Two of our DEs – Jeanie O’Halloran and Julia Steck – just got back from Mendoza, Argentina’s captivating wine capital. Here are their top picks…
Mendoza’s biggest claim to fame is its wine, so you’ll definitely want to taste some of the good stuff. The region is most famous for its Malbecs – a full-bodied red varietal characterized by plump dark fruit flavors and a smoky finish – but you discount the whites at your peril, says Julia who had “an excellent Semillon from Vistalba.” For more information about Mendoza, and especially its wines, read our blog: Introducing Mendoza.
Our most popular Mendoza itinerary includes full-day wine tours to two different regions and the option of adding/swapping a ‘Bike & Winery Tour’ – something which both DEs would highly recommend to anyone who’s up for a bit of fun: “The area is very easy to bike around and incredibly picturesque,” says Jeanie, who started at one winery and then set off on bikes to visit two more. “We had lunch at the last winery and then relaxed in the sun before returning to our hotel.”
If you’re traveling with non-drinkers (kid or adult), the region also has a long and proud history of producing olive oil.
To truly drink Mendoza to the lees, we’d advise staying on an actual wine farm. Our two favorite wine retreats are The Vines (get involved in making, blending and tasting wines) and Casa de Uco (their 2014 Vineyard Selection Malbec was given 94 points by Tim Atkin MW). Both are located in the breathtaking Uco Valley, home to many of the most celebrated wineries (both in terms of winemaking and architecture), and a 1.5-hour drive from Mendoza.
For the best of both worlds, Villa Mansa offers a laidback country feel only 10 miles from central Mendoza, and close to several of the region’s oldest wineries. What’s more, the barrel-shaped Cuvée Suites are to-die-for. The Park Hyatt – which overlooks the city’s central square and boasts an excellent spa – is our preferred downtown address. Mendoza is a very agreeable city of about 1 million inhabitants, with several elegant plazas and an enormous park on the outskirts of town. There are also some great wine boutiques where you can stock up on obscure bottles: Sol y Vino and Wine Not get our vote.
It goes without saying that a place with so much fine wine has its share of top-notch eateries. Both Casa de Uco and The Vines (see above) have exceptional restaurants, but there is also excellent dining to be had in the city of Mendoza. Top of most people’s lists is 1884, the brainchild of Argentina’s most famous culinary export, Francis Mallman. (If you haven’t already watched the Chef’s Table episode about him, do so now).
1884 – according to both Jeanie and Julia – more than justifies the hype and is well worth the 30-minute cab ride from downtown. “It felt like we were in a different world,” says Julia. “They have this huge compound in an interesting part of town. Lots of veggie and fish options, too, but the Wagyu steak was out of this world.” The wine list is vast, and the experience unforgettable…Mallman is all about “the experience.” Weather permitting (it hardly ever rains in Mendoza, but it does get cool May thru October) a seat outside by the multiple outdoor grills is first prize.
At the other end of the spectrum is Fuente y Fonda, an unassuming hidden gem a stone’s throw from Plaza Independencia and the Park Hyatt. Relying on “the recipes of many grandmothers” this hole-in-the-wall joint is proof that there’s more the Argentine cuisine than asado (barbecue). “They serve an amazing Milanese, homemade bread, and good desserts,” says Julia. “Comfort food in very large portions and not at all touristy.”
Mendoza’s proximity to the Andes has made it something of a hub for thrill-seekers. Aconcagua, the highest peak outside the Himalayas is only a couple of hours away. A (fairly long)day trip to its base can be easily arranged, although you should probably spend a night in the vicinity if you want to do any hiking.
There’s great rafting and zip-lining about an hour from Mendoza, while both Casa de Uco and The Vines offer horseback-riding. A little further afield, Las Leñas (four hours to the South) has some of the best skiing in the Southern Hemisphere…And it doubles as a serious trout fishing destination in the summer months (November thru April). For more detail check out our blog on day trips from Mendoza.
Whether you’re visiting Mendoza as part of an upcoming Argentina adventure, or you want to spend a week or more really getting to know the region and its many mountains, wines and restaurants, we’d love to help. Check out our Mendoza itineraries or speak to a Destination Expert about crafting your own.