Well, we finally arrived in Mendoza and we wasted no time in drinking as much wine as possible. While wine may flow like water here with every meal (it actually is cheaper than ordering water, even from the tap) we decided to dedicate an entire day to biking around to different wineries. There’s a small town just outside of Mendoza called Maipu that boasts an impressive amount of wineries and olive oil farms in a relatively small area. The best part? They’re all located along one road which makes it the perfect spot for a leisurely bicycle wining and dining tour.
We started off our tour at a lovely little winery called Mevi. It’s a newer vineyard so the reserve wines were aged in casks but the younger ones were kept in these huge metal barrels in the basement. We went into our first tour poorly informed and assumed, as it is in the states, that a tasting meant small samples of 3 glasses of wine. False. Tastings in Mendoza mean 3 full glasses of wine. Unaware of this fact we each ordered a tasting, starting off our bike tour with 9 full glasses of wine. Huzzah! All of the wines were delicious though with our favorites being the Syrah reserve as well as the Torrentes, a sweet white wine whose grapes are grown exclusively in Argentina at extremely high altitude.
After Mevi we biked a full 2k to the next winery on the map, Tempus Alba. A bit wiser and certainly more tipsy we decided to split one tasting amongst the three of us. 2 reds (a bit acidic for my taste) and a refreshing Chardonnay helped to cut the heat.
After that we were really quite hungry so we decided to find some lunch. It was, of course, siesta time meaning all the restaurants were closed for napping so we decided to head to a little cafe on the map that was farther out than the others. Well, about 6k into our lovely bicycle ride la policia dropped in to check on us. The bike people had warned us that were were many policia about but we were not to worry as they were for our safety. As we explained where we were trying to go the nice lady cop told us she would accompany us there. So off we went! Bicycling as fast as our wine drunk noodle legs could carry us behind the policia truck. As we should have expected, the police car got lost, we were exhausted and covered in dust from trying to keep up with a pick-up truck, and when we finally did find the cafe they were closed for construction of new banos. The police car then told us we had strayed outside the tourist belt and were only to bicycle back to the main road. And then they left us to forge our way back, while visions of empanadas danced through our low blood sugar heads.
We made a beeline for the cervezeria and enjoyed a heaping pile of 12 empanadas and 3 microbrews(not only are they hard to find here but they were a welcome treat in the 90 degree heat. A rich Malbec isn’t always the best for hot days ya know…).
We realized our time was running short so after getting some food in our bellies we bicycled off to the last, and debatably most unique stop on our tour, historia y sabores (Histories and flavors). Their sample selection was a shot of homemade liquor, a sampling of olive tapenades and marmalade and a small basket full of homemade chocolate. Oh my goodness. So delicious. I got a dulce de leche con banana shot of alcohol and it was like dessert in a shot glass with the perfect amount of alcoholic kick. If there are any entrepreneurs reading this, let me tell you: dessert shots = gold mine. The tapenades were from an olive farm right down the road and as someone who doesn’t even like olives they were truly spectacular. The marmalade was champagne and the quintessential dulce de leche (eaten with EVERYTHING here) was lovely. The chocolates were good enough for us to buy a bar for our ride home and then with full bellies, happy minds and a little bit of a buzz we headed back on the bus to Mendoza as the sun fell behind the Andes around us.
side note: Mendoza has beautiful vineyards but also a large number of olive farms. The oil here has an incredibly rich and unique flavor, truly like no olive oil I’ve ever tried. The frustrating this is that you go out to eat and the bread comes with vinegar and oil for dipping BUT unless you know to ask for the olive oil they serve you corn oil. Not OK. Luckily I have memorized the word olive oil about as well as I know how to say “hablo un poco de espanol” so it’s no longer a problem.