Wine, wine and more wine! That’s probably what most of you think of when you hear Mendoza. Rightfully so, it’s the main tourist attraction to the city. We flew to Mendoza from Iguazu Falls and initially we had no idea how long we were going to stay, a few days or a week? It was flexible as this was the last leg of our 5 flights so we didn’t have a set departure date. We decided to stay for 3 days and it was just the right amount of time.
Our lodging here was a first for us. We used AirBnb, which we have had great luck with in the past but this time we chose a shared home and shared bathroom. Why? Jeff has been giving me some shit for not booking the best places, overpriced or just below average. So I tried to redeem myself here with a cheap option and this is what I could find. When we arrived at the young couple’s home in a nice neighborhood about 20 minutes from the downtown area the hostess welcomed us (with a newborn in her arms…Jeff and I look at each other like um ok?) This is funny because they mention in the posting they have a dog but nothing about a 14 day old baby. We had a basic room, double bed dresser and that’s it. The house was fairly spacious, three other bedrooms upstairs in addition to ours. The hosts room was right across from ours, their two young boys were next to our room, and one bathroom for all of us. Ok not a big deal but again they had a 14 day old newborn. It caught me by surprise to have this newborn in an environment with random guests coming and going each week. Probably not what I would do but to each their own. The baby was super cute, and actually didn’t really bother or disturb us at all minus a few middle of the night crying episdoes.
Two funny things during our stay. Someone, Jeff says it wasn’t him left a massive, massive, crap in the toilet. Yup, walked in and it was just staring me back in the face. Hah sick. I think it was one of the little boys, pretty impressive I guess. Second thing. the next morning we wake up and I look out our window at the front gate to check the weather. I quickly notice two people standing outside, I panic and close the window. Don’t really say anything to Jeff and go to brush my teeth. Jeff does the same thing and sees them standing there, but like a normal person he asks if they need something. Turns out they are staying in the house as well and are waiting for the hosts to let them in. Well, guess what? They are sleeping still and it’s almost 9 am. Jeff had to knock on their door and tell them they had people here. Hah funny because its like we don’t know these people at all and then all of the sudden we are just their roommates upstairs. I did apologize for my odd behavior when the couple came in and we actually ended up doing the wine tour with them. Really great couple traveling South American just like us for about 4 months. So for the price at $35/night with breakfast it’s hard to beat and we really enjoyed our stay. It’s different yes and we were new to the whole shared housing thing but it works and it’s a great way to meet people. You can check out where we stayed here.
So the wine tour…this was the main attraction and something we of course did not want to miss. We did a bit of research and learned that there is a bus ticket you can buy (think big tour bus) and it takes you to several main wineries where you can pop in and do a tasting. This seemed to be the best value and unless you had specific wineries you wanted to visit, this would get the job done at much less of a price tag. We thought it would be perfect, and well it would have been if it was running the days we were there.
Oops, ok plan B. Book a paid all inclusive tour. We went with Ampora Wine Tours. For $160 per person we did a full day tour of 4 wineries and a gourmet lunch in the Lujan De Cuyo valley. Pricey yes, but it was so worth it. I should first tell you that there are three regions you can visit in Mendoza. Lujan de Cuyo (what we did), Maipu, and Valle de Uco. The first two are similar regions and house the more traditional and much older & original wineries. Valle de Uco is a newer region with some of big modern winieries.
For the tour, you are picked up in a mini van at 9 am. Yeah 9 am is a bit early to start drinking right? Luckily our host had breakfast ready for us before we left so we didn’t drink an an empty stomach. There were 4 other people in our tour which is really nice to have such a small group. So 6 of us and our guide and the driver. Our guide did a great job explaining a bit of history of wine in Mendoza, the famous malbecs and the differences of the regions. Another benefit of this tour is that we had reservations at each stop with a dedicated person to give us the full tour and background of the winery. Each winery focused on different things. For example, once you learn the process of making wine, you don’t need to hear it 3 more times- and we didn’t. Each place had their own style, fun facts, and a nicely prepared tasting area with a beautiful view overlooking the vines. Each winery gave us at least 4 different tastings ranging from sparkling, unique whites, a malbec of course, and another red. They also gave us a nice range of value, some that retail for $7-8 per bottle and some as expensive as $60 per bottle.
Mendoza is different than Napa in that if you purchase wines on site they are actually much cheaper than if you were to buy at the local store. In Napa we found this to be the opposite usually unless you joined the wine club. Another big difference from Napa is that here you really see the behind the scenes, in full production. Harvest season is end of March so most places were quite busy finishing the wine making process. They don’t mind you seeing how it is done and let you pretty much go through the entire facility. The last stop of the tour included a gourmet lunch paired with wine, of course. It was really good, I think. Maybe everything tastes better after several glasses of wine 🙂
5 Fun facts!
- Argentina is the world’s 5th largest producer of wine. 80% of Argentina’s wine comes from Mendoza, South America’s largest wine producing region.
- Two of the wineries we visited use big concrete tanks instead of the more familiar stainless steel. The concrete tanks are coated inside and outside with a thick epoxy.
- Originally most of the wine produced in Mendoza was consumed locally and the focus was on quantity not quality. That changed in the 90s when they started exporting a lot to the States and other countries. They had to adjust their focus on quality and not quantity.
- Due to the high altitude and desert-like climate, vineyards rarely face the problems of insects, fungi, molds, phylloxera, and other diseases that affect grapes in other countries. Pesticides and herbicides are barely needed and are used sparingly.
- The best time to taste wine is in the morning, maybe not right at 9 am but between 10-11. Your palate is clean and ready!
In the end, we had a blast on the tour and it was our favorite day in Mendoza. The city itself was just ok, nothing super special. A few big parks, but we felt they didn’t compare to Buenos Aires. That said, if you like drinking vino and learning how they do it in Mendoza I recommend the all inclusive tour because it was worth every penny.
Don’t forget to check out the pictures below. There are pictures in the beginning (of a tasting-menu dinner we had on our first night) and at the end (our bus ride to Santiago, Chile) that do not have much to do with the wine tasting.