Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
Trip End May 29, 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, May 19, 2008

Wine, wine, wine. I had been looking forward to heading to the wine country of Argentina for some time because what can I say? I love it. It turns out we went at a fantastic time of year because the tourist crowd was quite low and its fall so all the trees are fiery reds and oranges which is just beautiful. Mendoza feels more like a big town than a city because there arent many big buildings and its very chill - none of that city-buzz/craziness that I saw in Buenos Aires, and to a lesser extent in Cordoba. Instead there are lots of tree-lined streets, outdoor cafes, plazas and parks. After sleeping away half the day our first day (after a sleepless bus ride) we went to a well-known italian joint where the pasta is homemade. After a bottle of wine between us and bellies full of super tasty food we strolled around town and paid a visit to the local aquarium which was small, old, and kinda ghetto yet fun nonetheless - they had almost as many dead fish on display as alive. We were quite mesmerized by the tank of crocodiles and turtles living together in harmony and stood there watching them for a good 20 minutes.
The highlight of our stay was probably the second day when we went on an afternoon tour of the vineyards, which is practically obligatory when youīre in Mendoza. On the tour we visited both a medium sized winery and a small family run one, as well as an olive oil factory. It was pretty cool to see how everything is made, especially the ginormous barrels of wine that filled the entire downstairs of these wineries, each labeled by category and year. My only complaint would have to be that I wish they gave everyone a tad more wine during the tastings.... just to you know, fully appreciate the flavors ;) All joking aside, I really do think it would be cool to be knowledgable about wine and know how to pair it with complimenting foods and such. Iīll have to work on that so I can throw fabulous dinner parties one day. Not to mention I really want one of those cool wine fridges ... and possibly a mini cellar in my future home sooo...all the more reason to become an expert!
Another great feature of Mendoza is its main park which almost rivals Central Park, except it just canīt because that is manhattan and this isnīt. But anyway, this park was HUGE - on the map, its like 1/3 of the size of the city, I swear. So needless to say we only got to see a small portion of it, but its basically just lots of greenery, trees in all shades (with palm trees mixed it), a beautiful pond, cafes spread throughout, just very tranquil and nice. I could have stayed in Mendoza a few extra days just to play in the park more (and enjoy good food and wine, obvi.) But alas, spur of the moment we decided to check out a day early and head 3 hrs south to the town of San Rafael - mostly because we wanted to shorten our upcoming really long bus ride further south, but also because we had heard its a great place to rent a bike and visit the local vineyards. Well, turns out we are semi-retarded and overlooked the fact that we would be there on a Sunday and as such it would be impossible to rent a bike or visit a vineyard because everything was closed. Defeated, we followed the recommendation of the tourist office lady and took a bus to a pretty canyon area, where we were essentially stuck for 5 hours. After taking in the view of the canyon from the top of a dam (which was very picturesque) we walked down the mountain in search of civilization, found one restuarant where we attempted to eat lunch as slowly as possible, and I then found an adorable small pup that I played with for the remainder of the time (and I was this close to putting it into my purse and smuggling it back to the US.) This area of the country is really beautiful with great weather this time of year and I enjoyed our stay immensely!


The interesting thing to note about Mendoza and the surrounding province is that itīs actually a semi-arid desert but thanks to the andes nearby and ingenious irrigation, water trickles down to each town to provide just enough to support the people, fauna and crops.  As for the grapes, they like very little water and lots of sun so the conditions for growing them here are perfect, hence tons of vineyards and wine.  Youīre probably not too familiar with Argentine wine because in the past vineyards preferred quantity over quality to fufill the insatiable thirst the country had for it.  Practically none of it was exported until apparently, the wine makers had to start competing with beer.   Recently (in the last 10 years or so) European experts were brought in to help improve production and nowadays you can find a good bottle of Argentine vino at your local spirits store.  Lets go back to beer for a second though, I donīt mean to undermine the wine (itīs excellent here) but the story about this hidden secret must be told.  The fact is, beer culture here is exceptional and it seems that the country has caught into the micro/craft brew scene nearly as much as the US has.  Before I got here, I had been enjoying a simple variety of large liter sized bottles that are for the most part manufactured by Quilmes: the bud/coors of Argentina.  Once in Mendoza, I started noticing "cerveza artesenal" (craft beer) all over the place.  In all I encountered a local factory that produces three different kinds of excellent beers, a restaurant featuring craft beers from Mar Del Plata and even a guy in the street fair selling beer he made in his house.  So my point is this...Argentinians love to drink, and they like to drink well.  Move over Argentine wines because you will soon have to share the spotlight with your beers.
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