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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Livin La Vida Mendo?

It’s me and the Jeffersons, and we’re MOVIN’ ON UP.

As soon as Jon joined me in Mendoza, I checked out of the terrible hostel and into an *in-cred-i-ble* little boutique hotel down the street.

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Was only great in comparison, because the water was hot and the room was all mine? I really want to say no. It was adorable – luxurious without being stuffy, posh without being snooty. Comfortable, familiar, and full of kind & helpful people.

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So jon gets here, and it’s time to eat.

Now that I’ve “figured out” the city, I was really excited to show Jon all of my favorites. We have to start at the beginning, at the wine bar that I went so often I ended up staying until closing more times than I’d like to admit, and making friends with the bartender.

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There’s very little I can say about “Vines” that hasn’t already been written by better bloggers than me. They have 50 local bottles available by the glass, tasting flights, wine-makers nights, and a staff that is both incredibly knowledgable and friendlier than you’ll find anywhere else in the city. When you’ve come for the Argentine wine culture, it’s the first place you go when you get off the plane.

This led to meeting Agostina, and adorable chef that recommended two things for me to do:

  1. a “beer fest” and
  2. a band from Buenos Aires that she was going to go see

Immediately I text jon (He’s still in Seattle at this point) and tell him about my awesome finds.

First, the “beer fest”? Not a beer fest. Though maybe you could have guessed that by my use of quotation marks. It *was* an adventure to walk through the seedy parts of town at night and find a park where … wait for it… a Celtic Music Festival was happening!!!!!

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To be fair, there was a brewery there that we hadn’t yet tried, and their beers were pretty good. Chalk it up to a cultural experience, yes?

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Agostina nailed it on the next one though. First, she directed me to a indie record store across town where I could (if they weren’t sold out yet) buy two tickets. Check and check! (Thanks high school Spanish classes!)

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(That’s right, it’s a rockería. of course.)

Later that week, Jon and I met her at the show and watched her favorite band play.

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The space was intimate and we really liked them! Afterwards she bought us a CD to remember them by, and we all went out for a drink. Adorable lady, that Agostina.

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**

Despite all the duds that I had chewed through in the first few days, I left Mendoza as a foodie convert. I even started recommending places to people that had just arrived (Uh, Sorry jon. Turns out I *am* in fact my mother and I incessantly talk to strangers. Whatever.)

First there was Maria, which I’ve already told you about. Then I met Azafran. Then we finally made it to Anna Bistro, and I’m so glad we did.

Because oh Anna, you’re such a lovely doll.

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I’m not sure if I love most your adorable gardens, or your bilingual menus, or food, or your wine list, or the fact that you’re not closed at ridiculous hours. But I’m pretty happy we got to know each other.

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(I notice two things about this photo: 1. why am I never wearing shoes? and 2. Who let me out of the house wearing such a low-cut dress?)

Ashley had asked me about what the “argentine food thing” was, and at first I told her about the Asados (remember the meat-a-palooza from Zuccardi?), but the more I eat here, I think it’s the empanada (on the right below). They are everywhere, and they’re really good!

Sometimes we’ll just stop in to a place for some air conditioning, a beer, and an empanada.  I’ll have to learn how to make those when I get home!

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I went to this next restaurant twice – the first time I was unimpressed and relayed the story to a local who insisted that I try again.

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So glad we did. The service was great (disproving my earlier theory that everyone in the Mendoza service industry is terrible), the food was inventive (I’ve been trying to abstain from taking actual FOOD photos this vacation so you’ll just have to trust me on that one), and I really love restaurants in converted old houses. They are always so charming.

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**

The next few posts we’ll be in Tupungato in the super awesome middle-of-nowhere hotel I found.  The suspense is killing me.

Will michelle go crazy being out of the city for so long?
Will there be any restaurants for them to eat at in the country?
What happens if she can’t remember how to drive stick shift!?
Why doesn’t anything in the Uco Valley have addresses?!  Will they get irreparably lost?

Right. Well…  I’m so disgusted by what I titled this post, I think I have to go and finish my wine in private. Ch-Chao!