Laura Catena MD, Bodega Catena Zapata
What did you study at Harvard?
Biology as an Undergraduate.
Were you involved with any food or wine activities while a student?
I was able to drink my junior year at Harvard because the drinking age in Massachusetts was 18. I used to go with my father when he visited, to the Harvest restaurant in Cambridge, where we learned about the great California wines. At Harvard the only wine I remember drinking was a really bad Port at an undergrad party. (I did not like the kegs of beer at parties; I’m from Argentina.) The food at Adams House was pretty good!
Do you think that Harvard has prepared you for a career in food and wine or hospitality in general? If so, how?
Yes, Harvard prepares you for any career that requires creativity, logical thinking, writing, communication skills and attention to detail…which means, most careers.
I studied biology which has helped me in my MD career in the USA, in my science career growing vineyards and making wine in Argentina, and as founder of the Catena Institute of Wine, a Research Facility dedicated to using science to preserve nature and culture.
I almost had enough credits to minor in French at Harvard. I currently have business partners in France, the Rothschilds of Château Lafite, and as a member of the wine trade, I interact with many French winemakers and producers. Also, I have a large collection of old French books that I have read in their original versions, and that I used to understand the history of my country's (Argentina's) signature variety, Malbec. Understanding this ancient French variety has helped me elevate the status of my country’s wines.
Also, I sell wine in over 65 countries around the world, and I took several classes on Chinese history, including a class on the Cultural Revolution and a class on Confucius. Understanding the history and culture of China has helped me a great deal in managing relationships in Asia.
What work do you do now?
I am the Managing Director of Bodega Catena Zapata and of my own Luca Winery, and I'm a part-time Emergency Physician in San Francisco. I'm on the board at the UC Davis School of Viticulture and Enology, and I also sit on the board of Bodegas CARO, Catena’s partnership with Domaines Barons de Rothschild [Lafite] and of the Catena Institute of Wine.
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