Magical Mendoza

First city in Argentina has not disappointed! Sofia & I took the bus over the Andes from Santiago (beautiful scenery) and made it to Mendoza on Thursday night. We went straight to the B&B i had booked. It was a home from home. The owners were Mercedes & Tito – 70 year old cuties who had lived in the house for 50 years and turned it into a B&B rather than downsize once the kids left. It’s a gorgeous house, and they were so welcoming. We instantly felt at home – and they became our Argentinian grandparents for a few days! We went out for dinner and our first Argentinian steak & wine (mmm!) and went home happy!

Friday we scouted the city out – it’s a cute city with a number of pretty squares where you can sit and chill. There’s a pedestrian road with a number of shops and restaurants, and plenty of shops to pop into also. In the evening we had reserved a place at a restaurant that Mercedes recommended us. It also happened to be #1 on Trip Advisor, but it deserved that title.

The restaurant was called Ituzaingo and its what the Argentinians call a ‘closed door restaurant’. We’d probably call it a pop-up restaurant. The restaurant all takes place in this guys house. He basically hosts a great meal for a group of random people. The evening we went we were around 12 people. No menu. You just eat what you get, and are served drinks with each course. The only alcohol you choose is the red wine for your main, as Argentinians are very picky about what they drink!

We started with a fishball in some sauce – delicious little amuse bouche, served with an Aperol Spritz- type drink

Next was two little empanadas- one meat, one mushroom. Light, buttery and delicious. This came with a glass of sparkling wine

We then moved on to dinner where we had a choice of steak, pork, trout or gnocchi. We both chose the steak (rare) and then went to chat to the owner about which wine he recommended. The one we had (a Merlot in the end) was delicious and complemented the steak perfectly.

Finally dessert was some type of apple desert- which was served with a glass of champagne. So much food. So much alcohol, but a great great night!

Javier (the son of Mercedes) was also at the restaurant with his wife for their anniversary too! We decided that the next day we’d do a wine tour with him (its his job) so despite finishing a rather large night around 1am, we told Javier we looked forward to seeing him at 9.30 the next day!

Next morning, and up for the wine tour. We had some breakfast to line our stomachs and headed off. Javier is passionate about wine, and chose some great vineyards for us to visit – each one different.

First on our list was Carinae in Maipu – this vineyard is owned by a French couple. They bought it in 1998 as a relic, put it all back together and learnt from scratch how to make wine, eventually making their own wines. We were shown the machinery, and understood the process of making wines and what differentiates new and vintage wines. Then we tasted 5 different ones – ranging from young ones, medium ones and to prestige ones. All had very different tastes and all were interesting to try- but i wasn’t so into the oldest (and most expensive!) ones. I need to educate my palate more!

Next stop was Javier’s favourite – and in the end mine too. Domaine St Diego. This vineyard is owned by Angel Mendoza – a lovely man who used to work in one of the oldest vineyards, learnt the trade and then started up on his own. He is known as one of the masters of wine, and has turned it into a family business. What i loved about this place was we didn’t see one machine. Instead we learnt about the wine by walking through the vineyards. Understanding the impact of water, shadows, the leaves & the animals made for much more interesting facts. Plus our guide was happy to answer all my questions – however simple they were!

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Olive trees growing near the vines: we learnt how the shade impacts on the vines and what this means…
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The vines – all trussed up differently here as they’re in direct sun
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Different leaves = different grapes. Count the edges (3), and (if any) the holes in the leaves… interesting!
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These leaves – 5 edges!
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Water is scarce in Mendoza so its gov’t controlled… this water gate is opened 4 times a week – 10 cm for 5 hours each day. Very strict but a fair approach…

We tasted three wines here, and some olive oil they also made on site. Everything was delicious – i ended up buying a bottle of one of them. It was a sparkling wine made with red grapes that was absolutely delicious – like nothing i’d ever tried…

Next stop was lunch at a vineyard called Finca Decero – its a beautiful vineyard (where you can get married!) but it was a little too poncey for me! Plus we had 3 wines but learnt nothing – i was there to learn, not just drink!

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Our final stop was a one-man band winery whose name i forget. It’s a small place, where he (and a helper during the summer) work, and they make three wines. Always the same and always delicious. In 2009 he won a Prestige award for his wine – pretty impressive when you think he goes up against companies with hundreds of workers! He spoke no English but was a lovely guy who clearly cared about his wines!

By this point, Sofia & I were DONE! Tired, somewhat drunk and full from the food! We made our way back to the B&B. Sadly we had to check out as they were fully booked that night, but we moved to our next place and crashed on the beds! We wandered out a few hours later, but more a token wander than anything else! Bed was in order for us this Saturday night!!

Mendoza makes c. 70% of all the Argentinian wines, and its no surprise. They have perfect weather, differing altitudes and so can make a number of different types of wine. Its largely red (c.80%) but some whites every now and then. Based on our day, they make delicious wine and i now will be keeping my eyes peeled for Malbecs from Argentina – not too aged, and more American oak than French oak!! But with 6 more weeks to go i’m sure i can get a bit more palate testing in 🙂

The last 24 hours have been rather gluttonous with our big meal on Friday night (with drinks) and then today’s adventure so i shall be detoxing (or trying to) for the next few days to get some balance!!

But Argentina is living up to expectations!

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