Specialty Club – April 2012

2008 Bodega Catena Zapata, Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon
Veterans of this club are very familiar with the wines of Catena Zapata, as we have put the last three vintages of their superb Catena Alta Malbec in the club. This top Argentinean winery was founded by Italian immigrant Nicola Catena in 1898, who was the first to plant Malbec in the Mendoza region, convinced that it could produce ageable wines. In 1994, his grandson Nicolás started making the Catena Alta wines from his very best vineyard sites, a handful of small, high-altitude lots. Over the years, the family has meticulously researched the soils and microclimates of these tiny sites to find the ideal location for each of their selected clones. Fruit for this Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from just two of them: the wine gets its black fruit and ripe tannins from La Pirámide (3100 feet), and aromatics and spice from Domingo (3700 feet). It has amazing character and intensity and is very dark in color, full and supple, with wonderful dark berry fruits. While drinking beautifully now, particularly if decanted and served with steak, this powerhouse will continue to age for another decade at least. It’s a recent release, so in good supply at $60.

2009 Domaine Chandon de Brialles, Pernand-Vergelesses, 1er Cru, Île des Vergelesses
In contrast to Catena Zapata, Domaine Chandon de Brialles is a newcomer to this club. This estate was founded in 1834 in the commune of Savigny-les-Beaune in Burgundy, a short distance from the famous hill of Corton. While the wines were famous in the 1940s and 1950s, the estate fell into serious decay until its revival by the Countess Nadine de Nicolay in 1984. Her daughter, Claude de Nicolay Drouhin (yes, married into that famous Burgundy family), now oversees the estate, which went organic in 1995 and has been managed on biodynamic principles since 2005. The tiny, three hectare Île des Vergelesses vineyard, in the neighboring commune of Pernand–Vergelesses, is their top site and many believe it should be elevated from premier cru status to the level of grand cru. This wonderfully restrained, intensely minerally wine makes a good case for that status. So far, it is the best of the 2009 white Burgundies we’ve tasted. The wine has a very bright nose, is round and smooth in the mouth, and has a long, satisfying finish. It would pair well with everything from ham and fish to onion soup, and is well worth the price at $49.75. It’s ready to drink and there is still a bit more available.