Mendoza's wine industry is huge and commercially very successful. By far the greater part of the production is sold to the local market who are both appreciative and discriminating of the local product and some of these wines are very classy indeed, with price tags to match. Wine is a way of life here however, and not everyone can afford to buy the better stuff where overheads of elegant bottling and marketing increase the price way beyond a worker's pocket. There are plenty of people who make their own table wines on their own land and sell what they don't use to anyone who turns up at their gate. 5 litres of rough red may not be your idea of a souvenir of a Mendozan wine tour, but you have to admit, at 7 pesos, it's a bargain. I 'm not sure that you'd want to lay it down for the future though.
El Balcón - see the effect of earth history
If you do the "circle" around Mendoza, heading north to Villavicencio, and then the old road to Uspallata, don't miss to make a stop at "El Balcón".
This has been formed some ages ages ages ago, and shows the earths' activity in the past.
I was told that it came from the "folding" (?) of the geological platters.
But watch your steps - and your breath - the gorge is 1000 m deep !!!
The Most Personal Wine Tasting Experience Ever!
Wine tasting is unquestionably one of the great reasons to go to Mendoza! And while I didn't know alot about the various bodegas in the area, we were lucky to meet brothers, Juan and Gerardo, who own a tour guide company and they set up a custom wine tasting package for us.
We explained that we would have 2 days for wine tasting and wanted to visit a combination of larger, more well known bodegas and requested suggestions for some smaller, more intimate tours, as well.
One suggestion for a wine tour and lunch was Bodega Dolium. We knew nothing about it and trusted their recommendation. Upon arriving to the bodega, it is much less impressive than the previous massive Mayan looking structure we'd just left, but stepped inside and were greeted by a very friendly guide who took my friend and I and a couple on a tour of the premises. After a brief history of the property, we were greeted by the winemaker. He took us downstairs to the wine storage area, where we sampled varietals directly from the tanks! This is incredibly uncommon, in fact, I've never heard of a basic tour offering this experience. It was amazing to taste the wine in the tank for just a few months, compared to the same grape that is almost ready for bottling. Believe me - there is a big difference!
If this wasn't an incredible experience on its own, we walked back upstairs to get ready for lunch and were greeted by the owner, Ricardo. He and his wife, Gabriela, would be joining us for a casual home-cooked meal upstairs. Fabulous!! What a welcoming couple and fascinating to hear their perspective on the business of running a vineyard and daily tasks involved in distributing the product internationally.
This was a truly unique afternoon, but it didn't end there! Gabriela enjoys dancing and invited us to meet her at a tango club in Mendoza that evening :-) The concept of getting to know people in a place like Argentina rarely compares to the experiences I am familiar with living in a big city! So, we met her out that night and I learned to tango...but that's another story...
Dolium is located in Lujan de Cuyo region:
Ruta Provincial 15
Juan and Gerardo's office is located just off the Paseo Saramiento (pedestrian walking street that is in the center of town). Details below:
Juan and Gerardo Llado
Viajes y Turismo Internacional
Plaza de Espana
Of the several plazas in Mendoza, Plaza de Espana stands out for its beautiful azulejos (tiles). There is also an open air crafts market where you can buy things like carved wood items, jewelry, some textiles etc. (there's also a similar market in Plaza de Independencia). Near the plaza there is an old Spanish restaurant, just a few steps west of the plaza next to the emply lot.
Acongagua, 6959 metres high, the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas, the undisputed giant of the Andes, manages to hide itself behind the the rainbow-hued Sierra de Uspallata for much of the journey up the Ruta Alta Montana until, with a turn in the road - there it is - a symmetrical peak of snow-clad grey, perfectly framed in the V between two lesser slopes. Another turn in the road and it disappears only to reappear again as the road winds up and up. And so it goes, until at last the vista opens out completely as you approach Los Penitentes and Puente del Inca where it forms an awesome backdrop to the little settlement.
To the Huarpe Indians who named it Akon-Kahuak it was the "Stone Sentinel", to the Mapuche it was Akonhue - "from the beyond". The Inca held it to be holy, leaving evidence of ritual burials at a staggering 5300 metres. The first European reached the summit in 1897. Now is a magnet to climbers, more than 2000 of whom make the ascent each year and the infrastructure to get them there is big business indeed.