TRAVEL

Mendoza

June 7, 2017

You know that famous John Muir quote? The wines are calling and I must go. No? Well, I think if he had said something along those lines, he would have been referring to Mendoza, Argentina. The Mendoza province sits in the western-central region of Argentina in the Andes. It is home to Argentina’s most famous wine, the mouthwatering Malbec, world-class dining, and stunning views. Since I love wine and was going to be living in Argentina for two months, I knew Mendoza was going to be a destination that I couldn’t miss. To add icing to the cake, myself and eight other Remote Year ladies made plans from Córdoba for a lovely girls weekend getaway – making it one of the best sidetrips I’ve had this year!

There are three wine producing areas in the Mendoza wine region to visit: Maipu Valley, Luján de Cuyo, and Uco Valley. We wanted to see the entire region at our own pace so we hired a driver for three days and set out to visit three wineries a day in different regions. From the minute we landed at the airport our driver, Mauricio Molina, was the most accommodating and helped us plan an exclusive itinerary. We stayed in an adorable airbnb for the long weekend that was located in Luján de Cuyo.

The first night we had dinner at Cava de Cano. In this unique closed-off bungalow, we were greeted with a huge array of food for nibbles: charcuterie boards, cheeses, homemade sauces, pickled eggplant and garlic, juicy olives, traditional Argentine stew, and empanadas. It was the picnic spread of my dreams! The meal also came with unlimited wine and only cost about $30 each.

The next day we embarked on our journey in wine country. Our first taste of Argentinian Malbec at Matervini was very special. This winery is only 6 years old and uses some innovative techniques to highlight the wine. They use 100% alternative energy using solar panels and passive mechanisms to regulate temperature. Our somm, Franco, immediately impressed us with his double pour. My favorite Malbec here was the Alteza. It was complex and spicy without fruit being centered, but an accessory, which really heightened the character.

After our morning at Matervini, we ventured to Huarpe Wines for an exclusive tour and traditional asado lunch. Because this winery is not yet open to the public, it was a special treat to explore the vineyards and have direct conversations with the owners. You could tell how much passion and love they have for this winery. We even got to try wine right from the tap to see how the flavor profile changes during different stages of the fermentation process. My top tasting here was the Uco Valley Terroir which is a Bonarda/Petit Verdot blend.

The last tasting of the day was at RJ Viñedos. The owner Raul came to talk with us and share his story of the wine and passion being passed on from his French grandfather to him buying the vineyard. He even took us down to the cellar and let us select our own vintage bottle which he then signed for us. My pick from this winery is the exceptional 2008 Malbec which is robust, smokey, and aged in French oak.

For dinner, we went to Azafran which is known for their cozy ambiance and high-quality ingredients. Although many enjoyed their meal here, I didn’t care too much for my risotto, but still loved the atmosphere.

My favorite tasting of the entire trip was at Finca La Anita. The winery was born in the early nineties, out of an obsessive idea: the recreation of the traditional European model for fine wine production. They employ low yields, very careful selection of the vineyards, and they raise their wines in French oak barrels. There is a vibrant energy in the vineyards and tasting room that enabled us to experience the wine beyond the glass. Our lovely sommelier even opened a 2000 vintage making it an unforgettable day!

  Our second winery brought us to Ruca Malen for lunch. Ruca Malen takes visitors on a larger-scale journey through the winemaking process to see how modern techniques have been implemented. We then indulged in the highly creative six-course menu with wine pairings that were served in a sunny solarium with unequaled views of the vineyards and surrounding mountains. I loved that many of the dishes used ingredients grown right there in the seasonal garden. I even literally cried when the cotton candy inspired dessert came out because it was so cute.

The last winery tour of the trip was Kaiken. The winery has a nice tasting room with views over the vines and snow-capped peaks, plus a few geese wandering past to add a little extra charm. The explanation on vines, terroir, and irrigation was informative. The Kaiken 2012 Ultra Malbec was my favorite out of the tasting with notes of plum, violet, spices, chocolate, and clove.

For dinner we ate at 1884. South America’s best-known chef, Francis Mallmann, owns and runs this restaurant. I was so excited to eat from another talented Chef’s Table featured chef. The menu has many Argentine-inspired dishes, cooked over fire in Francis’ signature Siete Fuegos style, and an amazing wine selection.

The next morning when we woke up, we got a notification that our flight was delayed. Mauricio took us to the  TermasCacheuta hotel and spa for breakfast and a quick soak in the hot springs.

We ended our trip with a delightful lunch at María Antonieta. The place is so cute and quaint – we got an awesome table in the middle of the patio. My heart and stomach were so full after this weekend. I laughed, sang, and (happy) cried with some of the most beautiful and intelligent ladies. The wine and company made some memories that I will never forget. 💕

 

ChamBrais Medeiros contributed photographs to this post.

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