Wine tasting in Mendoza

We chose to visit Mendoza, Argentina because we heard it was the home of Malbec wine region. For the past few months, Arlen has been tasting different kinds of Malbecs to refine his pallet and prepare for this moment. Back home he found the Malbec as a strong “spicy” wine and was excited to taste the wine straight from the source in Mendoza.

 Day 1: For our first day wine tasting in Mendoza we decided to do a self-guided bike tour of Maipu, wine region. We had two options for our tour: 1) Lonely Planet recommended we bus to Mendoza and rent bikes there, or 2) the local wine tour company recommended rent bikes in Mendoza and take the train to Maipu. Trusting the locals we went with the latter – leaving out one crucial part, we didn’t rent bikes before we got to Maipu because the store was closed. No biggie right? After getting off the train a stop early, we were in Maipu with our helpful map in hand and set off to find the bike rental shop which appeared to be only a few blocks away. However, after about an hour of walking in the 100 degree heat, we still see no signs of a bike store. We start asking a few groups of locals in Espanol where to find the bike store, only to find out we are about  2K (1.5 miles) or “cuarento minutos mas” (40 min more) away. Turns out the map was not to scale. We start venturing down the dirt road and try to settle into our fate.  At this point we are half joking and half wondering what we are doing. Lucky for me,  Arlen saved the day and waved down a bus getting us a ride to the door of the bike shop. After a short bike ride we visited two beautiful wineries, enjoyed a nice lunch, wine tasting, and even some good tunes (Citizen Cope soundtrack on repeat). On the bus back we met a nice couple, Paul and Leanne (sp?) from the UK, and later that night got to celebrate their recent engagement with dinner and drinks. Congrats to them!

Here are the pictures from the bike ride!

Karen $ Arlen

Settling in quite nicely at our first wine stop. A great change of pace from wandering aimlessly down dirt roads in 95 degree heat.

Tempus Alba wine options

Tempus Alba wine options – we really enjoyed the Tempus Malbec!

Success! Arlen found the grapes : )

Success! Arlen found the grapes : )

The view from the Mevi wine tasting porch

Next stop at Mevi Bodega. As you can see a very casual setting.

The Mevi wines

The Mevi Reserve tasting.

Day 2: Since we came here for the wine, we decided we couldn’t leave Mendoza without a first class wine experience and therefore signed up for Trout and Wine’s tour of the Uco Valley Wine Region in Mendoza.  We were picked up from our hostel in the morning and met our tour guide, Pamela, a local of Mendoza who spoke great English.  Throughout the day she shared interesting bits of the Mendoza culture and taught us all about the wines in the region.

The wine stops:

- 1) First stop was a family owned winery, Pulenta Estate, where we learned how to tune our sense of smell with a blind smell test using fresh fruits and other spices commonly found in wine. We toured the winery and learned how the process of fermenting, aging, and bottling wine.

9:30 am and we are greeting with a glass of Sauvign Blanc. Why wouldn't we start tasting now?

9:30 am and we are greeted with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

Karen learning about the difference between American Oak and French Oak barrels. French Oak produces better wine, but at a price (~1000 pounds/barrel – if we remember correct)


This is as close as we get to the special tasting room.

- Second stop was a small boutique winery, La Azul, out in the middle of a large farm. We were greeted by Jimmy, the cook, the wine maker, and everything else. His love of wine has allowed him to work all over the world including: Napa, Sonoma, New Zealand and finally Mendoza. Since it is a boutique winery, they only make four wines and need to rent a bottling truck (looks like a large food truck) to bottle their wine a few times a year. (They were doing this on our visit!) The wine was fun to taste because it felt like being in your own backyard; the best part was tasting the Grand Reserve right out of the barrel!

The man. The myth. The legend. Jimmy.

The man. The myth. The legend. Jimmy!

Group shot with Pamela, our great tour guide!

Group shot with Pamela (right in the pink), our great tour guide!

Arlen at the barrel

Arlen at the barrel.

Getting a taste of the Reserve. Straight from the source!

Getting a taste of the Reserve. Straight from the barrel.

- The final stop was a large commercial winery, Salentein, that produces 19 million litres a year, one of the 10 largest in Argentina. It looks nice from the outside, but after you walk through the doors you realize how grandous it really is.  The winery has the beautiful barrel rooms and cellars you would find in a large winery, but without the crowds and gift shops. This may be because people in Mendoza don’t go wine tasting (according to our guide: Mendocines think wine tasting is boring and would rather just drink table wine at home) so the wineries only cater to tourists. You also must have reservations to visit the winery and when you get there you are greeted by a wine guide and provided a 30 minute tour of the winery. Our wine stop finished with a four course lunch and wine pairing – including a flavorful, juicy, medium-cooked Argentine steak. It all was fantastic!  Even though my bag is bursting at the seems, I had to buy a bottle of Pinot Noir Reserve (~$15 dollars) and a map of the Mendoza wine region I hope to eventually ship back and frame some day.


On a clear day, you would be able to see the Andes mountain ridge behind the Salentein cellar (building behind us).

The barrel room

The cellar room. Just a glimpse of what 19million litres of wine looks like.

Every chance he gets

Every chance he gets . . .

They hold concerts in the barrel room. Karen was practicing for her debut!

They hold concerts in the barrel room. As you can see, not all are professional.

Overall we felt this was a first class experience. After much thought, and even more drinking, Arlen came to a very important conclusion. Malbec wine is not spicy! Apparently in Mendoza, since the climate is so ideal for growing grapes, “they only have great years and good years”,  the wines are made to highlight the flavor of the grapes. Therefore, the true Malbec is fruity and bursting with flavor, a great wine for a hot summer day!

Some things we learned about Argentine culture: 1) do not plan on doing anything on Sunday, including: eating, drinking (water included), or getting your own money out of the bank. Sunday is a “family day”. . . Not ideal for travelers who didn’t plan ahead : ) 2) Argentina has 19 federal holidays, reportedly the most in the world.

Karen and Arlen

On our way back to Chile. Next stop 4 day boat ride on the Navimag to Patagonia.

On our way back to Chile. Next stop 4 day boat ride on the Navimag to Patagonia.












no hablo espanol. . .

Soon after we decided to take this trip, Arlen gave me Rosetta Stone- Spanish Chapters 1 – 3 for my birthday (April 27th). In the next 8 months we completed only a few Spanish lessons as busy work schedules and travel planning always seemed to take presendence. After landing in Santiago, Chile and realizing we were in a city with a population of 6 million and were the only people who speak English, we realized this may not have been the best decision. Needless to say, we sucessfully made it from the Santiago airport to our apartment via bus and 2 subways. After taking a much needed nap we ventured out to explore the city.

Best part of the day: While venturing through the city we found a huge park with a big “hill” and walkways and bike paths to the top. We made the 45 minute hike to the top and were able to see how vast and expansive Santiago really is, and even catch a sunset view on the way down.

Other random thoughts: 1) there are stray dogs everywhere – most are roaming the street or napping, but upon closer look I saw one that was dead  2) Chileans show all their emotions, including PDA, couples are making out all over parks and public street corners and 3) no one speaks English.

Top floor of our apartment in Santiago - looking over the city

Top floor of our apartment in Santiago – looking over the city

From the top of Cerro Santa Lucia (park in the center of Santiago). We called it "Lovers Lane" as dozens of couples were laying on the grass making out.

From the top of Cerro Santa Lucia (park in the center of Santiago). We called it “Lovers Lane” as dozens of couples were laying on the grass making out : )

Beautiful sunset at the top of San Cristobal Hill.

We made it to the top of San Cristobal Hill!

Beautiful sunset!

Beautiful sunset!

And another!

And another . . .

Karen studying aboard . . . the city really comes to life when the sun goes down

Karen studying aboard . . . Barrio de Belle Vista – this barrio is a ghost town during the day and really comes to life at night

Our next day we caught the AndesMar bus which took us over the Andes Mountains and into Mendoza, Argentina (about a 7.5 hour bus ride). This bus ride is famous for the winding curves (29 to be exact) which get you over the Andes Mountains and into Argentina. At the top of the mountain the bus breaks for a quick trip through Argentina border customs (2 hours) before heading down the other side of the mountains. Well, after our stop we realized that there was something wrong with the bus. Since all instructions are spoken in Spanish, we hear a translation from another passanger that something may be wrong with the brakes. Not comforting. Either way, after a short wait, we are herded back onto the bus with the assurance that the bus’s suspension may be out instead and the brakes are okay. Apparantly we don’t need suspension to get down the other side, it will just be bumpy. With not many other options we hop on and after watching the movie “Hall Pass” on the bus (in English!) pull into Mendoza. We made it!

It's a 7 hour bus ride, what else to do but take pictures?

It’s a 7 hour bus ride, what else to do but take pictures?

Karen making friends with the locals

Karen making friends with the locals

This is how you get to the top of the Andes - 29 curves!

This is how you get to the top of the Andes – 29 curves!

Chilean Flag at the top of the Andes

Chilean Flag at the top of the Andes
At the top, made it to Argentina!

At the top, made it to Argentina!


Next up: Mendoza wine country!


PS: Thanks to Arlen for all the great shots (he made me write that :) )