Day 382 of 400: Wine Tasting in Valle de Uco, Mendoza – Argentina

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We woke up to breakfast that had been delivered to our porch (nice touch). We walked out in our PJs and although the view was great, the breakfast was not. Instead of fresh fruit, it was fruit cocktail, overly sweet pink packaged yogurt and plain cheap white bread. We barely ate any of it…the property is beautiful, rooms are spacious and the staff friendly but they really need to make their breakfasts better. Fresh fruit, and some baked bread with homemade jam would be just fine…but the pre-packaged stuff is just a poor way to start the day.

We didn’t waste time, we got ready and were in the car driving towards our first wine tasting experience in this region. It took a little bit of getting lost in random back roads before we figured out which way to get to the bulk of the wineries. Parts of the drive were really beautiful…we were driving between mountains and the thick layer of fog mystified the ambiance.

After driving for an hour or so, we found ourselves in a small town full of people and camp sites. We stopped and took a picture of the huge cross with Jesus on it which was kind of randomly on the road and then saw quite a few people sitting in the yard of a little shack which had a hand-written sign up in Spanish saying they had empanadas. We pulled over and walked up to the shack which had a big wooden window open. Inside was an older women who spoke no English but was baking empanadas in her kitchen. With hand gestures Giff told her we wanted 2 empanadas for 20 pesos which was about $4 USD. We waited only a few minutes and then were handed 2 bags full of empanadas….something was obviously lost in translation…instead of 2 individual…we got 2 dozen! They were filled with meat and we ate some of them on the way to our first winery, what a bargain.

We started seeing vines and knew we were approaching vineyards, our first stop was the Salenstein Vineyard.  We have heard appointments are needed out here to do tastings but we’re hoping that isn’t the case…would they really turn us away?

We parked and walked through the entrance which led us through their art gallery prior to the tasting room. We stopped briefly to look at the art and then found our way to the main lobby area. The place was pretty busy, they had a restaurant to the right and a tasting bar to the left with the wine store and help desk in the middle. We stood in line at the help desk to inquire about the tastings and tours. They asked if we had reservations which we didn’t and informed us they were fully booked! Uh oh…

They said if we wanted to, they could squeeze us at the tasting bar and we could taste the wines but could not have a tour etc. We agreed and they gave us the tasting menu…there were several options to choose from, reserve vs non, red or whites etc. We chose two separate flights so we could taste several but had to wait way too long for someone to actually take our order. We almost got up and left but finally someone came over. She apologized and explained they were short a person so were sharing the extra work-load. After spending way more time there due to lack of service we did like a few of the wines…Reserve Malbec 2010, Primus Pinot Noir 2007 and the Numina which was a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cab, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. We ended up buying a couple blends and two bottles of 100% Tannat which we hadn’t tasted but the price was right as well as some olive oil.

Since we had driven around for so long and Salestein’s service took too long…we really only had time to stop at one more vineyard before they closed. There was a place we were referred to called, La Azul nearby. We walked up and saw they had a cute casual outdoor restaurant but were closing things up…they agreed to give us a tasting though. They were a small boutique winery and took us into their warehouse to show us their wine barrels and had us taste both from the barrel and the final product. They mostly had “young wines” meaning not aged in barrels…which is not really our style so we opted to only taste the barrel aged stuff. As we were tasting a few other people joined us…they were from NY but moved to Buenos Aires for a year for work…awesome! The husbands were working and the wives were soaking in the culture including learning the language…so cool. As we continued to talk we realized we had a friend in common…small world! We ended up buying 3 bottles which were ranked extremely high and were suppose to get better with time, they were a bit pricey but are well-known and didn’t have a tasting fee.

Back in the car, we made our way to the B&B where we took a cat nap before heading to the small town to find dinner. Town was super busy…it was dinner time, everyone eats so late here, 9PM is the earliest. There was an ice-cream shop screaming our names so we walked in agreeing that it made total sense to eat dessert before dinner and while indulging in our ice-cream cones walked into a pizza place…ok, so tonight isn’t exactly our healthiest dinner! We ordered a couple of salads and a pizza and chatted with the owner about his family while we waited. He even brought out his mom and although we didn’t know exactly what he was saying and he didn’t know exactly what we were saying it was still fun or funny trying to communicate.

They packed up our dinner and we took it to go but realized once we were carrying it to the car that there was some kind of parade going on in town. It was the harvest parade..each region picks their own Harvest Queen…there were several cars with young girls dressed up waiving at everyone as they drove by. We have been seeing these signs advertising various women for various towns. Once the Queen is picked, they all come together for the big harvest party in downtown Mendoza for one girl to be crowned amongst all.

The parade was pretty quick and we drove the few minutes back to our place to eat dinner and settle in with some English channels on TV.

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