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.
After breakfast, we got our things packed into the car and checked out of our B&B in San Rafael. The drive back to the Valle de Uco area was just as flat and boring as it was coming out here, just like Vegas to L.A.
We finally arrived in the area where our next B&B was and were trying to figure out how to find it. We drove back and forth knowing we were in the vicinity but not finding our place until we turned on a small dirt road which led us to the road our B&B was on. We had to drive pretty slowly as the road was made of small rocks and we didn’t want to pop a tire. We saw the sign for our place, Finca La Puebla, Hotel de Campo and pulled in the driveway. The B&B was literally built inside a Malbec vineyard…how cool is that?! We didn’t really see a lobby area but someone came over and greeted us. She was with housekeeping and showed us our room and gave us a key.
The room was very spacious with high ceilings a little mini kitchenette and bathroom as well as a porch with table and chairs. We are staying here for 6 days so were happy to see we could have an area to store groceries. We got our things unpacked and were settling into our room when the owner knocked on our door. She spoke some English and showed us a map of the area, circling places we could eat and pointing out vineyards close by. Valle de Uco is the most prestigious wine region in Mendoza…it is the equivalent in quality wine to the St Emilion area in France or St Helena in California and we are very excited to taste wine here. We had hoped to find cheap good wine in San Rafael but didn’t really…in this area we will definitely find quality but what about price?
For the rest of the day we enjoyed the property…we took pictures of the vines with the backdrop of the Andes mountains, we opened wine and for dinner we cut up tomatoes, cheese meats and bread.
Today started with another slow breakfast sitting outside on the patio overlooking the farm, we could really get use to this simple lifestyle.
Today we are going to find a couple of vineyards and taste more San Rafael wine…there must be something good out here! Argentina isn’t so great with their signs…at least not in wine country, we have been spending a lot of time lost, but the good thing is we don’t really have to be anywhere we don’t want to be! By the time we arrived at the first vineyard, they literally just closed for lunch which is quite common here…things shut-down during the day for lunch. We decided to go on to the next one and hopefully stop by this first one on our way home. Since we had no idea how to get to the next vineyard, we pulled over to a little food-stand to ask for directions. Of course, they did not speak a word of English…through my small amount of Spanish and hand gestures…we figured it out.
We finally arrived at the oldest vineyard in San Rafael, Goyenechea. The property was huge and we could see the extra-large vats/oversized barrels used to store the wine outside. We walked in and first noticed how much character the tasting room had…the floor was made of cement and flat pieces of wooden logs. The logs in the floor matched the wooden beams in the ceiling, and the old wooden wine barrels lined the top part of the entire bar. The women working at the winery was just finishing up with her other customer…so we looked around the large tasting room while we waited before she was able to show us the options for tasting.
Some of the tasting came with food and we decided since it was lunch time, to sit at their bar and have a smorgasbord of food while sipping on their vino. They poured us the first wine which we weren’t huge fans of and then started bringing out food…of course empanadas as well as various meats, cheeses, olives, dips and bread. As we nibbled, we sipped on wine…searching for one we liked and chatting amongst ourselves-there were no other guests in the building.
After a leisurely tasting…we bought a couple of bottles which were decent, we liked the Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 which was aged in new french oak for 16 months. We were then on our way to the winery that had closed on us prior to this one.
Back at Alfredo Roca, we arrived just as they were closing for the day! I got out of the car and pushed the button at the closed gate…speaking in Spanglish and trying to have them squeeze us in. She opened the gate and I went in to find a different women who spoke English well and agreed to do a quick tasting for us…yeahhh! Giff parked the car and we followed her through the waiting room and into the tasting room which was within their warehouse. After speaking with the women a bit…she realized we really would prefer their reserve line of wines which means they are a little more money but are aged in oak and usually are more complex wines. The other wineries we have been tasting at, have been charging to taste the reserve wines but she gladly opened new bottles for us at no charge. We liked a few of them, but did notice the price points on these bottles were definitely not on the bargain side of things. However, this wine did taste better than some others we’ve had in this area over the last week.
We bought 4 bottles, a chardonnay which we seem to be leaning towards lately (maybe it’s the heat) as well as a blended red table wine. We also bought a Pinot Noir which was very different from other Pino’s we have had in California…in fact, I would say this one is our favorite so far. We added a bottle of their dessert wine before paying our tab. We thanked the women for getting us through the gate after hours and were on our way back to the B&B.
We arrived and had a bit of downtime in the room before sitting outside at the main house for a traditional Swiss fondue dinner. The oner of the B&B is from Switzerland and had advertised classic swiss fondue so we requested it for this evening. She had the table set for us on the porch and we sat dipping our food in the fondue watching the lightning storm. The owner went to the yard, poured salt and stabbed the ground with a knife…she looked at us smiling and said it was traditional in Argentina to do that in hopes of keeping the storm from hitting their crops (frost is very bad for vines). Interesting…
After dinner, we played with the camera, leaving the shutter open for long periods of time to get lighting bolts and fun blurred pictures. The lightning storm went well into the night so we sat on our back porch watching the storm as did our neighbors before bed.