Day 297: Mendoza – Argentina – April 10th

Breakfast at the hostel, for the first time in a long time, they actually had eggs and pancakes for us! Something about South Americans and a light breakfast consisting of tea, coffee, and bread+jam. Don’t know how they do it, but even with our skinny frames we get pretty damn hungry like an hour later….

Today we’re paying a visit to the wineries of Mendoza! The wineries are spaced out in several regions, and some of them aren’t accessible unless you have a car or book through tour agencies. Then, there’s the town of Maipu, which has frequent bus services from downtown Mendoza, and it also sports a “wine route”, which pretty much is a single road with wineries jutting out on both sides. This was a highlight before going, but the best part for us was because you could rent a bike there, and ride to all the wineries along the route! It sounds like a fabulously fun idea, riding along the calm country-side with a tandem bike, wind blowing in our hair and not a care in the world…

We hopped onto the bus, and actually bumped into the couple we met last night on the bus! We shared a few tips, and they were quite excited themselves as they seem to love wine as much as we love to drink it. We actually booked a hostel in Maipu instead of having to go back to Mendoza at night, but mainly because our hostel was fully booked already haha. Checking into the hostel, we were the only two staying there that night along with another Canadian! It wasn’t much of an hostel as it is a house with a friendly old lady and her son doing the business. Very friendly old lady, and always great as she’d do the grandma thing of picking up on our bad Spanish, and correcting it (not in a mean way, we can always learn!).

Picking up two bikes for a reasonable $9USD, we first attempted a tandem bike but those things are tooooo scary despite its laid-back appearance. Happily riding along, Jiajia’s minimal experience riding bikes was a bit of a worry at first, but a few hundred meters in she was riding like a pro. Problem was, the roads are NOWHERE what you’d imagine in Argentina. About 1km out from the town, the road turned into a dirt road with dust flying everywhere, trucks zipping next to you as we weaved in and out of construction zones. It felt more like Nepal than anything! After a while, construction stopped and it slowly turned into the quaint, tree-lined roads you’d imagine when thinking of wine country.

First stop, also the furthest stop on the official wine route, was a small winery called Carinae. The winery is very small, owned and operated by a French couple who knew nothing about wine before they bought this operation as a ‘retirement’ plan. Respect. The tasting was very organized and were really impressed with their Octans blend, and a first experience of a grape known as Torrontes. With the floral bouquet of moscato, the wine isn’t overly sweet and dry, hence the winery labels it comically as a liar grape. Bought a bottle of that awesome Octans and we were on our way to the next stop!

Some things seem to go together, like having gourmet chocolate shops next to the expensive butcher? And here in Mendoza, across from the Carinae winery was an olive oil factory. You can smell the hint olive oil from afar, it was awesome! They don’t offer tours, but the tasting was an awesome snack as you load up on olive oil and bread to line the stomach for more wine.

One of the more popular visits in this part of the wine route is the Di Tommaso winery, started by Italian immigrants in 1869, and the winery is declared as a national heritage site, so they can’t actually do any of the manufacturing there anymore. The wine tours were cool, taking you into the depths of their brick vats that are no longer used. The whole place has this awesome old-world feel to it, except the problem is their wines sucked horribly. Horrible.

With our visit to Di Tommaso, it was getting late and we’re running out of time before most places close. We still haven’t had lunch, but the lunch place was rather far, so we stopped at the next winery closest to us, Tempus. Part of the fun with visiting wineries is that, each one has their own style of wines, but their architecture says a lot too. Tempus winery is a modern winery, from the massive gates, to the font of their winery and most importantly, the building itself, is very modern and very cool. The tasting bar is on the 2nd floor, and we went for two ‘flights’, and tried out all their reds as we sat on an outdoor patio overlooking their vineyards. Their regular reds weren’t spectacular, but we ordered a steak which made it all worthwhile. The best though, was their expensive reserve wines, which we ended up buying. While enjoying the sunshine, the ambiance, and the buzz from drinking so much wine, our friends we met from the bus joined in and we had a nice chat as well. The reserve wines of Tempus was very exceptional, and we happily rode our bikes back to the town of Maipu as the sun set over the dusty roads.

Cooling down with a glass of fruit juice at the bike shop, we looked around for some food. Problem is, it was too early for most Argentines to eat dinner being only 7:30pm, but in Mendoza they eat late even for Argentine standards! We ended up eating 2x massive sandwiches, a litre of coke and sitting outside a nice yard as the stars twinkled above. Nice day…!

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