Mendoza has always been a destination at the top of my list. Partially it's because we enjoy malbec wine, partially from stories we've heard, and partially from alluring pictures of mountainous vineyards.
Mendoza didn't disappoint, but it wasn't exactly like any other wine region. It is more laid back and less pretentious, but far more disorganized than you'd expect from an internationally known destination.
We rolled into Mendoza after a 20 hour journey beginning the previous day in Cafayate. The overnight Flecha bus was plenty nice, but the air conditioning cut out in the middle of the night and the bus rocked back and forth far too much for being on flat roads.
Fortunately, we were able to check into our hotel room around 10 am and decompress. We stayed at the Petit Hotel on Peru street in the city center. It was a great location near to the parks, restaurants, and main commercial streets.
The cleanliness and organization of Mendoza was striking. After spending the past 5 weeks in various parts of South America, the smell of trash became a natural odor and stepping over dog poop on sidewalks was an afterthought.
Mendoza is modern. It is clean. They even have lighted crosswalks and handicap ramps. And not a stray dog in sight.
That being said, it's not the greatest city in the world, but it has its share of fashionable people, classy restaurants, and upscale amenities.
After resting up a bit, we went to Maria Antonieta for brunch just a few blocks away. It's one of the best ranked spots in town and we see why. The brunch was excellent, and the standout was a caprese of fresh heirloom tomatoes and mozzerrella in cream - known as burratta. It was life-changing (although overpriced for a brunch).
That night we had a simple dinner of salami and cheeses from the local grocery store and some much deserved sleep.
The next afternoon, we visited the Vines of Mendoza. (You can read more about the full experience on our Global Spirits blog.) VoM was a really fun experience. Julia, the sommelier, was very helpful, the wines were all top-notch, and we made friends with Justin and Kate - an American couple from D.C. on their honeymoon. We highly recommend going to VoM if you visit Mendoza.
We joined Justin and Kate for dinner that night and a bottle of wine in our hotel lobby. Even though we love meeting locals and other travelers in all the places we visit, it was comfortable to hang out with some other Americans for a fun night.
After two nice days in Mendoza, we were excited to go out to wine country for rest and relaxation - the real reason we came to Mendoza.
There are three major wine areas in the Mendoza region: Maipú, Uco Valley, and Lujan de Cuyo. Each are pretty accessible to the city, but Maipú is the easiest to get to. We rode the Metrotranvia light rail to the station on the edge of town, and then walked 45 minutes to the town center. We kept searching for taxis along the walk, but there was a general workers strike that day, so no taxis were running. Supposedly all public transportation workers were on strike, but we still rode the rail and saw a few buses running. Nothing is predictable about a South American strike.
Finding ourselves stranded after lunch in the town center, we called Hans, the owner of our next lodging, who quickly picked us up in his Land Rover Defender. This was just the beginning of Hans' unmatched hospitality.
We arrived just in time to see the finishing of the harvest. The workers were hustling and dumping bucket after bucket into an old Mercedes truck bed. We were so excited to see the process and enjoyed wandering around the vineyard eating some of the grapes still on the vines.
We headed to the pool, but it wasn't very relaxing. We were trying to get a reservation for dinner to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary as well as reservations at a few wineries, but Brian wasn't having any luck. Each call became increasingly frustrating for both of us. Note - if you travel to Mendoza, make reservations for lunches, dinners, and wine tasting ahead of time.
We ended the night at Posada Cavieres with Hans making us a chicken and spinach tarta and trying two of his homemade wines. His three bedroom guesthouse is very comfortable and you can't beat staying at a gorgeous working vineyard.
The following day we rented two mountain bikes from Hans and visited Tempus Alba winery for lunch. They are a 10 minute ride up the road. There is rarely a shoulder to the road and the cars fly by, so it can feel quite intimidating.
Lunch at Tempus Alba was good, but the wine was mediocre. Pretty lackluster for such a fancy place, but at least the view over their vineyards from the rooftop dining deck was good.
We roder further into town (on a section of road with bike lanes!) to Bodega La Rural. Their wine was good, but the tasting is way overpriced. The ride up there was 8 km, so by the time we got back to the Posada, we needed to relax.
On our second full day, we hopped our sore butts back on bikes and rode down the street to Carinae winery. Everything about the experience was wonderful and the wine was excellent.
Lindsay's tire mysteriously popped while we were there, so we had to trudge back to Posada Cavieres, stopping for a lackluster lunch at the family-run Di Tommasso winery along the way.
That night, Hans made us a reservation for our delayed anniversary dinner at Restaurant Terruno at the Club Tapiz winery.
The grounds are incredibly cool with an old cellar that is now an event space with wooden chandeliers.
Like most Argentine restaurants, the service was incredibly slow. We waited nearly 20 minutes to have a drink order taken. We both ordered cocktails to start and the quality of Lindsay's margarita made her laugh so hard. She had been really craving a good marg and this was hilariously awful. Frozen, with mostly triple sec, lime juice, and a dash of tequila.
Lindsay had the 4 course tasting menu and Brian a lamb ravioli. The highlights of our meals were the ribeye with chimmichurri and the lamb ravioli along with a fantastic Benegas Malbec. We finished our meal with a rich Torrontes creme brulee. This meal was definitely worth waiting for, especially given the difficulty of procuring a reservation at ANY restaurant in the area.
Our plans for the final day in Maipú included: sleeping in, laying by the pool, and booking a place to stay in Buenos Aires.
The internet foiled our plans, though, and it took nearly 5 hours to finally confirm an AirBnB in Palermo Alto. Brian was so intent on completing it that he hardly relaxed at all. Finally, at 4 pm, Hans reset the Wifi and that helped speed up the process.
We lounged by the pool talking to a Dutch couple staying with us, Phillip and Saskia, and then walked down the road to see the sun setting behind the mountains.
Hans and his friend Alberto cooked a huge Asado for us all which included: chicken, beef, sausage, morcilla blood sausage (Brian's favorite,) corn with cheese, salad, homemade mayo, wine and homemade ice cream for dessert. It was quite the feast!
We were sad to leave behind Maipú and all its relaxing charms and perfect weather. By far the most enjoyable part was staying at the cozy guesthouse at Posada Cavieres.