Originally published in July 2016.
Leslie Rosa is a Sommelier and the founder of La Dolce Vigna, a Wine + Culture tour company that offers intimate and authentic experiences in Italy and California.
Mendoza is hot – literally and figuratively. Its nickname, “Tierra del Sol y del Buen Vino” – Land of Sun and Good Wine – tells us everything we need to know: Mendoza’s accommodating climate for viticulture, along with several key movers and shakers in the wine industry, have made it the New World wine region on everyone’s Malbec-stained lips.
The following two-day itinerary showcases the beautiful and diverse ways in which Malbec expresses itself in the three main zones of Mendoza: Maipú, Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco. After reading Wine Tourist Magazine’s excellent primer on Mendoza, pack your sunscreen, wine road map, Spotify playlist and get ready to face the open road lined with vineyards and wild desertscapes, stretching for miles below the vast, sunny Argentine skies.
Note: Depending on whether you are staying in the center of Mendoza or deep within wine country -- both of which are a delight -- you may want to shift the order of these visits. But don’t forget to make a reservation -- most wineries in Mendoza require them.
DAY ONE | The Northern Zones: Maipú and Luján de Cuyo
10:30 a.m. A must-see winery for both its historical importance and architectural curiosity is Catena Zapata. Its pyramid shape was selected to pay homage to the Mayans, the most advanced Indian culture of the Americas. The facility is a fitting symbol for the Catena Family, who spearheaded the focus on quality over quantity in Mendoza’s wine industry. Because Catena Zapata has vineyards throughout the entire region, it serves as a perfect primer to introduce the difference between the fruiter Malbecs of Maipú and Luján de Cuyo and the more mineral-driven ones of Uco Valley. Book your two-hour, English-language tour and tasting in advance as they tend to fill up.
12:30 p.m. Hurray, almuerzo (lunch) time! There are quite a few wineries that boast gourmet restaurants. Ruca Malen is one of the best. Its five-course lunch, which includes the famous Argentine steak, concentrates on seasonal and local ingredients, presented in tantalizingly creative ways. The menu also highlights their award-winning wines.
3:30 p.m. You’ve now been wowed, wined and dined -- what’s next? Like any good mix tape, we’re going to take it down a notch and visit a duo of tiny but soulful wineries in the town of Chacras de Coria: Maal and Pulmary. Maal is an acronym that stands for “Malbec As Alfredo Likes.” And what the young winemaker Alfredo Merlo likes is Malbec that expresses the terroir from which it comes, as well as minimal human interference. The result is a stellar lineup that oohs and aahs the palate with fresh acidity. Enjoy a tasting in the charming garden before hopping across town to visit another young winemaker, Ramiro Maures of Pulmary. Ramiro and his family produce just 40,000 bottles of high-quality wines, including the obvious Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, but also Tempranillo and a sparkling rosé. Take a tour of their historic cellar and settle in at one of the shaded picnic tables out front to taste through their organic, hand-crafted offerings. If you’re lucky, they will have one of their exhibitions of local artists installed throughout the winery.
Dinner time: Many of the hotels situated in the vineyards offer dinner service since they are so remote. If you are staying in the center of Mendoza, some favorite eateries include: 1884 Francis Mallman, Maria Antonieta, and Azafran.
DAY TWO | The South: Valle de Uco
10:30 a.m. Our second day starts at one of the southernmost and avant-garde wineries in Valle de Uco: O. Fournier. Reminiscent of a spaceship, this impressive and highly functional structure doesn’t hide the fact it produces big wine on a big scale. Its underground cellar holds around 2,800 wine-filled oak barrels, which are used to push Malbec to boldly explore new frontiers. Be sure to book a tour with your tasting so you can fully appreciate this architectural feat.
12:30 p.m. While O. Fournier does have an excellent restaurant, make your way up the valley to La Azul, a small winery that offers a rustic atmosphere and incredibly tasty dining experience. Here, you’ll see slice of heaven — vast azul skies, surrounding vineyards and desert flowers. Indulge in several lovingly-prepared courses and small-batch Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignons.
3:30 p.m. The final entry in our Malbec Diaries is the biodynamic estate of Alpamanta. Founded by three friends from Europe (Switzerland, France and Austria), this winery brings the Austrian Rudolf Steiner’s alternative, organic farming methods to Mendoza. Walking through the vineyards with their welcoming hospitality manager leaves no room for doubt that these vines are happy and healthy. The wine proves it too. Start off with their refreshing Sauvignon Blanc and make your way down the line of Bordeaux varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon…and, of course, Malbec.
ADDRESSES + INFORMATION
Pulmary Bodegas y Viñedos
Viamonte 5224, Chacras de Coria. Luján de Cuyo
Mobile. +54 92614542242
Address: Calle Los Indios s/n - 5567 La Consulta
Phone: +54 261 154671021
Bodega La Azul
Address: San Martín 1131, Tunuyán
Phone: +54 2622 42-3593
Address: J. Cobos s/n, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo
Phone: +54 261 413 1100
Address: Ruta Nacional Km 7, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo
Phone: Tel: +54 261 553 7164
Besares 397, Chacras de Coria - Luján de Cuyo
Mendoza - Argentina - CP5505
Address: Ugarteche Vineyards, calle Cobos s/n
Phone: +54 011 4832 0379