Not long ago, we took a quick trip to Mendoza - the heart of Argentina's wine industry. So here's a brief recap of the 5 days/3 nights we spent there with some great new friends (the nights following and preceding this trip were spent on a bus to/from Rosario, which is not actually a bad way to travel when you consider that you get to play Bingo and are given wine with dinner).
Here's the tasting room of the chalet we stayed at via Airbnb. Our stay included a free bottle of the chalet's wine (Bodega Calle) each night. And here's the backyard...
I'll get to the wine in a minute. First, we did this:
And then some of this:
Before happily stumbling upon the obscure but impressive Jerome brewery (find out more about it here). We had wanted to go but didn't know how to find it -- luckily, we passed it on the way to the horseback riding place in the Potrerillos.
We drank some of this:
And ate some of this:
The next day, we attempted a wine tour of Maipú by bike. We chose Mr. Hugo as our bike rental company because of good reviews. Let me tell you that this was quite an experience. You get this little map of the area with a handful of wineries and other interesting places and you think "aw, how fun and adorable is this?!" And then, not far down the road, you realize that the bike lane does not continue and you're sharing a bumpy and broken highway with trucks and traffic. Oh, and then you realize that everything is way more spread out than you'd thought in your crooked little mind that thinks it's on vacation. And so you KNOW that you're not going to make it to even half of those great places on the map.
Finally, you'll arrive somewhere, probably dying of exhaustion, and you'll wonder how you're ever going to hold a sophisticated glass of red wine in your sweaty calloused hand. But, if you head for Tempus Alba, fear not. Their brilliantly air conditioned restaurant is the perfect place for a delicious lunch to accompany a six wine tasting. I'm serious - the food was the best of our trip.
But I didn't take a picture of it because this was a wine tour, after all. The prices are quite reasonable for the quality and service. The tasting was around 30 pesos and lunch was about 40-50 pesos for a plato principal. Here's the view from the patio:
We managed to cram in one other winery tasting (at some snotty place) before booking it to Trapiche to make it in time for our scheduled tour. I had more fun playing in the fountains than on the actual tour, but it was mostly air conditioned so I didn't gripe!
Plus, the tour ends with a tasting of three Trapiche wines (included in the tour price - I think it was around 35 pesos). Trapiche is one of the most well-known, commercial brands of Argentine wine so, of course, it lacks the charm of a boutique winery but it's still good wine and you get a look inside an industrial brand.
That was, sadly, all the wineries that we made it to that day on the bike tour. We were too exhausted to ride out to the olive oil factories and the wine museum had closed. But we passed close to Historias y Sabores on the way back and stopped for a 20 peso tasting that included chocolate, tapenades, jams, and liqueur. And we took home some Chardonnay jam.
We went ahead and returned the bikes on time, though Mr. Hugo doesn't hurry you and he gives you another glass of wine upon your return. You'd think I'd have been flat out drunk by then, but the biking must have sobered me up quite quickly. So we went to this nearby (it's on the bike map) cerveceria just before closing time.
Wouldn't you know it -- there was another tasting! This one was cheaper.
So that was the end of the bike tour for us. The map from Mr. Hugo was helpful, as his staff wrote out the prices and closing times for all of the stops for us. Some places might require reservations, like Trapiche, so it's still helpful to do some research ahead of time. We also got a discount from Hugo for the restaurant at the DiTomasso winery so we went back the next day for lunch.
The power went out so we drank cold wine and ate cold salads. I would have loved to have had lunch in the vineyard at Cecchin but when we got there (and it is NOT easy to find) they told us they were full, even though we called the day before and they said reservations were not needed. Hmmph! I guess Mendoza is more of a winging-it kind of trip.
Finally, our last stop was at Finca Flinchman - my favorite bodega. We had to make a tour reservation and it's about 20 kilometers outside of Maipú, but it was worth it.
The free tour included a free tasting! And it featured this lovely sparkling Chardonnay Malbec. Yep, you read that right.
We took home a few bottles of our favorite Malbec, Gestos, which is a blend of the varietal from two altitudes, along with as many other wines as we could carry. Unlike the majority of the other wineries (that cater to dollar-toting tourists) the prices at Finca Flichman are a steal - way cheaper than we can get here in Rosario and are in pristine condition.
I can't believe it took me so long to get to Mendoza. Now, it's going to have to be a recurring pilgrimage. I'd love to try some of the upscale wineries and restaurants but I haven't figured out how to play the lottery here yet. And I'm not sure it would be enough. We got lucky with the rental house, which made our trip so much more affordable by splitting it between the five of us - plus we were able to cook our own meals.
In addition, we rented a car (from a local company instead of an international one - cheaper still!) and it made the trip. Without it, we wouldn't have been able to stay out in Lujan de Cuyo or have made the trip to the excursion spots and wineries so easily. We even ended up on the Dakar route and were passed by some of the competitors -- this was a different kind of vacation.