O&B Wine Wednesday: A Taste of the Promised Land – Catena Vineyards

Catena Malbec Fooze johannkd Johann Keens-DouglasPerched high under the looming fog of the mountains in Mendoza, Argentina, sits the Catena Zapata Vineyards. Harnessing the raw power of nature, they utilize superior wine-making knowledge and employ it with the unique conditions of their high-altitude location, to craft some of the world’s finest malbec.

At Oliver & Bonacini we exude excellence and celebrate the best in both food and wine. It’s no wonder that the Catena selection has found it’s way onto the wine walls of their top-flight restaurants.

During the seminar, we learnt about Catena as pioneers for high-altitude wine-making. This elevation allows for maximum exposure to intense sunlight and a cool resting climate for the vines at night. This transitional climate allows the grapes to maintain a high acidity, and makes for a more complex wine. As we will later learn during our tasting of the Catena Alta Malbec, the higher the altitude the more complex and superior the grape.

Our district GM, Cyrus Cooper even had the opportunity to visit the Catena vineyard, commenting on the surreal beauty of the mountaintop vineyard  and saw first-hand the passion and meticulous care that is put into their wine. …..next time I’m in Argentina i guess 🙂

Anthony Demas,  (Director of Beverage Mgmt) conducted the seminar, and poured us a few glasses from the Catena Family, sharing his knowledge on the grape varietal and the unique process and composition of Catena wines. Here are a few of the tasting notes:

Catena Alta Chardonnay 2011 

This elegant chardonnay has an interesting profile with it’s warm, buttery and even toasty scent on the nose. It also boasts fragrances of tropical fruit, pineapple and red apple. The Alta Chardonnay has a creamy, yet spicy texture (from oak-aging) and will leave your mouth watering due to it’s slightly higher acidity. The wine stays refreshing, taking on new flavors with every sip, developing in the glass with a nice long finish.

Fooze Catena Johannkd johann keens-douglas

Anthony Demas pours up some delicious Catena Malbec for the eager, thirsty staff at OBCG 33Y

Catena Malbec 2011

Having a casual day, sitting with a friend on a patio or curling up your couch, this malbec is quite versatile. Available by glass/bottle at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill, this malbec is very fruit-forward on the nose, emanating plum, dark fruit and blackberries. This particular grape is harvested from younger vines, that beingsaid, it does not have a lot of tannin, but enough texture that it wont dry out your mouth. The Catena Malbec pairs well with pasta dishes, chili and BBQ.


Catena Alta Malbec 2010

A high-end wine of superior quality. The magic within this bottle was born at 1,450m above sea level and the vines were rigorously selected for their smaller grapes, giving less juice with a rich currant color and elegant taste. On the nose, the Alta Malbec is fruity, spicy and smokey with a hint of tobacco. This wine has a higher tannin than it’s previously mentioned counterpart, and gives a smooth, silk-like texture due to better oak usage and complexity. This wonderful wine was built for aging, I recommend uncorking this sweet puppy on a special occasion, and decanting for a while before enjoying. It’s ill-advised to pair this wine with spicy food, due to spicy flavor already present in the wine. Try it with fatty meats like veal, ribs, steak or perhaps a lamb shank…remember, a rich and expensive wine such as this, has rich and expensive taste!

Having tasted and learnt the history, profiles and process for making these wines, I am encouraged to inspire my guests with the Catena story,  having them truly appreciate and enjoy the bottle.

To learn more about the inspirational story of the Bodega Catena Zapata family and their wine craft, visit http://www.catenawines.com/index.html


Off to Cave Springs on the Niagara peninsula with O&B


Myself and a group of fellow team members from Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants visited the Cave Spring vineyard and winery for a lesson on their brand, culture, wine-making style and of course, a delicious sample of the fruit of the vine.

Cave Springs Vinyard, Niagara Peninsula

Cave Springs Estate has a certain beauty in landscape that is uncontested, with it’s variety of topographical wonder, wildlife and a magnificent view of lake Ontario. We were greeted by Tom Pennachetti, an enthusiastic, humorous and well-learned winemaker, he schooled us on the geography and geology of the land we stood on. We learnt about the importance of the local environment such as the forested limestone escarpment, which gives moisture and minerality to the vines, and acts as a buffer for the wind, causing a constant breeze as well as turbulence helping to toughen the vines for harsh seasons ahead.

Overhead, the sky was crystal clear with only a puff of cloud cover and we noticed something pretty cool, Hawks!

A Hawk soars over head protecting the land from pests and small birds

The cave spring emblem is a mighty hawk, which can be seen regularly soaring in the airspace above the vineyard. These beautiful birds, serve a greater purpose, in frightening away other small birds and large pests who may otherwise damage the crop. It was truly a sight to see the hawks hover gracefully, observing all the activity in the fields below.

Vertical Shoot PositioningWe moved onto touring the actual crop, learning the difference between vitis vinifera, hybrid and vitis labrusca (native grapes known for their ‘foxy’ flavour, which we later learned was not such a good thing). We were taught how vertical shoot positioning impacted the light exposure and vine density, and the importance of proximity used to employ a struggle for the vine.

Later on, we headed over to one of the wine-tasting houses and began sampling some of the blends exclusive to Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, here are a few of the tasting notes:

  • Cave Springs ‘Jump’ Chardonnay 

Production for this white began in 1998 exclusively for Jump restaurant in Toronto. This wine has a spicyness on the nose, with a hint of pear. With only 15-20% barrel contact it is light, fresh and soft with a stony minerality in texture. This wine was an easy drink stand alone and quite pedestrian.

  • Cave Springs ‘ Canoe’ Reisling

Oliver & Bonacini ExclusivesThe first of the OB Branded bottles, this wine was started in 1996 for Canoe restaurant in Toronto. It is very fruit forward, with plenty citrus notes, lemon-lime and even white grapefruit. This a great medium-dry wine that can be drank on it’s own but is meant to pair with food, due to it’s low PH intensity I would recommend it with a ‘Lemon Riccota Ravioli’ or perhaps a tender white fish like Cherry Snapper. I thoroughly enjoyed this bottle, for it’s ideal balance of acidity with a kiss of sweetness that round off the flavour.

  • Biff’s Juicy Red

Named for it’s aromatic, crunchy and ‘JUICY’ characteristics, this wine is produce for Biff’s Bistro, but can also be found in a couple other O&B restaurants e.g. O&B Café Grill 33 Yonge. (Which happens to be right next door). Biff’s Juicy Red is a blend of Cabaranet Franc, Merlot and a dash of Pinot Noir and has a few plum notes. A versatile wine that leaves a pucker on the palette, this wine was made to pair! I would recommend it with a tomato sauce pasta e.g. OB Café Grill Spicy Sausage Penne.


cab fra


Lola, the resident wine-making poodle plays in the vineyard.

Lola, the resident wine-making poodle plays in the vineyard.

After sampling a couple other varietals such as the Gerwutraminer and Cabaranet Franc, we were treated to a tasty lunch box, consisting of a pulled pork sandwich, pasta salad (with capers and pearl onions), wax bean salad and a peach crumble. The Cave Spring hospitality was unmatched, they made us very welcome and took the opportunity to get to know the people who sell their product. At lunch, we were joined by two magnificent standard poodles ‘Lola’ and ‘Bruno’, who made friends rather quickly once the food arrived. After a quick nap on the back lawn, we were back on our feet and headed over to the winery for a Sparkling Seminar.

On the lawn

some of the O&B Crew eating lunch and have a siesta on the back lawn

We rode the bus into Vineland, town of Lincoln to visit the cellar itself and had a seminar on Sparkling Wine. Grapes for sparkling wine must be harvested way in advance to ensure a high sugar content (avg 18%), it is fermented once and then re-fermented in bottles to create a more complex, more bubbly wine. We had an opportunity to see and taste the evolution of sparkling wine from a faint lemony BASE WINE to a bready, toasted GORGED SAMPLES straight up to the fine 2004 BRUT. Sparkling wine must be disgorged, a process of eliminating dead yeast from fermenting base wine. Rather intriguing.

Cave Springs Wine Cellar

Cave Springs Wine Cellar

During the seminar we were offered hors d’oeuvres and sampled the O&B Sparkle and Buzz Brut. This particular bottle pairs well with raw oysters, sushi/sashimi, lightly battered seafood, omlettes, quiche and grilled seafood.

Upon concluding our tasting in the cellars, we ascended the stairs into the Cave Springs gift shop, and picked a related nic-nacs and treats for the road. They presented us with a gift bag of chocolates, wine openers and a complimentary bottle of Riesling. The folks over here took great care of us and were very knowledgeable. Truly inspirational is their passion for viticulture!

I have nothing but exceptionally great things to say about this trip. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great glass of wine. Only once you see it can you truly grasp the time, effort, tender love and care that go into making the bottles you love so much!

Emma samples the chardonnay at it's freshest!

Emma samples the chardonnay at it’s freshest!

Maya, extremely excited to sample some wine.

Maya, extremely excited to sample some wine.

Special Thanks to our host and tour guide, Thomas Pennachetti (VP, Sales & Marketing of Cave Spring Cellars)

Special Thanks to our host and tour guide, Thomas Pennachetti (VP, Sales & Marketing of Cave Spring Cellars)