena, and knew I had to make a visit here part of my itinerary while in Mendoza.
We had a stroke of luck after a few dead ends and found Bodega Catena Zapata down a dirt road in Luján de Cuyo. I guess I had expected that given this was a big name winery, it might be easy to find and on a paved road. No, Argentina will surprise you. Once again we were reminded that this is not Napa.
Driving down the driveway, the winery itself is impressive. Architecturally, its Mayan style certainly stands out amongst the miles of surrounding vineyards. Our guide, Mercedes, met us and explained a few key points:
– the bodega not only pioneered using French oak in Argentina, but it was the country’s first producer of quality wines that could compete well established Old World wines.
– they have employed several of Argentina’s most distinguished women in the wine industry, including of course, Nicolas Catena’s daughter Laura. With degrees from Harvard and Stanford, Laura went back into the wine industry to work alongside her father and develop the winery’s international expansion.
– they are one of the most well known and successful wineries outside of Argentina and export 86 percent of their wines. They are the biggest exporter of Chardonnay in Argentina.
What I liked about this winery was the incredible views from the lookout at the top. You’ll also find soil samples on display giving you a better understanding of the “terroir” and what makes this part of Mendoza special. The cellars are impressive with more than 4,000 barrels, and then of course the private tasting rooms made a special end to our trip. I couldn’t help but notice the walls covered with Parker and Wine Spectator awards. Our guide Mercedes was exceptional and in perfect English was able to explain in great detail the wine making process and history of the family. We really felt like we were getting a special look inside this prestigious wine family. There is no restaurant here, unlike many of the wineries we visited but the tasting room is very nice with plenty of wines and glassware for sale.
8/10 Overall visitor experience
9/10 Knowledge of guide
9/10 Architecture and design, landscaping
8/10 Other experiences: Only the tour and tasting
8/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff (There is no tasting room)
9/10 Friendliness of staff
6/10 Signage & ease of access
9/10 Quality of the wines poured
Appointment required: Yes
Reservations required: Yes
Wines: 45% Malbec. Also Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Expert tip: Many of the wines you’ll see here are not available to buy in Argentina. If you fall in love with a particular wine (like we did with the Chardonnay) pick up a bottle at the tasting room to have on hand for a picnic or drinks in your hotel room. Also, I loved the size of the tasting glasses here. A nice souvenir to take home!
Address: J. Cobos s/n, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, MENDOZA, ARGENTINA.
Tel: (54) (261) 413 1100
Review date: May 7, 2013