This Pyramid-Shaped Winery Was Just Named One Of The World's Best

What appears to be a Mayan temple surrounded by lush vineyards and glorious snow-capped mountains is not a mirage, but Catena Zapata, a winery nestled in the heart of Argentina's Mendoza wine region. It was announced as number one on the World's Best Vineyards list of 2023. The iconic, pyramid-shaped winery, steeped in a rich winemaking heritage dating back to 1902, has become a beacon for wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs, drawing them in with its exceptional wines and innovative architectural design.

Catena Zapata's journey in winemaking began over a century ago when Nicola Catena, an Italian immigrant, settled in Mendoza and planted his first vineyard. Three generations later, the Catena family continues to uphold their commitment to crafting outstanding wines. Their passion and dedication to producing the highest quality wines have earned them numerous accolades, solidifying their position as one of Argentina's — and the world's — most prominent wineries.

What sets Catena Zapata apart is not only the excellence of its wines but its distinctive pyramid-shaped winery, located in one of six of the estate's historic vineyards. Also known as "La Pirámide Vineyard," the pyramid serves a dual purpose: architectural marvel and functional cellar. Beneath the striking structure lies an underground cellar, an engineering feat aimed at maintaining optimal aging conditions for their prized wines. The cellar's natural temperature control and ideal humidity create an environment where the wines can gracefully mature and develop complex flavors. Form and function go together like a perfect wine pairing. 

Award-winning wines and exquisite terroir

Catena Zapata's success is deeply intertwined with the unique terroir, or growing conditions, of Mendoza. The estate's vineyards, located at varying altitudes, benefit from diverse microclimates and soils, which impart distinct characteristics to the grapes. The high-altitude vineyards, some situated almost 5,000 feet above sea level, receive abundant sunlight during the day, while the cool Andean nights contribute to slow grape ripening. This unique combination results in wines that exhibit a harmonious balance of fruit flavors, acidity, and tannins.

Catena Zapata's portfolio boasts a wide array of wines that pay homage to Argentina's winemaking legacy. The winery is best known for its expressive malbecs, which showcase the full potential of the grape variety for which they're named. From the smooth and velvety Malbec Argentino to the opulent Nicolás Catena Zapata, each wine tells a story of the land it hails from. Additionally, the winery also produces remarkable chardonnays, cabernet sauvignons, and other varietals that have garnered international acclaim.

If you plan to visit Catena Zapata, rest assured there will be plenty of wine — but you also won't find yourself hungry. They have a unique wine-first concept restaurant called Angelica Cocina Maestra that invites diners for an intimate dining experience where the food is a tribute to the wine and not the other way around. Seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, a rotating selection of wine flights, and sommeliers, not servers, define the culinary ethos of the restaurant. Make sure to book a reservation well in advance, as dates fill up quickly.

A sensory journey of wine and hospitality

Visiting Catena Zapata is an immersive and unforgettable experience. The estate welcomes guests to indulge in intimate tasting experiences that highlight the diversity and complexity of their wines. They offer three types of tours, all done in small groups of no more than 10 people with specialized guides. Each wine tasting experience includes a winery tour accompanied by breathtaking views of the Andes mountains and the picturesque vineyards that stretch into the horizon. The warm hospitality of the Catena family and their team adds a personal touch to every visit.

The "Family Is Everything" tour covers the history of the Catena Zapata family and everything there is to know about Argentine wine. Something different, the "Wine & Music" experience pairs wine with a live musical sensory experience. Finally, "The Blending Games," a mixology experience and educational foray into winemaking, is a hands-on tour for vino lovers and curious connoisseurs. The experiences range in price from about $84 to $140 per person. 

Catena Zapata's pyramid-shaped winery stands as a testament to the artistry of winemaking and the celebration of terroir. With a legacy steeped in history, a commitment to excellence, and a visionary approach to architecture, Catena Zapata continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in the world of wine. To experience the allure of this world-renowned winery is to embark on a journey of discovery and appreciation of Argentina's winemaking prowess, leaving a lasting and delicious impression on all who visit.