After a day of laying around, reading, sleeping and being doubled over in pain, I awoke on Saturday feeling like an almost normal human being. We were finally ready to have the day we had been envisioning upon planning our visit to Mendoza–a day entirely dedicated to visiting wineries and drinking different, delicious wines.
We laid out a plan to visit at least 4 different wineries and engage in both tours and tastings. To our delight, our new friends from Tikay Killa, Lyn and Dan joined us for the entire day. To begin, we had to find a way to the winery (or bodega as they are called here). Obviously drinking and driving is a big concern here and police are on the lookout everywhere. We don’t have a car anyway, so that wasn’t really an option. For this reason, tourists are encouraged to either take taxis or ride bicycles from winery to winery. Going for the more cost effective and fun method of transport, we chose bikes. Luckily, our lodge has a few on hand making rental a breeze. We set out for our first stop of the day–Mevi, a small winery with an amazing view. None too keen on drinking red wine in the heat, instead we imbibed in the whites and roses as we lounged on their sunny terrace which overlooks the vineyards and has stunning views of the Andes Mountains in the distance. We sipped Chardonnay, Torrontes, Malbec Rosado and various other wines. After an eight kilometer bike ride in the Argentinian heat, these cool, refreshing varieties helped recharge our batteries so we could continue on our way.
Only three kilometers further, Familia Di Tommaso was the next vineyard on our list. Rather than just drinking, we first took a tour of this small, family run bodega which is the oldest in Maipu. They showed us the old cement tanks which were formally used to ferment and age the wine. More modern systems have been put in place, so these are now used as wine cellars for the bottles they produce. Like many of the wineries in this region, their gem can be found in their Malbec Reserva. Aged in oak for 12 months, this wine has a robust flavor which impressed us all. We immediately ordered a bottle to accompany lunch aside the vineyard. Something which makes the wines here even more special is that they do not export or sell to grocery stores. This family’s produce can only be bought here at the bodega. Unfortunately, they don’t make ordering a case of wine very easy since they don’t take credit cards and don’t ship directly from the winery. Dan was especially disappointed, but with the help of Elena at our lodge he was able to work it out. At lunch, we were joined by a couple from Holland who we met on the tour. I don’t know if it is the wine or just travelers to this region in general, but we have met such wonderful, like-minded people on this visit. Everyone is traveling anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months and no one looks at us like we’re crazy when we tell them about our trip around the world. Building friendships with people from around the world has been a major added benefit of this trip that I didn’t anticipate beforehand.
After visiting these very small wineries, we were in for a huge difference with Trapiche, easily the largest vineyard in Maipu and also a part of the largest winery in Argentina. Here we met up with Sophie, our other new friend who was also staying at Tikay Killa. We toured this monstrous winery, learning about its long history. The building we were in has been dedicated as historically significant, therefore retains its original characteristics. Though it has been refurbished and modernized, the original structure still stands including the huge tanks which are still used to ferment the wine. This winery originally belonged to a different family who built in this location due to its proximity to the railroad. In fact, they even have a “pool” where they could ferment 5 million liters of wine at one time! Considering some small wineries we visited only produce about 19,000 liters a year, this number had our jaws on the ground. The idea was that all the wine from this one pool could be the entire stock loaded onto one train. This pool is no longer used because, as you might imagine, it is difficult to control the quality and consistency of the wine when creating it on that scale. The tour ended with a taste of 3 different wines and although they were delicious, we all agreed the smaller Di Tommassi family winery we visited earlier was superior.
Working our way back toward our lodge, we made our final visit to Finca Vina Maria, a tiny winery situated conveniently at the end of our street. We barely arrived before their 5:30 pm closing time, but the woman was more than happy to share with us the history of the winery and a description of the wines they produce. Rather than have a tasting, we decided to share a bottle of the Malbec while sitting outside under the shade of the huge sycamore tree. Chatting about all things wine turned into chatting about all things life. We learned more about each others jobs, families and travels. Phil and I were surprised to find out a “jumper” means a “sweater” when spoken by a Brit, but be careful–a sweater is not the same thing as a cardigan! Dan conceded that Americans are probably more correct with some of our pronunciations of words, while Sophie staunchly believes since the Brits invented the language, they must be the ones who are right. She does have a point!
After all this cycling, drinking and friendship, we knew we would be hungry later. And, since we have all discovered how incredibly difficult it can be to find dinner after 5pm in Maipu (or at least nearby to our lodge), we decided to head to the grocery store and fend for ourselves. It turned into a feast of tapas, perfect to go with the wine we had bought throughout the day. Delicious cheese, ham, salami and bread filled our plates and the wine flowed freely. Knowing we were all getting up to go horseback riding the next morning helped quell any desire to drink too much, and instead we spent the evening continuing to get to know one another, sharing stories and becoming friends. Reflecting back on it all, I can’t think of a better way to spend a day!