Northern California, France, New Zealand…mention these locales to a bona fide wine lover and the flavors of oaky Chardonnay, robust Pinot Noir and zesty Sauvignon Blanc practically begin to dance on the palate. Though destinations like Napa, Burgundy and Marlborough may still be the pinnacle of the worldwide wine scene, it’s clear that up and comers such as Mendoza, Argentina stand a fighting chance.
Mendoza, an arid city at the eastern foot on the Andes mountains, boasts sprawling boulevards, European style cafes and a smattering of swank hotels. But it’s the many boutique and family run bodegas (wineries) that have truly been making a name for this emerging wine destination, and tourists and wine aficionados alike have started to take note.
A friend had told me that the best way to wine taste in Mendoza was on two wheels. So with my rented bicycle in tow, I pedaled off through the picturesque countryside. Vineyards stretched out to either side of the dusty road, their taut grapes ripening in the warm Argentine sun while in the hazy distance the Andes stood watch over this age-old process.
All told, in the Maipu wine region just outside Mendoza, some 20 kilometers separated the score of wineries dotted across the sprawling plain. As I only had one day, it was vital that I choose my stops wisely. Sadly, I ended up able to visit only four wineries: the modern Mevi, the rustic Familia Di Tommaso, the touristy Trapiche and the laid back Carinae.
My first stop was at Mevi, a hip little winery hidden down a dusty lane. Decorated in silver and white with wood accents, the airy dining room opened out onto a shady patio, occupied by other weary bicyclers enjoying the pristine view. Sitting on a cushy white sofa, taking in the vineyard meets sky landscape in the distance, I couldn’t help but think I should switch my career path to wine reviewer. The flight of wine I chose enchanted me: a rich Cabernet with a hint of strawberries, a Malbec Rose (Malbec is Mendoza’s signature wine), and a tangy Torrontes which left a refreshing peach aftertaste. Fortified by my libations, I pedaled to my next destination.
Familia di Tommaso was my next stop, but overcrowded and with minuscule pours. Trapiche was quite simply a tourist trap dominated by the many buses flooding its gates, thus I endured a long wait for the tasting to commence. Carinae, my last stop, where all the wines were named after constellations was a charmer, but the ambiance was severely lacking. Thus, Mevi emerged as my clear favorite.
Wobbling the 12 kilometers back to town to return my bike, I couldn’t help but begin dreaming of the many other of wine regions in the world I have yet to visit. Bucket list, here they come.