Day 383 of 400: Loving the wine and food of Valle de Uco, Mendoza – Argentina

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We were on the road by 11AM and drove further out than yesterday to find some wineries a little off the beaten path. We still didn’t have pre-set appointments so were hoping to slide our way into the wineries to taste. I guess we are kind of boycotting the system…let’s see if it works.

Following our wine map, we got to the first winery, Altus and there were no cars and no people in sight…it was closed. Disappointed, we continued on the gravel road…the map showed another winery nearby so we tried our luck in hopes that our drive all the way out here would pay off.

We arrived at Tupungato Winelands which had a security guard at the entrance. He agreed to let us in and gave us a map of the property. The road was completely gravel and certainly didn’t seem like an entrance to a vineyard. We drove for quite a while and took out our video camera to record the ride. It was almost comical how long we were on this random road (you couldn’t really even call it a road) driving slow because we didn’t want to pop a tire on our crappy little car with these sharp rocks. There were no signs and no people…it was weird. Finally we saw a tractor and the guy saw we were trying to figure out where the heck we were, he smiled and waved us to follow him. Once we drove over a small hill, he pointed to the parking lot and then the walking path. We smiled, waved thanks, and got the car parked.

We walked on the little path and after a few steps saw a small outdoor restaurant and were greeted by the waitress. She explained the property was brand new and still being built…in fact they didn’t even have vines planted yet! All they had so far was a golf course and restaurant and were building homes with vineyards and a hotel. We felt like we wasted so much time…driving so far out and then finding out there was nothing to do there. We thanked her and quickly got back in the car to get off the huge property.

We decided to head for one of the large wineries…the clock was ticking and we wanted to get to a winery for lunch ASAP. We drove around lost for about an hour, but then found an old winery so pulled into their driveway…but they were closed too! Feeling very frustrated with our day so far, we found the restaurant we were looking for, Atamisque. We heard this place has great food and wine (they also farm their own trout). We pulled up to the security guard and admitted we didn’t have an appointment. The guard refused to let us in…the restaurant was full. We pleaded with him twice and he would not budge. All of our driving and getting lost and searching for this place and we couldn’t get in-aghhhhhh.

It was about 3PM and if we didn’t find a place to eat soon, everything would close for the siesta and we would be starving because dinner doesn’t start until 9PM. We figured out where we were quickly on the map and headed straight over to Andeluna Vineyards. This time, when pulling up to the security guard we used a different method, we tried fibbing (ok, it was a small lie). We said we had a reservation and the guard looked on the list, called it in and apologized saying no, they did not have us down. We talked with the women inside and made a reservation for later in the week but for today they were full and would not let us in. We had been trying to go against the reservation system but it wasn’t working and in fact we were wasting a lot of time.

Next door was a sign for a restaurant and we decided at this point we should just see if they would let us in to eat. We drove down the long dirt driveway and I jumped out of the car to run in and see if they would feed us. The restaurant was super cute and quaint, it had a rustic feel and had tables both inside and outside. The guy said he would find a space for us and I waved to Giff to find a parking spot and come on in.

The restaurant was called, Tupungato Divino and was also a lodge. It is right in the middle of the wine trail so this would be a great place to stay…not sure what the pricing is but great location. It’s back in the middle of the vines and the bar has a chalk board hanging behind it loaded with all kinds of local wines.

We were seated at a large wooden table outside right by the outdoor grill/oven. The details in the decor were packed with charm…two old wine barrels held up a big thick piece of wood making a counter space. Another barrel had been carved out and actually made into a chair and there were fresh flowers on the tables. It was a pre-fix menu so we ordered a bottle of wine and shortly after were served the appetizer. It consisted of 5 different bite-sized things (a small salad, a baby tomato stuffed with cheese, a cold soup served with a straw and a couple other things.) The second course for Giff was steak and potatoes and I had salmon with a small salad topped with avocado, sprouts and tomatoes. The food was great, typically in wine regions food is always so fresh and tasty and Mendoza is no different. For dessert, they brought out another plate with 5 bite sized sweets (chocolate, meringue, a pineapple smoothie, strawberry kebab and our favorite…a rosemary infused vanilla ice-cream on a nutty crust).

By the time we finished lunch it was about 5PM so we knew the wine-tasting day was over. We spent so much time driving around getting lost and then trying to get in places without a reservation…lesson learned; when coming out to Mendoza, make wine tasting appointments in advance. On our drive home, we saw a vineyard, Gimenez Riili with its gates open…we figured it would be closed but turned onto the short driveway. As we pulled up, we saw someone locking the doors…we rolled our windows down and asked if it was at all possible to quickly taste. Luckily it was the owner himself and he agreed only for 30 minutes…we took him up on the offer.

He took us around to the warehouse which looked out onto the mountains where he had his wine aging in stacked wine barrels. He had us take a seat and then brought out a couple bottles…he spoke English and we had fun talking with him about making his wine. We explained the type of wine we liked and he offered to open his gran reserve bottle, a 2007 Malbec made from 40 yr. old vines…at first we felt bad he was opening a new bottle at the very end of the day but after tasting it, we were glad he did. It was one of the best wines we have had out here so far. But, also one of the priciest…we decided it was worth spending extra for wine that would probably be much more in the USA. He put together a 6 pack for us as well as a bottle of Syrah which he could only give us one bottle of because he didn’t have many left. He then took us to one of his barrels and told us although it wasn’t ready yet to have a taste of the next syrah…it was so good, and will be amazing by the time he is done with it.

I think we took a little more than 30 minutes but bought plenty of wine and really enjoyed our visit with the wine maker. We were only minutes from our B&B but saw a sign for chocolate and pulled the car over. It was a little family owned cafe. We ordered a homemade lasagna and salad to go and while we waited, looked over their chocolates while chatting with the family. We of course bought a few chocolates and cookies and they threw in a jar of homemade apple marmalade. We thanked the family and got back to the car when a hail storm came out of nowhere. The owner came running out to our car and told us not to drive until the storm passes. The hail was huge, almost the size of golf balls and they crack the windows of cars. He reached through our window and handed us plastic-ware in case we wanted to eat our lasagna while we waited. What a friendly family…

The hail storm left just as quickly as it came. We drove back to our place, ate dinner and watched a movie before bed.

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