Laura Catena interview Part One 11-1-2023

Laura Catena is considered the face of Argentine wine and a wine world leader. I recently interviewed her and will share the interview in columns in November and December.

Laura is a fourth-generation Argentine vintner. Her father, Dr. Nicolás Catena Zapata, not only ran the family winery, he also was a professor of economics at Berkeley. Laura graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a medical degree from Stanford. For years she was managing director of Bodega Catena Zapata and practiced medicine at the UC-San Francisco Medical Center.

Her wines sell under the Catena and other labels. Catena makes Alamos, distributed by E&J Gallo in the U.S.. She has her own label, Luca.

Dr. Laura Catena

• Do you still practice medicine in California?

I stopped working clinically at the end of 2019. Because I was doing mostly pediatric emergency the last few years, they didn’t need me back during the first pandemic year. Because children were not getting sick or having injuries. This was fortunate because my team at the winery needed me more than ever during the pandemic—our precautions at the winery were similar to a hospital’s which resulted in very few COVID cases over the first year. I volunteered with a vaccinating crew in San Francisco serving marginally housed people, but now I am doing 100% wine and it feels good to be there all the time for the Catena team. I am still a doctor to friends and family, and I have found that the doctor’s empathy can be practiced in the small moments of daily life, so I miss being a doctor less than I thought I would.

• How did you balance your many responsibilities, and do you have any regrets?

I practiced medicine and wine for 25 years. It was not easy, but as a result my kids are very independent and high functioning. Our house was always very messy when the kids were in the house (the last one left for college a few days ago) and I have just had to live with that. I wouldn’t change anything. When my father turned 80 years old, I decided it was time to do 100% wine. It was a natural moment. I am not a regrets kind of person. I live my life trying to be a good person every day.

Tasting notes:

• Alamos Malbec Mendoza 2016: Fresh, firm, clean, delicious easy drinker with great balance. Consistently is a superb expression of malbec and a superb value. $10-13 Link to my review

Last round: Did you hear about the chickens who couldn’t stop cursing? He really had some fowl language. Wine time.