Got into Mendoza at 10 after another overnight full cama bus journey and checked into a hostal next to the bus station to maximise the speed in getting ready to get out for a wine tour around Mendoza which produces around 70% of Argentinian wine. To start the wine tour, Joel cracked open our remaining litre of red wine left over from the BBQ night which we´d got through by 10.45. Back to the bus station and a 45 minute bus to Maipu for our tour. Weather great again and perfect to get the recommended bikes to conduct our own tour of the surrounding botegas. By 12 we were on our way to the 1st recommended botega which doubled as a museum and enjoying the vineyard countryside with trees overhanging the country lanes with a very "Year in Provence" feel.
Got to the museum having just missed a tour but were advised to have a look around until the next tour - promptly found the free tasting room and with red wine unguarded helped ourselves to a glass each of red wine whilst we waited. Tour itself pretty impressive with the botega producing 10 million bottles of red wine per year, predominantly (Cabernet Sauvignon) before being walked around vineyard, shown a collection of victorian transport vehicles, a full set of coopers tools and different vats that displayed the evolution of wine distilling processes since the 16th century. Finished off the tour with a visit to the tasting room where we were invited to sample the produce - not as generous glass fulls as we gave ourselves !! Good start without paying a penny. 2nd stop onto a chocolate and liquor maker - also free to get in but not so much of a free tour as a presentation of the items they sold.
However full range of liquors, a few wines and posh looking chocolate. The presentation was followed by more free tasting of both chocolate and a shot of a liquor of our choice (I went for lemon). We decided to purchase a bottle of watermelon liquor and absynth for later. 3rd stop was the 1st we had to pay for - very upmarket place and after hearing prices, forewent the tour and went straight to the wine tasting. A number of different options - we went for 4 glasses of wine between the 4 of us (2, 2006 unoaked (Syrah & Malbrec) & 2, 2002 oak aged (Syrah & Malbrec)). After sampling them all, decided my preference is for cheap plonk without the need for oak aging. Cycled on to the 4th botega (Familia de Tomasso) with a really friendly set up that included a quick tour with brick vats - curiously the botega were told to make the unique vats listed items to make it a listed building, which subsequently prevented them from being used for their intended purpose as protected !! Had our tasting in the cellar of one of the vats around a banquet table and presentation wines - cool setting.
Feeling ready for the next we got on our bikes for number 5 when we were intercepted by the tourist police - thankfully not in trouble but warned of a big storm coming in and we had no choice but to return back the way we came. The 4 of us raced back to the bike shop beating the incoming storm. Good day but slight incomplete feeling that didn´t do all 6 botegas and disappointingly sober.
Back at hostal Joel, Chris and I had the watermelon liquor and went out for a Saturday night in Mendoza. Found the main party street but 12 seemingly too early as everyone just outside cafes chatting. Had the famous Argentine empanadas for dinner which were superb before hitting a bar that did 2 litre test tubes of Heineken. Good night and quite busy but not really a party place.
Day after, too tired to be bothered doing much. Went for a wander around Mendoza which is full of tree lined streets but nothing jumping out as something to do. Even the plazas had little character with much greenery and fountains but nothing to actually see. All cafes apparently serving identical menus so had the empanadas again. Paul, Chris and I went off to watch the Man U v Tottenham FA Cup game but Chris (Scum supporter) had got mixed up with the time difference and full time had just blown ! Had a lazy afternoon struggling to find anything open during siesta before trying to book an adventure activity for tomorrow. However all actvities appeared overpriced and decided to leave Mendoza tomorrow - the lads to Santiago, but I needed some countryside so wanted to go to Uspallata.
Before leaving, met up with 2 local girls who had walked the Inca Trail with Joel and Chris. They took us on their own tour of Mendoza with the 4 of us crammed into the back of a Peugeot 206. Went to a massive out of town park with an impressive statue of San Martin
(who liberated Argentina from the Spanish) and equally impressive views over the city before going for a meal in the park. Not quite the steak that we all wanted as a send off to Argentina before heading back into Chile, but a pleasant setting. The 6 of us (mainly prompted by Joel and I) returned to our Heineken test tubes for a grudge pool game. Joel and I had $4 a frame on it and left the other 4 for their fun game.
Fortunately I was on form and Joel wasn´t and I won 8-3 (should have been 9-2 but we counted me potting the black off the break as a loss) to be collected on our return to England.
I´m sure I do Mendoza an injustice as its a pretty city but not enough to do and nothing different to Salta and Corboba. Time to get back into the countryside.