“I am really very sorry about this,” says my host Pedro as he drives us through fog that obscures the magnificent snow-capped Andes that I know tower above somewhere. The day before, the brilliant sun shone across the valleys that make up the region called Mendoza in Argentina. Pedro explained that Mendoza is blessed with sunny days most of the year, which contributes not only to the great wine-making that happens there, but also to multiple outdoor adventures. Today, the weather seems to be mocking his words.
I had begun my day with breakfast at The Vines Resort & Spa, a luxury property in the Uco Valley. The day held much promise – this was to be my outdoor adventure day.
Although sunny on the valley floor, there was a cloud covering beginning to roll over the top of the Andes and settle around their midsection. “Uh oh”, I thought. Still there was much to discover this day, so I put myself in Pedro’s capable guidance and we set off on a driving course that would take us up through said fog.
Pedro is both sommelier-trained and an expedition leader.
I found the combination curious at first, for certainly the wine industry of Mendoza is no joke and I know Pedro’s father is a top sparkling wine producer of the region. But Mendoza is both – a wine destination AND an outdoor adventure one, among other things.
What to Do in Mendoza, Argentina – Wine, Art, Luxurious Accommodations and Outdoor Adventure
Art in Mendoza
I was glad for the slow ride, for the previous day included wine-tastings, a sumptuous gourmet lunch, and the chance to meet a young rising star artist. The busy day, with Pedro opening these hidden doors for me, immersed me in the various interests that can be indulged in Mendoza.
The capital city and its surrounds is home to artists and artisans.
Fine homes and apartments worldwide are home to the works found here. Beautiful handcrafted goods in leather or wool grace international wardrobes, and goods and jewelry shopping are among the pleasures to be had in the area.
Visiting a Finca Deeded by the King of Spain in the Past
I first went to a finca, among the oldest surviving in the area. Its proud owner had moved from the city to live in, restore and preserve this survivor of the area’s most devastating earthquake which had destroyed most older dwellings.
Here, within its red-washed walls, was history stretching back to when the land was deeded by the King of Spain. Eduardo, the owner, waived his hands over a work table strewn with old documents; on closer inspection, these were original royal documents and various other “bounty” he had recently found stored in one of the property’s buildings. “Everything here is a work in progress,” he says, including the delicious wines he is producing in new styles which I would later sample.
Decorating the interior and exterior walls of the finca were a variety of vibrant and sophisticated modern paintings, most large-scaled that reached floor to ceiling or across walls. I soon learned an artist was there, getting ready for his exhibit. I met the young man in the garden, at his easel, and he jumped up to give me a tour of the exhibition. He was engaging and I quickly learned that there is a community of Mendoza artists and artisans who welcome visitors to their ateliers. I felt extremely lucky I had a well-connected guide in all aspects of the area so that I could meet an artist where he was working.
Luxury Accommodations, Wine Tasting and Food in Mendoza
Eyes full and our first tasting under my belt, Pedro then drove me to the southern end of the region, to the Uco Valley, home to famous wineries.
The Andes rise from the desert floor of the valley, where scrub vegetation gives way to cultivated rows of vines. We stop for a production tour and tasting at a renowned winery before reaching The Vines for a sumptuous lunch from the kitchen of internally famed chef Francis Mallmann.
Honoring the Flavors and Influences of the Area
He adopted methods of the gauchos and European migrations Argentina is known for at his Siete Fuegos, or “seven fires” collection of open-flame cooking and slow roasting to honor the flavors and influences of the area. The various fire spots around the property are homage to this philosophy, and guests may sit at the kitchen to watch their meal prepared over an open coal grill and oven.
The Vines hosts many individual vineyards and several wineries on its property and is a source for high end wine production and development. The accommodations are all villas. Some have rooftops for gorgeous views of seemingly endless vineyards, the Andes, and sunsets.
18-Room Spanish-Influenced Boutique Property
I also stayed at the other major luxury property in Mendoza, Cavas Wine Lodge, closer to the capital city. Set among 55 acres of vines this 18 room boutique property with a main house that resembles a Spanish-influenced estate, and dwellings or villas and rooms within a short walking distance, each with its own outdoor space, west facing views, outdoor showers. Bonus features include private plunge pools and wood burning fireplaces.
Wine Touring Tips:
Mendoza is home to many famous wineries and smaller production gems; many require advanced booking to visit.
- You should limit your tastings to 2 per day (3 if you must); beyond this you taste buds won’t remember what you tasted!
- You might include at least one production tour, especially to see newer methods being developed.
- A knowledgeable guide/driver is a MUST for wine touring; the roads are best left to a pro, especially if you’d like some hidden doors opened for you.
- Lastly, if you love harvest festivals (and don’t mind crowds), a good time to visit Mendoza is in March.
Mendoza is an Outdoor Adventure Capital
Depending on your level of adventure – from fantastic views-finding to physical pursuits – you can round out a stay in Mendoza indulging in fresh air and a sense of challenge, inspiration or play.
Hike in the Andes Mountains
I chose a hike high in the Andes mountains with Pedro since this was another of his areas of expertise.
And so when our ascent to the base of the hike was shrouded in fog, I was unsure if we’d be able to do it. But, once we rose high enough, we left the fog behind to drift and burn off in the mid-day sun, and the brilliant magnificence of these mountains were revealed.
Even the air seemed to sparkle as we hiked above 11,000 over sea level.
The climb was worth it; with no one else around I saw babbling streams running down to the valley below, guanacos ( a wild cousin to the llama and alpaca) grazing on steep slopes, a snow-capped mountain tops high over our heads. We broke for a picnic lunch in a flat meadow besides a stream, and Pedro told me of his expedition adventures and the camp he has set up for travelers who wish to truly trek, and the way he led others less inclined to hike to the beautiful vistas of their dreams by driving them the little–known locations.
A Ranch for Horse Riding, Outdoor Barbeque, River Ziplining, and Whitewater Rafting
After we hiked back down to the car, Pedro took me to places other adventures can be had: a ranch for horse riding and outdoor barbeque with a family, a river for ziplining and whitewater rafting.
Many wine stays also offer horse riding or biking through vineyards, and I saw biking groups on excursions throughout the region as well as motorcylists. Lakes and reservoirs were home to boaters, kayakers and people fishing, and of course the area is a photographer’s dream.
Virtuoso Properties (with exclusive amenities):
- The Vines Resort & Spa
- Cavas Wine Lodge is a Relais & Chateaux property.
Other fine properties:
- Casa de Uco (A great property set among its vineyards)
- Entre Cielos Luxury Wine Hotel & Spa (Highly recommend the spa here – a hammam of 6 stations of saunas, steams rooms and pools. The hotel’s rooms are spacious and well-appointed, but it is the Vineyard Loft that has the best buzz: set on stilts like a treehouse in the vineyard, it is a private romantic suite with a skylight for stargazing.) Spend your time exploring the numerous areas bodgas and then relaxing by the pool.
- The suggested properties to stay have wonderful kitchens that prepare fresh local dishes.
- There are several award-winning restaurants in and near the city of Mendoza that are high on many foodies’ lists.
- 1884 – Francis Mallmann
- Maria Antonieta (Owner Vanina Chimeno is Mallmann’s wife andworked for many years at 1884)
- Azafran (Try the five-course tasting menu if you just can’t decide. Take advantage of the 2 sommeliers on site to guide you to accompanying wines to any menu choice.)
Outside the city:
- Siete Fuegos (The Vine Resort & Spa)
- Restaurant Terruno at Bodega Tapiz, specializing in local produce and its organic garden.
- Nadia OF
- Brindillas Restaurant (Located near Entre Cielos)
I wish to thank Deluxe Argentina for arranging my trip and stays in Mendoza and leading me to my great guide (and new family friend) Pedro.
Are you interested in a trip to Mendoza as a part of your Argentina or South America exploration? Argentina is a wonderful destination for couples, families and groups. Mendoza can be combined with other areas, depending on your interests. Contact me to talk about the perfect transformative journey for you!
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