As huge oenophiles a visit to Mendoza was a must for me and my friends. We spent three days in Mendoza, the hub of Argentina’s winemaking industry. Argentina is the world’s 5th largest producer of wine and 80% of Argentina’s wine comes from Mendoza. For most travelers, there are really two reasons to visit Mendoza: the wineries, and its proximity to Aconcagua – the tallest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas. This time around I chose the wine over the mountains, which is surprising for this adventurous girl.
We did a wine tour with Argentina Wine Tours for $190 per person and it was well worth it. The tour included four wineries in the Lujan De Cuyo valley and a 5-course steak lunch with wine pairings at each course. Luján is located about 30 minutes outside Mendoza City and is known for its premium wines and nickname, “Land of the Malbecs.” Speaking of Malbec, it has been one of my favorite styles of wine for the past few years so it was nice to see where it comes from and to taste all the different varieties. We were able to sample all the different variations: new, old, aged in oak barrels, blends, and more varieties of grapes.
We had an early start because, the best time to taste wine is in the morning because your palate is clean and ready to go! At 9 am sharp, Flavia, the owner of Argentina Wine Tours met us and introduced us to our tour guide Ellie who was bilingual in English and Spanish and our driver. We loaded into a private van and headed off to our first winery of the day!
Achaval-Ferrer is a boutique winery launched by group of Argentinean and Italian friends in 1999. The stunning view of the Andes Mountains will take your breath away. Our host, Julien was excellent and greeted us at the door. We did the wine tasting inside a private tasting room around a big rustic table where he explained the history and process of how they produce their wine using a low harvest yield. After we sampled a handful of wines, we were allowed into a production room to taste one of their Finca wines straight from the barrel. Because it’s a boutique winery with limited quantities bottles can be pricey, however they offered one of the best shipping deals of any winery in the area. For only $30 you could have up to 6 bottles shipped as opposed to the $15-20 a bottle other wineries charged. They also offered a 20-30% discount on a mixed case. They do come across a bit snobby at this winery, so just be prepared for that. Cruzat
You might think Argentina only grows Malbec, right? False. They also make some delicious sparkling wines. With the rising popularity of sparkling wines in South America this winery is sure to become much more well known. The head of winemaker at Bodega Cruzat is none other than 78 year old, Pedro Rosell, one of the first to make sparkling wine in Argentina which he has been perfecting now for over 40 years. If you love the bubbly, I highly recommend a visit to this lovely bodega, it certainly is a refreshing change to all the red wines.Catena Zapata
Absolutely positively no visit to Mendoza would be complete without visiting this winery. Catena Zapata is often credited with putting the Mendoza winemaking region on the map. Nicolás Catena Zapata is recognized as the pioneer of the production of wines of quality in Mendoza. I would liken him to Napa’s Robert Mondavi. In the year 2001 they inaugurated their new tasting room and wine cellar inspired by Mayan architecture. It is a magnificent 3-level pyramid shaped adobe building. Beneath the pyramid lies the impressive semi-circle barrel room. After our tasting and tour, we climbed to the top of the pyramid to look out over the vineyards, which stretched out for acres. I can only imagine how beautiful the landscape is during growing season.
Belasco de Baquedano
Belasco de Baquedano winery was quite unique in that it had an aroma room where you were able to sniff the aromas that are associated with wines – both the good and the bad. The only one of its kind in the Americas, the room presents about 50 fragrances inside clear plexiglas posts lined up along the walls of the room. Twist a lever on the side of a post, a baffle spins, and an intense fragrance is released from a small capsule of oil. I had no idea that olfactory nuances of the grape included scents like game, musk, mushroom, or geranium. They have a beautiful dining room with huge windows and a sweeping view of the vineyards and the Andes Mountains. We did a 5-course pairing lunch. The food was very nice and well presented. The waitress did not speak much English or explain much about the wines like the other wineries, which was disappointing.
A few wine tasting notes
Mendoza is not like Napa, in that wineries here are very spread out, making it difficult to pack in multiple tastings and tours in one day. I would recommend visiting no more than three to four wineries per day. Also, you are required to schedule an advance appointment before you visit. There are security gates at the entrance to each winery and they will not allow you access without and appointment.
Chacras de Coria
We chose to stay in the quaint village town of Chacras de Coria, a town just 8.5 miles south of Mendoza City. We wandered around this beautiful old-style town, admiring handmade local crafts at the plaza, antique shops and eating some mouth watering fresh baked empanadas at one of the local bakeries.Posada El Encuentro
El Encuentro is a gem of a hotel tucked away on a quiet street in the quaint town of Chacras de Coria. It is walking distance to everything you need. What made this place special was the people behind it. It is managed by four siblings. It was their father’s dream to have a beautiful hotel, so he built one! The architecture is beautiful and it is decorated with original artwork and cozy furniture which give it a homey feeling. We arrived late at night after a delayed flight and the staff went out of their way to order us pizza and bring up a nice bottle of wine from their wine cellar for us. They were excellent hosts, that made many thoughtful recommendations to us and helped us book our taxis and dinner reservations. They have a lovely little dining room where they serve breakfast each morning. This is included with your stay.1884
And last but not least, Mendoza is not only a city for winer lovers, it’s a city for foodies too. If you were going eat the last meal in your life, make it restaurant, 1884. Trust me, it’s amazing and probably the best steak I’ve had in my entire life. 1884 is owned by one of Argentina’s most celebrated chefs, Francis Mallmann. Try one of his fantastic iron skillet appetizers like the sizzling proveleta cheese. For an entree, order a scrumptious piece of lomo (beef tenderloin) and of course, no meal here would be complete with out a bottle of Malbec. They have a sommelier on hand to help you make the best pairings. Housed in the Bodega Escorihuela winery it’s the picture perfect setting full of character and ambiance — I loved the candle lit entrance. The restaurant takes its name from the year in which the building was erected. It’s tucked away on the edge of town in a non-descript building, so be prepared that your taxi driver might have trouble finding it. The service and attention the wait staff gives you was like no other. I swear, I’d take a sip of water only to realize someone sneaked in and filled the glass again unbeknownst to me. My apologies, I don’t have any photos, but I was trying to enjoy my last evening on vacation without a camera.