View of the Andes from the vineyard. Santiago is just on the other side!
We arrived to Mendoza
and checked in at the four star hotel that Mike and Susan (Emâ€™s folks) were paying for, and damn! The first room was about twice the size of a normal room and that was the just the living room, which then led to the bedroom and the bathroom. Ridiculous, and really needed since for the past week we had not gotten one decent night of sleep due to the seedy Montevideo hotel (well hello Mrs. Prostitute), the bed that was shaped like the letter U in Colonia, and the noisy place in Bs As. Thus we were super ready for a place like this somewhere we could sleep â€śa pata sueltaâ€ť as it is said in Chile (with loose feet). We dropped our stuff off and we went to look for some meaty lunch.
Barrels of wine
We found a nice place outside to get some grub where we were greeted by a wiseass waiter, who turned out to be sloshed. Well, who cares as long as they keep bringing the meat. A couple of delicious soft, Argentinean meat and chorizos later, we were stuffed and happy. We all went to the hotel to relax a bit and then the mighty drinking four were off to a champagne tasting at a really nice locale that although was dominated by Americans (its odd to be in Argentina surrounded by Americans), was quite relaxing and the champagne was great. The next day we visited three wineries, which were recommended by the concierge at the hotel, and she did a great job in making an awesomeÂ day for us. The first winery called Catena Zapata was about an hour out of town which was nice because it gave us time to wake up and admire the scenery.
The Aztec pyramid at Catena Zapata bodega
The winery was rather large, but what was truly impressive was that its main building was modeled after an Aztec pyramid, which is rather creative or acid induced. At the top of the building there was a great view of the Andes range as well as the wine vines in the surrounding area. It was also impressively furnished with beautifulÂ rosewood furnitureÂ from the Missions regions, but the best part were the cellars where endless quantities of bottles and oak barrels were stored. Very classic. Now the best part: The wine. Our guide taught us to drink wine (smell, swirl, smell, sip, bring air into the mouth, and move it around) and then it was time to drink. The wine was quite nice, especially the Malbec, and although it was 11:30 in the morning, it was thoroughly enjoyable. We left for the second winery " Lagarde" which was medium sized and very different. The main building was certainly not as nice and far more old school. However, this made for some cooler details especially since they took us to the fermentation tanks so we got to see how in the past they used huge oak barrels to ferment large amounts rather than the stainless steel barrels that they use now. Even better yet was that we got to see how they make a champagne line that it is fermented in bottles by hand for 2 years by rotating it periodically. Until two months ago, the whole process including bottling, had been done for decades by the same man, but he passed away leaving two apprentices who now take care of it. This certainly reminds you that wine making is as much an art as anything else. Afterwards we had lunch at the winery where we got to drink 1 white and 3 reds. All really good, especially with some delicious meat (chorizo!), salad, and desert. Satiated we left for the last winery, which was just around the corner. Our third winery was very especial, as it was a one man operation by Carmelo. Although he does not grow his own grapes (buys them from farmers, but picks them himself), he ferments his own wine in older cement thanks (lined with epoxy), but carefully keeps tracks of them. In addition, he has a philosophy against oak barrels because in his opinions it masks the taste of the wine itself. The wine tasting was also very especial as we tried a wine that had been fermented for two weeks, one year (these two straight out of the tank), and three years, and you can really see how it evolves. Our favorite wine though was a Grand Assemblage that he worked on for 45 days to figure out, a combination of 4 grapes, and it was delicious. Emâ€™s parents bought a bottle of it, but Carmelo told them that it would be ready to drink in 2010, so they are gonna have to wait a bit. And so we went back to hotel where we rested a bit and then went out to have dinner, which for a change was pizza and beer. It should be noted that when we went for a beer at a bar our waitress struggled to figure out what a Guiness or a Heineken were. She claimed it was her first night, and thatâ€™s the only reason why we shall not make fun of her. Our last day in Mendoza was a nice stroll around the street and the park, where everybody was chilling out. After an extremely filling pasta lunch we went to the airport to go back to Buenos Aires
and, for a change, the plane was late.