2011 Tikal Natural Malbec Mendoza
Expert Rating
RP 91 points
(Read the full review below)
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Tikal Vineyards and Nicolas Catena 91pts and Parker's 5-Star Catena

In the mid-1960s Domingo Catena was sitting in his study in Mendoza scribbling out the math. But all the ink was red. Harvest was approaching and the numbers indicated that the cost of picking was greater than what the Malbec could fetch at market. He picked up the phone and called his son, Nicolas, hoping the Berkeley economist would correct his arithmetic.

Nicolas Catena listened to his father's dilemma, then provided the cold-hearted opinion Domingo didn't want to hear. "Shut the place down," the PhD candidate coolly advised. "It doesn't add up." Domingo Catena knew his son was right, still, he went ahead with the harvest -- and lost his shirt in the process.

A few years later, Nicolas left his post in the Bay Area and returned home. He'd forgotten neither his father's phone call nor that sobering red ink. Having reasoned through the problem at his favorite Telegraph Avenue coffee shop, Nicolas came home with a new blueprint for family business.

There was no future in farming table grapes, not with deflationary caprice of the local market and the rising cost of farming. Either the Catenas would gamble on a strategy that no one dared imagine, let alone put into place -- or Nicolas would be heading back to the Bay Area to pursue a career in teaching.

That logic set the stage for decades of viticultural experimentation. Catena decided to eschew the low ground, opting instead for the rugged foothills of the Andes. Over the next 40 years, Nicolas would spearhead what many have called the greatest winegrowing turnaround in history, catapulting Catena Malbec into world-class prominence.

While Catena's greatest achievement would be the series of 96-98 point reviews doled out by the Wine Advocate to Catena Zapata, it would be another Catena experiment that would capture the imagination of bargain hunters from Buenos Aires to Manhattan.

In 2000, Catena handpicked a single patch set at 3200 feet in elevation, irrigated by runoff from the snowcapped Andes, where he'd conduct an organic farming experiment. He had no preconceptions. Either the organically farmed root structure would run stronger and deeper, quenching the vines' thirst during the arid Mendoza summers, or Catena would no longer believe a word of the new advice offered by his viticultural consultants.

It would take a little over a decade, but with the release of this stunning 2011 Tikal "Natural," Nicolas Catena has the answer he was looking for.

The stunning 2011 Tikal Malbec "Natural" was made entirely from that organically farmed patch. The color is deep purple. The aromas deep, dark and explosive, laced with blueberry preserves and sweet spices. The attack is powerful, yet remarkably elegant, featuring a dark core of black fruit preserves, a dash of crème-de-cassis, all bracketed by fine, bracing, high ground acidity.

The Wine Advocate called it "utterly seductive," appending that unusually salacious review with a 91-point addendum -- about as high as the publication would go for any Mendoza Malbec at anything like today's WineAccess price tag.

Release price of $25. This morning, just $16.99/bottle on cases -- as always, the lowest price in America.

Tasting Notes

2011 Tikal Natural Malbec Mendoza
"The 2011 Tikal Natural is a blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Syrah both organically farmed in Vista Flores from 10-year-old vines. It is aged for ten months in 80% French and 20% American oak of which 10% is new. It has a vibrant, almost life-affirming bouquet of lifted dark cherries, blueberry, soy and minerals that is beautifully defined. The palate is sensual and caressing on the entry, setting you up for its silky tannins, pure macerated dark cherries and blueberry fruit struck through by a keen thread of acidity. Utterly seductive! Drink now-2017."
91 points -- Neal Martin, Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

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