Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

Tips, stories, and questions about travel-related topics, including restaurants
Post Reply
Message
Author
Bobby B
Posts: 24
Joined: January 13th, 2019, 8:50 pm

Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#1 Post by Bobby B » January 20th, 2020, 8:54 am

My wife and I just got back from a week of wine-tasting in Mendoza. We had a terrific time and were aided greatly by some of the advice on WB. Below find some thoughts that I would offer to future travelers. Feel free to reach out directly or ask questions if you're planning a trip!

What we did right

1) Hire a driver...There are 3 main wine regions - Uco Valley, Lujan de Cuyo, and Maipu - and it seems that most of the bodegas/wineries offer (roughly) a 9am, 11am, 1pm (with lunch) and 4pm tasting. If you want to visit multiple wineries in a day, having a driver makes it 10X easier to get from place to place. We paid an extremely reasonable $100/day for a non-English speaking driver that was great. Seemed like English-speaking drivers were in the $150-200/day range, but we speak Spanish so it was alright.

2) Eat fantastic, drawn-out lunches...We ate lunch with pairing at Ruca Malen ($60/ea), La Azul ($40/ea), and El Enemigo ($70/ea). Best wine: Enemigo with their single vineyard Cab Francs; Best food: Ruca Malen with grilled sweatbreads and the ribeye; Best scenery: La Azul for being in the shadows of the Andes (Azul is in Uco Valley, ~70 minutes from downtown)

3) Explore non-malbec varietals...we had some great cab francs (Enemigo, Pulenta), sauvignon blancs (Caelum), semillion (Mendel) and merlots (Laureano Gomez). Lots of experimentation happening down there (some is working, a lot is not) so great to think about it as a new wine frontier that's very much in transition.

4) Brought wine home...we bought a 12-bottle shipper box from Sol y Vino (great wine shop downtown), bought a mixed case of our favorites, and checked it, as-is, on our way home. We were worried about the box breaking/being damaged, the wine cooking on a tarmac somewhere, and customs taking our wine, but none of these things happened. I think we got lucky to have temperate climates or short stops on our way home. We went through customs in Houston and the guy asked me what I had in the box, I told him fantastic wine from Mendoza, and he said "Have a great day"...so worked out alright.

What we wish we did differently
1) Stay in the Uco Valley...the Uco Valley is the best quality of the 3 wine regions, and it's also the most scenic. We underestimated how far Uco Valley is from downtown Mendoza and figured we'd do day trips. We did half of our week staying at a boutique hotel in Lujan de Cuyo (~20 minutes from downtown) and half at the Diplomatic Hotel in downtown Mendoza. If we had to do it again, I'd stay much further south in Uco for the first half, before moving to the city. Piedra Infinita was a bodega that was highly recommended but we couldn't make it to because of distance.

2) Skip Francis Mallman's 1884 restaurant ...we thought this was going to be one of the highlights of the trip after being seduced by his story on Chef's Table, but I think it's gone downhill. We didn't have a bad experience, but it wasn't noteworthy either. We bought a sparkling to start (Luigi Bosca Brut Natural) that was weirdly flat. The somm replaced the bottle and the 2nd one was better, but still not right. We didn't want to send back 2 bottles. We were introduced to a small winery called Initium for the main course Malbec that was really good. We found this at the wine shop downtown and brought a couple bottles home. The food was 8.5/10...we enjoyed ourselves, but wasn't incredible.

3) Spend more time at Mendoza wine bars...there aren't many, but I think I may have spent the first part of the trip in the city's wine bars, tasting and exploring different producers, and then the 2nd part of the week trying to track down those producers and visit their bodegas. We learned a lot and were introduced to many producers on the 2nd half of the trip that we probably would have visited (or tried) if we had time afterwards. For wine bars, try Chinitas (they have ~5 bottles open each night from small producers and each glass is ~$2) or Sala de Maridajes (owned by Sol y Vino people, seemed like more mainstream wineries the night we were there (but good!)).

4) Bring more USD...we weren't actually that bothered we didn't do this, because the whole trip was fairly inexpensive, but when we were there the street exchange rate for USD to pesos was 80 to 1 and the bank rate (or ATM, in our case) was 60 to 1. If we were going to be there longer, this would've been a decent savings to bring a bag of cash instead of using credit card or pulling from ATMs at the 60 to 1 rate.

Wines we drank

Wine of the trip: Initium Gran Malbec 2014


I won't list them all, as we tasted over 70 wines, but here are those we visited with a grade for the wine and the experience:

- Benegas (Wines B-, Experience A-) i think they have better wines, but those available on the tasting were "okay" at best
- Mendel (Wines: A-, Experience B+) high quality wines, especially the malbec and unus blend; not to be missed
- Ruca Malen (lunch w/ pairing) (Wines: B+, Experience A) solid wines, and amazing lunch w/ pairing experience
- Caelum (Wines: B, Experience B+) very experimental, reds too oaky and whites too basic; they do have an italian fiano that was interesting
- Pulenta (Wines A-, Experience A-) terrific wines, well made; cab franc was stand-out and facility is beautiful
- La Azul (Wines B+, Experience A-) couldn't ask for better scenery, good wines...don't miss it for lunch
- Laureano Gomez (Wines B+, Experience A) garage winemaker (in the most literal sense) with a great pedigree; unique experience with good wines
- Cruzat (Wines A, Experience A) i was stunned to have a respectable sparkling wine down there; had an '06 millesime that was complex and beautiful
- Achavel-Ferrer (Wines B+, Experience B+) robert parker's dream; big, fruit bombs; good experience, but not my type of wine; tasting interrupted by a 5.1 earthquake!
- Enemigo (Wines B+, Experience A-) quite commercial-feeling; good lunch; single vineyard cab franc flight was awesome demonstration of altitude/terroir

Other wines we had
- Initium (new winery founded by husband-wife team, only 1,000 bottles per year; buy at Vino y Sol wine shop or during dinner at 1884)
- Benedito Pecado (new winery on same fields as Lorca (cab franc, malbec) that has less time in the barrel and is fruitier)
- Luigi Bosca Brut Natural (drank this at 1884, but think both bottles (first one was sent back) were flawed)

We had a lot of fun down there and would recommend it. Let me know if you have questions!

Bob
B r i n c k m a n

User avatar
T Klonoski
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 279
Joined: July 10th, 2010, 3:20 pm

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#2 Post by T Klonoski » January 20th, 2020, 9:36 am

Very informative and helpful. Thanks for taking the time to pull this together.
Last edited by T Klonoski on January 21st, 2020, 11:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
T0m

User avatar
Dan Hammer
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 5631
Joined: June 3rd, 2009, 11:05 am
Location: flight Level 3 seven thousand. NYC Metro

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#3 Post by Dan Hammer » January 20th, 2020, 9:39 am

We had an enjoyable time at Mendel. Nice wines too.

Thanks for the report.
This space for rent.

User avatar
Ian H
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 234
Joined: February 7th, 2018, 3:57 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#4 Post by Ian H » January 20th, 2020, 2:46 pm

Great post, thanks for the detail on your experience and do's and don'ts. Makes me want to go back to Argentina tomorrow.
@@S

User avatar
Todd F r e n c h
Site Admin
<dfn>Site Admin</dfn>
Posts: 39803
Joined: January 27th, 2009, 8:46 am
Location: San Clemente, CA

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#5 Post by Todd F r e n c h » January 20th, 2020, 3:24 pm

Thank you, Bobby! Already saved this thread
Apparently I'm lazy, have a narrow agenda, and offer little in the way of content and substance (RMP) (and have a "penchant for gossip" -KBI)

maylynnjakubowski
Posts: 13
Joined: October 25th, 2017, 9:41 pm

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#6 Post by maylynnjakubowski » January 27th, 2020, 2:06 pm

Completely agree with you on Mallman's restaurant, complete waste of time.
Thanks for this post, made me miss Mendoza - will definitely return again one day :-)

User avatar
scamhi
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3946
Joined: January 30th, 2009, 1:31 pm

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#7 Post by scamhi » February 6th, 2020, 11:31 am

thanks for this great information. We are going to Mallman. I'll let you know how it goes. We have lunch and a tour at Piedra Infinita, tasting and lunch at Catena Zapata and Casa Vigil. We are staying and the Diplomatic in downtown Mendoza. And walking distances place recommended for dinner?
S u z a n n e C a m h i
instagram: suz_cam

Bobby B
Posts: 24
Joined: January 13th, 2019, 8:50 pm

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#8 Post by Bobby B » February 6th, 2020, 12:15 pm

We stayed at the Diplomatic, too, and it was a great experience. They have a pretty solid wine list at their bar/restaurant, too, even though the ambiance isn't the best. Walking distance from there you have Azafran, which was in the NYT 36 hours in Mendoza. We had an appetizer there and it was pretty good. Also highly recommend Chinitas Wine Bar, which has small production local wines by the glass for like $2...great place to begin the night. At Chinitas, they recommended a restaurant called Fuente y Fonda that's about a block away. It's old school Italian (huge Italian influence in Mendoza) and the portions are massive. We got the cannelloni, but wished we had gotten the chicken parm looking thing at the table next to us. If you want a home-cooking type place, I'd go here. Food was great. If you want something more upscale, go to Azafran. One other things I'd add is there's a street like 3-4 blocks from the Diplomatico called Avenida Arestides with a load of bars. If you're interested in checking out the emerging beer scene (or just want a lively bar street) this is a good option.

Enjoy!
B r i n c k m a n

User avatar
scamhi
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3946
Joined: January 30th, 2009, 1:31 pm

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#9 Post by scamhi » February 6th, 2020, 12:30 pm

thanks Bobby. We'll be in BA first, then Mendoza 2/16-2/19
S u z a n n e C a m h i
instagram: suz_cam

User avatar
Todd F r e n c h
Site Admin
<dfn>Site Admin</dfn>
Posts: 39803
Joined: January 27th, 2009, 8:46 am
Location: San Clemente, CA

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#10 Post by Todd F r e n c h » February 6th, 2020, 12:31 pm

scamhi wrote:
February 6th, 2020, 12:30 pm
thanks Bobby. We'll be in BA first, then Mendoza 2/16-2/19
This year or next?
Apparently I'm lazy, have a narrow agenda, and offer little in the way of content and substance (RMP) (and have a "penchant for gossip" -KBI)

User avatar
scamhi
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3946
Joined: January 30th, 2009, 1:31 pm

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#11 Post by scamhi » February 6th, 2020, 12:53 pm

Todd F r e n c h wrote:
February 6th, 2020, 12:31 pm
scamhi wrote:
February 6th, 2020, 12:30 pm
thanks Bobby. We'll be in BA first, then Mendoza 2/16-2/19
This year or next?
starting next Wednesday- this year
S u z a n n e C a m h i
instagram: suz_cam

Sh@n A
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 1302
Joined: July 9th, 2018, 8:21 am

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#12 Post by Sh@n A » February 6th, 2020, 2:05 pm

Thanks for notes! This brings back some memories.. the lunch and vista at La Azul, the hole-in-wall winery of Carmelo Patti, and bumping into Congressman Aaron Schock at Pulenta Estates (also enjoyed that cab franc, am curious to retry it today). One of my own thoughts of that trip was if I returned, to try different varieties (more cab franc, pinot, cab/malbec blends, etc.)
/ @ g r @ \

AD Northup
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 699
Joined: January 21st, 2018, 2:26 pm
Location: Newtown, PA

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#13 Post by AD Northup » March 3rd, 2020, 7:29 pm

Azafran was a favorite meal for us when there. Glad to see the Sol y Vino rec, phenomenal shop. If you stay at or near the Sheraton, the wine shop in the neighboring lobby is pretty good in a pinch (the front desk will open it up at night for you).
A n d r e w N o r t h u p

2020 WsOTY:

2015 Roses de Jeanne / Cédric Bouchard Champagne Blanc de Noirs La Presle (#1)
1954 Fontanafredda Barbaresco
2015 Ultramarine BdB

2019 WsOTY:
1994 Edmunds St. John Les Côtes Sauvages
2016 P. S. Garcia Grenache Piedra Lisa
2002 Perrier-Jouet Belle Époque
2005 Faja dos Padres Malvasia

User avatar
Michael O'Brien
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 1109
Joined: August 21st, 2009, 8:27 am
Location: Plano, TX

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#14 Post by Michael O'Brien » March 3rd, 2020, 9:11 pm

AD Northup wrote:
March 3rd, 2020, 7:29 pm
Azafran was a favorite meal for us when there. Glad to see the Sol y Vino rec, phenomenal shop. If you stay at or near the Sheraton, the wine shop in the neighboring lobby is pretty good in a pinch (the front desk will open it up at night for you).
Azafran is a great place to visit. Good food and you get to pick your own wine. The sommelier that was there when we went knew her business too. La Azul was a great visit and lunch and Carmelo Patti is Carmelo Patti. You are never certain what you will get or for that matter if he will even be there when you show up.
PlanoWino

User avatar
scamhi
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3946
Joined: January 30th, 2009, 1:31 pm

Re: Mendoza: 8 pieces of advice, and thoughts on wine too!

#15 Post by scamhi » March 4th, 2020, 4:38 am

We liked Azafran.
However, my rack of lamb main course was inedible. I believe it was sous vide and rubbery.
Our best meal by far was at 1884 by Mallmann
S u z a n n e C a m h i
instagram: suz_cam

Post Reply

Return to “Travel and Restaurants Forum”