We had really been looking forward to going to Catena Zapata Winery as we drink some of their wines at home, and they have some very nice iconic wines. Once at the actual winery, we had an even better experience that we expected, and had a most interesting and varied tour of the history and production of Malbec wines, before going to the tasting room.
We had booked the Renaissance of Malbec tasting experience, and had prepaid the US $100 a person prior to leaving for Argentina, as it’s a limited scheduled tour and we didn’t want to miss out. Fortunately we had scheduled this for the second day of touring, as we would have missed out had it been on the first day, due to our major flight delays on American Airlines.
Our tour at Catena Zapata started at 11am and lasted a little over two hours. It was a high end English-speaking tour, and our small group of six made for a conversational and jovial group. We arrived at the main pyramid-shaped building a bit early, and were treated with a glass of sparkling wine while we waited for our tour to start. Here are some exterior photos of the building, as well as some in the lobby waiting for the tour.
We started our wine tour outside; appropriately in the vineyards themselves. Our guide showed us a map of the property and explained the different elevations of the vineyards they own, in different regions of Argentina. As it was the end of winter in early September when we visited, the vineyards appeared dormant, but would soon be pruned into shape for the next harvest season.
This ‘off-season’, dormant look was quite a different look when we last visited Mendoza in late May, where the vineyards everywhere were bright with color. We actually prefer going to Mendoza in the off-season though, as there are no crowds, and the pre-spring weather is quite pleasant, especially for us coming from hot and humid Florida.
As our tour moved back to inside the main building, we ‘met ’the members of the family, via various photos and a family hierarchy and history of the Catena Zapata family, whom the winery itself dates back to 1902.
We also saw a short film that was created by Laura Catena, who today is the fourth generation of the Catena Family and is Managing Director of the Catena Zapata enterprise.
As we would later see, many of the wines were named after a family member, such as one we especially liked named after Laura’s Father, Nicolas.
Next we got a glimpse of the “Family’s” wine cellar room, which contained hundreds if not thousands of bottles of vintage estate wines not available to the public. Most of these did not have a label on them, and had been stored in there for years.
I did get a photo op with one of the mega-magnum’s bottle of wine. Unfortunately, it was just a prop and I didn’t get to taste it out of that huge bottle!
As we moved thru the various corridors of the winery, there were various displays scattered throughout. One of the displays our guide pointed out was the various soil types and conditions found at various altitudes. In addition to a map of each, there was also a glass filed soil-sample of each. As our guide had explained at the beginning of the tour, the altitude and soil conditions can dramatically change the taste of the wine, and we would later try some wines from different altitudes and regions.
Moving along, we went thru the iconic barrel showroom. This fancy showroom was setup with hundreds of barrels in a symmetrically designed pattern, which highlighted many French Oak barrels used by the winery. This large room housed only some of the French barrels used, but it served as a beautiful showcase for the ones stored here.
Here we had a barrel tasting, straight from the barrel with the wine aging in progress.
After the barrel room tasting, our tour ended up in the private tasting room. This large yet intimate room felt like both a living room with a large dining room table as the center piece. The iconic Catena Zapata wines we were going to taste were predominately displayed at the front of the table.
As a special treat, our tour featured the premier showing of a seven act play on the history of Malbec, by a Canadian-American actress they had hired to bring the story to life. The actress performed the play (perhaps 15 minutes or so) right to our small audience of our fellow wine tour guests, and as it was the first showing, a staff member video-taped it, and occasionally our reaction as we sipped a glass of – you guested it – Malbec!
After the play (and a standing ovation by our small group!) we did a deep dive into the iconic Malbecs that Catena Zapata included with this tour. The comfortable seats and private room made for a very casual but elegant tasting, more like you were visiting someone in their home.
While we were tasting, we had such an enjoyable (and busy!) time, we didn’t take any photos of us ‘cheers-ing’ each other as we normally do. Suffice it to say, the wines were exquisite, with Nicolas Catena Zapata our overall favorite. I did take a photo as we left the room with the large table full of empty glasses!
We then met up with our Vendimia Wine Tours guide, Alejandro, who showed us back to the lobby, and patiently waited for us while we made a few vino and wine glasses purchases.
After gathering our purchases at Catena Zapata, we had one last photo of us taken at the entrance/exit to the pyramid-shaped building we had just toured. What a wonderful Renaissance of Malbec Tour we had!