Laura Catena, who is a fourth-generation vintner and also the managing director of Catena Zapata Winery in Mendoza, Argentina, was previously opposed to the idea of having a restaurant at the winery.Her opposition was mainly due to her inability to dedicate the necessary time to ensure it was the finest in the area. However, her perspective changed when Alejandro Vigil, her head winemaker, approached her with an offer. Alejandro, who, along with his wife, María Sance, owns Mendoza’s leading restaurant, Casa Vigil, proposed the idea.
As construction began on a new vermouth distillery and hospitality center, Laura Catena explains that Alejandro Vigil suggested adding a restaurant that he would oversee. However, she agreed to the proposal with the condition that wine would be the main focus of the dining experience. Vigil was enthusiastic about the idea, and thus, Angélica Cocina Maestra, the world’s first-ever wine-centric restaurant, came into existence.
Although the name of the restaurant, Angélica Cocina Maestra, pays homage to Laura Catena’s grandmother, everything else is dedicated to wine. The glass-walled dining room, which offers stunning views of the vineyards, features elegant Riedel Vinum stems arranged in a sophisticated manner to prepare the stage for the ten-course wine and food pairing experience. Rather than servers, sommeliers are present at the table to guide diners through the menu and highlight Mendoza’s terroir through each glass of wine and locally sourced ingredients on the plate.
Laura Catena promises to offer a rotating selection of wine flights and pairing menus based on seasonality. However, for the launch, the restaurant will feature two distinct wine-menu options: the Angélica, which provides a traditional pairing experience, and the Rollercoaster, an unconventional offering that alternates between red and white wines.
Each flight is complemented by a meal that draws inspiration solely from the Andean region. All items on the menu are sourced from local farms and producers, with much of the produce originating from the winery’s own gardens. Including small culinary touches like the three types of infused salts sourced from Catena’s Andean salt mine or the hand-ground pea flour ravioli made from peas grown on site, adds a level of intricacy and vitality to every wine pairing. The fresh trout gravlax, served with fennel in three textures, is a daring match for the winery’s Tinto Histórico blend of Malbec and Petit Verdot, while Laura Catena’s captivating Vino Natural Ancestral Moscatel sets the stage for a finale featuring cheese and confitures.
Laura Catena emphasizes that the menu at Angélica Cocina Maestra is not focused on meat, unlike many other Argentine restaurants. She also reveals that her previous reservations about opening a restaurant have now been replaced with a wealth of new ideas. “My ears are always open,” she exclaims, adding that Alejandro Vigil shares the same passion for brainstorming. She believes that anything is achievable, as long as they strive to make it the best.