My three days in Mendoza I think perfectly hit the highlights of what it has to offer: outdoor activity, wine and relaxation.
Day 1 I went whitewater rafting on the Rio Mendoza. It was only Class 1 and 2 rapids, so it was an easy drift really, but for a first timer like me it was still an enjoyable hour. It was a perfectly sunny day as we floated down the river with the snow-capped Andes mountain range behind us. I was on the English raft – two Americans, a Portuguese guy and a girl from Singapore – with a nice English-speaking guide who told us some anecdotes along the way. After our trip we had a few hours to hang out at the restaurant deck overlooking the river and enjoy a cold beer. For just US$35 you really couldn’t get a better deal.
Day 2 was devoted to wine tasting, because let’s be honest, this is the reason I came to Mendoza. We had a good group: I was joined by Kasey from the US, who I met while rafting the day before, Louise and Katrina from England and Thea from Norway, all of who were also staying at my hostel. We had all heard good things about Mr. Hugo’s so we rented bikes there. The bikes were good, no problems, but at ARS100 and without the rumored return time flexibility and free bottle at the end, I’m not sure it’s worth all the praise it gets.
For a day that was devoted to wine tasting, it took us a surprisingly long time to actually have some wine. Our first stop was the olive oil and chocolate tasting place, or as it should be called, the get tipsy off vodka shots disguised as liqueurs place. The spreads and oils and chocolate were all delicious, but it was the liqueur made with vodka that stole the show. We each got to taste two; the other girls went with the more normal choices of chocolate, dulce de leche, or mint, but I chose pepper and beer. The pepper was great, it had a nice spicy kick that would be great in cockatils; the beer not so much. Since we were the only ones there, they nicely let us taste a few extras, including absinthe and absinthe mixed with pepper. We biked away a little wobbly after stop one.
After a failed attempt to go to Trapiche (they only do tours every couple of hours) it was already lunch time so we stopped at the brewery. As enjoyable as the outdoor seating, pizza and beer were, we needed to get to some wine! So we nixed the Trapiche tour idea and decided to bike down to where there were 3 wineries on one road. Maximum wine in minimum distance. At least minimum when we got there; the map they gave us at Mr. Hugo’s was grossly out of scale and the ride took us a half an hour.
It was almost 3 by the time we finally got to taste some wine. But it was some damn good wine. At the first winery we split a 5 glass tasting so we could try a variety of Malbecs and Cabernets, each picking our favorite to finish. The second we did our tasting outside, a few of us opting for our own 3 glass tasting this round. The view over the vineyards with the mountains in the background was just beautiful. This was definitely the most enjoyable location. We made it to a third and final place, where we just split a bottle of wine on another outdoor balcony. The ride back went much faster than it did to get out there.
Even though it took us a while to get to the wine, it was still a fun day and we got to sample some delicious Argentinian wines. I will admit though, I have become a bit of a Northern California snob. It’s nice out by Mendoza but it doesn’t come close to wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa. The main road you bike down is not exactly scenic, and the tastings aren’t as plentiful or informative. And as a Cabernet lover, I didn’t find the wine as good. But for under $15 for the whole day, it’s a steal.
Day 3 Kasey and I just wandered around Mendoza. We had a nice leisurely lunch, walked to a few different parks, and discovered that there really isn’t much to discover in Mendoza. It’s a quiet town and most of the draw is the surrounding area. I had heard good things about a horseback ride or nearby hike but had already spent my activity budget on rafting. So we just had a relaxed day, which was good for me because I was getting on a night bus to Cordoba. My second to last night bus.
I had again purposefully booked the front window seat, but I got lucky with an empty seat next to me. I actually got to lay down! Curled up across both seats, I dreamt that the bumpy bus ride was the major earthquake in California and it was going to separate us from the rest of the US. I think I should stop taking Melatonin on bus rides, it leads to some weird dreams. I also was so sound asleep that I didn’t even realize we had arrived in Cordoba, the driver had to wake me up.