For our last full day in Mendoza I had a difficult choice to make. I wanted to go to Chacras de Coria, a little town about 15km from the city of Mendoza because I’d heard a lot about the great restaurants and charming feel of this village. But on the other hand going down to Valle de Uco really appealed to me. It’s not as well-known as Luján de Cuyo but everyone we talked to seemed to be really excited about this “up and coming” wine region. It’s farther south of Luján de Cuyo and there are newer bodegas there producing incredible wines (a lot of foreign investors with foreign-run vineyards). In the end we decided to go for another full day of wine tasting fun and we were once again thrilled to spend more time with our Australian friends.
Our first stop of the day was at Pulenta Estate, which isn’t actually in Valle de Uco but it turned out to be one of my favorite bodega experiences in Mendoza. The view over the vineyards at Pulenta was absolutely spectacular and one that I will not soon forget.
The tasting at Pulenta Estate was the most fun and interactive one we had during our stay. It was run by a very friendly and knowledgeable young American woman who had moved there for her love of wine. We were seated around a large table in their modern wine cellar and worked on refining our sense of smell. We were handed wine glasses with various things in them and with our eyes closed we tried to guess what the fragrance was. They were mostly edible items like coffee, vanilla, strawberry jam, etc. that one might reference when describing a wine. We then proceeded to taste some of their wines, keeping in mind the experiment we’d just done. My favorite was their Cabernet Franc.
Our second bodega of the day was the smallest one we visited called La Azul. The chef at our hotel raved to us about La Azul’s grand reserva malbec so we’d hoped that we could get a taste of it. But since it is such a small bodega and they only produce a limited number of bottles, we weren’t offered any of this particular wine- we just got to look at the bottle (ha ha ha). A concrete structure with small cut out windows that housed their large tanks (just a handful of them) and oak casks also served as their tasting room- it was small and intimate.
Our last stop of the day was Salentein. As is, bodega Salentein is quite large but after La Azul, this place seemed humongous. It was a modern wonder of a winery, with an unbelievable facility that extended deep below ground as well as above. I felt almost as if we were walking into a contemporary art museum, well Salentein does have a well-known art gallery called Killka…
After getting an informative tour we sat down in their spacious and modern restaurant for our bodega lunch, paired with various bottles Salentein wines. I was shocked to see that they opened their reserve wines for us, in particular the 2009 Numina Grand Corte (a blend of 65% malbec, 20% cab sauv with merlot and cab franc) and the 2007 Primus Malbec. They only produce these in the years where there is an exceptional harvest, and they weren’t going to make any this year (I think they weren’t able to produce any last year either).
We enjoyed the wine and a four course meal with a phenomenal view. There were no walls to speak of, only floor to ceiling glass that allowed us to get a 180 degree view of the vineyards, mountains, and the clouds that were all around us. We had a brief thunderstorm that made the sky look even more dramatic but by the time we finished our meal the sun made its appearance again, and we even got a rainbow as a treat on our way back to Mendoza.
I keep saying next time, next time, so next time maybe there is a visit to Andeluna and the Spanish owned O’ Fournier (Spanish tempranillo in Argentina!) in Valle de Uco. But I couldn’t have had a better trip to Mendoza than what I got this time. We made great friends (we met up with team Australia a few days later in Buenos Aires and shared a few more memorable meals together), tasted some of the best wines Argentina has to offer, ate ridiculously well, and even got a chance hike a bit of the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas. All with my lovely traveling companion Rita. Who could ask for anything more?
Bodega Pulenta Estate: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bodega La Azul: email@example.com
Bodegas Salentein: firstname.lastname@example.org