After Buenos Aires the plan was a short stop in Mendoza on our way over the Andes to Santiago, Chile. The region around Mendoza is the largest wine producing area in all of Latin America and the vast majority of the world’s Malbec comes from there (one of my fav varietals). Needless to say, I was excited to get my vino on.
We landed at the Mendoza airport and grabbed a taxi for our hostel. As we pulled out of the airport I could already see small vineyards and big old-fashioned wine barrels at the exit. I remember thinking, “cute! It kind of reminds me of Napa!” Then we turned down the highway and drove past a shirtless guy selling meat on the side of the road which promptly reminded me “wait, nope….definitely still South America.”
There are over 2,000 wineries in the Mendoza area so the options are endless. Since Trav doesn’t even like wine and was taking one for Team Roberts, paying for a package tour didn’t make sense so we decided to explore on our own. We ended up renting bikes to do tastings at a few nearby wineries with new friends from our hostel. The wineries we visited were all completely different which was neat to see. One was a quaint family operation where we met the owner/winemaker himself, he wanted to shake every person’s hand who visited and you could see how much pride he took in it. Another one (and my personal fav) was a more upscale operation which we got to do a full tour of. The winery dates back to 1897 and seeing the vineyards was pretty incredible since some of the vines have been there since. I also appreciate a winery that doles out healthy-sized tasting pours! Then we visited a third winery which was recommended to eat at and turned out to be the best steak we had during our time in Argentina. The “tasting” was more just the guy coming to our outdoor table to refill our glasses with a new wine every so often, but we didn’t mind. Between the wine buzz and getting travel recommendations from our new friends, we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
On our way to another winery we ended up stopping at a place called A la Antigua which someone had initially described as a “chocolate factory.” It’s run by an Italian family and they actually produce a plethora of savory spreads, jams, jellies, chocolate, and flavored liqueurs – all family recipes. And you can do a tasting of everything for only $3 USD a person! Travis and his sweet tooth were in heaven. So much so that we decided to buy three glass jars of dulce de leche with coconut, which is a fabulous idea when you each have one backpack and space/weight is at a premium. It’s taking all our willpower to not grab a spoon and crack one of those babies open.
In Mendoza we also did a horseback riding trip. We caught a shuttle out to the stables and were each assigned our horses. The gaucho said mine was the “crazy” one, which is exactly want you want to hear before hopping on, right? We rode for a few hours to the top of a hill that overlooks the surrounding area. The main attraction was supposed to be the sunset but due to cloudy conditions the visibility was pretty poor. Oh well, you win some you lose some! We still enjoyed the trail ride which ended with a huge asado dinner spread and a guitar and singalong from our gaucho.