Three days of wine tasting in Mendoza was a pleasant way to relax after wrapping up our first harvest. Of course, over the last decade Mendoza has exploded onto the international wine scene with it’s first class Malbecs. Originally used as a blending grape in Bordeaux, Malbec has found it’s home in Mendoza. This grape can produce excellent bottles by itself or when used as the principal varietal in blends that typically incorporate small percentages of other grapes such as Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and/or Cabernet Franc. Overall, we were very pleased with the quality of the wine, the variety of the styles, and the hospitality of the many people we met.
Before we left for Mendoza, we booked a hotel (which did NOT look like the picture online once you got past the lobby), rental car and set up appointments with 3 wineries per day. Most of Mendoza’s wineries are located within 30-45 minutes of the city in sub regions known as Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo, and Vistalba. To get our bearings straight we setup our first two days worth of appointments in these areas including Alta Vista, Nieto Senetiner, Catena Zapata, Weinert, Tapiz, and VistAlba. On the third day we decided to venture out a little further to the Uco Valley, in which more and more of Mendoza’s premium wines are being produced each year. In the Uco Valley we toured and tasted at Andeluna, Bodega La Azul, Salentein, and Clos de los Siete.
Our absolute favorite tours and tastings were at Catena Zapata, Vistalba, and Clos de los Siete. The premium wines from Catena Zapata are very impressive, along with some of the wines that they only sell in South America. Vistalba, though a relatively young winery, proved able to stand up to Mendoza’s best. And Clos de los Siete, a project between multiple wineries, with Michel Rolland as both part owner and winemaker, delivers an incredible blend at a great price – about $20 US dollars.
Combining a great wine list and delicious Argentinean cuisine, Ocho Cepas was our favorite restaurant of the weekend. Although the restaurant at Bodega La Azul was a close second with it’s amazing view of the Andes, relaxed atmosphere and classic rock music. An unexpected find right across the street from Salentein, the chef there performed a small miracle by turning instant coffee into a culinary masterpiece. We’re still not sure if he was lying to us when he said he was out of espresso.
One thing to remember is that if you rent a car in Mendoza, you have to leave your headlights on all day. The police will stop you if you don’t, we know from experience. Despite our brief run in with the fuzz, we still agree that a trip to Mendoza should be on any wine adventurer’s short list.