For anyone planning a trip to Argentina’s emerging wine country, the city of Mendoza serves as the gateway.
Mendoza, described by National Geographic Traveler as “an oasis of urban green in the arid Cuyo region at the foot of the Andes,” has itself become a destination. Its laid-back vibe exists amid tree-lined boulevards, open-air cafes and shaded plazas.
In fact, whether to stay in Mendoza or closer to the vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo is the first decision you’ll have to make when planning your trip.
The Cavas Wine Lodge in Lujan de Cuyo is nestled in a 35-acre vineyard, and each of the 750-square-foot adobe-walled units has its own Andes-facing patio and plunge pool. And on each roof, a mattress allows 360-degree views of the vineyards from a position of total relaxation.
Speaking of relaxation, the resort is known for its vinotherapy baths in the spa. And speaking of vino, the lodge boasts a wine cellar stocked with dozens of top Argentine labels. It’s also home to an award-winning winery. Little wonder many visitors head for Cavas Wine Lodge and simply… stay.
But for those wishing to mix sightseeing with leisure, the Park Hyatt in Mendoza also offers a wine-based massage treatment. And at the hotel’s Uvas bar, guests may arrange a wine tasting accompanied by live jazz.
Mendoza is a vinous carnivore’s dream city, as a three-course steak dinner, accompanied by a nice bottle of wine, can be had for as little as $20 per person. Follow your nose to the 1884 Restaurant, where thick bife de lomo steaks seductively sizzle on an open grill. Other classic dishes at 1884 include lechon (young pork) and chivito (baby goat). Dessert? Two words: chocolate fanatico.
A good way to start the day is with a cup of cortado (strong espresso cut with milk) at one of the many cafes found in the Sarmiento pedestrian mall. After an eye-opening jolt and some people watching, head to Plaza Independencia to shop for handcrafted leather bags, or pack a picnic and spend a few hours at the 865-acre Parque General San Martin.
When the time comes for wine tasting, opportunities just outside the city are seemingly limitless. Concierges at the major hotels are good resources, and maps of the wine routes are widely available.
It may seem odd that such an arid place, which sees only about 8 inches of rainfall annually, could emerge as the world’s fifth-largest producer of wine. But it’s the lack of constant moisture that helps protect crops – including grapevines – from many of the pests and other problems that plague more moist climates.
Mendoza has emerged as Argentina’s winemaking capital, producing 80 percent of the country’s wines. The vines can’t produce without at least some water, and that’s provided by an intricate system of aqueducts and dykes. Most of the wineries are open to the public for tasting, and many charge no fee for the palate-pleasing privilege.
And speaking of pleasing the palate, if you happen to see a sign reading “heladeria,” do not pass “Go” and do not collect $200. Stop the car, and enjoy a bowl of some of the best ice cream to be found anywhere. The local favorite is dulce de leche, but you’ll also want to try cool, creamy treats made from Malbec and Viognier.
When’s the best time to visit Mendoza? If you’re in the mood to party, go right after the Southern Hemisphere’s March harvest when the Vendimia festival is held. This city-wide street party features live music, parades and seemingly bottomless glasses of tinto (red wine).
For Further Information…
Cavas Wine Lodge
Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina
Park Hyatt Mendoza