We left Santiago to go to the famous Argentine wine country, Mendoza. We took a commuter plane, about the size of a Horizon to Spokane, which was absolutely full, to Mendoza, Argentina. A bout a forty hour flight we flew over the beautiful Andes mountains to the very small Mendoza airport in the Argentina wine country. We got in the long line to clear immigration with only one man reviewing passports. I realized I had my passport in my carry on which they had taken from me at the gate and checked. The airport was small enough, an airport employee was able to match my ticket to the bag, hold it up for me to see standing in line and after I waved it was mine, he brought it to me. What would Homeland Security in the U.S. say?
It was a half hour ride from the airport to the Cavas Wine Lodge with it’s 14 guest suites. These are cement and stone individual buildings scattered throughout the grounds among the grape vine fields. Large structures with lots of space they have a patio on the roof with a great view of the Andes and the vineyards around the property. It’s a very welcome sight after Santiago. There is a clear view of the Andes from this side of the mountains and in the mornings the sun makes the snow covered mountains pink in coloras you look out over row upon row of grape vines.
The night we arrived there was a wine tasting. Juan told a group of five of us all I wanted to know about Argentine wine growing and wine itself, but nevertheless it was informative. When talking about aging in the bottle he asked our little group how long we usually stored wine in the bottle before opening it. I gave an honest answer: "At our house, about a week." since I tend to open bottles of wine without regard to the label to the point Lita marks the good ones so I don’t open them. There was a newly wed young couple from San Francisco and a man of my age from Colorado at the tasting. Both were rather sophisticated wine people.
At dinner all the conversation around me was English which was disappointing as I like to feel I am in another country when I travel. The wine was outstanding, selected by Juan, and the pasta as well as steak was just excellent. Homemade ice cream and we were done for the evening.
The next day we went on a wine tour with a driver who spoke virtually no English at all. Worse, he didn’t understand even my most basic Spanish. He got Si and No, but after that it was all a blank stare. Discouraging after listening to weeks of Spanish tapes on my commute, but on the other hand, the people of Chile seemed to get my Spanish so perhaps it was a cultural thing.
We drove to the Lujan de Cuyo wine area and the Carina E Winery www.carinae.com A young woman with a Beatles tee shirt spoke excellent English and gave us the tour. We saw the vats where the wine is stored and the many barrels of wine. We were told the process of making wine in great detail, which was more complicated then the way dad and I used to make two barrels of wine for my grandfather Nicola. We tasted a number of wines and ended up buying a case of red wine we are shipping home. We also bought a bottle of olive oil made from trees on the ground. We are already shipping Chilean wine home as well. This winery was purchased by a couple from France after it had been closed for many years. They were working in Argentina, found it and decided to buy it. They were very charming people and their wine was very good.
We discovered a number of people who are attending the seminar in Buenos Aires were at the winery while we were there. They had come to Mendoza on an early tour and were heading to Buenos Aires when we were leaving.
From there we went to the Achaval Ferrer Winery www.achal-ferrer.com.A young man gave us a tour there after giving us a talk about the wine and wine making process. T here were two women from Toronto, one a lawyer and the other a dentist as well as a retired dentist from the U.S. The retired dentist was on a six month tour of wineries in Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and other destinations. I asked him why and he said he was either writing articles or a book about it. He had a note pad and made copious notes after sloshing the wine around in his mouth and spitting it into a container. The lawyer asked a lot of questions and the rest of us just followed along through the tour of the winery. It was much larger then the previous one and the wine was good. However, we ended up only buying a bottle of a red sweet wine, Dolce. It was like ice wine but was red. I’ve never seen a red sweet wine like this.
From there we drove to Ruca Malen Winery www.bodegarucamalen.comThis large very beautiful winery is within five minutes of where we are staying. Our purpose for going there was to have the lunch with matching wine. There was an appetizer with Yaququen Sauvignon Blanc followed by a second appetizer with Yauquen Cabernet Sauvignon. Then came a starter of smoked pumpkin tgerrine with a Ruca Malen Merlot. The main course was a wonderful beef tenderloin medallion with a Ruca Malen Cabernet Sauvignon and another Kinien Malbec which were wonderful red wines. After desert we staggered to our car around 3:00 pm. Lunch started a little after 1:00 so you can appreciate this was a real South American lunch. The place was full of both Spanish speaking and English speaking people. A wonderful lunch
We went back to our place and finished packing for our departure the next day. Of course we will have more wine tonight at dinner and there is a piano concert here at the hotel. The food here is out standing and of course the wine is amazing as well. This was a wonderfully relaxing break after Santiago. We enjoyed the country side and the acres of vineyards.