Mendoza Wine Festival

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
Trip End May 2010

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Our camera charger stopped working so we only captured a few shots during our first days in Mendoza.
After a relatively short, fun-filled visit to Santiago, we headed off to Mendoza, the famous wine region of Argentina on the other side of the Andes from Santiago.  The bus ride snakes up the Aconcagua valley to reach the Chilean-Argentine border at approx. 10,000 feet.  Awesome mountain views appear around every corner during this part of the journey!  Aconcagua, South America's highest peak, at 6962m (22,841 ft), even showed itself a few times.
We arrived in Mendoza a few days before the events of the famous wine festival really kicked off.  Mendoza's wine festival (Vendimia 2009) is apparently the world's largest wine festival; the Vendimia was first created in 1936, beginning with the blessing of the fruit giving thanks to the Carrodilla Virgin, patron saint of the vinyards.  But more on the wine festival later...  
Bike touring the vineyards of Maipú
Mendoza is famous for tremendous wine growing conditions and produces countless superb Malbec, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir wines.  After some great tips from travelers we met in Southern Argentina earlier in the trip (thanks Nick and Najeebi!), we knew a great area to tour by bike.  We visited a great wine museum, vineyards, local chocolate houses and olive oil factories.  Experiencing the vineyards and rural culture of Maipú by bike while tasting amazing wine, chocolate and olive oil is truly an unforgettable experience.  Sally and Lindsey were in heaven! 

Maipú's musuem of wine

Lindsey found a new cat to take home at our bike rental shop

We all ate our fair share of grapes!  Ben digging a bunch of Chardonnay grapes.  And how sweet they were.

Olive oil tasting at the Laur olive oil factory.

Det and Sally, bless their hearts, foot the bill for a nice apartment in downtown Mendoza!   We cooked awesome meals together, popped back and forth to the Italian celebration at Plaza Italia (kitty corner our apartment), and relaxed on the rooftop terrace.  Free, fast internet in the lobby topped it all off!  A great majority of Argentina's early immigrants, particularly in Buenos Aires and Mendoza, came from Italy, so the three day Italian celebration is major part of Mendoza's wine festival.  Plaza Italia was lined with scrumptious Italian food vendors while various performances ranging from opera, jazz, to a fusion of Italian/Indigeous folkloric dance and song took place on the plaza's center stage.  Lindsey, Sally and Ben took to the dance floor with the locals, but unfortunately our camera was at home due to its dead battery so you miss out on that silliness.  (The next day we finally found a replacement charger.  Ah, it's the little things...)

After a fun and packed two and half weeks, Det returned to Canada while Sally, Lindsey and Ben stayed on to catch a few more of the wine festival events.  With a free day available before the next major events started, Lindsey and Ben seized the opportunity to get out of the city and get some climbing in!  We grabbed an evening bus and headed off towards the mountain village of El Salto which we had very sketchy information for.  We'd found an Argentine climbing forum that gave mention of climbing in El Salto "near" Mendoza.  We arrived after dark so we just set up camp beside a bridge and hoped for the best.  After a dinner of sun-dried tomatoes and Louisana beans and rice, we tried to go to sleep, but all the late nights in Mendoza and Santiago has put our schedule out of whack.  We finally fell asleep but awoke shortly after to loud steps near our tent!  Ben jumped out, armed with a hiking pole and headlamp.  Two horses stared aimlessly at the pole-clad gringo.  Back to sleep again.  Suddenly we awoke again to snarling outside the tent.  Ben was out in flash shoeing away a bleach-white stray dog!  The dog's white coat gleamed in the moonlight and it tore off into the night.  Dawn broke clear and we found some rock to climb! 

Sunrise on the Andes in El Salto

The landscape around El Salto (Nevada anyone?)

Some crazy climber

The high Andes

Hueco climbing

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sallykunz on

Vendimia, Mendoza
¨¨Buen lomo¨ is the slang word to describe the thousands of Gauchos from the ranches surrounding Mendoza and the Argentinian Pampas that started this Vendimia Parade on Saturday morning. I marvelled at the logistics of transporting so many thousands of fine horses into the city center, dressing them up, getting the Gauchos dressed in their boots, pirate pants, billowing white blouses, leather cowboy hats, silver belts, embroidered vests. Here was a Paul Newman but was Robert Redford, but Argentinian, next was Cary Grant with a little belly but taller and with a moustache...Only the odd horse was spooked by the loud music, the thick crowd of cheering Argentinians, the blaring of sirens, ...I only saw one horse wild eyed, ears back, prancing , slathering foam at the mouth in extreme anxiety. Two thousand other horses kept pace but every horse had their ears back in tension. The Queens and their princesses, having to repeat the parade, were amazingly still beautiful from the night before. And the crowd crossed themselves as the Virgin Mary passed. Twenty five thousand people filled the outdoor amphitheater that night to witness the dancing, music, fireworks, the wine and the final crowning of the queen. This event is so popular that in true Latin fashion, it is repeated again for the next two nights. We climbed the local cerra (hill) and watched from above and had the best free seats available. The stars were brighter also. Too bad about the camera.

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