One does not simply walk into Mendoza. One instead rents a bicycle and visits all the wineries in the town of Lujan de Cuyo.
Well, not all of them. The most famous wine-producing region in South America is full of bodegas. Each offers its own tour and tasting. Every tour is essentially the same–here are the vines, here are the fermentation tanks, here are the barrels.
I was too polite to admit that I just wanted to skip ahead to the drinking–sorry, tasting. Maybe if I had done that, I could have made it to more than four wineries. Also, I might not have been able to operate my rented bike after I was finished.
What follows are some personal highlights:
Being an engineer, I was of course fascinated by the science of winemaking. I could have done without four different explanations of fermentation (Spoiler alert! Sugar + yeast + time = alcohol). But I did like that the wineries I visited utilized the older technique of fermenting wine in concrete vats, as opposed to the more modern stainless steel tanks. Having lived in a concrete-walled apartment, I understood the value of concrete as an insulator for a temperature-sensitive process like fermentation.
It’s hard to type a paragraph like that after 15 sample glasses of wine. I’m editing this the morning after, nursing a wine hangover.
I skipped the winery advertised as a big, industrial facility. I’ve seen enough of those. I made it a point instead to hit the ones where the owners still work as part of the day-to-day operation. And the ones with the best views of the mountains. Since Alta Vista advertises that in its name, I started there.
I met Carmelo Patti, a winemaker who has been called a god of wine by a Russian magazine (or maybe The God of Wine–I can’t read Russian). I know this because his daughter showed me the magazine, which was brought to them by Russian wine enthusiasts. Because I stuck around and listened to their stories–most of which I couldn’t understand with my limited Spanish–I was treated to a special sample of a small-batch Cabernet Franc.
Nieto Senetiner is among the oldest wineries in Argentina, dating back to the arrival of the first Italian immigrants in 1888. They are one of the leading producers of Bonarda wines, made from an old grape that until recently was used to make table wines.
I visited Bodega Pulmary, where the owner let me sample a tempranillo and a port wine straight from the barrels. Her son is starting a brewery on site as well, though the beer is not out for distribution yet.
It’s not alcoholism if, after a day spent tasting wines, I go out to the best parrilla in town and order an entire bottle for myself, right?
I can’t decide whether this last decision was a good one or not. The steak was delicious, as far as my wine-addled mind could tell.
This trip is all about the experiences. I will remember this one fondly. It was worth it.