Wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina. Children not permitted.

April 19, 2011 1 comment

We toured the wine region of Mendoza for 3 days, leaving the kids behind in Buenos Aires under the loving care of nonna. ¡Salud!

Mendoza is the 4th largest city in Argentina, and its wines are exported all over the world, especially the Malbec, which I am a big fan of. Actually Mendoza is about a 7 hours drive from Santiago De Chile crossing over the Andes and it’s supposed to be an incredibly scenic road. That would be a nice way to get there. We flew from BA, a 1h30 easy flight from the domestic airport right downtown BA.

We made our itinerary over 3 days: 2 nights in Mendoza city & 1 night in the country side in beautiful Valle del Uco (90min from the city). I think it was the right amount of time. Actually, after 4 winery visits the first day starting at 10am with our first tasting, I was ready to go on a detox…a result of five months going around the world and living healthily.

I enjoyed these 3 days for 3 reasons:

– Great wines

– Great architecture

– Great scenery

The two main wine producing areas around Mendoza are: Lujan de Cuyo outside the city, and the Uco Valley a bit further. It’s nice to spend at least one day in the first, and one day in the 2nd.

To visit Lujan de Cuyo, we based ourselves at a homey and welcoming b&b in downtown Mendoza called Casa Lila, simple and no fuss, wonderful hosts willing to help every bits. For dinner in town, everyone raves about 1884, a restaurant by the famous Argentine chef Francis Mallman, but I think it lives on its reputation. Azafran is a better option, relaxed on the sidewalks of Mendoza.

To visit the Uco Valley, we stayed at the posada of the Salentein winery, which is definitely not worth recommending.  There is apparently a wonderful relais&chateau called Cavas Wine Lodge, for pampering times. Or there are several wineries with rooms in the region. Watch out for Bodega Atemisque when it opens its posada. I think it will be beautiful because their winery is stunning, and beautifully located too.

Everyone advises to take a driver/guide when going wine tasting in the region. And I confirm it! Not only the wineries are not always easy to find, but they also often require appointments for visits…And if you plan 4 winery visits in a day like most people do, that’s on average 3 to 4 tastings per winery..I let you do the math for the don’t drink&drive formula. Our driver/guide was good, not the most chatty and willing to get out of his way type of person but he did put together a good itinerary: Javier on [email protected]

In Lujan de Cuyo, our favorite wineries are:

Achaval Ferrer. A smaller winery, only 5 years old, with 2 particularly good wines tasted: the Finca Mirador, and a dolce Malbec which I loved and can only be purchased at the winery.

Carmelo Patti. A one-man show (photo below, at his winery). A legend in Mendoza! He is what they call a garagista, ie a winemaker who does it all in their garage so to speak. And he has been doing some of the best wines in the region for close to 40 years, all by himself. He talked passionately about his wines and wines in general (in Spanish) and made a great impression on us. We were pleased to leave with an autographed bottle from Mr Carmelo Patti…

We enjoyed a five-course lunch at Bodega Vistalba, at their restaurant La Bourgogne. They also have 2 rooms in b&b inside the winery supposed to be nice. It’s pleasant to face the vineyards for lunch, and the food was good paired with good wines, but nothing to go home crazy about (so says the little Frenchie..)

Everyone recommends to visit Catena Zapata winery, maybe because it’s one of the biggest. I did not like it. The place is pompous and very touristy. The architecture is a strange and rather tasteless Mayan-style pyramide. But they did have a very good Angelica Zapata Malbec…

this is Carmelo Patti and his very old -school winery:

In Valle del Uco, our favorite wineries are:

Pulenta Estate. Super high-tech and stunning architecture, especially the cellar room. It’s a relatively young winery, like many in Mendoza, which says a lot about the dynamism in the region. They had a Gran Corte, a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Atamisque. So beautiful! Such delicious wines! And no, I am not biased by the fact that the owner is French. The architecture, first, is stunning and so understated. Minimalist yet perfectly blending with the surrounding environment. From local architects Bormida y Yanzon who actually did most of the beautiful wineries in the region (see Pulenta Estate too). The Catalpa Malbec, and the Atamisque Malbec were particularly delicious. There is also a restaurant on the property where the specialty is trout as they have a trout farming. And soon a pousada…

Bodega Salentein. Another impressive architecture, very grand this time yet done by the same local architects Bormida y Yanzon. Salentein is completely geared to the visiting wine aficionado. There is a home theater showing the whole process of wine making, an in-house art gallery with Latin American artists featured. A very pleasant cafe/restaurant for lunch…Their Numina Malbec, and Primus Malbec are delicious.

Don’t waste time at the winery Andeluna in the same region. Very unpleasant staff, and the place looks like a mock-up of a provencale house. Out of place..

this is Bodega Atemisque:

this is Bodega Salentein:

BozAround tip: at Bodega Salentein, you will find cardboard boxes in their shop for 3, 6 or 12 bottles with a hard foam inside specially made to check it in the plane. And some smart bubble wrap for individual bottles, resealable. Very convenient after 3 days of wine tasting delicious Malbecs…

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