Wining our Way Through Mendoza
Mendoza isn’t a city; it’s a state of mind. Mendoza is relaxing and sipping wine in central Argentina. Mendoza is strolling down a quiet pedestrian mall and savoring a rich cappuccino. Mendoza is enjoying life’s serene moments as they come. In this part of the world, they go down best with a decanted malbec.
Mendoza was one of the top spots we wanted to visit in South America, right below Cusco and Machu Picchu. The city is famous for its wine, and, if you couldn’t tell already, we love wine. Red wine, white wine, fruit wine, dessert wine, whatever – we love wine. And Mendoza is a great place to drink lots of it.
MENDOZA: AN OASIS OF CALM IN SOUTH AMERICA
If you want hectic, crazy cities, South America is a great place to look. Check out places like Lima or Buenos Aires – these cities are always wild and alive and energetic. We haven’t been to Rio, but I’m sure it’s the same way. Mendoza is different. It’s laid back, peaceful, and relaxed. The people are pleasant, the weather is fantastic, and the countryside around the city is stunning.
We slept in and had a late breakfast everyday. We strolled around the city and its beautiful plazas in the afternoon. We wandered through Parque General San Martin. And then, inevitably, we bought a few bottles of wine for the evening. Wine here is cheap, plentiful, and delicious.
DRINK MALBEC. LOTS AND LOTS OF MALBEC.
Malbec is to Argentina as carmenere is to Chile. Not to give you flashbacks to SAT prep tests, but that’s exactly how you should view malbec. Though its roots can be traced to Europe and France, malbec is Argentina’s wine. They produce it, they drink it, and they love it.
There is a tremendous variety in malbec wines. Whereas cabernets and carmeneres tend to have many similar characteristics, malbecs are all over the place. Some are fruity, some are dry – the only way to find out is to drink plenty of malbec. One thing is for certain – there is nothing soft or gentle about this wine. It packs big flavor and deep color.
BONFANTI AND TERRAZAS: OUR WINERIES DU JOUR
We spent a day driving around to a few wineries. The wineries are different here, and so is wine tasting. Instead of producing a bunch of different wines and hoping one of them tastes good, the wineries we visited tended to focus on three or four wines, making sure that each one is excellent. So we didn’t get tiny sips of nine different wines. We got three or four full glasses of wine. When we picked the one we liked, the server topped that glass off a couple more times. We visited Bonfanti, which is a boutique winery outside the city. And we visited Terrazas de los Andes, which is a much bigger winery that’s also outside Mendoza.
The scenery isn’t as beautiful here as, say, Napa or Sonoma. It feels less touristy, which has both its pros and cons. The wineries tend to be quieter than California’s wine country, but the wineries in Mendoza don’t cater to tourists. Some are not open on weekends, and it seems they really don’t care if you enjoy your experience at the winery. They make their money from exporting wine, not selling it by the glass to tourists. Regardless, we found our winery day to be both fun and delicious. Salud!!
FINCA LA VERONICA
Finca La Veronica isn’t a winery. It’s a vineyard outside of the city, and it’s a very special place for us. First, it’s where we watched the World Cup Finals. But more importantly (and second), it’s the home of our very good friends and hosts.
A buddy I grew up with (Hi Zack!) married a wonderful woman who has family in Peru and Argentina. One part of the family showed us around Lima, and the other part showed us around Mendoza. When it came time for the World Cup championship match, they graciously invited us into their home, fired up the grill for an incredible asado, and filled our glasses with wine again and again.
We feel lucky to know such a wonderful family, and, though it may be a while before we’re able to return, we can’t wait to visit Finca La Veronica again.