Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mendoza: A Positive Initial Impression

Between Saturday and Sunday, I spent nearly twenty four hours in airports and on planes as I traveled from Boston to Mendoza, Argentina.  Most of that travel was uneventful and relatively painless, except for all the long hours it took.  But, there was one highlight, flying over the Andes Mountains between Chile and Argentina, part of which you can see above.  With my window seat, and clear weather, I was able to observe the Andes in all their breath-taking grandeur.

Though after a recent Twitter discussion with a couple of vegan buddies, it was hard not to think back to the book and movie Alive, where a plane carrying the Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes, and some of the survivors resorted to cannibalism.  A bit morbid and gruesome (Ok, maybe more than a bit). But my flight had no problems and I safely landed in Mendoza.

After a short ride from the airport, we arrived at the Park Hyatt Hotel, a quite grand and elegant place. It has Old World charm but modern amenities, and you won't be disappointed staying here.  We ate lunch outside on their patio, Fred and I sipped rose at their wine bar/store, and even gambled in their casino.  In comparison to many U.S. casinos, it is fairly small, with a handful of table games and a bunch of slot machines. But limits are low, such as blackjack where you can play a hand for 10-25 pesos, about $2.50 to $6.00.  I have broken even so far so that is not too bad. It sure beats losing.

The hotel really knows how to make you feel welcome, and these lovely ladies manned the entry on Sunday.

Across the street from the hotel is the Plaza Independencia, a large, beautiful park which forms a busy center for the city. It seems that people are in the park all day and night, relaxing, walking, playing games, and more. There was an artisan fair on Sunday, kind of a flea market of sorts, though many of the vendors were selling new items.  Lots of jewelry, leather goods, incense burners, knives, and toys. 

There are a number of fountains in the park which appear to be popular spots to sit near.  Surrounding the sides of the park are a number of shops, cafes and restaurants, and there were some fast food vendors in the park as well.

The weather has been perfect, sunny and not too hot, with slightly cooler nights, though nothing where I needed a jacket.  And the weather should remain about the same for the rest of the week too. Even walking around the vineyards and wineries was very pleasant in this weather. But, the weather has delayed the harvest by a couple of weeks. 

Though this trip is sponsored by Winebow, a wine importer and distributor who represents several producers in Argentina, we are seeing far more than just Winebow clients.  In fact, about half the wineries we will visit are not Winebow clients. Their intention is to promote Argentina wine as a category, and not just their own client's wineries. For example, both of the wineries we visited on Monday are not Winebow clients. This has helped give us a more balanced view of the region, and I respect Winebow for arranging us to visit those wineries.

Much of our first day in Mendoza was free time, to relax and recuperate from our long flights.  But for dinner, we all walked a couple blocks to Francesco, an Italian restaurant, where we dined and drank wine with several winery representatives. The antipasto, pictured above, was a highlight, especially the fried olives. We got to drink several different wines, from a Zuccardi Torrontes to a Tomero Petite Verdot, a tease for the more in-depth tastings we would do the rest of the week.  Overall, I enjoyed all of the wines, and a couple were even impressive. The winery people were all quite personable, jovial and informative.  It was a nice, informal way to get an initial impression of them, as well as their wines. We even got to taste some Argentina olive oil, which was also impressive, especially that made with the Arauco olive.     

It has been a pleasure as well to reconnect with my friend Fred, and meet for the first time numerous other wine writers. Overall, it has been a very good group of people, and their combined knowledge and experiences have enhanced the trip.  We all have our own unique perspective on wine, and it is always beneficial to hear those perspectives, as they can positively impact our own.  Plus, we have had plenty of non-wine related conversations as well, from zombie flicks to CAFOs, from pets to favorite restaurants.

It is Monday night as I write this, after quite a full day visiting two wonderful wineries, and devouring some incredible food, from homemade empanadas to mounds of grilled meat.  I won't say much about Monday yet, except we have met some amazing people, tasted many glasses of interesting wine, and have learned plenty about Argentina and wine.  I already have taken many pages of notes, so you can look forward to numerous additional posts about my experiences in Argentina.

And I did get to eat a new animal as well!


Jason Phelps said...

Our local wine reporter on the ground in Argentina! Can't wait to hear more stories.


sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Alana Gentry said...

Nice roundup of our first days in Argentina and love the pic with the hostesses.