Week 22 – A Dose of Mendoza (In Vino Veritas)

A trip to Mendoza was on our minds for a while. We booked out flights a bit late and decided to have a local guide, a friend of a friend, organize the trip for us. Just a few hours before we took off, we received the final details of our trip: 2 days exploring the wine region of Mendoza with our own private guide, the friendly Manuel. One day in Luján de Cuyo, one day in Uco Valley. Not too shabby.

We began with a quick tour of the city of Mendoza. Then we headed to the Terrazzas de Los Andes winery, owned by LVMH, a European multinational luxury goods conglomerate, which owns Moët & Chandon, Hennessy and Louis Vuitton, amongst others. We had a private tour of the facilities, followed by a wine tasting. Afterwards, the three of us had a nice lunch with generous wine pairing at the winery’s fancy dining room.

By the time we made to El Enemigo, the winery of legendary Argentinian winemaker Alejandro Vigil, I already was a happy camper. After a tour of the cool and artsy premises, there were more wines to discover, including one with a 98-point rating, the highest in Argentina. We headed back to Mendoza, with a smile on our faces.

Next day came and the fun continued, this time in Uco Valley. First on our list was the Dutch-owned Bodega Salentein, one of the first groups who started to produce wine in this region. Its modern buildings harbor not only the winery but also as a small art museum. Three times a year, they transform their cellar in a concert hall where one can attend a classical concert, sitting on wine barrels and sipping wine. The concerts last only 90 minutes; otherwise, the wine in barrels would get warm and could be damaged.

While driving in the area, Manuel, who grew up in Uco Valley, would tell us stories about the different wineries we saw along the way. Many of them belong to foreigners, and many of those foreigners are French – “if you can’t beat them, join them”.

One of these French winemakers is Michel Rolland, who is behind the Clos de Los Siete. It encompasses five different wineries and is named in honor of its seven investors. We first did a surprise visit to Bodega Cuvelier Los Andes, where we bumped into Michel Laprise, Sep7imo Dia’s creator. We were greeted by Adrián Manchón, the renowned winemaker of this bodega. It was harvest time, so while we were there we saw grapes arriving, being sorted and put in tanks for fermentation. We had an impromptu wine tasting before heading off to lunch.

The last winery on the list was cleverly named DiamAndes. The diamond shape is represented in the architecture and on the wine’s labels. By chance or by design, we had an excellent private 5-course lunch with an incredible view of the vineyards. There was more wine, of course, one to match each course. The manager brought a couple of bottles of their limited-edition wines from 2006 and 2009, for us to compare. Our votes went to the 2006 bottle. After 16 glasses of wine, the day’s tastings came to an end but not the fun.

We still have one thing to do – horseback riding in the mountains. It was just us, Manuel and Walter, our gaucho. He led us through valleys and hills, crisscrossing a small river on the way. It was a bit scary at times when my horse would stumble while we were on slopes with a couple of hundred meter drops. Still, we had a lot of fun.

Before out trip to Mendoza, I was thinking of cycling the wineries. If not on my Brompton – I could not bring it on the small plane – then at least on a rental bike. In retrospect, it was better to have a guide with a car; otherwise, we wouldn’t have enjoyed the wine as much!

The week in numbers:
5 – wineries visited
30+ – glasses of wine I tasted. I lost count.
2 – famous winemakers met