Mendoza — The Napa of Argentina…
Mendoza era el ultimo destinación en Argentina para mi. Translation: Mendoza is my last stop in Argentina. As you can all tell my Spanish is getting quite strong!
The journey to Mendoza lasted approximately 24 hours and involved my first overnight bus in South America. Sadly I did not discover my seat actually had a leg rest that went fully flat until we arrived in Mendoza. A tough lesson learned, however should I encounter another overnight bus on this trip I will now be ready!
I had painted a picture in my mind that Mendoza would be like Napa Valley or Tuscany, containing a small town with vineyards as far as the eye could see! In reality this was not the case, Mendoza is in fact a large city and the vineyards are further away from the city. Getting around this area is easiest if you have a group and can hire a car, as a solo traveler this proved to be an expensive option so instead I elected to do an organized tour one day during my visit.
I spent the first day exploring the city and investigating my options to wine taste in the region. I found the town to have some nice parks and was easy to manage on foot.
Night one was capped off with a visit to the Francis Mallmann restaurant 1884. It was a very nice dining experience but it did not have the unique elements that made my visit to his other restaurant (Patagonia Sur) so memorable and special.
It was an excellent meal but I think that there are other more affordable restaurants in Mendoza which provide a better bang for your buck after having spent time in the city.
Lets jump ahead to my wine tour! I was picked up early and soon was on my way to the Uco Valley. We would visit three wineries in the following order: Bodega Atamisque, Bodega Corazon del Sol, and Bodega O’Fournier.
It was an excellent day! All the bodegas were generous with their pours and offered a wide variety to compare and contrast which wines we favored.
The gold medal goes to O’Fournier, followed by Atamisque and then Corazon del Sol in order of my preference. In addition to wine O’Fournier included a gourmet lunch from it’s restaurant “Urban” which has been voted one of the world’s best winery restaurants.
All the courses were delicious, but the dessert was spectacular in both taste and appearance!
Later in the week after not accomplishing too much post wine tour I made a new friend in the hostel. Keegan from Boston was my newest amigo. He is touring around South America for a few months and then will be heading towards New Zealand. We spent one afternoon biking around Mendoza a bit after we registered as locals and received access to the free city bikes. Our self guided tour included a visit to the main park where we came across a smoothie lady with tons of fresh fruit overflowing the sides of the little stand.
It was outstanding, great price and a friendly portion! To top it off the build process was completely in your hands so I would give the establishment a 5 star rating. As Stuart noted to me “this could be a blessing or a curse depending on your creativity!”.
I think I did quite well and would stand by my creation any day of the week!
In the evening my friend and I ventured to a restaurant in town which had been recommended to me on the wine tour. They were very insistent on the fact that I had to go to La Barra so we decided to give it a shot and test it out.
Excellent call, La Barra is where I had the best steak in Argentina! The outdoor courtyard patio had a magical ambiance and the food combined with the Mendoza wine was truly top notch! Given the quality of steak and great service La Barra is a steal of a deal in terms of price! The steak quality is up there in every respect with my Buenos Aires favorite, Cabana Las Lilas, however price wise it is at least half the cost of restaurants in Puerto Maderno!
While dinning we had sketched an outlined itinerary for the day following. We agreed that heading to Maipu and renting bikes to do some self guided wine tasting was a good idea and that we would embark on this quest the next morning.
Things changed however when we returned to the hostel and were hanging around the common room area. I was chatting with one of the owners of the hostel, as I had been all week, and received an invitation to join him and some friends for an authentic Asado the next day in a town outside of Mendoza. The kicker we would be taking a motorcycle. Instantly I wanted to say yes but after having already hashed out a plan for the next day I had to be thoughtful on how I approached this and requested a little time to think over this invitation. Needless to say I was able to talk things over with my buddy and move the bike tour tasting to the day following, thus I was free to do the Asado!
I awoke the next morning with images from the movie Motorcycle Diaries still flashing through my mind.
I was very excited for todays adventure to come and was happy to yet again receive such a cool and generous invitation!
This trip has been full of unexpected invitations and my consistent response throughout has been and will continue to be “YES, count me in!”
The ride out to pueblo Potrerillos was fun, as were the people who met us for the Asado. The afternoon was spent relaxing at the base of the Andes mountains while snacking on steak & chorizo and sipping Fernet & Coca-Cola .
It was a great day spent with a bunch of cool Argentines! The hospitality across Latin America continues to astonish and impress me! In the evening we headed back to Mendoza and I was happy to have my leather jacket on as it was a bit cooler in the evening once the sun was down on the bike!
My final day in Mendoza kicked off with the plan to head towards Maipu to do some bike touring and wine tasting. We got a bit of a late start and ended up getting a ride from a guy staying in the hostel who promised us a good price. In reality he ended up charging us a lot more compared to the “good price” he had supposedly promised Keegan, our mistake as a group (not going to point fingers…) but we were on the hook and definitely should have negotiated a set price prior to departing. We got dropped off at a winery way away from town at the suggestion of this guy (again a bad idea!) and ended up doing a wine tour which lasted 90 minutes and not really tasting any wines. Then we were stuck with the task of walking towards downtown which took a good hour. Needless to say very quickly our day had evaporated as bikes are due back to the shop early in the afternoon so that was out of the question. We walked to one other winery in town which offered a small tasting of 3 wines and then they wanted us to leave as they had a tour bus coming. Maipu wasn’t nearly as memorable or as enjoyable as my visit to the Uco Valley had been and after visiting would say Mendoza is a city (if you desire to visit wineries) best explored with a detailed itinerary and a set plan. I learned that winging it just doesn’t seem to work well here!
Once back in Mendoza it was a clear decision for the evening agenda. The final night would be a return to my favorite restaurant in Mendoza, La Barra, to cap off my time in Argentina!
The wine (Bodega Sposato, Reserve Malbec 2013) was outstanding and perfectly complimented the masterly grilled steak!! Seriously if you are in Mendoza you need to go to La Barra!!!
For dessert while in season (Feb-March) they cut down grapes from the vines hanging overhead which were so fresh and absolutely delicious! A fantastic end to my time in Mendoza!
Este es el fin para mi en Argentina!