Sunday, September 20, 2009

Report from ... A tasting of the Wines of Catena (Laura & Ernesto) - September 14, 2009

It’s not often you go to a tasting of 11 wines and walk away with a favourable impression of 10 of them – and the only reason the 11th didn’t make the grade is that the packaging promised more than the wine delivered (meaning I just expected more from this wine because of it’s awesome label).

Let’s take a few seconds to discuss that. Sometimes you see a real unique, inspired label, you buy the wine, take it home, pop the cork and the product inside just doesn’t live up to the expectations you had for the wine. It’s not to say the wine is bad, off or poorly made; it just underwhelms with respect to the ‘wow’ packaging. Of course, sometimes the reverse is true, lackluster packaging can wow you with the wine inside. We all come to the table with our own prejudices and preconceived notions.

Today I came to a table full of Laura Catena and Ernesto Catena wines. Our host for this tasting, Celeste Pesce, Assistant Winemaker and Export Manager, told us that the two make completely different wines based and the styles run along their personality line. Laura is exact and precise, because of her medical background; while her brother Ernesto, is all about the free spirit, the creativity and the artistry. At first glance you can see these traits come out on their labels – Laura’s classic and clean, Ernesto’s creative with a touch of mystery and whimsy. Both are making exceptional wines.

And now without much further ado I’ll list my top six wines with notes – 4½ stars and above:

The three lines are Luca and La Posta, which are part of Laura’s portfolio, and Tikal, part of Ernesto’s … there was a 5-star wine within each but we’ll start with the ones that are bubbling under at 4½.
Four and a half star wines (4½) – Excellent …

Luca 2004 Nico Malbec ($145.00)
A handmade, low yield, barrel fermented Malbec with floral and spicy notes on the nose, black fruit, fine tannins and a lovely finish in the mouth.

La Posta 2008 Cocina Blend ($16.90)
60% Malbec, 20% Syrah and 20% Bonarda; lots of pepper and spice here. Juicy red and black fruits play on the palate along with hints of chocolate – this is an easy to drink crowd pleaser that shows complexity if you are willing to look for it. Otherwise drink and enjoy. Great price.

Tikal 2007 ‘Patriota’ ($29.95)
The make up is 60% Bonarda and 40% Malbec. Red fruit, vanilla and cinnamon on the nose, this wine has some real sweet fruit. Palate is smooth black fruit, vanilla, mocha, licorice and coffee … sweet and juicy.

Five star wines (5) – Outstanding …

Tikal 2006 ‘Jublio’ ($53.95)
Another blend, this time it’s split 50/50 between Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, aged 26 months in 100% French oak; only 500 cases produced of this limited edition wine. The nose is cedary, cinnamony, spicy, with lots of black fruit interwoven within. Palate is loaded with dark chocolate, dark berries, and chalky tannins – there’s also a steady seam of spice. Lovely.

La Posta 2008 Estella Armando Bonarda ($13.45)
This wine is an absolute steal; at under $14 for this single vineyard wine from 46 year old vines, you’d be a fool not to buy at least 6.. Those deep roots are picking up some real wonderful flavours. Smells of red berries, vanilla, white pepper and plum. In the mouth, it pops with juicy fruit, cherry, plum and vanilla. There’s a nice hit of acidity here that keeps this wine fresh on the palate and a chocolate-mocha finish to die for. One of the best value wines I have tasted.

Luca 2007 Laborde Double Select Syrah ($32.95)
As good as the last wine was this one was better, in fact for me it was the best wine of the tasting, and that is saying a lot. “Laborde” is Luis Laborde, owner of the vineyard that grows these over 50-year old vines that were originally sourced from the Rhone Valley in France and transplanted to Argentina’s Uco Valley. At 14.5% alcohol this wine is no shrinking violet, but I never smelt or tasted the alcohol, it was so well integrated into the wine. Smells are spicy, floral and maple double-smoked bacon … smells you could simply sit back and smell all day. That is until you get this nectar into your mouth, there’s where the wine explodes with flavour: floral, spice, smoky black fruit, white pepper, dusty tannins and a long finish that lingers forever. This wine was everything you want in a Syrah, lush, supple and fantastic. If ever a wine deserved the mythical 6th star, this would be one of them.

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