Glorious Vino!

Trip Start Feb 03, 2013
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Trip End Dec 13, 2013


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Where I stayed
What I did
Army of the Andes monument
Lujan de Cuyo wine region

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hello guys and girls!

This blog is brought to you once again from the land of Argentina (we just can't manage to leave it)! During our stay with Cat we decided that the temptation of Mendoza and its world renowned wines was just too much considering it is only 110mi away from Santiago. Therefore, we hopped back over the border in search of some glorious vino – and glorious it was!

9th April – We had left our big bags with Cat back in Santiago and enjoyed the luxury of only having our small day bags with enough clothes for the two days we would be spending in Mendoza. Our bus was an overnight one and was due to arrive around 6am in Mendoza. For some unknown reason the driver managed to shave 2hrs off this time and we arrived in Mendoza confused and tired at 4am. We had walking instructions to get to our hostel so set off through the streets and shortly arrived to be welcomed in to our hostel by the overnight receptionist who was equally confused by how early we were. We crashed out on the sofa as we had no bed until the night, but I found it hard to sleep.

After a few hours we got up and decided not to waste a day sleeping, so we set off to explore Mendoza. We walked to the town hall, which apparently has some nice views over the town from its roof, but unfortunately we couldn’t get out onto the balcony. From there we took a walk to a small square called Plaza Espaņa, before walking to the main square, Plaza Independencia. Both were very nice and had some nice fountains. From Plaza Independencia we walked through the town and out to the large General San Martin park. We had been told that this park had a large hill called Cerro de la Gloria that also offered nice views over the town so we set off to climb it. We eventually got to Cerro de la Gloria and made the short ascent and the views were indeed very good. However, the 'Army of the Andes’ monument on the top was arguably the better reward. One of the largest we’d seen in any of the South American cities (apart from Cristo in Rio) it was really impressive with sculptures of workers and horses all underneath General San Martin on his horse, who himself is overlooked by the tall centrepiece of Liberty who is flying above him.

Afterwards we walked back through the park and after a quick play on a giant slide we sat and relaxed by the large lake in the sun. At this point our stomachs were starting to rumble for lunch and we decided we were craving pizza so we went in search of a nice place for lunch. We eventually found ourselves back at the main strip in Mendoza that is home to the restaurants and sat down for lunch. Whilst waiting for our pizza at our table outside we were approached by three young kids with leaflets. They rushed up to us all speaking quickly in Spanish and then two of them covered our faces with their caps. It was at this point I realised something fishy was going on and noticed the third kid had held his hand of leaflets out over our camera, which was on the table, so to obscure it from view. I quickly grabbed it and they suddenly left without saying another word or leaving a leaflet. We quickly concluded they had no interest in leaflets and a lot of interest in our camera and that it was in fact a distraction robbery attempt. Luckily, we had managed to realise before anything had been taken.

After lunch we made our way back to our hostel where the owner, an English expat, was now on reception and we made a decision to do the bicycle tour of a selection of Mendoza’s vineyards the next day upon his recommendation. We checked in and he also gave us a free upgrade from a 6 bed dorm to a 3 bed with private bathroom, which was nice! That evening we made our pasta dinner and relaxed in the hostel enjoying the free wine they provided. We met another English couple called Ian and Sally who were away on a three week holiday and who also were going to do the bike tour tomorrow. We were glad someone else was as we thought the key to a good tour was a good group.

10th April – We woke this morning and grabbed a quick breakfast ready to catch the local bus to the bike company to start our tour. There was no sign of Ian and Sally and we feared that they had had too much wine the night before during their dinner cooked by the hostel owner, which was accompanied by a lot of wine. However, Heather, our American roommate, had decided she was going to join us, along with a Turkish guy called Mutli and a dutch girl called Gertrude. As we were about to leave Ian and Sally appeared and we were now a healthy group of 7, all of whom seemed a really good mix – we were excited now we had our good group!

We set off and caught the local bus, which took a strange route circling through the town before eventually breaking away and out into the suburbs and to our wine region of ‘Lujan de Cuyo’. We got off at Plaza Chacras and I navigated the group the short walk to the bike rental company. They were very friendly and gave us a map, which they highlighted with 5 stops and the routes to take and before long we were off on our way.

We cycled through the pretty Lujan de Cuyo streets for 15 minutes before arriving at our first stop, the small family run winery of Carmelo Patti. This first stop offered only a tasting, but it was free. The friendly owner talked through his wines, which had come first in many competitions beating French wines in the process, and we sampled three reds, a Malbec, a Cabernet Savignon and a third, which was a hybrid of four different grapes. They were all delicious and he said that he offers his tasting for free as he just wants to educate people about the wines. He also told us that in recent years he had been visited by a Russian family twice and since their first visit they had ordered over 2,000 bottles from him!!

After the first winery we cycled with another group 2 mins down the road to La Garde, which was a much larger winery. Here we had a guided tour of the place from the fermentation tanks to the vineyards. Afterwards we paid for a basic tasting that included one of their special reds called "Henry". I have no idea who Henry is or why he has a wine named after him, but it was delicious! We tried mostly reds but also a white wine called Torontes, which is grown north of Mendoza in Salta. I prefer red wine, but this white was amazing! After trying the wines we were also given a glass of champagne and were all starting to feel more than a little merry as they were a lot more generous with their servings! During the explanations the guide told us that Cabernet Sauvignon was formed during the merge of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes – I had always wondered whether there was a link between the two Sauvignons!

After La Garde we wobbled our way along on the bikes to Pulmari winery where we had been recommended to have lunch. They arranged for us to have our tasting of their wines with our lunch and we ordered plates of steak and grilled vegetables to share between the group whilst enjoying a glass of white during the starter and red with the steak. The lunch was absolutely incredible and as always the Argentine meat was amazing! After lunch the owner began the tour and it felt a lot more personal. The tasting was incorporated into the tour instead of from bottles at the end and the guide showed us round whilst opening huge taps on the tanks and filling our glasses straight from the tank. We also tried a glass of fermenting grape juice that was 4% alc. It was really sweet and Kirsty asked if they could bottle it for her. Sadly they said no as it would go bad in the bottle. For some other tastings the owner used a huge pipette and drew wine straight from the oak barrels. At the end he also gave us a glass of port, which I’m not usually fond of, but this was so sweet and smooth. We had our group photo taken with the owner and then said our goodbyes.

We missed out the 4th stop as we were wined out at this point so we made our way to the 5th and final stop, which was a homemade liquors and jams factory. We sampled one table, which had different jars of jams and dulce de leche’s (a caramel spread) before moving onto the second table, which had balsamic vinegars and dressings. Finally we hit the liquor stand where we were allowed two shots from their range. They specialise in Absinthe so me, Ian and Heather stepped up and took a shot, which was served the traditional way with a spoon of sugar set on fire. It was horrific! At the end of the tour Kirsty decided she couldn’t leave without a jar of dulce de leche so we bought a jar that was infused with white and milk chocolate chunks. If you are lucky she might share a tiny bit with you, but I wouldn’t count on it lasting very long after we get home!

After the factory we ended our tour and went back to town on the bus. We finished our pasta from the night before and shared a bottle of Torrontes with Heather. We decided at this point we’d had enough wine for one day and retired to bed having had an amazing day!

11th April – This morning I woke up feeling a little hungover from yesterday’s events. We managed to stomach our breakfast and went out in search of supplies for the 6hr bus journey back to Santiago. Back at the hostel we bumped into Gertrude from our tour group who was also getting a bus to Santiago. She joined us on the walk to the bus station where we waited for our separate buses and all of a sudden a man came up to us and said our names. Apparently our bus had been cancelled and we were on another bus that we had just all been mocking due to the hoards of Chileans loading it up with their endless supplies of cheap rice, oil and foods. We were sure we were bound to be stopped at the border for hours. We got on the bus and enjoyed the journey through the vineyards and up into the Andes mountains. At the border we were stamped out of Argentina (for the last time, I promise!), but at the Chilean border sure enough we were stopped and all our bags scanned. It wasn’t the Chileans stash that was stopped however, but Kirsty’s bag. The border control people removed her newly purchased homemade Dulce de Leche and questioned it. Luckily for Kirsty they allowed the illegal item and she wasn’t forbidden from keeping her new luxury item. The bus continued, but, due to some stupid road works that had all the signs of classic South American planning, we got stuck for hours coming back down through the Andes. Eventually though we were arriving back into Santiago as the sun was setting nicely over the mountains.

There we are peeps. Our Mendoza stay was short and sweet, but just long enough for us to sample copious amounts of their world renowned wines! If you are considering a bottle of vino tonight then I highly recommend looking out for a bottle of Mendoza Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon, or if white is what tickles your taste buds then see if you can find the Torontes. Dee-lish!

Take care. Chao Chao!

G x x x x
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