Oenephile Reaction at Catalyst

Deep in the heart of biotech-centric Kendall Square, Cambridge VinoDuo attended an afternoon wine tasting at Catalyst restaurant. Hosted by Carolina Wine & Spirits, Catalyst was the ideal place to elicit a reaction from Boston-area sommeliers, retailers, and reviewers.


Once a wind-swept concrete wasteland that emptied out when the brainiac-geek contingent headed home, Kendall Square has become a food and wine mecca, with Catalyst one of the best new venues.

The “Small Estates Tasting” focused on smaller producers from the U.S. and Europe and included more than 80 wines from the portfolios of Louis/Dressner Selections, Classical Wines of Spain, and Talley Vineyards. Among this embarrassment of riches were a number of well-priced new selections hoping to shake up the Boston wine market. Catalyst’s charcuterie spread outdid the usual cheese and crackers presentation with artisanal breads, cured meats, and a variety of tasty cheeses.

And what was VinoDuo’s Catalytic reaction?  Read on.

Here's what made it to our must-buy list.


  • 2011 Chateau d’Oupia Vin de Pays Heretiques, Languedoc (France)  $8-11
  • 2010 Losado El Pajaro Rojo, Spain (Castilla y León)  $17
  • Talley Vineyard 2010 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir, California Central Coast  $50-$55





2011 Chateau d’Oupia Vin de Pays Heretiques

(France, Languedoc)

It’s no wonder why we were drawn to this wine… It’s from our current favorite AOC, the Languedoc region of France. This blend of 60% Carignan (from vineyards up to 100 years old), 30% Syrah and 10% Grenache is an unpretentious, delicious, fruit-forward wine. Not for the haute cuisine crowd, but if you’re having barbeque, Thai, or even pizza, this is your wine. And at a price-point of $8-$11, it’s a no-brainer must-buy.

2010 Losado El Pajaro Rojo

(Spain, Castilla y Leon)

This is our first encounter with the Mencia (pronounced Menthia) grape and we’re glad to have found it.  The 100% Mencia (which was first thought to be Cabernet Franc) wine is full on the palate with soft tannins, good caramelized cherry, tart mid-palate, and a long, satisfying finish.  At this price point (@ $17), it’s a case-worthy wine. We also have a question for the Sommeliers in the Boston area… Why isn’t this wine on your list?

2006 Bodegas Breton Lorinon Reserva, Rioja

(Spain, Rioja)

Quite good, food-friendly wine with anise/cedar-like flavors wrapped in silky tannins and deep red fruit notes.  The 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano blend was aged for an extended period (16+ months) on American oak and has an average alcohol content of 13%.  At $18 - $20, this is a steal!

2009 Bodegas Fernandez Ribera Ddel Duero Tinto Pesquera Crianza

(Spain, Castilla y Leon)

100% Tempranillo aged 18 months on American oak.  This velvety medium-red wine delivers well beyond its price (@ $28- $30), providing a long satisfying finish. Went well with goat cheese; we think it would also pair with some stews and maybe a homemade roast chicken.  This is a must-buy as this 2009 vintage is highly rated.

2010 Pasanau Ceps Nous Priorat

(Spain, Priorat)

We love wines from Spain’s Priorat appellation but their price point is often prohibitive. At $25-$30 a bottle the 2010 Pasanau Ceps Nous Priorat is a heck of a bargain.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Syrah Manzuelo and Merlot, the wine delivers on value, complexity, and taste. A mélange of dark cherry, pepper, and spice, It’s not quite ready for prime time; we suggest cellaring for 2-3 years.

2010 Bishop’s Peak Pinot Noir

(California, Central Coast)

Can you get a decent Pinot for under t20 bucks? Stop laughing…the answer is “absolutely!” Bishop’s Peak is a second label for Talley Vineyard and Brian Talley has done wonders with this bottling. Lisa called it “A fruit bomb I’d love to knock me out.” With light strawberry/raspberry notes and nice fullness on the palate Bishop’s Peak is a great example of good Pinot accessible on almost any wine budget. @ $14 -$15.

Talley Vineyard 2010 Stone Corral Pinot Noir

(California, Central Coast)

Brian Talley himself took us on a “tasting journey” of this Pinot, with a maze of flavor experiences. After one sip this silky, muted black cherry juice you know you’ve stumbled upon something special. Mid-palate, there’s a burst of caramelized black fruit compote flavors that go on seemingly forever. Available in small quantities so get yours today or you’ll be miss out on this wine. @ $45-$48.

Talley Vineyard 2010 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir

(California, Central Coast)

We didn’t think was possible to improve upon the Stone Corral Pinot but Winemaker Eric Johnson outdid himself with the 2010 Rincon Vineyard. The clay soil imparts an appealing earthiness but the texture is all velvet. This may be some of the best Pinot we’ve tasted for the 2010 vintage Expect to pay $50-$55 a bottle for this gem.


Francois Pinon Vouvray Brut NV

(France, Loire Valley)


Delicious, effervescent wine with good acid/mineral balance and hints of Brazil nut at the finish. This Chenin Blanc sparkler is a perfect accompaniment for Sunday brunch where seafood is the focus.  Previewed for us at the Tasting, the wine lands on Boston-area shelves in November at $18-$20.

2010 Domaine de Belliviere Coteaux du Loire L’Effraie

(France, Loire Valley)

Gary called this a “delicious crowd-pleasing Chenin Blanc with a terrific nose that fulfills its promise with a complex balance of mineral/acid/grapefruit and light white fruits.” Lisa was less effusive, calling the wine “pleasantly floral.” Produced biodynamically from vines under 50 years old (that’s what  L' Effraie refers to; in France this means “young vines” and in the US it means kinda old.) Another “Preview Wine,” it’s not yet on local menus but should retail for around $26.

2010 Domaine de Belliviere Jasnieres Rosier

(France, Loire Valley)

Another Chenin Blanc from the same producer, the wine is “assembled” as the web site quaintly puts it, from a selection of young vines in the Jasnières appellation. Fuller than the L’Effraie, with less acidity, and slightly more fruit on the palate.  The price point is predicted to be a bit higher at @ $28-$30, but if you love Chenin Blanc, put it on your “coming soon” wish list.  

2010 Francois Pinon Vouvray Les Trois Argiles

(France, Loire Valley)

Gary crowned this “another great Chenin Blanc featuring good balance of fruit, mineral and acidity. The grapefruit and citrus flavors make this a very food-friendly wine.” Contrarian Lisa found nothing but strong floral notes and too much sugar. Should retail in the range of $17-$18.


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