Bodega Catena Zapata 2007 malbec (Argentina)

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on February 25, 2010:

Let’s celebrate the women that make the headlines in our once proud country. A 37 year-old SLC, Utah woman pulled the old “blindfold and promise a surprise” trick on her husband and ended up clunking him in the head with a hammer. The real surprise is they’re still married. Separated, but married. A 32 year-old Memphis mom took umbrage on the parents of another child who had been in a spitting match the previous day, by guzzling a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor and ran through the school’s halls brandishing a sword, threatening to cut a school employee. Over there, “Jack Daniels justice” is preferred over our “bus tunnel security.” And lastly, an 80 year-old woman with a 55-year police record was sentenced to 3 years in State jail for ransacking a medical office in Los Angeles. She thanked the judge for not sending her to County jail, which she doesn’t like, and said she deserved a longer sentence. Women…I hope you noticed a pattern here. None of them drank Washington State wine!

Tonight’s pairing originated not with the wine, food, or even an event. The original inspiration came from, of all things, a tv commercial for a car. Yes, you know which one I’m talking about. It’s the one featuring the Audrey Hepburn-esque honey brushing her hair out of her eyes while watching an Acura 2010 ZDX drive by. Her name’s Karolina Wydra, a 5-foot 9-inch Polish actress/model, who did a short stint in the movie “Be Kind Rewind.” The instrumental music is “Pa’ Bailar” from the Argentinian/Uruguayan “Electrotango” band, Bajofondo. Another version includes vocals from Mexican singer, Julieta Venegas. What’s not mesmerizing about this entire “dish of the world”? A stylish Japanese car. An Eastern European stunner. Modern Latin American tango music. And, Argentinian wine. All threaded together with the communal sense of “sexy.” Introducing Next marketing.

The band’s Uruguayan roots made me hunt the local area for that country’s premier grape, tannat (Harriague). Yeah, you never heard of it around here because no one makes a commercial bottling or even for use as a “blender.” Tannat’s original roots are in the Sud-Quest wine region south of Bourdeaux. Basque settlers brought the grape over in the 1800s. Uruguayan tannat is described as elegant, with softer tannins and blackberry flavors. French tannat is said to be firmly tannic, fully bodied, and fruity and is commonly blended in a 60/40 mix with manseng noir, fer, and corbu noir. California has about 200 acres devoted to tannat. But, I digress.

As for the winery, Bodegas Catena Zapata (translated loosely as Catena Block Winery), this is one of the oldest (founded in 1902) and most respected in all of Argentina. The 4th-generation Catenas, led by Dr. Laura Catena who was an emergency room physician with Harvard and Stanford pedigrees, run the operations but is guided by 3rd-generation Decanter 2009 Man of the Year, Nicolas Catena. Their wine portfolio is divided into three tiers (a lower 4th tier available only within Argentina) and their top malbecs easily pass over $100 and often garnering 95+ scores. They own the highest-elevation vineyards in Argentina, topping out at 5000ft, and claim each of their vineyards expresses unique characteristics of malbec. A fascinating history of the family and winery can be read on their clean website.

Color:  deep violet. Nose:  a miasma of black fruits abound and lighting up my nares like a pinball machine on “tilt”, vanilla bean. Mouthfeel: liquid velvet, very plush. Tail trail: 6 seconds. Flavors: black cherry, blackberry, pinch of oak, black pepper, fresh leather, dried tobacco leaves, a poof of smoke, quiet but grippy tannins. Balance: wonderful but give it more time to quiet the tannins. Power: medium. Depth: a few layers deep. Finesse: the low alcohol content is a definite plus.

The high elevation and vinification techniques make this a pleasure to see and to drink. This is confirmation why Washington State should not be competing directly with Argentina (I was right).

Vineyards (elevation): Maipu (2850ft), Lujan de Cuyo (3100ft), San Carlos (3870ft), and Tupungato (5000ft). Estate grown and bottled by Bodega Catena Zapata. Product of Mendoza, Argentina. Alcohol: 13.5%. 100% malbec (Argentina’s minimum is 80% to be listed as a varietal). Fermented 16 days at up to 82 degrees F. Macerated 32 days. Aged 12 months in French and American oak. pH 3.70. TA 0.54%. Music pairing: “Pa’ Bailar” by Bajofondo. (Another song by Bajofondo is on Starbucks latest cd, “Tango”) Acura commercial here. Song with vocals here. This wine seduces all five senses. Feel the seductive Spanish influence?! This is why I drink wine…and dance. Shall we…? Rated: 94. Value: $50.  Paid: $21. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

Purchased at Olson’s Food Emporium today. Can easily drink the whole bottle due to low alcohol, but I will leave a small glass for tomorrow. You can spend ten bucks on a bottle and try to justify the quality at the price point, but I would rather turn this wine loose at $21 and take me away to another world. This is the allure of wine. Not beer. Not spirits. Not anything else.
3-2-10: new at Costco for $16.99.

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