It is exciting to be back in Argentina. After three weeks of beautiful Brazil we were doing pretty well with the Portuguese. Santiago spanish was incomprehensible to me. They dropped all hard consonants, slurred the end of every word and spoke at rapid speed. Although the Spanish is not the purest in Argentina, it was nice to descend from the majestic Andes into a place more familiar. ¡Bienvenidos a Mendoza!
Our welcoming to Mendoza could not have been better. Our first steps were met with a glass of malbec and an invitation to a homemade Italian dinner at our awesome accomodation, Hostal Lao. Mmm licking my lips.
The malbec wine of the world is grown in Argentina and the bulk of it comes out of Mendoza. Our timing was perfect and we arrived during the two weeks of harvest. We tasted at several places and at each there was a flurry of work and the deliciously pungent smell of freshly crushed grape juice beginning fermentation.
The style of wine making is significantly different from what we see in northern and central California. First of all, the vineyards are hundreds of years old and each cellar houses enormous concrete tanks. At each vineyard we learned that they fermented, filtered and blended almost all of their wine entirely from these vats. They also had their premium wines that they put in oak for three to six months.
The place to go for tasting wine is the Lujan De Cuyo area. There are about fifty boutique wineries all with their own blends, cabernet, torrontes and of course malbec. We rented a bike from Bacchus Bikes for $6USD and the owner gave us a map with his recommendations. He even called ahead so that the wineries could expect us. Each winery had an extensive walking tour through their facilities describing why their winemaking is superior. Tours were mostly in English, but at times we would break into Spanish for clarity.
After the tour we would be led to a table overlooking the vineyard, or a pair of glasses tucked between rows of barrels in the cellar. They would pour a delicious variety of wine and even the freshly pressed grape juice.
Our favorite winery was CarinaE which was actually in Maipu Valley. We tasted an extensive variety of 14 different wines. They were so good that we lugged two bottles around for two weeks afterwards. The second best wines were at Alta, a bigger winery with an informative staff and generous pours. We also tasted at Filosofos and Pulmony and at each place we learned a little bit more about wine and Argentina.
Back in town we had to be careful after our wine tastings. The gutters of Mendoza are uncovered, meaning a nasty fall if you don’t pay attention!
We ate delicious food and we met new friends in Mendoza as well. It was nice to get some satisfying veggies at the vegetarian per kilo restaurant Govinda. Our new friends Nick and Caroline invited us to Don Mario for the biggest juiciest steak I have ever attempted to eat. I learned that Argentinians can cook their meat, really good meat…just not in BsAs.
We had an extra day so we decided to splurge and go to the Termas Cacheuta. It was a spa tucked away inside a jagged and majestic canyon. The pools varied from burn your back to freeze your ass. We would bounce between the pools enjoying the various bubble jets and the time to relax.
Lunch time meant that the pools cleared out and everyone rushed the buffet. The choices were a large variety of veggies for a make-your-own salad and, of course, an asado of Argentinian meats.
Mendoza had some tantalizing tastes and beautiful views. I was happy that we had the time to savor them both.