Well…there are only three pictures to look at in this blog and really…there is not much to say about our day. We decided to have a completely LAZY stay inside and relax day. Traveling is amazing and this trip has been a once in a lifetime experience that we wouldn’t trade in for anything BUT…living out of a suitcase and feeling like we have to be out and about all the time to see all the new sights, can be exhausting (not that we’re complaining).
SO…today, we ordered room service, watched movies, drank wine, blogged and just had a homebody day!
It is really something to be in the middle of the Andes Mountains wandering around by ourselves! We packed up our car, thanked our host and drove off into the gorgeous landscape. He gave us directions on which way to get back to Mendoza…we were taking the scenic route which was serene but also a bit uneasy. The raods were not paved and we were driving a crappy rental-if we pop a tire, will anyone ever find us?
Mountains were in every direction and then we were in a tiny car amongst the gravel between them, we had no idea whether or not we were going in the right direction. There were random old wooden posts in the ground once in a while with the name of a city and an arrow but these weren’t exactly clear highway signs by any stretch of the imagination. Up and down and around we went, getting out of the car to take pictures and gaze out into the wilderness. We did come across some random llamas who were grazing on the dry grasses and stood perfectly still for their picture to be taken. And at one point a peculiar fog came rolling in getting thicker and thicker which made for surreal scenery. We were literally standing in the clouds in the middle of the Andes by ourselves-priceless.
We did see one other car drive up to a looking point we were close to, so we had him take our picture…the immediate mountains were brown and dry but way in the distance was the snowy peak of what was probably Mt Aconcagua.
As we continued driving over the rocky roads we realized we were at least going down the mountain range which was the direction we needed to be going in…although there were no other cars behind us, we did see a couple going the opposite way so were thinking we must be headed towards whichever town they were coming from.
After a few hours, we made our way back to reality…where there were paved streets and many people…we were in the city of Mendoza. Prior to the Andes, we had stayed and driven around the countryside/vines of Mendoza but now we will be staying in the actual city for a few nights.
After some circling around, we finally found our small hotel amongst the one way streets and got ourselves checked in. It was nice to have a real bathroom with enough running water to enjoy a long shower and an actual mini fridge to keep things cool instead of a stream of water. We walked across the street since it was dinner time to find some food and noticed many stores were closed. We found an Italian place which had a fire burning oven so ordered a pizza and salad to go.
We window shopped a bit while our food was cooking and then made our way back to the hotel where we settled into our comfies with dinner and a movie.
Last night we arrived at our new hotel in Lujan De Cuyo, La Villa Mansa (http://www.villamansa.com/home.html). The area is well-known for its wine and our place was minutes from the village. We were having a lot of fun exploring all of the different wineries in Mendoza and in particular enjoyed the long lunches paired with tastings. That seemed to be a specialty of the area…most of the big wineries had a multi-course lunch by reservation to pair each of their wines. Twist my arm…I have to eat 4 courses of amazing food while gazing out at the countryside and sipping Malbec!
We heard Ruca Malen (http://www.bodegarucamalen.com/) had a good lunch so we made a reservation for today to tour their winery which was followed by lunch on the property overlooking their vines.
We arrived a little late and the tour had already started but they let us sneak in and join the rest. The tour was pretty quick b/c the warehouse was not so big and unfortunately, we were disappointed with it after some of the other in-depth experiences we have had in the area. They basically just walked us around to look at the tanks and barrels and talked briefly about their equipment…nothing special.
For lunch, we joined the other 25 people on the lawn and sat at a table set with many wine glasses and a menu of what we would be eating. Lunch was good as all these lunches are multi-course and farm-fresh food but we would have to place this one at the bottom of our list in comparison to its competition. We had much better food, wine and educational tours at other places. Nothing was bad per se just not memorable.
After our long luncheon, we went back to our hotel and relaxed a bit while checking out the property. When we arrived last night it was dark, so today got to check out the hotel…which was very nice with a restaurant, pool, wine cellar and rooms with free internet.
The hotel gave us a map and we chatted about various wineries and events. Tonight in downtown Mendoza was a wine festival or as they would say a Mega Degustacion which consisted of various vendors selling hand-made goods and then a whole section of local wineries giving tastings of their wines. Basically you buy drinking tickets which includes a wine glass and then you go around and pick which wines to taste until the tickets are gone. We looked for wineries we hadn’t been to yet and enjoyed tasting amongst the crowd of people while chatting with the actual wine makers. We also ate a late night dinner as we people watched…everyone seemed to be enjoying the music and booze.
We stayed out until early morning and then got back to our hotel after a long day.
Over the past couple days we spent a lot of time lounging around on the B&B property…making food, catching up on our blogging and staring out at the vines, There was also the cutest little puppy who decided to make himself at home in our room.
Of course, we also spent time drinking wine but also visited Michel Rolland’s property. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Michel…he is one of the best known names in the wine industry, a world-renowned wine influence. He owns vineyard properties in many places including France (which is where he’s from), Argentina, South Africa and Spain. He has a specific style and through his consultation, helps 100s of clients achieve oak influenced and fruit-heavy wines. Just by putting his name on a bottle of wine…will help sell it.
In Argentina, we saw his vineyard, Clos de los Siete was nearby right in Uco Valley so drove over without an appointment in hopes to taste a few of his wines. Vineyards always seem to have the most beautiful landscapes and this one was no different…with about 2100 acres of planted vines sitting on the foothills of the Andes mountains…it was gorgeous. We parked and were greeted by a women who agreed to give us a tour of two of the five wineries that were on the property. Basically Michel got together with 6 of his friends and they each divided the vines to make five wineries. Each owner runs their own winery and wine making but all contribute some of their fruit to put into one bottle of wine called, Clos de los Siete.
The property was so large that we needed to drive through the dirt roads between vines to get to the two wineries we were touring. The tour guide jumped in our backseat and directed us to the first stop, Cuvelier Los Andes. The wineries themselves here in Mendoza are so dramatic in both size and technology with amazing architecture. She gave us a quick walk through pointing out the fermenting tanks, and barrel rooms before getting us over to our second winery, Diamandes
The Diamandes uses a gravity system (most of winery is underground) and technology to keep things like temperature control efficient. Even though the soil looks rocky/sandy, the altitude is high and the weather is extreme…this family found their “diamond” in the rough because the wine region of the Valley de Uco produces some of the best wine in Argentina (in our opinion anyway). The tour guide talked through the architecture (same as the O’Fournier building) as well as the specific process followed from picking grapes to fermenting.
After our tour, we drove back to the guest building where we picked out a couple of wines to purchase, one being the wine made from all properties (Clos de los Siete) and one of Michel Rolland’s nice (and expensive) bottles for our wine cellar. We drove back to our place to find some dinner and get things packed up since we are leaving for a different part of Mendoza tomorrow.