While in Mendoza, Dad and I ventured out on a Bicycle Wine Tour in Lujan (outside of Mendoza) for a day of wine tasting, cardio and chaos. This is how it went down…
9am - Caught a public bus at the bus stop near the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Mendoza. Although we had no guide and a poorly marked bus stop, we managed to catch the right one. There were 4 different stops that were supposedly the same for us to reach our designated meeting point. So, I asked the bus driver if he could let us know where we should get down.
10:15am – Turns out all the stops weren’t the same (as we were told). The bus was supposed to take us an hour to get there so once that time passed I got concerned. When I asked the bus driver where I stop was he said we passed it 15 minutes ago. Ah crap! So, he told us to get off and wait for another bus. Also, he gave us a completely different destination to tell the next guy. As we stepped down off the bus we realized we were at the intersection of nowhere st and freakin’ stranded ave. The scene was from the beginning of some horror movie. Open fields, abandoned houses and “danger” signs on every corner. For about 20 minutes we debated on which direction to go in and figured we had surely ruined the day. Just as we were about to start walking the bus we needed came rumbling down the dirt road.
11:00am - Despite the minor miscalculation we finally arrived at the bike tour office (about an hour late). We were given bikes, a map and some words of encouragement and sent on our way. There was one other couple from New Zealand that was in the office at the same time but otherwise it was pretty quiet.
*We booked which wineries we would be visiting the day before. So we had a semi-plan and they knew we were coming.
11:45am - CHANDON Winery – We made it to our first stop of the tour after about 45 minutes of heavy peddling and beautiful views. Chandon was a lot farther than we had expected but once the champagne started following our legs stopped burning. We took a tour of the winery by this cute Argentine girl name Alejandra. She only spoke in Spanish so put my ability to the test trying to translate for Dad. It was a very high-end style winery with a ton of history and stories. After the tour we got to try some sparking wine (champagne) and a few different wines that are blended together to make up the extra brut. It wasn’t anything like Andre from back in my Fredonia days but I’m a big fan of Chandon ever since the Argentine Open celebration.
OVERALL: Beautiful, high-end winery with incredible history and attractive tour guides.
1:30pm - Dolium Winery [Pictured Above] – Luckily our next stop wasn’t far from Chandon so we actually arrived to lunch on time. We chose the Dolium winery for lunch because they had just one the award for best Malbac in all the southern hemisphere. When we first arrived at the winery it was a ghost town, there were a ton of dogs and no people. It didn’t seem like they were used to getting a lot of visitors. However, once inside we were welcomed by the entire staff, including the winery owner and the Malbac master. We were given a tour of their facilities and actually got to try different wines directly from the giant tanks. From there we headed upstairs to eat lunch. Because we were the only visitors that day we had the opportunity to sit down and eat with the winery staff, family style. They all spoke a decent amount of English so there wasn’t too many awkward moments or lost in translation blunders. We talked about wine, sports and culture over roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and salad. Oh yeah and wine… lots and lots of wine. It was just down home cooking, good wine and great company. This experience alone made the whole day worth it. 2 hours and countless bottles of wine later we shipped out.
OVERALL: Down-to-earth hidden gem.
3:20pm - Cabrini Winery – With a full belly and feeling a little sauced up we made our way back towards the tour office to visit the last 2 wineries on our schedule. Cabrini had a very cool feel to it. It was like an old farm house where the wine was being made in the barn around back and the house was full of antique furniture and family photos. We were taken around by another very nice Argentine girl who told us stories of the family and showed us the facilities. After coming from a great meal and fun at Dolium, Cabrini was a bit uneventful in comparison. I don’t blame the tour guide or the winery… we were just hitting our stride. We tried 2 different wines and headed out.
OVERALL: Warm, quiet farm house with a classic feel.
4:30pm – Bonfanti Winery - This had the most beautiful scenery of all the winaries we’d stopped at. All the grape leafs were a beautiful red and orange and olive trees danced around the grape vines. After a brief tour of the field itself we met up with a young Australian couple and headed into the tasting room which overlooked the vineyard. We tried another Malbec, a Cabernet and a white wine. All were real good but I feel bad that Dad didn’t enjoy any of them. It wasn’t because he didn’t like the year or flavor but he actually couldn’t taste anything. I may have convinced him to try an olive off an olive tree along our tour and it turned out to not exactly be “ripe”. Haha, sorry Dad. (look at the pictures of his face after he tried it).
OVERALL: Beautiful wine tasting room that over looks the grape and olive vineyard.
5:15 – By this point we had been “sampling” wines for a solid 5 hours so we figured it was time to head back. However, somehow throughout the days events, I managed to lose our only map and we had no idea how to get back to the office (which was closing at 6pm). All those factors added with the fact that dad’s bike chain kept falling off made for a very entertaining ride back. After a few wrong turns and a 2 mile detour in the wrong direction we retraced our steps and followed the mountain range back to the office… Return time: 5:56pm!
It was a beautiful day that put our taste buds and navigational ability to the test. We came home and took a much needed siesta. That night at dinner I decided to skip the wine and go with water (sin gas).
FUN FACT: Roses are planted around vineyards because it attracts insects away from the grapes.