Vineyard Hopping in Mendoza

I feel like I should now really give you some background on Argentine Steak but I feel at this point it makes much more sense to actually get back to my story and what we actually did that day.
An 8am alarm is never ideal, but when you have a full day of drinking wine in the sunshine i can inform you that it is a whole lot easier to drag yourself out of bed. Braden / James ( I don’t really know who to give credit to here) had booked us on to a tour of four vineyards plus some sort of liquor production store. Braden informed me that they had thought about doing this by bicycle. I think we can all agree that after the day we had we were glad that they had opted for a mini bus. Personally, I believe that if we had indeed opted for the bikes this would indeed be the end of the book as I would have probably crashed into a ditch, broken a few bones and spent the rest of my South America experience  in hospital. Wine.. its lethal you know.. especially on an empty stomach. 

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The three of us gathered downstairs in the the hostel and bumped into Pepe ( an English Guy who was also staying at the hostel- his name wasn’t actually Pepe. He was a solo traveller and whilst all of his friends had chosen to roam around South East Asia he had chosen to go it alone in South America- To be honest its the sort of thing I would do. I have become quite the one for opting to go on a tour with people I don’t know than going away with my actual friends. ) We piled into the mini bus with our tour guide and found out that it would actually only be the four of us on this particular tour.

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The sun was shining down as we cruised through the city of Mendoza and made our way out to our first stop. We were a little early when we arrived at the Weinert Bodega y Cava. We got out of our bus and Braden was more than excited to see a dog with a ‘cone of shame’ round its neck. Little things please this man. Especially dogs- oh and Lammas his seventh favourite animal ( more on the lammas later ). After adequate photo taking with the pooch it was time for us to start. I would describe this as a rather traditional tour with in-depth explanations about the history of the winery, the owner ( who is ninety years old, actually lives in Buenos Aires and visits his goldmine every year) and of course the grapes used themselves.  Aesthetically this was my favourite of all the locations we had the pleasure of frequenting that day. It reminded me on a much, much and dare I use MUCH one more time for emphasis larger version of the wine cellar in the house I grew up in for the first twelve and a half years of my life. It smelt the same too, kind of cold and musty. This cellar, unlike my own was filled with barrels of a colossal size, all labeled with the type and year of the wine. All very proficient. Weiner is also the home of the worlds largest oak barrel ( that is in use- the actual largest barrel is also in Argentina but has now become more of an antique piece) Now, I have never been good at listening to tours or information, in fact I kind of find it impossible to retain any real information unless I’m sat down making notes. Our tour lady rambled on as we strolled through the corridors taking photos and quite frankly being amazed by the sheer size of it all. Then came the best it. The tasting, which, actually was all i cared about at the time. I’ve since been looking at reviews of this winery on trip advisor and one particular man notes ‘ The tasting offered decent servings of three wines’ Now, I don’t know what this man means by decent but its not exactly the word that I would use. Well actually, I can only really compare this to wine tasting I once partook in at work. To put this bluntly-I didn’t make work the next day and i was due to start at work ( this may have been caused by the excessive amount of gin consumed after.) ….Anyway I was convinced that the woman was deliberately giving me less than the guys. I thought this was an age of women sticking together.. Regardless of portion size I cant really complain about the experience. ( There is something that makes me uncomfortable about trying a wine in front of someone that knows a lot about it and is looking at you expectantly and asking ‘what can you taste’ – why hell, you know what this reminds me of grapes.. Actually, you know what, I don’t even think wine tastes like grapes. If I didn’t know any different and  someone told me it was primarily made from blueberries I would believe them. Sorry if this makes me sound very ignorant- if it helps I do think that cider tastes of apples. )

As we were due to visit three more wineries / vineyards after we decided that one of us would by a bottle at each destination. I went first and bought a delightful bottle of red ( one of the ones we had previously sampled)  which cost something like £3. Bargain.  We jumped back on the mini us and continued further into the countryside. Our next stop was beautiful. Bodega Familia Cecchin has beautifully long drive which takes you directly through the grass green vines and convienetlly has a snowcapped mountain to its left ( you know, the sort of one that looks like its just been put there) If my description isn’t all that good, it was as if we were driving through an oil painting of the 19th Century. At this winery we joined a larger group and were taken once again through the production, the history, the grapes.. once again I wasn’t really listening. This time wine tasting was at our own table and we didn’t have someone hovering over us whilst we sampled our grape juice- or was it blueberry .. I can’t remember now.

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Six glasses ( which actually probably was the equivalent of one) down I became aware that I hadn’t eaten yet. I’m not one of those people who are scared of drinking on an empty stomach but I was beginning to feel hungry.
James bought a bottle of white for us to drink on the mini bus. Now, whilst I may be a bit of an ignoramus about red wines I do like my white wine to be cold. This wine wasn’t and it was on the sickly side of sweet. But hey, I’ll drink anything. We passed the bottle round and life was good. We thought about getting a photo on the drive way back out of the vineyard ( yano the oil painting) but unfortunately there was another mini bus right behind us. Looking back now, I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded stopping in their tracks for 2 minutes. Shame, would have been a lovely photo. Well, you live and you learn. Nike have got it right with ‘ Just Do It’ …

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Our next stop was a slightly different experience. We arrived and were ushered into a room the size of someone with a modest size house living room. The man himself- Carmelo Patti-  the maker the producer, was talking in Spanish and just handing out glasses of wine. No messing around here I thought. I quite liked the informality of it all. After all I wanted to do was drink the wine. Turns  out that the man was a bit of a celebrity- or at least he thought he was.. he handed out newspaper cuttings with features of himself. He also had a range of caps and t-shirts with his face on. Nice man. We had our three samples of wine and had a brief little look outside at some sort of distillation process. There wasn’t much too it, he was just happy to share his wine and well himself. As he was talking in Spanish the whole time, I can honestly say that had I been listening I wouldn’t have caught onto much anyway.  ‘Experience Mendoza’ list this as a ‘charming experience and an essential whilst in the region. I agree. This man is incredibly proud of his creation ..and he should be. 
Sufficiently  tipsy we continued on our ‘wine journey’ to our final vineyard which again with equal measure was just as beautiful. It was another tour of which one of the family members constructed. I feel you are getting the real picture with these ones. No idea what the name was…. This winery operates primarily in wine production and a bit of a brewery on the side- which from what I gathered may not be legal exactly. But who’s complaining. Looks wise this was a little bit like Weinhert. Once more we learnt about the production, the history and the grapes as we meandered through the cellars. We had the privilege of tasting wine straight from the barrel- which I probably would have been less excited about had my body not been full of wine. However looking back now, its pretty cool. And so, after our further three samples it was finally time to eat. We had a little empanada ( more on these later ) to start accompanied with … a glass of wine. This was followed by a steak, grilled on a bbq in the sunshine. Life was great. Looking back this still is one of my favourite days of the whole trip. It was one of those lazy, somewhat hazy days filled with green vines and blue skies. In fact it was a brilliant start to the trip.. and I’m saying this sober. Dessert was a bit like a twister ice-cream if you imagine it in a bowl and all mixed up. During our meal we noticed a group of girls turn up on bikes forever feeling thankful that we had made an excellent decision. I mean, despite the alcohol factor.. it was 26C outside… none wants to be riding along in that.
Back on the bus and to our final destination – A La Antigua, which markets itself as a chocolateria. It actually produces a whole lot more than chocolate, making oil, jams, spreads and liquors. I don’t remember hearing a history of anything but we were invited to sample an awful lot of spreads ranging from dulce de leche to spicy chutneys. Before we departed we also got the opportunity to have a few tasters of some liquors. There was a mixture of fruity, creamy and deadly. We got to chose one each, as there was four of us we all shared our little shots of heaven. Naturally, we felt the need to give the absinthe a go. Lets just say I am glad it was one shot between the four of us.  ( I once had red absinthe in Spain right out of the bottle and it completely burned up my mouth for about a month- oh how naive I was just three years ago.. ) Feeling pretty content with life we headed back to our hostel.

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