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Recap: Distrito’s Catena Winery Dinner

Posted on: May 8th, 2012 by Amy Martin No Comments

April 25th, The Saguaro’s Distrito held a winemaker dinner featuring Catena Winery from Mendoza. The evening began in the restaurant’s private dining room, which opens up to the patio for al fresco dining. Tables were set elegantly, each with a lone cactus as its centerpiece and take-home info about the winery. Wine glasses and champagne flutes formed their own ‘army’ on the countertop of the brightly colored bar to prep for the evening’s drinkable festivities.

The pre-dinner reception began with a pour of Alma Negra Sparkling Rose Malbec 2010 (the only wine of the night that was not from Mendoza ) sweet, bubbly, and a perfect kick-off for the evening.

Brightly colored bar

To accompany the bubbles, our first bite was the Oyster with rhubarb agrodolce, licorice, and celery. The agrodolce (a traditional sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine – as ‘agro’ means ‘sour’ and ‘dolce’ translates ‘sweet’) was both sweet and piquant and played lovingly with the subtle, but still detectable sweetness from the licorice. I loved the sweetness and creamy textures against the oceany/saltwater tang of the oyster.

Oyster with rhubarb agrodolce, licorice, and celery.

As guests rolled in and enjoyed the reception, Pablo Sanchez of Cantena Winery gave us a rundown of the wines to be offered throughout the dinner. It’s a rare treat to have a winemaker travel all the way from Mendoza to host dinner here in the Valley, and I truly felt lucky to learn from him and his tales of work with the winery. Pablo told that although Mendoza, Argentina’s fourth largest city, is mostly desert and endures the heat of the sun 350 days a year, they still cultivate fruits and vegetables and are the largest producers in the world of tomatoes and garlic. They export to Argentina and other countries, including the U.S.

Distrito’s Chef de Cuisine, Pete Balodimas introduced the menu and his inspiration behind the dishes he’d chosen. Chef Pete explained how much he enjoyed working with these food-friendly wines and how his goal was to create a menu that would complement the wines, making them the true star of the evening.

The first course: Langostine with compressed melon, ashed onion, spring green garlic, and pork crackling. This dish easily won ‘best plating’ in my opinion. The green garlic puree with its subtleness and vibrant color was a lovely pairing with the chilled langostine, though my favorite was the ashed garlicky “sauce” – bright and tangy almost like a vinaigrette. Grabbing a taste of the charred onions, a smear of each sauce and a bite of the langostine made a truly perfect bite. The sweet melon and salty pork rind combo was also to die for (no exaggeration). I love salty/sweet combinations, but the crunchiness of the pork crackling took this to a whole new level texturally. Its saltiness against the very sweet, shaved melon was OMG-worthy. The dish was paired with the “bright and light” 2010 Catena Chardonnay.

Langostine with compressed melon, ashed onion, spring green garlic, and pork crackling.

The second course: Hay Smoked Pork Jowl with plum sauce, ramp, and a light salad. The smoked pork jowl had a slight earthy flavor from the hay that was really complemented by the wine pairing – 2010 Catena Malbec, smokey with a deep, gorgeous red color. Hands down, my favorite plate and favorite pairing of the evening. The earthiness of the wine played well with the sweetness of the ruby red plum sauce (which was fantastic with the salty pork). I only wish the portion size had been bigger, though it was entirely appropriate for the 5 course meal. The ‘salad’ was a refresher after devouring that indulgent pork – the salad of fennel, hearts of celery and shaved, peppery radish and the white portion of the ramp. The green part of the ramp was pureed in the bright grass-colored vinaigrette underneath the pork. Absolutely delicious.

Hay smoked pork jowl with plum sauce, ramp, and a light salad

Hay smoked pork jowl with plum sauce, ramp, and a light salad.

Next up: The espresso-rubbed Venison with currant and fig, paired with a 2009 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon – another excellent pairing. The venison medallion was rich and tender and the salty crust really accentuated the deep flavors of the meat. The slightly caramelized fig and sweetness of the currants were appropriate companions to offset the saltiness of the meat.

Espresso-rubbed venison with currant and fig.

Before dessert, the Squab with foie torchon, cherry escabeche, cocoa nibs, and saspirillla paired with 2088 Catena Alta Malbec. The meat on those teeny little drumsticks were especially tasty.


Foie torchon with cherries

To complete the meal, dessert made its way to our table: Blackberry-filled Donuts with fennel and sugar, alongside a coffee pot de crème (caffeinated enough to perk you up a little) paired with 2008 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon. Holy delicious. Dipping a bite of the not-too-sweet donuts into the thick, creamy pot de crème was heaven.  I’m a big fan of the churro/chocolate combination so this similar take on donuts and coffee immediately won me over.

Blackberry-filled donuts with fennel and sugar, alongside coffee pot de crème.

Overall? A fantastic meal. And at $65 per person, I’m shocked at the amount of food and wine we were served. Each wine pairing was extraordinary – huge props to Chef Pete for his creativity. The next time Distrito hosts a wine dinner, make sure your name is in the reservation book!

To learn more about the restaurant and its upcoming events, visit

Distrito at The Saguaro | 4000 N Drinkwater Blvd | Scottsdale, AZ | 480-308-1100

This meal was provided complimentary as a part of a media invitation. However, this has no effect on our opinions and comments regarding our experience. View our Disclosure Policy for further explanation.

About the Author - Amy Martin

Author of Her Plate, Amy's love of food, cooking and all things culinary keeps her endlessly plotting what her next meal will be. Her pastimes include creating in (i.e. demolishing) her own kitchen and baking far more sweets than her tiny family could ever eat.

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