We reached Mendoza after an 18 hours overnight bus from Salta. The trip wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. The buses in Argentina are very good and if you upgrade to the “cama” option you basically travel in a bed.
Mendoza is quite a big city, significantly bigger than Salta, and as it is lower on the map the weather is much cooler. The city has a very european feel to it, with very large avenues shadowed by many large trees that were somewhat loosing their leafs as the cold of autumn is laying upon them. At some point I wasn’t sure if I was in France or Argentina.
A history lesson
In 1861, Mendoza was struck by a very big earthquake that destroyed most of the city. Taking this as an opportunity to redesign the city, the city was rebuilt with large avenues and more sustainable buildings. It was then when all the trees were planted and allowed to grow to the size they have now.
The city is very famous world wide for its wine and olive oil production. However, grapes are not original from this area and neither are the famous olives. They were brought by the spanish and they developed there due to the proper climate. There is only one olive tree original from this area and its taste is very different from what us, in the rest of the world, are used to. I found it to be more spicy and harsh.
The only source of water that Mendoza has comes from the mountains. If it snows in the winter then it’s all good, if not big problems arise. I was told that last winter it didn’t snow so they had quite some problems even with drinking water.
The interesting part about the water system is that water channels (acequias) are on all streets providing water to the approximately 100,000 trees that can be found around the city. If not careful, one might actually fall into one. This system was developed by a native tribe, the Huarpes, long before the spanish arrived in this area. It was just improved by the conquistadors and it continues to be used almost entirely as it was originally.
Being so close to the mountains, Mendoza has very pretty scenery for one to enjoy. A popular tourist attraction is to go for hike in the mountains or to ski during the winter. For quite a few weeks the snowcapped mountains provide good snow for skiing and from my understanding this place is very popular for the enthusiasts.
After doing all the hikes in Peru and Bolivia, I was not in the slightest mood to go up another mountain again. Especially, when it’s cold. I do come from Canada… I just enjoyed the beautiful view from below while enjoying my wine tour of course.
The one and only wine tour
In addition to the wine production, wine tourism is key to the economy of Mendoza. There are dozens of offers for winery tours for every taste and desire. The most popular seem to be the bicycle tours where you can just rent a bike and travel by yourself from winery to winery. That was definitely not on my to do list. I don’t like bikes when I’m sober and for sure I won’t like them when I’m drinking.
I went for a more lazy option – a hop on / hop off bus. It is fairly new in Mendoza and it seems to provide similar service to all other bus tours with some added on flexibility. You pay for the bus and it takes you to 3-4 wineries during the day, depending on which ones you prefer to see. The tasting and tours at the wineries are additional costs but in general they were around $5. And when argentinians say tasting, they don’t mean a little bit of wine in a glass. They mean a half-glass for you to actually keep tasting the wine for at least 15-30 minutes. The tour also has a half day option, for the light weight individuals of course. Here’s some information about their options.
It so happens that the day we decided to go on the tour was a special day for Mendoza. Most wineries were part of a program where they were receiving powdered milk as a donation in exchange for the tours. We hopped on that, bought a bunch of milk and went to trade it for alcohol. Seems like a legit trade to me.
Following the seasons in South America, the grape harvest was in April so by the time we got to Mendoza the vines had a multitude of colours and no grapes. I did learn that the Malbec vine turns red in the fall and I did find a few lost and dried grapes. They were delicious.
The four wineries we visited were Vistalba, Filisofos, Tierras Altas, and Clos de Chacras. Vistalba was small and had a feeling of an old place where traditions were still maintained. Filosofos was an organic winery where indeed the wine tasted delicious, especially the premium one. Tierras Altas specializes in both wine and olive oil and Clos de Chacras seem to be the largest and most industrial from the four.
The best part of the tour though was the lunch we had at Tierras Altas. Because it was a special day the place offered a special menu which paired the food with wine. The food was just amazing, and the wines even more so. I absolutely loved it and I will definitely do it again if I end up in Mendoza.
“I’m on an Argentinian diet”
The moment I set foot in Argentina I decided that I should go on my “Irene Argentinian diet”, which consists mostly of stake and wine. Mendoza didn’t let down on that end. The stake I had here was amazing. Like this amazing:
It will be very hard to get off this diet when I return…
However, I did not only eat. I also learned spanish, and more specifically what I should order:
General San Martin Park
I didn’t have much time to visit places around Mendoza, but I did take a short trip to the San Martin park. It’s quite big, like the Stanley Park in Vancouver. Since I didn’t see it all, I added it to the “SA unfinished business” list. What I did see from it was spectacular especially in the colours of the fall. It made my inner nature lover quite happy.
I don’t know if I can stress enough how amazingly amazing Mendoza is. The streets, the food, the trees, the wine, the weather… It is definitely the place that can make one “fall in love with fall”.