Wine Travel: Mendoza, Argentina

Before 2020 took a complete nosedive, we traveled to Argentina for a week in January. The air is a bit nippy in our hometown of Washington, DC in January, so having a week to wear shorts and t-shirts in Argentina’s warm season was a nice treat.

While we spent several days in Buenos Aires, for this post we’re going to focus on our time in Mendoza. Traveling from Buenos Aires, it’s a short flight from the capital city’s convenient domestic airport. Upon arriving at the small airport Mendoza, we quickly made our way outside into the hot, dry air and found a talkative taxi driver who drove us to our hotel, the Park Hyatt Mendoza. The hotel is a stately building in the center of town that’s within easy walking distance to many bars, restaurants, and shops. The hotel’s grand façade raised our expectations a bit high, but our room was perfectly nice, and the outdoor pool has a posh resort feel.

We spent a total of three nights in Mendoza, arriving late in the day on a Tuesday, and flying back to Buenos Aires on Friday morning. On our first full day we did what we came to do: taste Malbec. There are several ways to visit Mendoza area wineries. If you’ve visited before, or have specific vineyards in mind, renting a car for the day is an easy option. As this was our first visit, we decided to leave our fate to the pros and book a group tour (private guides are also an option for a more intimate experience).

After a bit of research, we settled on Trout & Wine Tours, which offers an all-day experience that includes visits to three wineries and a multi-course lunch with wine pairings:

Our guide was knowledgeable and friendly, and we couldn’t have asked for better wineries. At each, someone from the vineyard showed us around the facility, explained what makes their wine unique and their overall winemaking philosophy, and led us in a tasting. And while we were admittedly bit apprehensive about sharing the day with a group of strangers, it turned out to be an interesting group of people from all over the world who made the experience all the more memorable (it was a pleasant surprise to be the only Americans).

On our second full day in Mendoza we ventured out into the desert for a sunset horseback ride into the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

After riding for two hours through some of the most beautiful terrain we’ve ever seen, we ended up at a small, remote camp where a wide-ranging barbeque dinner had been prepared. In between bites of grilled meat and vegetables, we gulped down generous pours of chilled red wine. When dinner wrapped up, our group gathered outside around a campfire, trading alcohol fueled stories as one of our hosts strummed a guitar. Towards the end of the evening, one of the guides led a small group of us up a hill where the view of the stars was particularly clear. It was a moment to consciously note, knowing that the almost magic amalgamation of food, wine, people and surroundings that we were experiencing doesn’t happen every day.

Along with our excursion recommendations, we also enjoyed these dinner spots (both of which were featured in the NY Times’ “36 Hours in Mendoza”):

  • Dinner at Azafran: Excellent food, attentive service, and a knowledgeable sommelier. If you’re looking for a good place to try a steak dinner, this is the perfect spot.
  • Dinner at Fuente y Fonda: Not fancy, with a neighborhood restaurant vibe. Great food with sizable portions and good, inexpensive wine options. Around 60% of Argentina’s population is of Italian heritage, which accounts for the heavy Italian influence on the county’s cuisine.

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