A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 622: Catena Wines

Monday, November 7th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then prepared notes for a tasting I’m conducting on Wednesday for Winetasters – 1990 Bordeaux. For dinner, steak with a bottle of Chakana Estate Selection Malbec 2014 (Mendoza, Argentina – $21.95): dense purple colour; savoury blackberry nose with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, fruity and firmly structured with plum and blackberry flavours supported by a good spine of acidity. (88.5)

Tuesday, November 8th: Had coffee with my friend Paul Kostoff. In the evening, down to Terroni on Adelaide for “The Extraordinary Italian Taste” – eleven chefs from the restaurant preparing a series of dishes which we ate standing up – pasta, risotto, tomato and bocconcini salad, prosciutto, Italian cheeses and wines.

a chef carving prosciutto from a large joint in a busy room

a chef serving pasta in a busy room

Wednesday, November 9th: A 10:45 am tasting at Leña (in the old Simpson’s building on Yonge Street) with Laura Catena. Catena was the first winery to produce high altitude wines in Argentina. Catena has partnered with Château Lafite.

Laura Catena

  • Catena Visa Flores Malbec 2014 ($25): Deep purple-ruby colour; a nose of blackberry and black cherry with pencil lead notes; full-bodied, beautifully balanced, dry and elegant. (91)
  • Catena Paraje Altamira Malbec 2014 ($22.95): Dense purple colour; broader than Vista Flores with a nose of violets, blackberry and spicy oak; rich and full on the palate, beautifully balanced and fleshy with dark chocolate notes. (92)
  • Catena San Carlos Cabernet Franc 2014 ($19.95): Deep ruby-purple colour; savoury, herb-tinged nose of cedar and red berries; medium to full-bodied, sweet fruit that finishes dry with powdery tannins; elegant and beautifully balanced. (92)
  • Catena Agrelo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($22.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar and plum on the nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, creamy blackcurrant and plum flavours and ripe tannins; firmly structured with a savoury, dry finish. (90)
  • Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay 2012 ($93): Bright straw colour; spicy, peach and apple nose, developing barnyard notes; full-bodied, dry, rich and ripe flavours of pineapple and apple with lively acidity. (91)
  • Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Chardonnay 2012 ($110): Bright straw colour; spicy, creamy, green apple nose with evident minerality; medium-bodied, dry, spicy green apple and green plum flavours with grainy tannins and lively acidity; light and elegant and the closest Argentina has come to replicating Chablis! (90)
  • Nicolas Catena Zapata 2011 (a blend of three vineyards; 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec – $110): Deep ruby colour; cedar, violets and blackcurrant on the nose; medium to full-bodied, richly extracted, dry with flavours of blackcurrants and fresh mushrooms; elegant, and savoury, firmly structured with grainy tannins. (91)
  • Catena Adrianna Vineyard Fortuna Terrae Malbec 2012 ($130): Dense purple colour; spicy, blackberry and vanilla oak nose with a floral top note; full-bodied, richly extracted, elegant and harmonious, beautifully balanced with a firm finish and a note of cinnamon. (93)
  • Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011 ($325): Dense purple colour; spicy, black cherry and plum bouquet with a floral note; full-bodied, richly extracted flavours of dark chocolate and black fruits; firm and tight with a rich mouth-feel and ripe tannins. Hold 4–5 years. (93–95)

Catena reds

In the evening up the North York Memorial Hall for the Winetasters’ 1990 Bordeaux tasting. The event is held in the basement of the library there. According to The Wine Cellar Insider, 1990 “was the second hottest year of the century in Bordeaux. Only 1947 was warmer. 1990 also offered vintners more sunlight as well. The year was only surpassed by 1949 for the amount of sun the grapes received. Interestingly, 1990 set another second place record. It was the second wettest year on record for a hot vintage. Only 1989 surpassed it for rainfall.”

The wines, to be served blind, were (in my suggested serving order):

  • 1990 Les Ormes de Pez, St. Estephe (my ranking: 7; group ranking: 6)
  • 1990 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien (8 – slightly corked; 8)
  • 1990 Château Beychevelle, St. Julien (3; 7)
  • 1990 Cos d’Estournel, St. Estephe (6; 5)
  • 1990 Château Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac (5; 1)
  • 1990 Château Haut Brion, Pessac-Léognan (1; 3)
  • 1990 Cheval Blanc, St. Emilion (2; 2)

The final wine was a mystery wine. I thought it was a Cos d’Estournel 1995; It turned out to be Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 from Napa. Humbled again.

the Bordeaux tasting wines

After the tasting I couldn’t find my car in the parking lot. Wandered around for half an hour before Jennifer Curran, a director of Winetasters, rescued me and drove me around until we found it.

Thursday, November 10th: Wrote up my Wines of the Week and then worked on the book. Coming down with a cold, unfortunately, and had to cancel an event this evening – a pairing of Laurent Perrier champagne with food. Damn, would have liked to be there but tomorrow I have a big tasting and my nose has to be working.

Friday, November 11th: A winerytohome tasting this morning at 10 am with Doug Towers and David Lawrason. We broke at 10:40 to watch the Remembrance Day ceremony on Parliament Hill.

Saturday, November 12th: Otta Zapotocky invited Deborah and me to have dinner at his new Swiss-inspired restaurant, Val d’Isere, in his old location of Tinto Bar de Tapas on Bayview Avenue. Otta had the ingenious idea of maintaining both restaurants – from Thanksgiving to Easter it will be Val d’Isere, the rest of the year it will be the Spanish restaurant. The name of the restaurant will be illuminated and the other will be dark. Deborah ordered Escargot on puff pastry to start and I, Val d’Isere potato chowder gratinée – served in a bread bowl and garnished with bacon and Gruyere.

Val d’Isere’s potato chowder gratinée in a bread bowl

Deborah had the short rib goulash and I, roasted whole pork hock with sauerkraut and potato roesti. We drank a glass of Domaine Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2015, followed by a glass of Salvalai Pinot Noir delle Venezie 2015.

Roasted whole pork hock

Otta served us a glass of Martha’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port and introduced us to Becherovka, an amazing Czech digestif. Have to pick up a bottle at the LCBO.


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