Argentina

Vineyard Wines: 36 Hours in Mendoza

Wanna take a quick trip to a secondary city but don’t have the time to waste on transit?  Take an overnight bus (or if you have the finances, obviously just take a quick flight)!  The benefits of overnight buses are two-fold: 1. You don’t lose any days for sight seeing, or having fun, and 2. You won’t have to pay for lodging that night. First, let me tell you that the buses in Argentina are VERY comfy.  In all other countries I’ve visited, there seemed to really only be one bus company to transport people over long distances.  In Argentina, however, there are countless bus companies to choose from, and the competition is probably the reason while they are all so great.  These bus services are more comfortable than a first class airplane seat.  It still isn’t a real bed, but it’s comfortable enough to get some decent rest.

Our bus from Buenos Aires left at 6pm and arrived in Mendoza at 8:30am the next day.  Once we arrived, we made our way over to our hostel.  Su-Young and I were supposed to be staying in Langares Hostel, which had great ratings, but because of an electrical issue, they moved us to Hostel Emperdrado, which I was really unimpressed with.

I was really excited to be in Mendoza, and wanted to get right to the wine tours.   Here is tip for anyone who wants to do wine tasting in Mendoza: Your Hostel/Hotel will offer you a wine tour “package” complete with transportation, bike rentals, and a map, if you pay $50 USD, but it is surprisingly INCREDIBLY EASY to do the tour on your own for probably $20 USD total.  To get to Maipu, the small town next to Mendoza where all the vineyards are, you can just head down to the main bus station in Mendoza and get on any bus heading to “Maipu Centro” or “Maipu Terminal.”  Jump off at a weird triangular shaped round-a-bout with a wine barrel “Maipu” sign in the middle.  From there look for signs for bike rental shops.

Of course, Su-Young and I weren’t sure if the round-a-bouts were the right round-a-bouts when we finally came up on them, so we stayed on the bus thinking we should be looking for something a little more obvious.  We sat on the bus having no idea where we were until the bus driver told us to get off and, we think, told us to wait for the next bus.  I started panicking because were where sitting in the middle of nowhere Maipu just waiting on a bus to come and had no idea when it would come.  Even if we did get on another bus, we still had no idea where we were going. Well, thank God for our limited Spanish skills, when we got on the next bus we asked “Donde estas vino?”  The bus driver just nodded his head and told us to sit.  Eventually we wind up back at the first round-a-bout, and the driver motions for us to get off.  We were so confused because we didn’t see any bikes nearby, when finally we saw other tourists riding around on bikes, Su takes off chasing after them.  They look a little bewildered by us desperately running them down, but just point out bike stores down the road to us.  I feel a little dumb, but mostly triumphant for finally getting it all figured out.

We went with Mr. Hugo’s bikes because it is the most popular bike rental shop and any guidebook will tell you so.  When we got to the bike rental shop, we had to face the reality of Su’s lack of bicycle skills.  Su was hoping they would have training wheels, but alas, they did not.  So our only option was a tandem bike, which neither of us had ever ridden before.  It was quite comical.

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Try to catch Su ridin’ dirty

First up we visited Bodega Domiciano .  This is a small, boutique, family run winery. The tour started with a walk through the vineyards.  We were allowed to sample both the Malbec and Syrah grapes, of which, Su-Young and I preferred the Malbec grapes because they were slightly sweeter.

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We then had a tour of the winery, which was pretty cool, since I had never seen the inside of a winery before.  The tour ended with a wine tasting of a few of their signature wines.  They taught us the proper way to taste a wine, so this was maybe the most real-world applicable experience I had on the trip.  Of the wines we tasted, I definitely preferred the Malbec wine.

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By the end of our first tour, all we had eaten the entire day was grapes and wine (it was 3pm), so we were pretty desperate for food. We went to a little olive oil farm hoping to grab some food, but it turned out to be much more informative than I had anticipated.  The served us a basket of bread to dip in the three different types of olive oil they were serving us, and described to us the different flavors in each.  At first I thought, how different can olive oil really be?  Turns out I could tell the differences between olive oil, more than I could with wine.  The first was the lightest, the second had a slightly stronger taste, and the third was a little spicey, and had a kind of grass smell to it.

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Our last stop was an organic vineyard and winery set in an old, rustic looking farmhouse.  Su and I had a short tour of the grounds followed by a short tasting, where we compared their younger and older Malbecs.
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Biking around the vineyards and wine tasting was definitely one of my favorite parts of our Argentina trip, and I was surprised by how easy and inexpensive it was.
With our second day in Mendoza, we went for a short day hike in the Andes before getting back on the overnight bus.  I thought Andes were strikingly similar to Southern California landscape, where I grew up.  Su-Young capped it all of by rappelling down the side of a cliff!
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Spider Panda

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