The winter of 2003 was drier than normal, with very little snow in the Andean heights. Average temperatures throughout this season were slightly higher than normal due to high altitude “Zonda” winds, a warm dry wind of the Andes. Spring began with similar conditions: warmer than usual temperatures, low relative humidity, heightened sunlight intensity and some high altitude zonda winds. These conditions combined for a higher than usual demand for water. The vines experienced an excellent bud break, right on schedule from September to October depending on the varietal and vineyard site.
The flowering and fruit set were better than normal, with a very balanced crop dispelling the local wisdom that such warm and windy conditions usually lead to set difficulties. The rest of Spring and the beginning of Summer continued with higher than average temperatures with some light precipitation serving to relieve the demands for water. Veraison in general took place later than normal, around the middle to end of January depending on the varietal and the vineyard site.
Located in the Gualtallary district of the Tupungato region at an altitude of 1450m (4757 ft) above sea level. As in other areas in Mendoza, the average temperatures in this vineyard site throughout the month of February were warmer than usual. The first two weeks of March, however brought considerably cooler conditions, with average temperatures a full 1º C (1.8º F) lower than normal. These below average temperatures allowed the Chardonnay grapes to finish their ripening in excellent climatic conditions, resulting in concentrated pear and apple fruit flavors and aromas with strong mineral notes and excellent acidity. Nicolas Catena mentions that, “The 2004 vintage should bring our best Chardonnays to date, especially the Catena Alta Chardonnay which is sourced entirely from the Adrianna vineyard.”
With the index of sunlight intensity already at heightened levels in this vineyard due to its altitude, the 2004 vintage, with its drier than usual conditions and lower relative humidity, saw an increased effect of this phenomenon on the Malbec grapes in particular. There was a marked increase in the skin thickness and the corresponding enhancement in polyphenol and phytoaxelin levels.LA PIRÁMIDE VINEYARD - Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, 3117 ft elevation
Located in the Agrelo district of the Lujan de Cuyo region at an altitude of 950m (3117 ft) above sea level. Similar climatic conditions to Angelica were present in La Pirámide as well, with warmer than usual temperatures in late February and early March threatening dehydration. Again careful irrigation and a light rain storm of 22 mm on March 9 & 10 reversed the process. Throughout March, however, the average temperature was only slightly above normal, about 0.5º C (1º F). The nights continued their very cool tendency in this vineyard as well, with the thermal amplitude increasing about 1.4º C (3.24º F). Nicolas Catena, who follows this vineyard very closely due to its traditional predominance in the Nicolas Catena Zapata blend, was very pleased with the performance in 2004. “The Cabernet Sauvignon from Lot 3 of the La Pirámide vineyard showed exceptional concentration and complexity in 2004. The very cold nights helped to lend an added level of balance to the grapes.”
Located in the Lunlunta district of the Maipu region at an altitude of 920m (3018 ft) elevation. The elevated temperatures of late February and early March caused a light dehydration in some berries. However, careful irrigation and an opportune rain storm of 23 mm on March 10 reversed this tendency, allowing the grapes to continue their maturation without difficulties. In general, average temperatures during the important ripening month of March were some 2.8º C (5.04º F) higher than normal. However, the nights were exceptionally cool, with the thermal amplitude some 3.1º C (5.34º F) greater than the norm. According to Alejandro Sejanovich, Bodega Catena Zapata Vineyard Director, “The warmer day time temperatures in Angelica allowed for the development of rich black berry fruit flavors and aromas in the Malbec grapes while the cold nights helped to maintain lively acidity and freshness in the fruit.” The harvest began on March 23, with the best lot, Cuartel 18, harvested on March 26.DOMINGO VINEYARD - Villa Bastías, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, 3675 ft elevation
Located in the Villa Bastías district of the Tupungato region at an altitude of 1120m (3675 ft) above sea level. Warmer than usual temperatures dominated throughout February, with daytime highs registering above normal temperatures in a sustained manner. Throughout the first days of March, the temperatures began to decrease rapidly. Indeed, the monthly average temperature for this important ripening period was only slightly higher than the historic norm. The nights during this period were also slightly warmer, with the average thermal amplitude closing the month at 10º C (50º F), some 3º C (5º F) lower than the norm. The Chardonnay harvest began on March 5 while the Cabernet Sauvignons were picked as of April 1. The lower temperatures in the first days of March resulted in Chardonnay fruit with fresh citrus and floral elements and bright acidity. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes has very good concentration with the Mount Eden clone showing excellent performance with the added complexity of light notes of green pepper and eucalyptus.NICASIA VINEYARD: Malbec - Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, 3593 ft elevation
Located in the La Consulta district of the San Carlos region at an altitude of 1095m (3593 ft) above sea level. While January experienced temperatures in line with the historic norm, the month of February saw a rather sharp rise in day time highs. With very little precipitation in this month, a slight dehydration began to set in. Careful attention paid to the irrigation regime and a light rain storm of 12 mm on March 12th reversed this trend. Throughout the important ripening month of March, average temperatures were 1.2º C (2.5º F) above normal. Nights, however, were colder than normal, with the average thermal amplitude a full 1º C (1.8º F) higher than normal. This was the greatest thermal amplitude in all of Catena Zapata’s vineyards in 2004. Harvest began on April 2 in line with historic norms. Alejandro Vigil, Research & Development Manager for Bodega Catena Zapata, was especially impressed by the 2004 vintage from this vineyard, “As with other Malbecs in 2004, the increased sunlight intensity for the warm and dry conditions in Spring and Summer resulted in greater skin thickness and polyphenol content, lending extra concentration to the fruit. The fairly cool nights in March allowed the grapes to finish ripening very slowly, lending extra floral and black pepper components.”