Day 2 In Mendoza: Who Knew There Is More Than One Winery?
January 15 — I was completely focused and immersed with Zuccardi wines and planning my trip to see their winery I didn’t do any research on the area. Turns out Mendoza has over 1200 wineries. Who knew? I guess anyone that bothered to research the town would. I didn’t though. Tunnel vision took over and all I did was set my sights on Zuccardi.
Having an entire Sunday to take in whatever I wanted I decided to visit three more wineries based on my hosts suggestions. He not only drove me around but I felt like I got a history lesson as well.
The first stop of the day was Kaiken. While Zuccardi is in the Maipu region, Kaiken is in the Tunuyan region. When I first arrived I wondered how it could compare to Zuccardi. Then I felt really bad. I don’t like being compared to others in life or in business. I wasn’t giving Kaiken a fair chance. However, there were many differences.
Most noticeably I was not greeted by anyone nor could I get in through the front gate. Walking around the back had it’s perks. The garden was beautiful with birds and benches, little sitting areas and a grand dining table in the center. You could easily imagine a lovely garden party here and if you could get past the immediate beauty you would see the lovely vines surrounding you.
Since I needed to wait for an English speaking tour guide I was offered breakfast during my wait. It was around 10am and a bite to eat sounded good. Maybe bread or fruit. Not sure what to expect. I can tell you I wasn’t expecting to be served a glass of wine. Yep. Here when you’re offered breakfast it’s a glass of wine. Well, when you’re in Mendoza…..
Not having much experience with breakfast wines I would say it was good. Light, not too sweet. Crisp. When the current tour came back I joined in their tasting. We sampled four wines. I guess this is the breakfast buffet.
To my surprise, I enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon the best. Usually, it is too overpowering for me. Theirs was very nice. The Malbec was good but I couldn’t smell the berries.
On the tour of the vineyards I saw a couple of different processes of how they grow the grapes. I picked up on a couple things immediately. One, not everything has a purpose. Two, “good enough” is good enough for them. Neither of which would be commonplace at Zuccardi. Still a very beautiful place and they had this really cool dirt cave that you walk into and examine the soil well below ground.
Being in the desert it is very dry. The winemakers go deep, at least six feet, to see what the soil looks like and determine how to grow the grapes properly. I didn’t understand a lot of it because it’s science, but you can’t help but appreciate it.
The steel wine room is very basic and looks like a warehouse. Not much to look at and I don’t know why they would choose to show it to anyone. Then you go to the cellar.
Here is where the tour should start and end. The guide runs her hand through the chimes to set the tone of the entrance where you are greeted by a statue, a muse of sorts, that watches over the barrels. To show beauty on the outside of the barrels they are painted with a violet red center stripe. Music similar to what might be heard in a monastery is playing. It’s like you’re in church or some other very reverent place.
Wearing shorts I suddenly feel very underdressed. As we turn the corner more barrels await and it is simply beautiful. How can barrels sitting there look beautiful? The same way a theater, stadium, or church does. It was majestic.
Then I see it. The mold! Oh, it was beautiful. White, black, shiny and doing it’s job. I wondered if anyone else ever got so excited to see mold besides me.
Visiting the cellar was well worth the trip. It was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it and I have a feeling I won’t ever see anything like it again.
Leaving there we drove just over an hour to get to the Uco Valley. On the way I learn so many things about the area. It’s desert but in the city there are trees. All are imported. Hitchhikers are all over the roads. It’s so common here even police officers hitchhike home from their jobs when they don’t want to wait for the bus.
When you get into town you’ll notice barbecues popup on the side of the road randomly as people just pick a place that looks good to them. There are exercise stations every so often that look to be in good shape but no one is using them. Cars have buckets and cones on the hood. This is their “for sale” sign.
I arrive at the Vineyards of Mendoza. Famous for several things. It is one of only two original Argentinian family owned vineyards left in the valley. They boast a resort on the property that has rooms for $2500 US dollars a night (did your drop your jaw like mine did?). You can buy land on the property to grow your own vineyard and make your own wine. My favorite was the amazing restaurant site, Gimenez Riili.
Fortunately for me, it was time for lunch. Their lunch actually included food and it came at a great time. I was super hungry by this point. Plus, if I didn’t have some food with this tasting I would soon pass out. I chose the three course meal with wine pairings. The cost, $37 US dollars. If I knew beforehand how good it was I would have paid so much more.
The first course were two empanadas, one corn and one sausage. It was paired with both a white and red wine. I forgot though and only drank the white. When I remembered I did drink the red too. I didn’t want to be rude.
The second course was a trio of meats. Filet, sausage, and pork medallion with pumpkin, grilled vegetables and salad. On my goodness. I was in heaven. It was paired with two more reds which I tried to drink equally. The food was amazing, but between the wines and the food I was getting full and couldn’t finish. They gave me some time before bringing out the dessert.
The owner and CEO came out to give me a taste of a family blend that only produced 1000 bottles. It was very good. Complex and distinctive. Next he gave me a taste of a 2003 Malbec. It had aged very well. Honestly, I was more in awe that I was getting to taste such rare wines and vintages. Quite an experience.
When the dessert came out I had planned to only eat a couple bites. No chance. It was so amazing I ate the whole thing. The real shocker, it was flan. I usually hate flan. I was eating so quickly I forgot they had paired it with a brut. I don’t think they intended the dessert to be the star of the experience, but holy cow, I can’t say enough about it.
As the meal went on the clouds drifted away. Now you could see the Andes Mountains perfectly. The server came over and showed us how the labels on the bottles of wine match the view. Such incredible detail and a great memory to keep with you when you drink a bottle away from the vineyard.
There is still one my winery to go and I’m not even sure if I’m up for it. I need a siesta badly. Arriving at La Azul was very different than the other wineries. It is a boutique family owned vineyard. They didn’t always make their own wine. Instead, they sold their grapes to other bottlers.
Azul is known for their romance. I was told their lunches are also pretty amazing. It’s very hard to get a table during lunch time. One of the bottles has a portion of a love letter the grandfather wrote to the grandmother in 1957 during a time when they were apart. The family still has the original letter.
With only a portion on the bottle in Spanish, the tour guide reads it to me. The letter says how much he loves her and how the distance between them matters not. Queue up the tears. They never fell but I imagine if he would have read it word for word or the entire letter there would have been plenty of gushing going on.
The tasting was very personal as we sat at the table and shared a family memory from each of the bottles of wine. For the first time I understood complexity. Tasting one of the wines my mind was racing to try and determine what I was smelling and tasting. It was familiar but I couldn’t pinpoint it.
It was complex as the hints of flavors and aromas danced in my nose, mouth, and mind. Before this I didn’t truly understand what people meant when they said the wine was complex. It is certainly subjective, however, this was my first experience with complexity.
Their wine barrel and steel room is small and they bring in a mobile bottler when it’s time. The unique experience here was to taste the wine as it aged straight from the barrel. This is what I have been waiting for and yet had forgotten about because so many other wonderful experiences have been happening. I was going to taste the fruits of labor before it was ready to be served and delivered.
With both hands I held my wine glass like a little girl asking for candy. I had to fight the urge to take a sip right away. The color was beautiful. Carefully swirling I made a cyclone with the wine and then put my nose in the glass. It was stronger, less fragrant and aromatic than the other wines I tasted. Still very good. I definitely had no trouble finishing my glass.
Coming to the end of the tour, tasting, and my day I really wanted a copy of the love letter. They didn’t have one. It has not been created as a postcard or poster. I would have bought it immediately. I would have bought several.
Headed back to Mendoza I drifted in and out of sleep. I was still completely full from lunch and with all the wine tasting I was tired. While I love learning, taking so much in was great at the time. Now trying to absorb it all has made me exhausted. I gave my attention, my heart, my soul to each place I visited and now I have nothing left in me for the day. Good thing it’s just about over.
Entering back into the town of Mendoza seems like a metropolis compared to the outer regions. This same city that seemed so small when I arrived yesterday suddenly is so different to me. With just a little perspective my view has changed. Amazing what even a little perspective can do.
I made it back to the airport in plenty of time to sit and read a book. I helped an elderly woman in a wheelchair who was just trying to put her feet up. She thanked me and called me “senorita”. I’m not sure why but it made me feel young and I liked it.
Sitting back down I looked over and saw a young couple. The woman had her head on the man’s shoulder and they were holding hands. All of a sudden I’m painfully aware I am alone. Refusing to cry I bury my head in my book and get back to reading.
While waiting in line to board I received a nice text asking about the trip. However, that’s not the text I wanted. I wanted it to say, “I wish I was there with you” or “I miss you” or “Maybe we can do something like that together some day.” It didn’t.
As soon as I get in my seat the tears are pouring and I can’t stop. At least it was a silent cry. I’m furious with myself though. I don’t know how much of the tears are because I’m lonely and wish so badly I had a hand to hold, someone to play with my hair, someone I can rest with or how much of them are from anger.
This can’t be my last memory of leaving here. I just had the time of my life and never once was I lonely. It never entered into my mind. I hear my coach saying, “Prove it”. I pour over every memory, every downtime, every thought. Not one of them was that I wish I could share this with someone right now. I’m not lonely. So what is it?
Coming to term with all the thoughts swirling around in my mind I realize I’m tired. Like the baby being held by her mother next to me, I too want to be held. I’m not lonely. I miss touch. True touching like hand holding, hugging, and embracing. I miss laying down and napping together and the smell of cologne on my clothes. I miss the clean scent of a man after he showers and the aroma of shaving cream.
All these things comfort me. I want and need them now simply because I’m tired. Tomorrow is another day and if I get enough rest and take care of myself I won’t be tired. And if I’m not tired anymore maybe I won’t have any of these feelings again tomorrow.
I try to go back to reading my book, but it’s no use. Instead I pour over the memories of Mendoza. There seems to be a lot of talk over the intercom but they are not translating to English. At some point I know we started to descend but it feels like a lot of time has passed and we haven’t actually landed yet.
The next time I hear what I guess is the captain the whole plane starts clapping. A flight attendant makes an announcement and all I can make out is “Miami” but it must have been a joke because everyone is laughing now. Soon we land and again people are clapping. Okay…..
Getting off the plane I don’t walk out into a covered space and directly into the terminal. We are all in a makeshift airplane parking lot. There are planes everywhere and I’ve never seen anything like it before. Well, except Die Hard 2. A bus comes over to shuttle us to baggage claim which thank goodness I don’t have to wait for. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t understand what was happening. Whatever it was I was able to miss the drama of it all.
It was nice to be so close to the airport. I didn’t realize how close my apartment is since I didn’t go to the right airport in the first place. Coming home was a great feeling. Climbing into my bed felt good. It makes me happy I am so at home here. There is comfort to my apartment. It hugs me.
My end of day gratitude:
- An amazing day of wine tasting.
- A safe flight and landing. Who knows what was happening!
- An apartment I’m happy to come home to.