Day 1 Friday arrival
We landed at 4pm after short but bumpy flight with Aerolinas Argentinas. There were no Ubers at the Mendoza airport so we ended up getting a normal taxi to our Airbnb in Mendoza city. When we arrived, we met our host Marcela and her sister, both with no English but we managed to communicate with my sloppy Spanish. The flat is nice and big, bedroom, bathroom separate lounge and dining room, and separate kitchen. It’s quite old school, not very modern (especially compared to our last one) with gas heaters with the actual flame, and gas oven with the flame too – but the location is great. We settled in as we usually do, by getting food and drinks into the house 😛 we went to the supermarket but had problems with paying by card and ended up having to pay by cash after waiting a good 20 minutes for the woman to try all our different cards.. The queue behind us was getting immense so we had to give up and pay with cash which we are trying to avoid since the ATM fee here is humoungously high.
Anyway, we then got home and cooked a tasty provoleta cheese melted in the oven as a starter followed by a main of sweetcorn and sausages, and a bon O bon for dessert (our favourite sweets that can be found all over South America and are not to be missed!)
Early night and very big sleep, 10 hours!
Day 2 Saturday 9th July, Independence day in Argentina
Woke up at 10 after a fabulous sleep, had a lazy breakfast and met up with Martin, the son of Marcela, who has very good English who kindly sat down with us and helped us by recommending what to do while here, and especially which wineries to visit, which is not an easy decision here with all the options available!
We ended up making a list of all the recommended ones, and asked other people including Tim (Rob’s wine expert cousin) and other locals and friends and cross checked all the wineries and picked the ones with more votes. We have planned two days of wineries visits next week, with a private driver so we could pick the ones we wanted (very expensive, we got about 5 quotes and all with very similar price). After a bit of planning we went out and enjoyed the sunshine, visited all the five main squares of Mendoza: Espana, Chile, Italia and Plaza San Martin and of course the main Square Plaza Independencia which is in the middle of them all, and was buzzing since it’s the 9th of July: Independence day in Argentina! So many people gathered around, with their families, having barbecues and listening to the music and speeches coming from the main stage. The fountain’s water was turned light blue, like the argentinian flag, and there were flags everywhere covering the city in white and blue, we stopped in the square to take in the atmosphere, and had some cacahuettes which are rather delicious (peanuts covered in melted sugar).
We also had a nice coffee in a cafe on the main road in the sunshine and continued our walk until we got tired. On the way home we met a beautiful fluffy cat, which we first spotted as he crossed the road tryinh to catch a bird. Made us miss Jenks, not long until we can see him again!
Then got home for a quick shower and out again for happy hour at a bar called Antares which brew their own beer and has 2 for 1 from 7 to 830pm. It was packed and with a nice atmosphere.
For dinner we went to Maria Antonieta, and had an amazing starter with burrata, serrano ham and pears, followed by a main of pasta with King Crab… just delicious. The chef is the wife of the famous chef at Francis Mallman 1884 here in Mendoza. After dinner we walked home, frozen and stuffed.
Day 3 Sunday the EU final
A very lazy morning and day… Bruce had a long good sleep, while I woke up at 2am and couldn’t sleep until 6am for some reason! Annoying. After breakfast we took some time to finally book our driver for Tuesday and Thursday, and decided on wineries, and also booked our high mountains tour for Wednesday. Last week, lots to do and lots of expenses making our bank accounts very red.
We then went for a stroll in San Martin Park around the lake, such a beautiful sunny day. There was an awesome dog that as his owner threw the ball in the lake, would dive in like I didn’t know dogs could do, he would swim all the way to the middle of the lake, get the ball back and kept going for ages. He must have got really tired as he got home, it looked like he had so much energy it was hypnotic to watch him!
Got back to watch the France – Portugal final while sipping a beer and then out for a local dinner at Josephine, where we shared a provoleta starter with mixed toppings, then a pork and an octopus main. No booze, getting ready for the coming days of hardcore wine tasting!
Day 4 Monday Horse riding and Francis Mallman’s octopus
As you would on a Monday we woke up early, had breakfast with toast and ham and got picked up at 8:30am by Carlos, from Los Pingos Horse Riding who was our guide for the day. After a short car ride we got to the stable, which is beautifully set near a vineyard and with beautiful views over the hills and the majestic Andes. The walk across the forest over the hill was breathtaking, our horses so well behaved and cute, as were the many dogs we encountered along the way.
Carlos was such an interesting guy, riding moto cross, and test driving for BMW.
Carlos is a very interesting guy, passionate about speed, motorcycles and cars. He was a race car instructor and he told us about a few of his favourite driving experiences as well as talking about his favourite cars and why. The walk with the horses was beautiful despite the clouds and the very cold wind, we were still lucky because there was no rain and no fog which meant we could still see the city of Mendoza in the distance and some of the mountains and snow under the clouds. Our horses, Plata and Juanaco were very well behaved and we enjoyed the ride a lot. On the way back we stopped at a vineyard called Bodega Krontiras owned by a greek guy, we had a quick tour and learnt about the stain steel containers, the oak barrels that can be French or American and give a different taste to the wine depending also on how long the wine spends in the barrels and in the bottle.
Day 7 Thursday: our last full day…
Mauricio picked us up at 8:00am and we saw a beautiful sunrise in the car on the way to the Uco Valley.
We felt a bit weird on our last full day of this amazing adventure, but let’s talk about the wine.
- Gimenez Riili
The first winery we visited was actually one of our favourites, which was chosen by Mauricio called Gimenez Riili, with amazing settings, gorgeous grounds and fabulous wine. We tried 6 wines, including their reserva called Joya de Familia, which ferments straight in the barrell (of which the temperature is controlled by the temperature of the room) and then ages there for 22 months. They only produce 600 bottles a year of that, and it was very special, 75% Malbec and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. All the wines we tried here we really liked, paired with simple flavours like cheese, olives and peanuts, and also a lovely warm beef empanada to go with the last wine. Just amazing and a perfect way to start the day!
The second stop was Zuccardi, a very big and famous vineyard that has fairly good wine according to most. We first had a tour of the premises, mostly made of concrete, the idea of the architect was to create everything in rocks to represent the rocky soil in which the grapes grow here in this valley. They only ferment the wine in concrete eggs too (no stainless steel) and then age it in HUGE barrels, of 500l up to 2,500l. It gives you the impression that is much more about the appearance of the building (of which they keep telling you the architect was famous, and the cost was 15million $) and the quantity rather than the quality of the wine. This was our impression anyway, we didn’t particularly enjoy the tasting, I liked their Zeta blend, but that’s the only one. Interesting to visit a mass producer winery, but nowhere near as fascinating as the smaller ones, loses a bit of the romance.
- La Azul
The romance was definitely there at La Azul, where we went for lunch. We had a fantastic 5 courses and 5 wines pairing in the sunshine looking at the Andes and the grapes, the bodega is family owned and with all the right things: lovely decor, full of locals, nice owners, very good wine and food, and friendly waiter – Pablo. Amazing and a must if in Mendoza!
Last stop, we were tired but had to finish with a fourth winery, the tours were finished since we were a bit late after lunch and got there at 4pm. We still could check out the interesting art gallery and tasted their Malbec Premius and their Cabernet Sauvignon Premius, both decent, with cheese pairing (we were so full but what can you do, when it’s included!). We even managed to convince them to show us the introduction video even if we didn’t pay for the tour. Interesting big winery, and liked the wine despite having had enough for the day (16th glass by now!).
Mauricio got us home at 7pm, and it was time to say goodbye. Destroyed but happy, we tried to recover from all the wine and then went for dinner (our last of the trip!) at El Patio Azul De Jose Maria, a nice parilla place near where we are staying. We managed only water and Pepsi, but Bruce braved a steak (the last again) while I had boring but tasty chicken from the grill. Tomorrow packing and leaving the flat at 10am, then have to kill time until 3pm to go to the airport. First flight to Buenos Aires at 5pm, then Buenos Aires – Madrid at 9pm and lastly Madrid – Milano. Can’t wait to see the family, friends, and of course Mr Jenkiiiiiiins!