Wineries!

I don’t have a lot to say on this one, but some of the pictures from these three bodegas were just lovely, so I wanted to share them with you.

First, Salentein.

A lot of people will stay in Mendoza and do one day in the Uco – it’s about an hour south of the city. The tours will take you to the big three: Salentein, Clos de los Siete, and O’Fournier. I was feeling a little burnt out on mega-bodega and wanted to spend our time seeking out some smaller places, so of the three we only made it to Salentein.

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These giant ones put a HUGE emphasis on architecture.

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We also went to Andeluna, did a tour and a tasting, and wandered around a bit. The wines were pretty good but my favorite thing about the place was that they fill wine bottles with the dredges of the fermentation tanks and decorate their space with them.

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We stopped by one more place on a whim, just because it was close to our hotel, and… ugh. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place that was so beautiful, with such nice staff, but made such bad wine. I’ll refrain from telling you what the bodega was, out of respect for how pretty their property is.

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Alright, I’m being harsh. There were a couple that we liked quite a bit, but there were just as many that had a certain terroir of shit.

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Obligatory tour:

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…and back to drinking.

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Best.Lunch.Ever.

Extravagant lunches at wineries are a big thing in Mendoza. Almost every bodega, large or small, offers some type of megalunch or wine-related activity to keep tourists in their space for hours on end. Yoga in the vines? Tango in the vines? Picnic in the vines?! Cooking classes! Horseback riding! Classic car tour! Hot air balloons! You want it, they got it.

I was getting a little burnt out just *planning* the trip.

One of the challenges to planning a trip outside of a majour city is that tour books aren’t prolifically written about it. For better or worse, you know? The double edge sword was that, while we were excited to get off the beaten path a bit, it did make it a bit harder to plan from afar.

Thanks to a collection of travel bloggers I found La Azul, a well-reviewed small winery that does an al fresco lunch. Wanting a diversion from the super-huge-schmancy-wineries that are so common in the area, I latched on to it.

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And oh, I’m so glad we did.

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La Azul was staffed by three people: the chef/winemaker, the owner, and the server/owner’s childhood bff. The food was the style you’d imagine argentine grandmothers to make: comfortable and not fussy.

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We did a 4-course tasting menu and had a bottle of their grand reserve. The grand reserve, btw, was a *splurge* $30. :)

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Ready for some food pictures? You miss those, don’t you?

You start with an Argentine salad called “escabeche” – it tasted a bit like chicken salad, but we later had the same style with eggplant and it was completely different. After talking to the chef about how he made it, I think I could make this at home! (Maybe one more argentine dinner party?)

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I’m wracking my brain to recall what this was. No luck. Pretty though, eh?

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Next up was… you guessed it, an omelette. Argentines don’t often eat eggs for breakfast, but apparently they still make a cameo on the table.

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The odd thing about these empanadas is that they were fried and not cooked in a wood-fire oven. Slightly oilier, but the dough turned into a flakey pastry. I loved how they served them on 5″ tiles – reminded me of something Heather would do.

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After that, I had a pork chop on the best sweet potatoes in the world, and jon had a ribeye. I’m not sure if they do it on purpose, but the plating of their food looks really good against all of the blues that they have decorating their space.

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By dessert, I felt like rolling off of my chair and eating a nearby cactus. So full!

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Somehow we managed to put down a good chunk of the cheesecake and dulce de leche flan, and I won’t tell you how much weight I gained from this trip. :)

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We went to a couple other places that day, but I think La Azul was really the star of Tupungato. Ah-dorable.

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Tupungato Divino

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Our house in tupungato has Direct TV, which is… dangerous. Jon is so fascinated with the sports package options that I’m not sure we’ll be able to go back to life without cable back in Seattle.

They say “you’ll be ruined on conventional beef after eating Argentine steaks” (not true) – I think it’s the TV that we’ll leave “ruined on”!

After 5 days in the city of Mendoza, we rented a car and drove south into the heart of wine country to Tupungato in the Uco Valley, where we stayed among the vines in an adorably rustic little cabin.

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To get there, we had to rent a car, which was… an adventure. (Not only driving stick shift again after so long, but also sharing a road with the crazy Mendocinos.) Despite how laid back they are in real life, they are a terrifying people behind the wheel!! They drive furiously and seem to only have two Rules of The Road: 1. Don’t die.  2. Even during the day, always have your lights on.

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If you’ve ever had a bottle of argentine malbec and fell in love with it, there’s a good chance that it was grown in Uco. The hot days and cold nights, as well as the rocky mountain soil makes it ideal for stressing out grapes. The gorgeous story-book clouds on the way into the valley had the opposite effect on me. SO PRETTY!

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After planning a week of go-go-go activities, I was really excited to spend some quieter time laying by the pool, reading, drinking, and enjoying jon’s company.

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Our hotel (cabin) in The Uco was adorable. It was earthy (in-a-very-clean-and-not-camping-sort-of-way), charming, and had everything we could have wanted. The staff and owners lived on site, and were always around to fill in the blanks for us when we needed something.

Like um… wine, of course!

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Check out the light fixture – that’s a grape vine!

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The weather wasn’t perfect the entire time we were there, but with such a gorgeous front yard to stare at it was hard to not be happy.

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And you know, being from the northwest, I’m rather partial to the clouds.

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Oh! They had converted a wine barrel into a gas grill! How ingenious is this?!

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We knew that taking bottles back to the US would be tricky (they’re heavy!), but we were able to buy a few that we really liked and drink them while we were here.

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Rough life, eh?