This past December I had the opportunity to visit Mendoza, Argentina, which is best known for its proximity to the Andes Mountains and wine country. Prior to my visit, I knew very little about Argentinian wines, but Nick Dadonna, Beverage Director for Boston Urban Hospitality Group (Boston Chops, Deuxave, dbar), was an incredible help, and I have returned to the United States with a far greater appreciation for wine making, knowledge of Malbec, and foods to pair this wine with when I entertain at our next dinner party.
When I started planning this trip, I had initially wanted to stay at a vineyard but that became impractical so we ended up staying in Mendoza at the Sheraton, which turned out to be a great property with access to interesting areas of town.
Unfortunately Sergio wasn’t feeling great so I ended up touring a handful of gorgeous wineries on my own. I did have the good sense to hire a driver ahead of time so I could indulge without worrying about driving. Should you find yourself booking a trip to Mendoza I would recommend doing the same. Even though parts of wine country are very close to downtown, having a driver makes a huge difference and provided me with a lot of flexibility. Below are some of the highlights from my two days touring wineries.
A twenty minute drive south of Mendoza brought me to Bodega Catena Zapata one of Argentina’s oldest wineries located in Lujan de Cuyo. This award winning family-owned winery dates back to 1902 when it was founded by Italian immigrant, Nicola Catena.
In a nod to their new world status, the winery built a pyramid-like design based on Mayan architecture for their beautiful bodega and logo. The winery is very proud of their history and Argentina’s role in saving the Malbec grape, which had been Eleanor of Aquitaine’s preferred wine of choice, but was essentially wiped out in Europe due to a disease in the 19th century that attacked European vineyards. The lovely tour, learning about the history of the Malbec and this illustrious Argentinian family was interesting but it was the tasting (see the wines above) I’ll remember best. My favorite from the tasting proved to be Luca Old Vine Malbec 2017.
Following a 2+ hour tour and tasting I was more than satisfied but later that day I needed to rally for a private luncheon at Casa Rena’s gorgeous restaurant. I’ve included photos from the 2+ hour luncheon, 7-course meal (the sorbet not shown) accompanied by six wines (click the image below to enlarge).Sitting outside with views of the vineyard and beautiful landscaping, I gorged on this gourmet lunch. Unfortunately, I was running so late I couldn’t stay for the tour of the winery but the lunch and wines were fantastic. After lunch I could barely move but I somehow managed to power through the rest of the day.
On my final day of tastings, we drove to Uco Valley (a 90-minute drive from Mendoza). This would turn out to be my favorite winery. Nestled in Uco Valley with the massive Andes Mountain Range off to the west, Zuccardi winery was founded in the early 1960s by an Engineer who was trying to modernize irrigation in the region.
Three generations have been involved in making wines here. The family made a decision to use local, sustainable materials wherever possible to build this bodega so it would blend into the landscape. And local artisans and builders were hired to help construct this gorgeous winery, which also applies that same sustainable approach to making wine by using concrete vats to turn their grapes into wine (see below).
However, what I shall remember best from my time at the winery is the amazing lunch that was prepared for me in their restaurant. The photo at the very top of the post was the main plate but it was preceded by two other dishes and followed by dessert. Just like the previous day at Casa Rena, Zuccardi’s lunch proved to be a gourmet marathon with four courses and eight wines served (OMG). It’s no wonder that after I rolled out of Uco Valley I told Sergio I needed to take a break otherwise I might die from overindulgence.
I loved my time in Mendoza and learning more about Argentinian wines. If you’re a wine lover, you really need to check out Argentina’s wine country.