Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mendoza: Let the Wine Floweth

We decided to skip Bariloche and head straight to Mendoza for some winery fun. We convinced Tim, a guy we met in Puerto Natales, to meet us in Mendoza and tour some wineries on bikes with us. He agreed and we booked a hostel. The bus to Mendoza was uneventful, I didn't sleep but we had the front top seats so at least we could stretch our legs. It was another long bus journey, about 17 hours, but this time we got into town at 9am not 12 am! We walked to our hostel, Hostel Lagares, and found Tim who had gotten there the previous night. It was a nice hostel, clean and new looking but unfortunately we had roommate trouble. We were a room of six, Nick and I, a couple from London a Russian and some other guy who we never talked to. The Russian smelled and he lost favor with us when he unplugged the aircon at night and it got SO HOT! I was tossing and turning and sweaty all night! Then the next morning the other guy in our room set his alarm to go off at 6 am and then proceeded to keep pressing snooze FOR OVER AN HOUR!!!! No point trying to sleep so we got up early that day.
We didn't have much time in Mendoza, only three nights since our main goal at the moment is to get out of Argentina because of budget reasons, but we had a good time. The first day we got here we went to the plaza which had a really nice fountain going on and we got some lunch. We also booked our winery tour on bikes for the next day. The wine tour was terrific! We went to three wineries and an olive oil factory, lunch was included plus snacks afterwords at this place with a pool where we hung out for an hour and a half.
The first winery used to be the biggest one in the region and they say the world at one point (not sure about that one) but is now a museum. We got to see all the huge barrels where they kept the wine, and we got to climb up on top of them and walk across them! They all have little doors on them which the people would somehow climb through to clean the barrels, a tight squeeze for sure. Then we saw the huge aging barrels in the basement and a huuuge tank where the white wine was kept, we climbed through this claustrophobia inducing doorway and saw the inside of this 'tank' which held 250,000 liters of white wine. It smelled very musty but it had great acoustics. The climb out of the doorway was like a second birth, but being pulled out by a bald Argentinian named ..baldy. After we tasted some wine and snobbily tried our best to figure out what we were tasting. It mostly consisted of cherries, leather, a roast dinner and bike chains. The next winery was a really chuchi (posh) one with all stainless steel barrels and conveyor belts and whatnot. First we saw where the grapes were mashed and all the tanks and tubes, then the aging barrels made from french oak (the best oak for aging wine apparently) and then the room where they bottle, cork, label and box all the bottles. We were taken into a tasting room for our tastes and then given extra in the buying room. At this point I was feeling a little tipsy. Oh and did I mention this was all on bikes? I had a fun beach cruiser bike that braked by going backwards with the pedal, something I haven't done since I was a kid! Nick wanted that bike but the other one was broken and he had to have a mountain bike and was grumpy about it. After the second winery my sitbones were hurtin since it's been probably 2 years since I was last on a bike!
We went back to our base for a wonderful lunch of empanandas and ate our fill and of course drank more wine. I was ready for a siesta but no time for that, it was on to the olive oil factory. It was a small factory that only goes during may-aug and the rest of the year they do tours and dry fruit. I learned that the color of the olive coincides with the ripeness of the olive with black being the latest and sweetest. It was a quick tour but at the end we got to taste a bunch of olive oils (with garlic, with basil, with oregano) on bread and eat raisins which gave us a little pick up to get to the next tour which was an organic winery. We entered and rode through the grapevines before getting to a barn to start the tour. This vineyard doesnt' use pesticides but instead uses permaculture to keep the pests at bay. They also borrow a mule named Rosita every year to plow the fields. Unlike the other winery they bottle, label and pack all the bottles by hand. Nick and I bought a bottle from here and it was SO GOOD! Tim bought some olives which were also terrific!
The next day in the evening we heard about a free folkloric band that was playing in town so we tagged along with a group going. We didn't realize how chuchi it was going to be though so I was waaay underdressed with a tshirt. We ended up on top of a building with a free glass of merlot listening to the band with a great view of the sunset and the city, it was a great, unexpected event. We got back to the hostel in time for the asado they were cookin on the grill, very good. Next morning we were off to the terminal for our next bus.

Mascot of the first winery/museum. People rub his huevos for good luck.


Walking ontop

Old corking machine

Special cask

Inside the white wine cask

Industrial winery, stainless steel casks

conveyor belt

old wines


olive press

Olive oil filtering

Olive oil eating

riding through the grape vines to the organic winery

snacks at the end

sunset from the rooftop
Me with my free wine, tshirt and band

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