Mendoza – a tale of two different wine countries

It was the best of times, it was the. . . Nah, we’re just going stick with that first part – we’re in wine country!  Mendoza, Argentina – home to the Malbec – how can it be anything other than good times?!   That being said, for our few days there, we still had two very different experiences of the wine country – one of rich traveller and one of poor traveller.  Rich traveller, because sometimes when in a place that you may never visit again, you just need to live large for the experience (however briefly).  And then poor traveller, because budget, you know.

Before we get to the two, just a note on how we got to wine country to begin with – we took a 14-hour bus.  A 14-hour bus!  The journey from Buenos Aires began our bus tour around the country.  Now this sounds like it would fit in the poor traveller camp, but it turned out to be a bit of both, because the buses in Argentina are lush! Fully reclining seats, meals served on board (OK they’re not that tasty), personal entertainment systems with plenty of movies to choose from, and great countryside views (we’ll touch more on this in a future post).  So, our 14-hour journey to Mendoza just flew by, particularly as it was overnight.  And Jen was actually able to get a full night rest!  She can’t sleep on planes, but on Argentine buses?  Si chico!

Ok, back to being a rich traveller. . .

Once we arrived in Mendoza, we took another hour bus to Tupungato, which is in the Uco Valley – one of the more recent winery areas outside Mendoza, but full of small boutique bodegas.  And we’re staying at one of them – Tupungato Divino!  And it is posh!  And we have our own cabin – one of only eight and it looks out to not just the vines, but the Andes Mountains.  And I mean, look at it!

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After settling in and noticing the nice little touches like three spare bottles of wine in the nightstand (way better than finding a King James there), we head to the vineyard restaurant for lunch.

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It wasn’t just any lunch though – it was a 3 hour, 4 course, 5 wine lunch – lush!  There was Malbec, there was Torrentes, there was some Pinot Noir (the best Jen has had for a while – Oregon, watch out!), oh there was also some food that Erwan liked; there was Just. So. Much. Goodness!

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At this point, it’s probably worth reminding our reader that Erwan doesn’t drink wine.  Although, he will taste it, and being French (and having to take a wine appreciation course at business school in Paris – only in France, right?!), he knows his stuff.  He just doesn’t really enjoy drinking wine and thus, leaves it to those that do – like Jen.  So, during lunch, Erwan would taste the wine (maybe twice, to get a full test), but then pass the glass to Jen.  Therefore, by the end of the lunch, it’s fair to say that she was a bit tipsy.

Not to worry, the rest of the afternoon was spent just relaxing by the vineyard pool.

After a couple hours in the sun, Jen thought it might be nice to have another glass of Torrentes – it’s perfect for a nice, sunny day.  So, she asked Erwan to order one for her – he comes back with a bottle, because “it was the same price as two glasses, so might as well”.  Now, Jen has even more to drink and although it was really good, finishing it took a while and felt a bit chore-like (I know, life is tough).  Yet Petit George was there to help her out. . .

After a nap by the pool, the Torrentes was drunk into the evening and over dinner, which was much smaller, as we were still full from lunch.

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After dinner, Jen only had enough energy to attempt a few star photos (which didn’t come out very well – big surprise, considering Jen’s state) and head back to the cabin for bed.

The next day we woke up to this view.

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And then we just stared at it for a while.  Jen was also a little bit hung over, so that would explain a bit of her excessive staring.

Sadly, however, within an hour, the Sonda started, which is a huge dry windstorm that comes down from the Andes, blowing sand everywhere.  Thus, relaxing by the pool in the morning (which was the original plan), wasn’t going to be pleasant.  Instead, we relaxed in our plush room – not too bad still.

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Then it was noon and we had to check out.  The time of rich traveller was over and it was back to Mendoza, where we checked into a hostel.  We had booked a private room in the hostel, but they were out, so they gave us a dorm room all to ourselves.  Oh, the choices of bed!

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The next day began the full poor traveller experience – but we were in wine country, so there was plenty of fun and Malbec to be had.  Now when in Mendoza city, the rich traveller, or even the middle-class traveller, would simply book one of the many day tours offered throughout the city, which take you to 4 or 5 vineyards in the surrounding area.  You just need to sit back on the tour bus and be ferried to the places where you are told to drink.  Not the poor traveller.  We took a public city bus out to Coquimbito, where there are several vineyards.  Not far from where the bus dropped us off, thanks to Hugo Bikes, we rented some old beach cruisers for the day and were off!

Now the Uco Valley was beautiful countryside in the shadow of the looming Andes mountains.  In contrast, the vineyards of Coquimbito, were more interspersed amongst industrial suburbia – still with the Andes looking on though.  Thus, cycling amongst the vines on the winery estates was lovely; in between them was more a commuter experience.

Regardless, that day, our legs cycled 25 kilometres, covering 5 wineries for tastings (Domicianio, Trapiche, Mevi, Bodega Tempus Alba, and Vina el Cerno) and a microbrewery for lunch (Erwan needed to drink some too).

As per usual, at the tastings, Erwan would take a sip and then pass the rest to Jen.  Yet, despite drinking for two, Jen is not the one that passed out at the last place. . .

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All the cycling and drinking obviously tired us out.  So back in the city, we went for an early dinner and despite only being a 10-15-minute walk from our hostel, with our drunken exhaustion, we took a cab back – a small moment of richness in the poor traveller day.

Day two of being a poor traveller!  And today we didn’t even spring for bikes!  We took another public bus out to Maipu, where we walked between the wineries.

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To be fair, it was only two vineyards (Giol and Lopez) and a museum. Fun fact for the day, Giol was state owned under the military dictatorship, and was therefore, the daily wine on every table across Argentina.

Despite being a poor traveller day, at our last estate (Lopez), we decide to splash out a bit and eat lunch in their restaurant.  It sounds lush (and it was food and drink wise), but considering we were at source, the prices were still reasonable – here’s Jen’s face upon realising a glass of the brut reserve was only 2 dollars. . .

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After the lunch (and tasting), we head back into town via the local commuter train in time to catch our evening/night bus out of town.  It was time to continue our bus tour of Argentina!

The train ride back truly was the best of times and the worst of times.  Worst of times because our fun in Mendoza were now at an end, but best of times, because we were on our way to Bariloche – chocolate, beer and lakes, here we come!  Stay tuned!

Bye Malbec. . .

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