When it’s chilly here, it will be HOT in Argentina…time to begin plotting your escapes! Located at the foot of the snow capped Andes – one is instantly impressed and awed by this spectacular wine growing area. There are five different regions within the Province of Mendoza. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, and Malbec grapes are grown. Most of the better Argentine wines come from the province of Mendoza, desert flatlands in the foothills of the Andes that are irrigated from melting snow. While the grape varieties are European, the weather and soil conditions give the Argentine wines a very special quality. Few of us realize that Argentina is the fifth largest wine producer in the world; and there are some spectacularly good Argentine wines. The primary reason Argentine wines are only just beginning to appear on international markets is that, with an average wine consumption of around 60 liters per head annually, there has been little surplus for export! And we thought the Italians and French consumed wine by the barrel full.
Mendoza is an area of magnificent estancias, marvelous wines, wonderful horseback riding, fishing and birding, rafting in the summer, golf – countless activities for families, all nearby. Or if you are inclined, follow the vineyard trail, taste from the barrel with the wine maker, and explore charming ancient wineries or appealing boutique modern facilities. Wine tasting here is by appointment only, and often includes a leisurely lunch and tasting of 4 – 8 different wines.
Lodging options include modern hotels in Mendoza City – or boutique properties in the countryside. Cavas Wine Lodge is a short 20 minutes away, nestled at the base of the snow capped Andes – plopped down in the middle of 35 acres of a working vineyard. Cecilia Diaz Chuit and Martin Rigal have created a splendid, award winning hotel built in a Spanish colonial style and devoted to the joys of wine. In the rooms, the spa and the Arabian feel of the patios, paintings and pottery is a constant reminder to slow down and enjoy solitude, excellent meals and delicious wine. Each room a private cabana with a roof deck with an outdoor fireplace. A small private plunge pool outside your cabana for soaking at the end of a hot day with a view of the Andes, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting. The trip here is a bumpy one on a gravel road, but the journey is worth it. The entrance is impressive, with a view of snow on the mountains beyond and a lobby featuring a twisted grape vine chandelier and commissioned original modern art. A sunny rectangular sitting area is outfitted with designer furniture and enough books to occupy anyone for days. Since Cavas is a bit out of town, the staff offers entertainment every night: a wine tasting class, Tango lessons, cooking classes with the Cavas chef. Actually besides wine tasting excursions, no reason to leave Cavas.
A car and driver can be arranged for dinner excursions into Mendoza, again marvelous food at very reasonable prices. Francis Mallmann 1884 restaurant recently voted as 7th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine serves high-end fusion Patagonian ingredients and French technique. Housed in an atmospheric Spanish-style building inside the Bodega Escorihuela, 1884 uses a wood- fired oven in the winery’s courtyard to prepare roasted meats and empanadas. Respecting the seasonality of his ingredients, Mallmann changes the menu every two weeks and prepares dishes with matching wine selections. During the week, you can easily combine a meal at 1884 with a tour of the bodega, which also has an art gallery.
Other Estancias are options, some an hour or two from Mendoza City, each exuding charm and within minutes of vineyards.
Mendoza is home to quite a few internationally known artists, meeting them in their studios is easily arranged. Of course private tours to wineries, dinners or lunches in vineyards or olive groves- You can also savor regional Argentine cuisine amidst olive groves and gardens, and even stargaze from vineyards, wineglass in hand.
Begin with a stop in Buenos Aires, mosey to Mendoza – still craving adventure? Then trek to Chile and the beach or to more wine country at the sensational Vina Vik in Chile.
Days are shorter, summer is gradually fading, begin thinking about your winter wanderings!