…… Read this over a glass of Malbec.
Mendoza, not too many people know about this North Eastern Provence and city. but they sure know what they produce. Mendoza province is the primary distributor and creator of the Malbec style wines. Infact, it is the largest producer of wines in all of Latin America, making it one of 9 World Wide great cities of Wine. People who come to Mendoza primarily come to visit the vineyards, do multiple wine tastings, but for a great many, they also come for the great outdoors. Nestled with the back drop of the Andes hikers climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemisphere, white water raft down their fresh mountain waters, enjoy a thermal hot spring bath, horseback and camp. Mendoza is a great province and there is really so much to do.
But there is actually more to Mendoza than just that. Let’s start with a little bit of brief history.
History of Mendoza Courtesy of Wikipedia :
On March 2, 1561, Pedro del Castillo founded the city and named it Ciudad de Mendoza del Nuevo Valle de La Rioja after the governor of Chile, Don García Hurtado de Mendoza. Before the 1560s the area was populated by tribes known as the Huarpes and Puelches. The Huarpes devised a system of irrigation that was later developed by the Spanish. This allowed for an increase in population that might not have otherwise occurred. The system is still evident today in the wide trenches (acequias), which run along all city streets, watering the approximately 100,000 trees that line every street in Mendoza.
It is estimated that fewer than 80 Spanish settlers lived in the area before 1600, but later prosperity increased due to the use of indigenous and slave labor, and the Jesuit presence in the region. When nearby rivers were tapped as a source of irrigation in 1788 agricultural production increased. The extra revenues generated from this, and the ensuing additional trade with Buenos Aires, no doubt led to the creation of the state of Cuyo in 1813 with José de San Martín as governor. It was from Mendoza that San Martin, other Argentinian patriots and Chilean patriots organized the army with which they won the independence of Chile and Peru. courtesy of wikipedia
What many people don’t realize, is that Mendoza provence is pretty much, a desert. With their clever ways of irrigating and tapping into the mountain springs, they were able to create a fantastic agriculture and micro ecosystem.
Mendoza international airport is the easiest way to arrive here. However, as of September 7 2016 – December 7, 2016, the airport will be shut down to fix and update their runways so flying into a nearby city and taking that hour – 2 hour drive or by bus will have to suffice. When you arrive to Mendoza like I did, my airplane, you have to scan your bags through a machine that detects organisms and other foreign species that is not conducive to a healthy environment. They take this very seriously. One wrong fungus, and the invasion could decimate everything. Different Valleys ( will explain shortly) also have check points to check to see and make sure you aren’t transporting anything that would be damaging to their eco system. Agriculture , whether it be wine or Olive oil ( their second biggest crop) is extremely important to the survival of this province and towns.
Valleys of the Wine Kings and Queens:
As of 2008, the Mendoza region contained more than 356,000 acres (144,000 hectares) of planted vineyards-producing nearly two-thirds of the entire Argentine wine production. The principal wine producing areas fall into two main departments – Maipú and Luján, which includes Argentina’s first delineated appellation established in 1993 in Luján de Cuyo. With vineyards planted at altitudes between 800–1,100 metres (2,600–3,600 ft), the Luján de Cuyo region is known particular for its Malbec which seems to thrive in this region as a mean annual temperature of 15 °C (59 °F). Historically the San Rafael region to the south and San Martínregion to the east of the city of Mendoza were important centers for wine production. San Rafael was also awarded DOC status in 1993. However the switch to premium wine production of international varieties has diminished their importance. One area of emerging importance in the Mendoza wine region is the Valle de Uco which includes the Tupungato Department featuring vineyards planted nearly 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) above sea levels and is emerging as a source for premium quality white wine varietals such as Chardonnay. In the Luján department, areas that may appear on wine labels include the towns of Anchoris, Agrelo, Carrodilla, Chacras de Coria, Las Compuertas, Mayor Drummond, Perdriel, Tres Esquinas, Ugarteche and Vistalba. In the Maipú department, areas that may appear on wine labels include the towns of Maipú, Coquimbito, Cruz de Piedra, Las Barrancas, Lunlunta and Russell.
Argentina’s most highly rated Malbec wines originate from Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. These Districts are located in the foothills of the Andes mountains between 2,800 and 5,000 feet (850 and 1,520 m) elevation.
The subject of elevation is of much interest to the wine world because with increased altitude, the intensity of the sunlight increases. The role of this increased light intensity is currently being investigated by Catena Zapata’s research and development department headed up by Laura Catena, Alejandro Vigil and Fernando Buscema. courtesy of Wikipedia
My Journey :
My journey began as some of you may recall from my recent visit to Igua who? Iguazu….Please go Chase Waterfalls and my earlier journey through Buenos Aires. Its never enough. My flight left Iguazu and made a 40 minute stop over in Rosario, Argentina. I tried to look up what is there to do in Rosario, even though I had to stay in the plane as we boarded other travelers en-route to Mendoza. My friend says its the arm pit of Argentina, but I’m sure as a tourist I would’ve found it fascinating. Oh well , moving on.
As we approached Mendoza city, I was in awe of the snow capped Andes Mountains. I couldn’t believe how beautifully majestic they looked. As previously mentioned i had to screen my bags, then I walked outside and lined up to grab a taxi. 20 minutes later, I was checking into my airbnb located right smack dab in the middle of Mendoza City .Here’s a link to the listing: Modern Loft Mendoza Airbnb
My host was so fun and funny. She took one look at me and wanted to make coffee and chat. An hour went by and I was looking at my watch thinking OMG the sun is about to set soon, and I really want to see the city. Fortunately she needed to go to, and we knew we would have plenty of time to catch up. I’m there for 4 nights…
Mendoza city was very leafy, whether it be on the tree or on the ground. I came towards the end of Fall and early winter, so it was chilly but still very pretty. I was lucky as they had just had 23 days straight of rain, a true rarity . Although Mendoza gets 340 days of sun, I guess this year they needed some quenching. When I came the rains had just ended, although I did experience some days with rain. I didn’t mind it much.
Excited to be in a city again, I really was interested in many museums, and of course people watching and food. Unfortunately many museums were closed, the people watching were minimal being that its low tourist season, and the food, well that’s another story. Actually I posted on Trip Advisor my review of the city and was met with massive hostility as they couldn’t believe that I would be that 1 person who didn’t enjoy the city that much. Like I’m a crazy person. Not everything and everywhere is for everyone . Although it is somewhat a pretty city to walk through and enjoy , and I’m sure during the Spring and Summer months its amazing, I didn’t find it as such. As a solo female, I felt actually a bit on edge. The men are crazy here, the cat calls, the following you all over, the blatant interests men give you is downright scary. Then there are the disenfranchised people who I could tell was just about to try and pull a petty crime on me. They would’ve truly picked the wrong person as I won’t back down, but I was so shocked. I honestly thought I was coming to let’s say the pretty downtown of Napa Valley. Where I’ would enjoy wine by a toasty fire, covered in a fabulous blanket the restaurant would give me, then I would go and enjoy shopping for local products like essential oils, face and skin products, candles, and local wears. Well, I truly learned something , STOP EXPECTING THINGS TO BE THE WAY YOU THINK THEY ARE GOIING TO BE. THEY AREN’T . Stop expecting. Yes , stop. You’ll be disappointed. In all fairness to myself, the way the city was hyped up, it felt as if i was going to be in a very resort like town. Oh well I learned my lesson , and a bit embarrassed by it.
Day 1: After Geraldine , my lovely and sweet host left, I threw on my jacket and headed straight out the door. First stop, Parque San Martin.
Parque San Martin: What a beautiful park. Large and grand with a lovely lake in the middle. Everyone was out on this cold afternoon. Families with children, lovers, friends, you name it they were there sipping their Yerba Matte and enjoying a good talk . The park is very lovely and full of beautiful trees, it was a very lovely first introduction to the city. One caveat: I was told by my host that it is not wise to walk deep into the park but to stick to the Lake , even her as a local would never do so. First indication that this really isn’t that gorgeous resort city I was hoping for. But the Lakeside was gorgeous.
I then proceeded to walk down the famous Calle Villanueva which is a street filled with shops, bars and some questionable restaurants. It was still too early for all of it, and a Sunday too mind you , so it was sort of a ghost town, albeit a few restaurants setting up their chairs outside getting ready for the dinner / bar rush. I walked and walked and made my way towards the areas that are full of the Best restaurants. I stepped into Azafran which is supposedly #1 on Trip Advisor for best restaurants. The time now was around 7:30 pm, and the area was getting a bit sketchy. Unfortunately they were not able to seat me as they were fully booked for the next 3 days. Wow , I thought they must be really good. So I made a reservation for my last night in Mendoza at 8pm sharp.
I fired up my yelp app to try and find a restaurant that is 1. open and serving, and 2. close to where I’m at. A good 10 minutes walk later, and I was at Anna’s Bistro, another well reviewed restaurant. Unfortunately for me, it was way too early for their dinner menu which didn’t start until 8:30 pm. I was starving and opted instead to do a tapas menu by ordering several appetizers to create one meal. It was good, nothing AMAZING and the wine was mediocre. Am I in the right place? Defeated, tired, and cold, after dinner I took a taxi quickly back to my apartment.
Day 2: Today I have a full day in the city . I had made some other arrangements for the next 2 days, but decided to give myself a Full day and night in the city to acquaint myself with it. I got up early as i guess I was just too excited. I got ready and was out the door by 8:30 am. There was some activity , very little , albeit kids heading to school, but for the most part, the city was QUIET. They don’t start their days until around 10 am at the earliest, and really adhere to the strict rules of Siesta from 1- 3:30 pm with stores opening up after 5pm. Ugh. Oh well I’ll enjoy my walk back to the city center to see the plazas and museums but first and foremost Breakfast.
I ate breakfast at Maria Antoineta per the recommendation of my host. It was lovely, slow service, but huge coffee. i was fueled up and ready to go. I walked around the still sleepy town and headed for Plaza Independence. Empty and not so pretty , the fountains weren’t in use, I saw instead something that caught my eye. The beautiful all white Hyatt Regency Hotel with…… CASINO . You didn’t need to tell me twice. I spent a good 3 hours in here. $300 usd up, then $400 USD down . That’s the way it goes, but I was totally entertained.
I walked around and around the city center, checking out Plaza Espana and Plaza Italia. There really wasn’t much left to do here as all the museums were not open today either. Only thing left to do was to have a very fabulous lunch and make it a long one. So I returned to the Hyatt and feasted on their executive menu and with my own little wine pairing . Pleasantly smashed, I made my way , slowly, back to my apartment where I spent the rest of the day in . In the early evening I returned to Calle Vilanueva to see what’s going on. I did a little shopping , had a cocktail and tapa, and decided to call it an early night.
Went home and washed 2 weeks of clothing properly in a washing machine and hung out to dry in the kitchen .. I felt accomplished. Tomorrow …. Wine tasting and Vineyard tours. Can’t wait
Day 3: I got up early again this morning but for a reason. Today I booked a tour with world renowned International Sommelier Javier Caruso. At 8:45 sharp he picked me up and gave me the warmest greetings ever.After reading raving reviews about Javier Caruso and his awesome private tours , I bit the bullet and contacted him. His correspondence was fantastic and along with it came a very detailed questionnaire.
He wanted to know my experience , my flavors, my pallet and my personality so he could tailor my experience to the utmost personalization.
He picked me up at my apartment at our pre arranged time prompt He drives a beautiful And comfortable car.
He has such a warm personality and along with it , a wealth of knowledge. He’s a graduate from the somaliere school which adds even more credibility to his international status.
Our first stop was the Lujon Valley for breakfast ( wine breakfast ) at Mater Vini. The mother of wine. There we met with the most colorful Jeraldo and his enthusiasm and love for the vineyard. We sampled 6 Malbecs and one blanc out of the oak It was so spectacular , I ordered a few to be shipped home. Unfortunately DHL had a problem with shipping to Hawaii so no wines for me 😦 I should’ve bought while I was there.
Next stop was the beautiful Uco Valley and the Corazon Del Sol Vineyard nestled right up against the majestic snow capped Andes Mountains. The property sits along side a rock bed and river where the colorful and very knowledgable Carolina took us to fetch the Malbec Rose that was being chilled by the rivers waters. I learned about the area and the vineyard and enjoyed the Rose. After we drank from the rivers nectar and soothed my throat and pallet with refreshing spring water.
After a complete tour of the facilities , we ventured deep into the bowels of the property to begin our elaborate tastings. Oh what joy I felt. Two amazing vineyards with very different yet both beautifully served tastings. After much lady talk it was time to go. Lunch was calling and the rumble in our stomachs indicated that it was time.
Our final destination was to the exquisite boutique vineyard of AndeLuna where we celebrated in a 6 course divine lunch with wine pairings by the scrumptious creations of Chef Santiago to a calculated symphony of plates.
I had the best 8 hour journey immersing myself in the beauty do the Mendoza wine valleys all thanks to Javier and his perfect execution of choices for my experience. Sadly I only had a day to spend with this much sought after somaliere but I’m so glad I was lucky enough to score a date with this brilliant phenomenon. That evening I was too full of wine and food to need dinner. All I needed was a hot shower and a lovely sleep, and sleep I did.
Day 4: Last full day and night in Mendoza. For the first half of the day I just explored the city a bit more and returned to Plaza Italia for a gorgeous quiet morning. I walked around and kept noticing how many homeless dogs this city has. So sad and heart broken, I watched this cute dog dig through trash bins for food. I called to him, and had him follow me until I got to a hot dog stand and ordered 3 hot dogs. He looked at me with his puppy dog face ,and I told him to wait and he obliged. Once the food came he scuffed it down so quickly, my heart broke again. I couldn’t understand why a city with so much money would just let these beautiful dogs suffer and fend for themselves, I was not amused at all.
Later that after noon I hired a taxi and reserved a 3 hour spa time at Entre Cielo, one of the top Spas in the area. The spa is about a 25 minute cab ride from the city. When you arrive there the guard checks your name at the gate, and then lets you in. Security is tight at this Spa and Hotel and for good reason. It is a five star resort and beautiful. I started the spa with the hamum ( turkish bath) circuit. You shower and cleanser yourself, then enter the first of 2 steam baths. The first one wasn’t very hot but was meant to get your body and skin used to the heat. Then I went and scrubbed myself to filth. Once all the dead skin was off, I entered a gorgeous heated pool under an arabic roof top with the sounds of Arabic music playing and the run of the water. I waded in the water for about a good half hour just enjoying the quiet tranquility and soothing healing powers of the water. Next was Steam room 2 which was over 100 degrees . OMG the 20 minutes felt like hours and I almost couldn’t handle it. Infused with hers the steam opened up my pours and softened my skin. I then went for the final scrub. Thinking I already got most of the dead skin off, I was surprised to find that I had a long way to go. Finally you relax on a heated slap and rest. After about another 2o minutes of resting I was grabbed for my first of 2 massages. The first one was a soap foam massage. I know what you’re thinking …. What? Well they grab a towel full of soap swirl in in the air until it inflates, and then gently massage your body with it. The last massage was with essential oils and in another room altogether. Deep tissue massage was lovely and it came with a mini facial. After it was all said and done, I was brought to yet another room, to enjoy some light healthy snacks like nuts, berries, fruits, humus, and a brownie . Yes a brownie. And to drink it all down with herbal teas and water. You then rest on a lovely bed behind beautifuly elaborate curtains until you are ready to leave. It was a really lovely day at that spa and something I really needed.
Tonight is dinner at the long awaited Azafran Restaurant. I was there prompt at just before 8 pm. When I walked in, the host gave me a dirty looked and rushed at me from across the room as if I was a thief of some sort. I was kind of put off by this. ” Reservation? !!!!!” Yes I have a reservation. “WHAT TIME?” 8pm. “NAME?” Erika Aresta. “hmmmm YES , YOU SIT HERE?” Oh ok… Sure … a menu slammed on my table and I was just about to walk out until I heard my tummy rumble. Miss congeniality was not the best way to be introduced to the restaurant. It took about 10 minutes for someone to come and take my order. The restaurant was pretty much empty albeit 2 couples.
I asked for the somaliere ( you can go into their wine storage and choose your own bottle. Such a cool thing to do ) for the cup of the day. A torrentos is what I ordered.
Food , I ordered for starters 1 chorizo empenada , and an arugula salad with baked Camerbet on top seasoned with gorgeous raspberry They were both extremely excellent and came out in record breaking time. 10 minutes.
The bread and butter they offer is also really delicious. The butter is surrounded by seasoning
Main course was a sweet potato gnocchi with tomatoes and carrots and kale And mozzarella topping. It was a complexed bland dish if that even makes sense. When you first start to chew , it’s as if you are entering the bitterness of life as the kale screeched to a sour halt in your mouth while the gnocchi smoothed things over with its bland nothingness and once the cheese takes over it kind of all works. It was complex yet very bland and toon work to reach the desired outcome. I wasn’t impressed.
To match my main course I drank a Malbec , well 2 glasses of it.
For desert I just wanted something very simple. So I went for the flan. It’s almost impossible to get this wrong. And they didn’t so that was a relief.
My bill came out to about $67 USD or around $938 ARS. Not bad but not that good for solo dining. But it’s the wine that set me back at least 300.
All in all it was nice. I wasn’t blown away and left so happy to remember it for all time , but it was decent enough for a final meal in a city.
One last note , the service :
My waitress was phenomenal. I think her name was Augustina or something b she had short brown hair She speaks English Spanish and Portuguese flawlessly and despite the restaurant now packed to its brim , she was diligent and very wonderful.
Alas my time had come to an end here. And I was ready for it. My adventures in Argentina have been wonderful and Entertaining. Would I ever be back to Mendoza? Probably not, even though I know I should give it one last try. Did I enjoy myself here? Yes for the most part I did. I should’ve however, just stayed 3 nights total instead of 4. I probably would’ve left fulfilled instead of a bit empty on with things to do.
Today, I’m packed, dressed and ready for my International Flight to Santiago De Chile ( Santiago: Chillen in Chile). And I can’t wait. I have a friend from Hawaii who lives in Brazil now meeting me along with his newly wedded husband. The anticipation is bubbling.
If you would like to know more information about Javier Caruso and booking him and costs, feel free to comment and / or contact me, he is most excellent.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.