Luján de Cuyo & Chacras de Coria Regions
Located about 30 minutes from Mendoza City, these regions host many major wineries. Luján is especially known for its premium wines and nickname, “Land of the Malbecs.”
Montequieto – Have a decadent Malbec and Cab Franc. The tasting and tour were really interactive and fun, but sadly I don’t think they do tourism anymore.
Catena Zapata – Great wine, educational tasting, and crazy awesome Mayan architecture!
Benegas – Albeit a little creepy, this old winery has a lot of history and the tasting is performed in an old stone cava.
Alta Vista – Color me unimpressed. T’was a bit pretentious.
Dominio del Plata – Pretty spot with a fun, laid back tasting. I just couldn’t get into this one as it was the last stop on one of our trips and I was wined-out. Read: drunk.
Vistalba – Maybe one of the prettiest wineries around, which is hard to say because they are all so.damn.pretty. But think about the most magical, picturesque place you could dream up for a wedding and look no further. This must be the place.
Belasco de Baquedano – I could’ve skipped the lunch as it could be summed up into one word: bland. But one thing that was certainly unique about this place was their Aroma Room. As the only one of its kind in the Americas, the room presents 46 fragrances contained in clear plexiglas posts that line up along the walls of long room. Twist a lever on the side of a post, a baffle spins, and an intense fragrance is released from a small capsule of oil. I had no idea that olfactory nuances of the grape included scents like game, musk, mushroom, or geranium. You learn something new every day.
Pulenta Estate – Get over-served with their Cabernet Franc. You won’t regret it. Best Cab Franc that has ever graced my lips. Go home with a bottle. Nah, go home with a case.
Achával Ferrer – Intimate setting with good wine but didn’t live up to its reputation.
Ruca Malen – Voted best winery restaurant in the world in 2013 and I can see why. The creative measures they take to wow their guests are unprecedented. Here’s my very first lunch course out of like, 14:
A food map under a piece of glass on which some perfectly seasoned quinoa was served. The foodie in me simply loved this.
Valle de Uco Region (a.k.a my favorite region)
My philosophy is that the further south you go, the better. Located about an hour and a half southwest of Mendoza city and on the Andes mountains foothills, this is where I lived the dream for a few glorious day and nights of the year.
Melipal – Modern winery with a great porch to bask in the glorious Mendoza sun. Great lunch spot. Skip the tour.
Andeluna – Meh. That’s all I really have to say. Just, meh.
O’Fournier – Good wine, even better architecture. Winery looks like a spaceship and is designed in a way to allow production to work mostly through gravity, minimizing the use of pumps.
Clos de los Siete – Another massive place with four wineries in one. I can’t say much about the wine since we had the unlucky pleasure of tasting with a brand new guide who had worked a total of 4 days. We also arrived the morning after a giant wedding took place. The grounds were a mess and we were served freezing cold Malbec sooo… yea.
Salentein – I’m sure I’ll get castrated for this, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the wine. The structure, however, is another story. The underground cellar was especially memorable as the barrels rest in a circle around a sunken center stage accompanied by a piano, which I played ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ on. NBD.
La Azul – Small, intimate winery. Tasting was fun because it felt very personal.
The Vines – A massive production is an understatement. If you have enough money to throw at making your own wine, you can achieve that here among their 1,500 acres. Turn from wine lover to wine maker, throw some cold hard cash down and own a 3-10 acre professionally managed private vineyard. The Vines also has the best guide I’ve ever had for a tour / tasting. I actually don’t know what made my love for The Vines stretch as wide as the vineyard itself. Could’ve been the guide, the beautiful setting of which we learned about the wine, the wine itself, the restaurant, or the fact that they had a stand alone, elevated gym with panoramic views of the Andes. I mean, after bottles and bottles of wine, you gotta keep it tight. Amiright?
Cavas Wine Lodge – Sadly I never stayed in their cute little bungalows (that go for $1,300USD/night in high season). Hell, I never even had their wine. I simply went to try out the oh so romantic spa. We were presented with a Syrah wine bath and use of their jacuzzis, saunas, and steam showers. Upon walking in, it looked straight out of a Moroccan dream, and all to ourselves. Highly recommend it!
Wino Info and Etiquette
– Mendoza is not a Napa or a Sonoma. Wineries here are very spread out, making it difficult to pack in various tastings/tours in one day. Do like the Argies do and take it slow. It’s recommended to do about three wineries per day. Four if you can hold your alcohol like me. You also need a reservation everywhere you go. Plan where and when you want to visit (read: get v tipsy) in advance.
-The wine in your system will be sure to pile up with more tastings that you do. However, it’s important to remember that you will be in tasting rooms, not bars. Don’t be the obnoxious drunk that ruins the experience for everyone.
– Let it be known that as inflation occurs, the pricing of tastings/tours goes up. Duh. During our first visit to Mendoza, tastings were around 60-70 pesos. In July, they were at least 100 pesos. Lunches cost around $60-70 USD which is pricey, but it’s a prix fixe menu with wine pairings. Worth it.
– Visit the big, popular wineries, but also do smaller, more intimate ones as well. It makes for a nice balance throughout the trip to see the various differences between the two experiences.
-Have an answer to “What kind of wine do you like?” Many times guides will start with this either as a genuine interest or simply as something to say. Perhaps you already know the answer. If so, well done. If not, start drinking more. Try wines you perhaps don’t know anything about as well. Ask questions. Mix it up. Expand the mind and the palette.
– After about 5 wine tours, you’ll know all you need to know about French oak barrels vs. American oak barrels. Concrete vats and stainless steel tanks. Soil concentrations and altitude factors. If you want to skip the tour and go straight to tastings, that’s quite alright in my book.
– People will tell you to do bike tours or even rent a car. That’s good fun and all, but when you’re three sheets to the wind and want to relax and be wine drunk heading to your next tasting, do you really want to maneuver a bike through Mendoza or worse, get behind the wheel? Didn’t think so. Hire a driver. Just do it.
– If you like the wine, buy the wine. Disclaimer: drunk shopping is real and can be hazardous to your bank account. Second Disclaimer: The wines you buy from the wineries will not taste as good at home for a couple of reasons. 1) You may have been drunk and thus not able to adequately taste much of anything. 2) I can equate a winery experience to my very own ‘Bachelor’ experience. When you’re in the winery surrounded by rich smells, beautiful sights and winemakers whispering sweet nothings in your ear about the pristine conditions and wonderful insights, you’ll fall in love. But sadly, at home, around your bar or kitchen table, you simply cannot replicate that special time period. Just like that romance…
This trip really does something for all the senses, which is the best kind of trip in my book. Upon walking into each unique warehouse, the smell of the wine hits your nose, staying with you even after you leave. The POP echoes loud as the winemaker uncorks the bottle. The salivating process begins once the elixir of life is poured into clean, crisp glasses before you. The intense aroma fills your nose upon swirling the wine. The vivid red hues come alive among the various Malbecs, Cab Savs, Cab Frans, Merlots, and Pinots. The flavors of each individual wine intensify as they hit your taste buds and move down your throat. That warming, overall happy feeling circulates through your body after your first tasting and will undoubtedly last throughout the day and into the night as you keep sipping, drinking, or perhaps even chugging the deliciousness that is Mendoza wine. No judgment here. Top it off at Cavas Wine Lodge spa and you’ve really outdone yourself.