After an amazing wine adventure in Chile, our intrepid group headed to Mendoza to explore the famed Malbecs of Argentina, and one in particular I was looking forward to–the wines of Catena Zapata. The landscape dramatically changes here. Much of this countryside is very dry (like the El Paso area in Texas).
The wineries, on the other hand, are quite lush with velvety green lawns and glimpses of those majestic Andes in the background.
The grapes here thrive in this climate — the wines were wonderful. I’ve tasted Malbecs before, but now I have an entirely new appreciation for these feisty wines. You’ve heard the saying, ‘to know a lot about wine, you have to drink a lot of wine.’ It’s so true. To appreciate and understand a particular varietal, you need to compare and contrast numerous wines side by side.
I must admit, the wines in Argentina had some competition for our attention. The FOOD in this country was incredible. We’re pretty good cooking on the grill in Texas, but these guys have it down to an art. A spectacular example was dinner at 1884, Francis Mallmann’s famous restaurant. The setting was stunning with its grand entrance, spacious garden and elegant dining rooms. You felt like were were eating in a grand home instead of a restaurant. Most of the dishes are prepared on the parilla (an open fire) from the salt-crusted grilled pear with burrata to the giant sizzling rib eyes.
One of my favorite meals was a lunch we had at Zuccardi Wines. The winery is gorgeous …surrounded by lush, green lawns dotted with decades’-old giant, sprawling trees. Zuccardi features a restaurant, and it’s well worth a visit.
And since we’re in Argentina, right outside the Zuccardi’s kitchen door is a large parilla – the outdoor grill where the chef was tending to a huge spread of sizzling chicken, beef and sausages. The crackling fire, the tantalizing aromas and the beautiful setting were captivating all right.
As we discovered in Chile, many of the wineries in Argentina are grand in scale…large properties with beautiful, modern facilities.
After Zuccardi we headed for a tour and tasting at Catena Zapata. What an experience! The winery resembles as Aztec pyramid on the outside. On the inside, it’s a modern wonder of technology and architecture. Sleek and sophisticated but chock-full of history.
The Catena Zapata wines were fabulous. Drinking these wines will spoil you! The single vineyard productions are exceptional — Catena Zapata Adrianna ’08 and Catena Zapata Nicosia ’08. Both are a deep red, almost purple. As a whole, the bouquets on these wines are intoxicating. A delicate combination of lavender and violets to start and then vanilla, tobacco, cedar and spice. In the glass, these complex wines change often as they open up…they are great fun to taste. One of my favorites of the Catena Zapata wines was the Malbec Argentino ’08. This wine is a blend from the Adrianna vineyard and the Nicosia vineyard and is aged for 24 months in new French oak. I brought some of those bottles back in my suitcase!
We also made a stop at Trapiche – known for wonderful wines, their winery makes for an interesting tour. Their designers did a marvelous job combining the historic old structure with current modern technology.
Another must do stop in Argentina if you are serious about the country’s wines is Archeval Ferrer. Like Catena Zapata, these wines consistently rate highly and live up to their hype. Our tasting there also included sampling from their barrel selections.
All in all, exploring the wines of Chile and Argentina was a fascinating journey. Two solid weeks on the ground, a total of twelve wineries, a cheese farm and some sightseeing in Patagonia. A huge thank you to Skip Shumpes without whose photography many of the photos you see wouldn’t be here. And a very big thank you to At&t who kept us tuned in, plugged in and able to communicate with all of you back in the states. My iPhone apps were invaluable for navigating.