INSIDER'S PICK: 2015 BODEGA CATENA ZAPATA CHARDONNAY 'ALTA' HISTORIC ROWS (Wine Advocate 93points)
Oak barrels are an important part of wine making, and an integral part of making great Chardonnay. But it should NOT be the primary feature of the wine, or else any distinct character of the vineyard or winemaking talent is lost. It becomes a caricature of itself and the oak looses its purpose, like a tricked out sports car with a 5ft tall spoiler that has no effect on the down force any more. When it is used RIGHT, and in proportion, the wine has the beauty and precision of an F1 race car. For almost every example of a great wine, we can't help but go to Catena Zapata ('The name Catena on the label is a guarantee of quality' states Wine Advocate writer/reviewer Luis Gutierrez). Their 'Alta' series of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec come from several high altitude vineyards the family has been developing since the early 1990s. The top bottlings from these properties are considered among the very best of their varieties in Argentina, and the Historic Rows series blend distinct aspects from these sites into a more affordable presentation.
While a modern New World style wine with an oak presence similar to a Californian Chardonnay, it in no way defines the wine. An intense golden color in the glass, the aromas when first poured are initially a mix of lemon curd and toasty oak, but quickly gain more diverse citrus and warm melon tones. There is also a surprising minerality in the aroma earned from the high altitude of the vineyards and unique soils found there; it should not come as a surprise that the two single site wines that come from the same properties as this wine are called 'White Stones' and 'White Bones', names after their soils. The palate is as rich and round as you may like, but where way too many Chardonnays stop right there this delivers so much more. Vibrant citrus cuts through the mouth coating texture so the wine shows no cloying butteriness or sweetness, at times both rich and wet, seemingly opposite sensations that happen simultaneously. A wine that can potentially age with the elegance of a fine Burgundy or be enjoyed right away, but will over-deliver either way.
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