Wine regions rarely disappoint. The combination of the visual, well-tended vines climbing towards the sky, and the experiential, flavors of the wine and food, will excite the most dull among us. Almost universally wine regions are worth the trip, but being situated literally halfway around the world from most people, Argentina’s Mendoza region needed to offer something more than tours and tasting rooms. Mendoza has succeeded in creating a food and wine experience worth the trip.
Mendoza is one the world’s most improbable and unique wine regions. Naturally it is a barren, as precipitation is kept on the Chilean side by the highest part of the Andes range. It should be a productive agriculture region as little as it should be a wine destination. Therein lies why it is successful though, generations had to work to make it happen, never taking for granted natural gifts. The culture of hard work that led to the irrigation and cultivation of the land has since been put into creating an international tourist destination.
Fulfilling it’s duty as Argentina’s largest wine producer by volume, Trapiche offers the gold standard of large-winery tours similar to Mondavi in California. Informative and thorough, the tours walk visitors through the entire process, albeit closer to the process than you can get in many other places.
What makes Mendoza special? It is the overall experience of European indulgence meets Latin America. It has incomparable views of wineries nestled against the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas. It offers the expected wine tasting, but also locally produces the unexpected: world-class gelato, chocolate, honey, olive oil, and much more. It blends a historic town center with thousands of acres of parks and modern amenities. It even has adventure sports including climbing of one of the Seven Summits. In short, it has everything.
The problem was that even the combination of all these things didn’t justify the trip to Mendoza. For people from North America, Asia and Europe, it’s generally less than half the price to get to Italy, France or California than it is to get to Mendoza. So what makes it worth visiting? The uniqueness of the place is amazing. I have been there half a dozen times in the past 12 years, but until this trip I couldn’t actually recommend it to people. That was until I visited the Vines of Mendoza.
The Vines of Mendoza was exactly what Mendoza needed: a destination-worthy experience. In my previous visits to Mendoza I left thinking: that was nice, but it is missing something. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but the Vines did. Mendoza needed a gathering point to show off the community, the wineries and the families behind them, but most importantly, to give visitors a unique experience worth seeing. The Vines is a great example of combining the modern traveler’s desire for local experiences of food and culture, with social network brag worthiness.
Travelers need something special to share, a unique experience that they can regal friends with back home. Any visit to the Vines of Mendoza’s Tasting Room will probably provide such an experience, but the Winemaker’s Nights are something I’ve not seen elsewhere. Small groups learn about what differentiates a winery and hear the story behind the wine…directly from the winemaker. Sharing wine and cheese with the winemaker is an unforgettable experience.
Meeting a winemaker is good, but being one is better. Let’s face it, pretty much everyone that has ever gone wine tasting has daydreamed becoming a winemaker themselves. For those wanting to start their own winery, the Vines of Mendoza offers the Private Vineyard Estates, where owners can produce their own wine. If that weren’t enough, the Vines is opening it’s resort and spa situated amongst the vineyards (possibly overlooking your vineyard) with the fascinating Siete Fuegos restaurant which we sadly didn’t get a chance to enjoy. Overall the Vines of Mendoza has made the city a must-visit for those looking for a different, more personal, wine tasting experience.
WHEN YOU GO:
- Bring US Dollars in $100 bills, the “official” exchange rate, the one you get when withdrawing money is 5 pesos to $1 USD. Exchanging cash, specifically $100 bills, will get you 8-10 pesos per dollar, cutting all your prices in half! Ask your hotel for information and be prepared to bargain for the best rate. (Check here for the current “Blue Market Rate“)
- Bike the wineries. There is a circuit of wineries which is accessible via bicycle. It makes for a fun day exploring the beautiful countryside.
- US Citizens must buy visa prior to the border. If you cross for Chile be sure to have paid your “reciprocity fee” before getting to the border or you will not be allowed entry into Argentina. You can do this online here.
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