The 2006 growing season began with the winter months of June, July and August 2005. Mendoza experienced significant snowfall during these months, much higher than normal, especially in the heights of the Andes. There was even light snowfall in some of the lower lying areas. This increased snowfall resulted in an important recovery of the Andean glaciers, resulting in a plentiful water supply for not only the 2006 growing season, but for several years to come.
Spring arrived to Mendoza with slightly higher than normal temperatures. This meant that there was little risk of late frosts to endanger the initiation of the vegetative cycle. These slightly elevated temperatures resulted in a healthy bud break and excellent vegetative development of the canopy. In preparation for a very productive year, the Catena family vineyards that are used for Alamos and the Bodega Catena Zapata vineyards (Catena, Catena Alta and Nicolas Catena Zapata) underwent aggressive fruit thinning in the months of December and early January to an overall average of 50% yield reduction.
The Summer months of December 2005 and January & February 2006 continued the trend of warmer temperatures. These conditions were accompanied by higher than usual levels of relative humidity, helping the vines to cope with the higher temperatures and ensuring that there was little or no sunburn on the grapes. Additionally, because of the humidity, night-time temperatures were lower than expected, creating a pronounced night-day temperature differential. This fact led to nice and slow ripening conditions in the Malbecs of the Angelica (3,018 feet elevation, Lunlunta) and Adrianna (4,757 feet elevation, Gualtallary Tupungato) vineyards. The Angelica Malbec was harvested in late March, and the Adrianna vineyard was harvested from late March into mid April.
On December 27th there was a large hail storm in Mendoza which mainly affected the areas of Vistalba and Perdriel. In many areas of Vistalba the damage was as high as 100% loss, while the area of Perdriel experienced more scattered affects depending upon vineyard location. There was also another severe storm, although less intense than the December incident, in the first week of March in the eastern areas of Medrano and the central eastern region. Fortunately neither of these storms damaged the Bodega Catena Zapata vineyards.
In general, the months of February and March (March particularly) have been characterized by very low precipitation. This has resulted in very healthy grapes across all varietals. At this point all white grapes have been harvested, with excellent quality levels. The Chardonnays, which were harvested throughout the last two weeks of February, are extraordinary.
For red grape varietals, all Pinot Noir has been harvested and the Malbec harvest has been completed in the vineyards of Agrelo and Lunlunta. In the cooler areas of the Valle de Uco, namely Tupungato (Adrianna vineyard) and Altamira in La Consulta (Nicasia vineyard) the Malbec harvest will continue through mid April.
For Cabernet Sauvignon, the harvest in Agrelo was completed over the first week of April, while in Altamira in La Consulta it should take place in the third week of April and in Adrianna during the last week of April.
In summary, the 2006 harvest has been characterized by slightly warmer average temperatures. In December, January and February, relative humidity was higher than usual resulting in a pronounced day-night thermal amplitude (days were warmer, but nights were relatively cool because of the humidity factor) and ideal ripening conditions. Expecting a larger than usual crop, the Catena vineyard team dropped an average of 50% of the crop in order to ensure optimal concentration levels. From late February into March and April there has been practically no rain, allowing for very healthy grapes at harvest. We think that 2006 should equal or even surpass the outstanding 2005 vintage.