Thursday, September 9, 2010

Visiting Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Argentina

(Sept. 4, 2010) The next day (my last day) dawned bright and sunny – of course! After a late and leisurely breakfast, I went into the spa and did a few exercises before checking in for my 9:30 massage. Both Patricia and Angelica had encouraged me to schedule one, and I was very pleased I did. The masseuse was excellent, with very soothing long strokes, and the cost was amazing at 150 pesos, or $35 US.

At 11am, Jimena and her finance arrived to take Isabelle and I to Bodega Catena Zapata. Neither of us had ever visited this very famous winery – akin to Mondavi/Opus One in reputation. It is also part of the largest wine group, Esmeralda, in Argentina. It was about a 30 minute drive from Club Tapiz and we stopped to take several pictures of vineyards with the snow-capped Andes in the background.

Probably the most amazing thing about Bodega Catena Zapata is the architecture. It is a 3 level pyramid shaped adobe building, which looks similar to Santa Fe buildings. Some people say it is based on Inca design – regardless, it is beautiful to behold. The approach is also impressive, with a long dirt road leading through vast vineyards with the winery at the end (see photo).

We did not have time for a tour, so instead we wandered around inside and climbed the stairs to the top level to view the vineyards and Andes (see photo from top level). The barrel room was also impressive, set up in a semi-circle and reminiscent of Opus One’s barrel room. We did not taste any wine, but I have attended a private tasting of their wines in San Francisco hosted by the daughter, Laura. The wines are excellent and sophisticated, with multiple brands. Probably the most well know in the US market is Alamos Malbec.

One point I wanted to mention about Mendoza wineries, is that you are required to schedule an advance appointment before you visit. In this way, they are similar to France. However, what is different are the large security gates with guards that block the entrance to each winery. When I asked why this was the case, I was told that they had problems in the past with tourists being robbed by poor people entering the winery grounds. Therefore, no one is allowed access to any of the large famous wineries without an appointment.

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