Tag Archives: Argentina

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Mendoza Day 3 – Bodega López

Our last day in Mendoza without solidified plans. Yikes. Margaret and I woke up at 8 and ate breakfast in our hostel. We hoped to make a trip to Bodega Catena Zapata in Valle de Uco but we were not exactly sure how we were going to make the trip or how much it was going to cost. Although there were tons of bodegas to choose from throughout Mendoza, we had our sights set on Catena Zapata. Why? Everyone recommended it, there was a nice little blurb and picture about it in my guidebook, and last but not least, every Mendoza-related Google search we did seemed to yield some results about Catena Zapata and its wonder.

Our first mission: determine how to arrive in Valle de Uco. We hailed a taxi to get to the bus station and inquired about routes to Valle de Uco. We quickly learned that we would need to wait at the bus station for over two hours before the first bus of the day left. We definitely did not have two hours to spare on our last day in Mendoza. Fallback plan? Another day in Maipú! “Maybe we can hit up the bodegas that were closed yesterday during the strikes,” we thought and hoped.

Tuvimos suerte with the Maipú idea. Bodega López was open, unlike the previous day when it had been closed due to las huelgas, and offered free tours in both English and Spanish. Regardless, Margaret and I decided to take the Spanish tour (shorter wait + I preferred the Spanish tour to expand my Spanish lexicon). Great success; I learned lots of new Spanish wine words plus more about winemaking. Here are some pictures from the tour! I have them organized in sections based upon which part of the [winemaking] process they relate to.

Step 1: The Harvest

Removing the grapes from the vines. I do not have any pictures of this step, since the viñedos de López are not located in the same place as the Bodega itself.

Step 2: Transport

Moving the grapes from the viñedos to the bodegas. I had the chance to witness and document this step in action.

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Grape-carrying Mercedes trucks.

Step 3: Crushing of the Grapes 

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Grapes just waiting to be crushed (I think).

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Trucks emptying the harvest into these large metal “tanks” with some sort of device (see below) to do something very scientific, I’m sure. IMG_9201

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Our tour guide was the best! She offered us these Malbec grapes.

Step 4: Fermentation – Mixture of Juice, Skins, and Seeds + Addition of Yeast

This primary fermentation process usually takes about one to two weeks. Yeasts are microorganisms that, in the wine-making process, turn sugar into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide. We didn’t actually witness the addition of yeast into any pre-wine juice, but our tour guide told us that the specific yeast that each bodega uses in their wine is like a “secret ingredient.” Kind of interesting, huh? The type of microorganism serves as a secret ingredient. That fascinates me.

The skins are left in the grape juice mixture at this time. In fact, red wine receives its color and tannins from the skins of the grapes. Did you know that white wine is made with red grapes? “What? How?” you ask. When making white wine, the skins are removed from the mixture so that the wine does not absorb the flavors and purple tint.

Step 5: Pressing

While we did not witness the pressing, I did see pressing-related paraphernalia on López’s grounds. Here’s a photo!

IMG_9231A wine press turned planter! I thought this was pretty clever.

Step 6: Secondary Fermentation

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French oak casks! Once the wine is finished aging in these casks, the wood is recycled to make hardwood floors, furniture, etc. I loved that.
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The type of fermentation vessel used affects the outcome of the wine. Many other bodegas we visited used large steel tanks rather than wooden casks.

Step 7: Bottling Preparation + Bottling

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This guy has a wonderful job. Hanging out in the lab, testing wine pH, and carrying out a lot of other very important (and likely interesting) wine-related tasks. IMG_9230 IMG_9222

Boxes coming down the conveyor belt.IMG_9221Notice that the boxes are upside down. López bottles and ships their wine upside down so that the cork has adequate time to form to the neck of the bottle.

After seeing the bottling process, the tour group headed to la cava para una degustación de vinos. After la degustación, Margaret and I thanked our guide. I also mentioned wanting to visit Catena Zapata, but she told us it was re lejos from Maipú and that she had a better place to recommend to us: Alta Vista in Luján de Cuyo…

Suggestions from a local? There’s nothing I like more. Curious about this Alta Vista place, Margaret and I waited for a taxi and made our way on the day’s second adventure. For the record, Bodega Alta Vista won a spot on my Top 5 Most Beautiful Places I’ve Ever Been list. That said, make sure to check out this post.

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Restaurante 1884 Francis Mallman – Second Dinner in Mendoza

After browsing restaurantes mendocinos in our hostel on day one, Margaret and I had too many culinary adventures to choose from. Everything looked so delicious, yet we only had 3 days to spend in Mendoza. When it came time to make decisions, we relied on advice from a combination of sources including NYTimes articles, restaurant reviews, and excerpts from my Argentina travel guide. Good choice? Most definitely. On night number two, we had reservations at what may be Mendoza’s best restaurant and what this article calls Latin America’s 37th best.

What is the restaurant? 1884 Restaurante – Francis Mallman in Bodega Escorihuela. What do they have to offer? Only a 36-page wine list, really delicious food, and free bread that never stops.

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The entrance.

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Seating areas. Where are the people? It was a little chilly that night, so most people (including us) were inside or in the other outdoor area, close to the fire.

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Most extravagant bread table I’ve ever seen. This is where the waiters refilled their baskets of bread to bring from table to table.  IMG_2363

Humita. My favorite comida argentina made of corn, red pepper, squash, milk, onion, and cheese. And probably some other stuff.IMG_2365

A delicious dessert.
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Pears, pistachios, cashews, helado de vainilla. Many of my favorite things in one dish.

Going to Mendoza? I would highly recommend eating at 1884 Restaurante – Francis Mallman. If you need more convincing, you should check out the photo gallery and general information on their website.

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Mendoza – Day 2

Eager for some bodega-hopping in Mendoza, Margaret and I woke up 7:45, ate some breakfast at our hostel, and asked hostel staff for advice about traveling between bodegas.

First of all, you may be wondering, “What is a bodega?” This is an important clarification, as a number of mendocinos corrected me when saying, “Vamos a las viñas.” We weren’t going to the vineyards –as I had mistakenly stated– rather, we were going to the bodegas. According to Word Reference, a bodega is a “lugar donde se guarda, cría o fabrica el vino.” A place where wine is kept, matured or made. The vineyards, or viñas, are the yards of vines, if you will. The place with the growing grapes, if we want to be informal.

Now that we understand the distinction between bodegas and vineyards, back to our morning. Margaret and I had a list of vineyards we were hoping to “hit up” throughout the day, but we wanted to double-check with hostel staff to ensure that our goals were feasible. We hoped to adventure through Maipú in the morning via bike then make our way to Valle de Uco to visit the famous Catena Zapata. Unfortunately, our hopes were quickly shattered because 1) There was no easy way to travel from Maipú to Valle de Uco, 2) Catena Zapata requires reservations, and 3) The big-name bodegas were closed for the day due to workers’ huelgas (strikes).

Regardless of the strikes, Margaret and I made our way to Maipú by bus. We found Mr. Hugo’s bikes (recommended to us by a friend), and rented bikes for $50 (ARG) each. Mr. Hugo greeted us personally, his wife gave us advice and a map of local bodegas, and his what-I’m-assuming-to-be-son gave us bikes. Essentially SIX DOLLARS for this quality service. Needless to say, everyone should experience Mr. Hugo’s bikes. Here are some pictures of Mr. Hugo’s setup.

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Our first stop was Domiciano, a relatively-new bodega boutique that opened in 2005. Our guide, Yael, greeted us with Chardonnay, which was surprisingly refreshing and delicious. We also met a guy from Australia who had just spent a month in Ann Arbor doing research because the Hatcher Graduate Library had some publications from a famous author he’s writing a book about. Small world. Here are a couple pictures of the bodega.

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Take a second to admire how many people visited this bodega by bike. Mr. Hugo is a popular dude.
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One of my favorite details about Bodega Domiciano is their logo; it features a man, 5 stars, and their name. Why a man and stars? Because Domiciano is known for harvesting their grapes at night. How cool is that?

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Domiciano Part One: Grape-tasting in a few rows of vines

I hesitate to use the term vineyard, since the grapes at the bodega existed solely for the purpose of showing tourists. Domiciano’s actual vineyards –with the grapes that produce their wine– are located off-site, in Barrancas. Since mid-March falls right during harvesting season, Margaret and I had the opportunity to try Malbec and Shiraz grapes from the vines. We both liked Malbec better and assumed it was probably because it was the one we tried first, and there’s just something special about that.

IMG_9086 IMG_9085 IMG_9084 IMG_9082 Domiciano Part Two: Fermentation Station + La Cava

After falling in love with the vines, we headed indoors to see where the wine spends its life maturing.

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Domiciano Part Three: Bottling

Once sufficiently fermented, the wine moves from epoxy cement pools (or French Oak casks) to glass bottles. We had the opportunity to watch the bottling process. Pretty cool!

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The tour at Bodega Domiciano only cost $40 (ARG) per person, and I would highly recommend it to anyone else who decides to make a visit to Maipú!

After our tour at Bodega Domiciano, Margaret and I headed to another bodega; Tempus Alba. We weren’t aware during our time there, but the bodega had been closed earlier in the day due to the workers’ strikes. Turns out we were lucky we had the chance to visit! At Tempus Alba, we enjoyed free 5-step self-guided tour ending at a terrace overlooking the vineyard. Here are some pictures from our visit.

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Hello, Tempus Alba. When entering these doors, visitors see 6 frames displaying the bodega’s dogma in Spanish. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I made sure to take note of it to share with others:

Somos el génesis de un modo nuevo de hacer vino, queremos que nuestra pasión por lo que hacemos se beba y se traduzca en un idioma universal.
Vivimos a la par de nuestros viñedos, creciendo, sufriendo, gozando con cada nueva cosecha.
Criamos nuestros vinos como quien prepara un hijo para la vida: honesto, noble, complejo, único.
Por ello, damos fé de nuestro trabajo y compromiso a que nuestra bodega cumpla este dogma.

Todo proyecto deberá ser sustentable, dando un uso inteligente a los recursos teniendo en cuenta siempre a la tierra, la vid, quienes la trabajan y quienes disfrutan del esfuerzo de producir vino.
Toda bodega tendrá un Malbec como icono de nuestra tierra para el mundo.
Todo emprendimiento no superará los 300,000 litros de producción a fin de garantizar el mayor de los esmeros en la elaboración del vino.

Todo vino que surja de esta bodega será elaborado con uva proveniente de viñedos propios, pues esta es la única forma de garantizar a través de los años la cualidades propias del terruño.
Toda bodega aspirará a tener la mejor tecnología para la producción de sus vinos dando muestra permanente de innovación y espíritu de superación.
Todo aquel que elabore vino bajo este dogma honrará a su familia, su sangre, pues hacemos vinos para nosotros, para nuestros hijos y para los hijos de nuestros hijos. Todo cuidado de la vid será intensivo, toda tarea será dedicada.

Toda botella tendrá un valor, más allá del económico, por lo cual jamás se regalará un vino nacido del dogma.
Toda producción aunque tenga por destino el mercado internacional deberá tener presencia en el mercado nacional, a fin de devolver a hacer parte al consumidor argentino del fruto de la pasión y el trabajo de la bodega.

Toda bodega será siempre atendida por sus dueños.
Toda innovación en los canales de distribución será valorada.
Todo intercambio franco de ideas entre cotegas y competidores será promovido, pues es base de este dogma cooperar para competir unir para crecer.

Legamos este Dogma como base para el desafío de hacer vino de un modo diferente: cerca de la tierra y a un paso del cielo.
En la certeza de estar creando individuos que hablen de pasión, esfuerzo y coraje a todo el mundo en el idioma universal del vino.
Somos lo que hacemos.

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Enjoyed this perfect weather. IMG_9154

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Loved the style of this wine bar. IMG_9136 IMG_9138

Checker board with wine corks. I want to make this.IMG_9134

Olive trees at Tempus Alba. I had never seen an olive tree before, so this was quite an exciting moment for me. IMG_9126

Malbec vines!

After Tempus Alba, Margaret and I made our way to our third and last bodega of the day, Mevi. We sat on the patio y tomamos el sol por un rato, but then decided to head back to town, since we had dinner reservations. Here are a couple of pictures from Mevi!

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Azafrán – First Dinner in Mendoza

Since we were spending minimal amounts of plata on our lodging, we were able to eat like reinas. During our first night in Mendoza, Margaret and I decided to go to Azafrán, a restaurant downtown Mendoza, recommended in my Fodor’s Argentina guidebook. Here is what the guidebook had to say:

It’s as much a gourmet grocery and wineshop as it is an incredible restaurant with tons of character…shelves are stocked with local olive oils, dried herbs and spices, smoked meats, and olives and homemade jams. Eighty wineries are represented by more than 400 labels in the wine bar, where an old wine press has been converted into a tasting table. There is no wine list, but you can explore the wine room and look at the shelves of wine while working with a sommelier to find the perfect pairing for your food order. The food is super fresh, traditionally Argentine yet with creative flair, and gorgeously presented…This is a versatile place that works well whether you need to have a business meeting, dine with your family, or have a romantic dinner for two.

The book really sells this place, right? Right. And with good reason. It was wonderful.

Here are some pictures of our food and the restaurant itself!

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The wine room! We had to (so rough, right?) hang out here while waiting for a table. IMG_9072

So many to choose from! And I knew so little about wine. Good thing we had the sommelier to direct us to a Torrontés, a white wine that paired well with the seafood we ate.IMG_9074Another part of the wine room.

IMG_2344Ceviche con brotes de alfalfa y maracuyá. Tuna ceviche with alfalfa sprouts and passion fruit.

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My dinner. Especial del día: trucha con espárragos y puré de papa. Trout with asparagus and mashed potatoes.

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Margaret’s dinner: Shrimp risotto.

The best part: Degustación de postres including flan, frutas secas & quesos, torta de chocolate con helado de vainilla, y whatever is in that shot glass with dulce de leche on top.

IMG_9076This dinner was a wonderful way to celebrate our first day in wine country. If you plan on making a trip to Mendoza City, I would highly recommend Azafrán. Here’s a link to the menu, just for fun.

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Mendoza – Day 1

When planning a trip to Mendoza, the first question to ask yourself is, “Plane or omnibus?” One significant detail led Margaret and I to choose flying from Córdoba to Mendoza; the one-hour flight is about 9 hours shorter than the bus ride and only costs about $100 more.

Eager for our first day in Argentina’s wine country, Margaret and I woke up at 6:00 am to make our way to the Córdoba International Airport and catch our plane to Mendoza. Spending $200 for a plane ticket –rather than around $90 on a bus–was worth saving 18 hours of travel time.

In Mendoza, we stayed at Hostel Suites, which coincidentally and conveniently was located right across from the Mercado Central. The market was already on my “Mendoza to-do list,” since it was one of many recommendation in my Argentina guidebook.

Our first Mendoza destination: the plazas.

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Each of the green areas in this map are plazas. The largest plaza –Plaza Independencia– is located in the center. Plaza Chile, Plaza Italia, Plaza España, and Plaza San Martín surround Plaza Independencia.

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The fountain in Plaza Chile.

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I liked the lights in Plaza Independencia.

Second stop: Lunch.

After plaza-seeing, we were ready for some grub. However, since Argentina’s eating schedule is a bit different than what we’re used to at home, most of the restaurants were closed until 6:00 at night, making it a bit hard to find somewhere to eat. Luckily, we stumbled upon an adorable café –Petrona– while walking around. Here are some of the pictures from our lunch.

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Tetera con detalles crochet. I want to learn how to make this, because it’s so adorable! IMG_2325

Tostadas con queso, berenjena y tomate. Delicious and would be so easy to make!

Third destination: The park.

After refueling our bodies during lunch, we made our way to Mendoza’s Parque General San Martín to see the famous Cerro de la Gloria, a monument in honor of the Cruce de los Andes by el Ejército de los Andes. It was quite a long journey to the monument (a couple of hours of walking) but most definitely worth it!

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Found possible future place of residence on the walk to the park. High five!IMG_8964

Thought the shape of this house we saw on the way to the park was cool and unique. IMG_8967

Love this VW van. Also love the Argentina license plate on the front.IMG_8969

Another view of possible future home.

IMG_8977 IMG_8976The entrance to Parque General San Martín.

IMG_8979After entering the gates to Parque General San Martín.

IMG_8987 IMG_8988Some other findings throughout our walk in el Parque.

IMG_9007Saw this parrot perched on the gate to el Zoológico de Mendoza located at the bottom of the paths up to Cerro de la Gloria.

IMG_9023View from the trek up los senderos. Note to self (and others): do not wear sandals. I slipped a couple of times.

IMG_9021 IMG_9029Some of the photos from our trek up the foothills of the Andes. The view became more beautiful with each step.

IMG_9040Cerro de la Gloria – finally made it to the monument!

IMG_9044Tired horses on one side of the statue representing how exhausted the men and horses of el Ejército de los Andes were after embarking on the Cruce de los Andes to free Chile and Peru.

IMG_9032More recognition of men involved in the war efforts.

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IMG_9058 IMG_9055In addition to Cerro de la Gloria, we saw this crazy monkey. Thinking (and hoping) he escaped from the nearby zoo. He’s too domesticated to be silvestre, I think.

Fourth stop: Mercado Central.

After spending hours in the wild, Margaret and I made our way back to town. Since the market had been closed from 1-5pm during “siesta time,” we decided to make a trip and check it out before dinner. The following are a few pictures from the market.

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IMG_9068“Little claws.” Or chicken feet. IMG_9069Tuna and sea bass.

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Purchased some grapes as a pre-dinner snack. I mean, that’s why we were in Mendoza, right? For the grapes.