2010 Luca Malbec Uco Valley Mendoza
Expert Rating
RP 93 points
(Read the full review below)
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Laura Catena Challenging Zapata

As we come to grips with the new economic order of Napa Valley, members will be obliged to alter their procurement strategies. The days of highly-rated, sub-$50 Cabernet Sauvignon are gone. By all accounts, gone for quite some time. After four consecutive short crop vintages, in which rigorous growers harvested 25-40% less Cabernet than the norm, the glut has turned into a shortage.

Meanwhile, if you visited NYC in December and tried to land a table at Le Bernardin, Daniel or Per Se, you know full well that high-ticket spending is back in vogue. We didn't need an MBA from HBS to understand what happens to prices when demand spikes as supply shrinks.

How will members respond? Some will simply reset their budgets, willing to pay more. Others will live off the fat of their cellars, hunkering down, drinking what they bought, and waiting for the next dip in the market.

But most, we believe, will look for alternatives -- top-rated bottles that mimic Napa's full-throttle concentration, its sleek black fruit core and dusty tannin longevity. Many will seek out select Petits Chateaux from Bordeaux's Right and Left Bank. For good reason. The 2009 and 2010 vintages were magical -- as good as any back-to-back vintages in memory.

Others though, are simply too smitten by Napa's primary fruit opulence, all the blackberry/crème-de-cassis muscle. It shouldn't take long for these buyers to turn their bargain hunting attention south of the border, to a handful of Mendoza estates that are turning out the highest-rated Napa Valley look-alikes on the planet. This is one of them.

Of all the great Argentine winemaking names, none hold a candle to Catena. Ever since Nicolas Catena abandoned his doctoral studies at UC Berkeley to retool his family's estate, Catena has wowed collectors with its spectacular Malbecs. While the most famous Malbec in the Catena stable is the single-vineyard Catena Zapata ($100/bottle and back-to-back 97 point scores from The Wine Advocate), in our opinion, Nicolas's daughter, Laura, is putting out old vine Malbecs that challenge Zapata. In the phenomenal 2010 vintage, Laura's "Luca" had Nicolas smiling ear to ear -- just as it sent shivers up and down spines all along the Silverado Trail.

Drawn from 50-year-old vines, all set above 3200 feet in the high grounds of Altamira and La Consulta, Mendoza enjoyed a growing season eerily similar to Parker's "epic" vintage in Napa. In what would prove to be one of the coolest growing seasons in a decade, the diurnal temperature swing between day and night would be over forty degrees. True to Zapata vineyard protocol, Laura Catena was severe in the vines, eventually harvesting less than two tons per acre of small berry Malbec. Sugars were superb, but just as was the case in Napa, even more remarkable was the scintillating acid structure.

The 2010 Luca Malbec is a gentle beast. Purple in color, filled with aromas of dark cherry and blackberry, laced with new French wood cedar. That attack is textbook Catena -- rich and plush, packed with crushed black fruit preserves, still cloaked in velour. Lusciously primary out of the gate, don't be afraid to lay this one down for 7-10 years.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate would rate the 2010 Luca Malbec a whopping 93 points -- higher than any 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon sporting today's price -- none of which makes the guys on the Silverado Trail stop shivering.

Tasting Notes

2010 Luca Malbec Uco Valley Mendoza
"The 2010 Malbec (100%) was sourced from 46-year-old vines and spent 16 months in 60% new French oak. It offers up an inviting nose of exotic spices, incense, cherry cola, wood smoke, and black cherry. On the palate it opens to reveal a plush, moderately structured Malbec that will benefit from another 2-3 years of bottle age. Drink this lengthy, seamless effort from 2013 to 2022."
93 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

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