So when in the summer of my second year of Medical School at Stanford my father called me to invite me to visit Bordeaux with him as his translator, of course I said "sí, por supuesto, oui!
Otherworldly." (Excerpt from August 2015 Robert Parker Jr.'s The Wine Advocate.) To tell the story of the Adrianna Vineyard I need to start with my Italian immigrant great grandfather Nicola Catena and with my father's childhood in the tiny village of La Libertad (which means freedom in Spanish) in Eastern Mendoza, Argentina.
The Early Years: From 1902 to 1957 It was July of 1955 and sixteen year old Nicolás had come home from the Liceo Military Academy - the only high school option for rural children in Mendoza - to ask his mother, Angélica Zapata, an important question.
I did share with my father a deep admiration for the French, but not yet for their winemaking.
As a devoted student of the French language and culture, first at my high schools in Buenos Aires and Berkeley, and later at Harvard University, I had become fascinated if not obsessed with the existentialist writers Sartre and Camus and by the French Surrealist art movement.
At the age of 16, the slim framed, bespectacled Nicolás had yet to go through his growth spurt, but year after year, he had earned the valedictorian and long distance endurance award at the Liceo.
"You should aim to win the Nobel Prize in physics," said Angélica without hesitation, "and I hope you won't go into business with your father; you are too bright to waste your mind on winemaking." A statement like this was sacrilege in a rural Italian family - the eldest son's future was always sealed at the side of his father.On weekend visits to the Napa Valley with his wife Elena and their newly born daughter Adrianna, Nicolás heard about the Judgement of Paris and saw the Californians striving to make wines that could stand with the best of the world. " Nicolás had never thought that the French could be challenged.His father Don Domingo was a great believer in Malbec, the grape that the Argentines called La Francesa, because it had come from France and had such deep color and rich flavor that it could improve any blend of table wine.In France we visited Jacques Lurton, a Frenchman whose family ties to fine wine date back centuries.Jacques took us to see his family's chateaux and a few of their illustrious neighbors.Nicola died peacefully, not knowing that his beloved daughter in law had passed away a day before. He stayed in Mendoza to study economics at the Mendoza University and to help his father and grandmother Nicasia (Angélica's mother) raise the family's three other children and run the Catena winery.