I like wine a lot, especially red wine. So on one of my full days in Mendoza, I wanted to tour some vineyards and taste some Malbec! Now, how to go about that… Doing some internet research, I discovered that a number of companies run full-day wine tours from Mendoza, most ranging between $130 and $200 per person. I thought this was a bit pricey, so I did some more digging…and, spoiler alert – that’s the going rate and my tour was totally worth it!
There are three basic areas around Mendoza to wine tour: the Uco Valley, Luján de Cuyo and Maipú.
Tours of Maipú are the cheapest. Its not very far from Mendoza, and a public bus runs between Maipú and Mendoza. Bikes are easy and inexpensive to rent to tour various wineries and shops on your own. A prime option for the budget-traveler and bike enthusiasts. We decided against Maipú, given that biking and wine-tasting seemed dangerous.
The next option, Uco Valley, was a real contender. The Uco Valley is about a 45 minute drive from Mendoza and is filled with many large, world-class wineries. Numerous companies run daily tours to the Uco Valley, including the company we used, Trout and Wine. All of the tour options I looked into seemed upscale and very nice. We decided against Uco Valley, because we wanted to see something a little closer to Mendoza. Uco Valley will be next trip’s tour!
As you may have deduced, we went with the third option, Luján de Cuyo. Ljuán de Cuyo is located about 20 minutes from Mendoza proper and makes for a great day trip. Instead of driving ourselves (which is very feasible), we choose to join a full-day tour, and there are a number of options for this type of tour (just Goolge it…). We ended up going with Trout and Wine, and I am so glad that we did! The tour ended up being my favorite thing on the entire trip!
Now, in booking a full-day wine tour, they may seem kind of expensive at first (they certainly did to me!). Think $160 a person, which is expensive for a cheap country. However, Wine and Trout turned out to be worth it – 100%. The tour was just Dan and me. Our tour guide, who spoke fluent English and was lovely, picked us up at our hotel and we were then driven in a private, air-conditioned car to four wineries throughout the day. The cost includes all wine samples (plenty), a 5-course lunch and gift bag including a complimentary bottle of wine, two tickets to the Mendoza Hop-on-Hop-off bus and two free glasses of wine at Vines of Mendoza.
Stop 1: Alta Vista
Our first stop ofnthe tour was Alta Vista Winery, about 25 minutes from our hotel. Alta Vista is an historic winery built in 1899 and refurbished in 2003. Alta Vista is owned by a French wine house and has top-of-the-line equipment, as well as some dinosaurs. The day started with a tour of the winery with an English speaking vintner (about 35 minutes) and then a tasting in the tasting room, including their award-winning Alto and sparking wine. YUM! This winery also sold shirts, hats, etc., and was the only one we visited that did. We later learned that they also sell wine packaging boxes (if you ask), perfect for buying and boxing wine to take home as checked luggage. I really wish we had bought one. They were impossible to find the rest of the trip. I very much enjoyed this vineyard and we bought a bottle to bring home! Alta Vista is an excellent example of a modern winery with all the accoutrements.
Stop 2: Achaval Ferrier
Our second stop was Achaval Ferrier, about a 15 minute drive from Alta Vista down a back gravel road. The winery is in a beautiful location, and we had some time to look around before the formal tour started. Gorgeous location! The tours here are scheduled and we joined about eight other people for the tour – mostly Americans from the East Coast!
The tour started with an explanation of the wines that we would be tasting. We then tasted a couple wines and proceeded to the aging room where the vintner used the “wine thief” to let us try the wine directly from the barrels. This was so fun, and we got to try the wines at different maturities. The tour ended with more tastings from the bottle.
This tour was really interesting and our Achaval Ferrier guide was top-notch!! We thought about buying some one to take home, but you can purchase this brand reasonably in New York. We will definitely pick some up here!
Stop 3: Dominio del Plata
The third stop of our tour was less about vineyard touring and more about eating and wine pairing. Upon entering the winery, we were immediately greeted and seated at a table with our tour guide. We then proceeded to eat a DELICIOUS 5 course lunch, each course complete with a substantial wine pairing.
The meal started with an amusée bouché – a fresh bread baked with olives, onions, peas and sun-dried tomatoes. No wine yet. The bread was so fresh!
The first proper course was a capresse salad with confit cherry tomatoes, boconccinos of buffalo, basil and baby green leaves paired with a Crios Torrontés. The balsamic was delicious.
Next, Goat confit over country bread, caramelized onions and greens paired with a 2012 Crios Malbec. I didn’t think I liked goat, but this was quite tasty!
The third course, and my favorite thing that I ate the entire trip, was a tiny open-faced baby pork sandwich with cous cous and roasted vegetables paired with two wines: a 2012 Benmarco Torrontes and a 2012 Benmarco Malbec. I LOVED this miniature sandwich and I wish it had been the main dish. I would come back just for this sandwich. Why did it have to be only a bite?!
The fourth and main course was a choice between steak and gnocchi. I opted for the steak and Dan got the gnocchi. Contrary to the rest of the meal, Dan’s gnocchi was not very not good. He only ate a few bites – not like Dan! Our tour guide noticed this, and promptly asked if she could order him another entree, etc., but we had already had so much food we couldn’t possibly eat another entree. Luckily, I order the osadia steak served with mendocinean tomatican, sautéed mushrooms and peas and paired with a Benmarco Expresivo 2011. This steak was perfectly cooked and delightful It was also quite large, so Dan shared it with me. I stand by my statement that this was my best steak in Argentina.
I forgot to take pictures of this course…much wine at this point!
The fifth and final course was an Argentinian cheese and sweets platter served with Susana 2011 Balbo Late Harvest Malbec. In addition, we were offered coffee with dessert.
I really liked all of the “sweets.” They were tasty and not something that I would order at home.
After lunch, we took a brief walk around the grounds and then headed off to the final stop!
Stop 4: Belasco de Baquedano
Our final stop was Belasco de Baquedano. This winery has a beautiful location, complete with views of the Andes and lavender plants. This would make a great location for a wedding or fancy party! One thing that sets this winery apart from the rest is that is has an (and maybe the only?) aroma room. What is an aroma room you may ask? It is a room with about thirty different smell samples, each one consisting of an aroma that can be found in wine. Guests can go around the room and try to guess what each smell is (it didn’t take that long), and this was actually so fun! It was very hard to differentiate between the various aromas. Very cool, and also interesting for children or those not really into wine… After taking in the aroma room, we sampled 4 wines from the vineyard, including their premier bottle, Swinto. We ended up purchasing one of their Malbecs – Loan (lama in Spanish). A wine named loan was just too funny to leave behind! Especially for bank lawyers!
As you can probably tell, we really enjoyed this tour and I recommend a wine tour to anyone in Mendoza.
In addition to visiting great wineries, Trout and Wine was very accommodating. We originally booked the tour on Friday, but we needed to push it back a day because our flight from NYC was delayed 19 hours. I emailed Trout and Wine, and the owner immediately got back to me, re-booked us and sent me a new iteniary! Further, our guide was so attentive. When she realized we didn’t have breakfast, she offered to stop for us. She was also very attentive and noticed immediately when Dan didn’t like on portion of his meal. She immediately tried to get him another dish, but there was so much food, it didn’t matter. Our guide was also fluent in English and very pleasant to talk to! GREAT SERVICE!
A note – it is supposed to be better to take a tour during the work-week, as more vineyards are open for tours and you can actually view the production. But we went on the weekend (due to the flight delay) and had a great time!
Second Note – you can drive yourself to the vineyards and tour without a guide. That seemed far to complex for our short visit, although almost everyone we met at the vineyards drove themselves.
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T: (00 54 ) 261 4255613 / 429 8302