Following five days in the Patagonian wilderness, we agreed that our next destination should involve a bit more indulgence and relaxation. Mendoza, in the heart of Argentinian wine country, was an easy choice as we made our way up the west coast of South America.
Our plan started off well as we arrived in Maipu, a quiet suburb of Mendoza, and settled into a winery-turned-hostel surrounded by picturesque vineyards. However, our bodies had other plans for us: the back-to-back red-eye flights and 5-day trek, followed by even more red-eye flights left us feverish and achey, and confined us to our hostel bed for two full days.
The positive… we were able to recover amongst gorgeous green vineyards and red hills set against the backdrop of the towering, blue, snow-capped Andes mountains. The negative… we were in wine-country and unable to enjoy even a drop of wine.
Luckily, we extended our stay and on our third day we were feeling better and, importantly, we were ready for wine. We joined a friendly English couple at our hostel for a full day wine tour during which we learned many important things, including:
- The 5 different wine pairings at our 3-hour, 6-course lunch at Nieto Senetiner Vineyard did not in-fact constitute the tasting. Guests are invited (and expected) to join a tasting after 5 glasses of wine and courses of various breads, dips, salads, vegetables, cuts of steak and deserts. Needless to say, Alie couldn’t partake in any of the day’s remaining wine tastings.
- Apparently playing Gregorian gospel music to aging wine helps it “relax,” something learned as we walked through the eerie cellar at Kaiken Vineyard. In retrospect, we shouldn’t have been too surprised by the music and the angel statue in the cellar after we learned that the vineyard practices the biodynamic method, which involves letting farm animals roam free throughout the vineyard and burying manure-filled cow horns in the ground to entice the earthly elements into providing for a bountiful harvest.
- And of course (as we began to realize while living in London), Brits can embarrassingly outdrink Americans. Our fellow travelers seemed to have no difficulty taking down every glass of wine we were offered and then continuing to drink back at the hostel.
Naturally, with the wine, food and long lunch discussion (ranging from Donald Trump – again – and Scientology to British pub culture and astronomy), we headed to bed full and happy. We took the next day easy, enjoying tastings of various local spreads, olive oils, jams, chocolates, liqueurs and beers.
Overall, while we were unable to take full advantage of our time in Mendoza given our initial illnesses, we still enjoyed the beautiful scenery and delicious food and wine. We definitely recommend a visit to Mendoza, though we would suggest splurging a bit to really get the full Mendoza experience.
Things To Do:
- Wine tours & tastings are the biggest draw for Mendoza. There are several ways to see the vineyards spread out across the area. We recommend a full-day tour like the one we took, which led us to visit some boutique vineyards (such as CarniaE) but also some larger ones as well (such as Kaiken, which produces 3mn liters of wine a year and is sold in the USA). We had hoped to also bike around to various vineyards, but didn’t have time. Mr. Hugo Bikes is a popular company in Maipu that organizes bike wine tours, though you can often book directly through your hotel.
- Mendoza also boasts a range of outdoor activities in the surrounding area: biking, hiking, horseback riding, rafting and more. An Argentine friend recommended San Rafael as a great base to enjoy Mendoza as well as outdoor activities.
- Don’t waste your time walking through the towns. We learned the hard way, walking 2 hours to the center of Maipu only to discover a) essentially nothing and b) what did exist was closed on Sunday.
Days Stayed / Recommended: Depends on how much wine and food you can handle. Four days seemed appropriate, but we always could have added more time to enjoy the outdoor activities.
Accommodations: We stayed outside the city of Mendoza because we heard the city itself wasn’t anything to write home about. We certainly found a picturesque landscape in Maipu. Our hostel, Antigua Residencia, is a former winery, and our room was actually built in one of the former processing vats. However, we would recommend splurging in Mendoza and enjoying one of the countless higher-end hotels and inns across the region.
Local Food: Mendoza is renowned for amazing food. Our lunch at Nieto Senetiner was phenomenal. We were also recommended but didn’t make it to Siete Cocinas, “Beef Club” at Entre Cielos, Casa del Visitante a Zucardi and Azafran.