Life is clearly tough when you’re feeling travel weary and can only really face either touring about vineyards or eating prime cuts of Argentinian beef. That is exactly the problem we faced in Mendoza, the home of Argentinian wine and home to a few restaurants that can churn out 500g slabs of steak by the minute. Mendoza was meant to have turned on the weather for our final days in Argentina, but instead it clouded over and even rained on and off for part of Sunday. Still, with our sight-seeing motivation decreasing and our need for the nicer things in life increasing, Mendoza was a good place to be.
Mendoza’s Vines and Wines
Arriving early morning after our 37 hour extravaganza from Puerto Iguazu, we were pretty tired, but given we didn’t have much time in Mendoza we had to hit the vines. Our hostel, Hostel Alamo (damn fine place) sorted us out a Saturday afternoon tour , so after showers and a quick lunch we were off into the countryside. It was going to be a quick trip, stopping at just a couple of wineries and an olive oil factory – enough for us to get a flavour. First up was Vistandes (the place has a view of the Andes – hence the name), a pretty modern outfit that was well set-up to receive hoards of tourists. We took a quick tour of the wine making rooms and finished things off with a tasting. The place would probably get an ‘OK’ rating, a little too set-up for tours and not exactly an authentic traditional winery.
We then headed to an olive oil factory. We got a pretty good run through of the olive oil making process and then of course got into the tasting. They laid on 4 different types of oil to try, each was damn good but the extra virgin took the prize.
The second winery we headed to was more of what we were after. A boutique family outfit that were doing things the traditional way and as it turns out, doing things very well. The winery, Don Arturo, was set-up back in the day by a French couple. The massive oak casks still remain, although the current Argentinian owners have opted to use the more modern vats to throw their grapes into these days. The highlight, again, was the tasting. We threw back a Malbec (Argentina’s famous wine), a Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon each much better than Vistandes offerings. We were trying our best to know something about wine, but really just enjoying drinking something other than Bolivian table wine! We threw a few pesos down on the cellar door and came away with a reserve bottle of Malbec to wash down our home cooked dinner. The wineries were a good experience we were just a bit gutted not to have been able to get around a few more.
We were not leaving Argentina without sinking our forks into one of their world famous steaks. The guys at Alamo hostel pointed us in the direction of a restaurant popular with the local and we made our way there. Everything was what you’d have expected, ten ways to cook a steak and combine it with sauce, a wine list bigger than the Wanganui phonebook and an old-school waiter charming his way toward a good tip! Both Cel and I ordered the 500g Bife de Chorizo, nothing to do with chorizo sausage, just the name they give to massive steaks apparently! We were recommended another bottle of Malbec and couldn’t say no. The steak was outstanding and the wine just as good. We left lunch feeling like there wasn’t much more meat you could squeeze into a meal and that there was no need for dinner!
The time in Mendoza was short but sweet. Wine and meat dominated our days and we’d not have wanted it any other way. We were off to Santiago for our final two days in South America, it was all winding down and we were ready for NZ. One more bus ride to tick off and we were done!