Phew! It’s been a good while since my last post… I had a lot going on with friends, trips, family, etc but I’m ready to get back to recording what I’ve been doing. I’m headed to San Francisco next week but I left things off in Mendoza, Argentina; although I was there over a month ago, I thought I’d finish writing about it. I also took a trip to Salta and Jujuy after Mendoza, which I also plan post since I really do want to remember the amazing time I spent up north. There are a few other BA/Argentina related stuff I want to write but that’s something I hope to do over the next month or two. Now, where was I??
I’d heard good things about a tour company called Trout & Wine from several people so Rita and I trusted them to take us around some of the wineries in Mendoza. We were happy with their service and our guides (a big thanks to Virginia and Pamela who were both drop dead gorgeous and lovely). We thought of just going to Luján de Cuyo, a region of Mendoza described as “tierra de malbec” or land of malbec but in the end we visited Valle de Uco as well. I’m really glad that we did. In certain ways I think I enjoyed Valle de Uco more than Luján de Cuyo… But I’m getting ahead of myself here…
Our day in Luján de Cuyo started at Mendel where one of the most respected winemakers in Argentina, Roberto de la Mota, and the Mendel family emphasize quality over quantity. As we walked into this small bodega we saw malbec vines labeled “1928.” They have 80+ year old malbec and cabernet sauvignon vineyards in the area, including some in the high altitude regions for their award winning Finca Remota malbec. The tour was intimate and informative (our guide gave us some of the malbec grapes to taste, which were very sweet and delicious), and we were lucky to see the grape sorting process (the grapes were picked very early that morning). Because Mendel makes so few bottles of wine we could only taste what has not yet hit the market. We did a vertical tasting of their malbec, trying to distinguish and discern the difference between the years and where they were in the aging process. My favorite though, was their UNUS which was a 70/30 blend of malbec and cabernet sauvignon.
Next we went to a much larger and modern bodega called Dante Robino. Their grounds, facilities, and the modern tasting room reminded me a lot of the bigger wineries in Napa Valley in California. Along with Chandon, Dante Robino is a large producer of sparkling wines in Argentina and we were treated to a lesson on different ways sparkling wines are made.
We got a chance to taste a torrontés (I didn’t think it was very good), some malbecs, as well as their sparkling wines. My favorite there was the Grand Dante, a small production malbec.
Our next stop was Club Tapiz where we were treated to an olive oil tasting, followed by a fantastic meal in a beautiful setting. The place was surrounded by lush greens accented by small ponds and beautiful lavender, and stylishly decorated with ornate chandeliers and rich jewel tones. We dined on generous portions of escabeche de conejo, salmon ceviche, grilled vegetables, steak (almost the size of my head!), and a refreshing fruit dessert, each course paired with a different wine they produce (and a lot of it).
The last bodega of the day in Luján de Cuyo was Bodega Benegas, which was stunning in its own way. We stepped through a set of enormous doors to find a cavernous room with large sturdy furniture and walls adorned with an impressive collection of Andean ponchos. I was quite tired by the time we visited this bodega and while I really enjoyed the visit led by our guide, Ana, none of the wines we tried made a lasting impression on me.
Needless to say, we were full and properly tuckered out by the time we returned back to our hotel. I took a much needed nap before heading out to dinner. Now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t believe we even made it to dinner… We tried for a quick meal at Verolio, a restaurant/olive oil shop on Sarmiento, which turned out to be a comical experience because of how long we (and all the other customers) had to wait for our food. We just had to laugh and wonder whether they were washing the lettuce leaf by leaf in the kitchen. At least we fared better than the guy who came in after us that sat for 30+ minutes before the waitress brought him his drink and a basket of bread. But as I have heard often and have come to say it myself repeatedly, “TIA: This is Argentina.” It’s part of the charm!
Still two more days left in Mendoza… next up, the Andes mountains.
Below is a list of bodegas we visited in Luján de Cuyo. If there is a next time in Luján de Cuyo (I hope), I’d love to visit Achaval-Ferrer, Catena Zapata (drank enough Catena wines in Argentina to fill a bathtub!), and Vistalba…
Bodega Mendel: for visits, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dante Robino: guided tours and visits e-mail email@example.com
Club Tapiz: for reservations e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Bodega Benegas: for a visit e-mail email@example.com
Trout & Wine Tours: Espejo 266 in Mendoza
Vines of Mendoza: Great tasting room, wine services (recommendations, shipping, etc), & travel resource (downloadable “insiders’ guide)