Monday we woke up and realized that everyone at home in Wisconsin was on spring break, somebody let the kids know this… and we ended up giving them the week off, I didn’t resist much especially since my brother was in town. We visited two more wineries on Monday, Ruca Malen and Bodega Norton which were just south of our house in Lujan de Cuyo. Ruca Malen had some beautiful views even if the clouds shrouded the more distant and larger mountains. We were the only ones there for the tasting and got treated to their main tasting room overlooking the vines and foot hills.
Next was Bodega Norton which we were late for, it seems we tend to chat and enjoy our wines a bit too long. Once we caught up with our tour which had wound its way through the catacombs beneath the winery we were treated to some very nice red wine, the tasting was completed at different locations in the basement level. We followed our tour guide through rooms stacked with wine bottles aging and awaiting their turn to be labeled, shipped and drank. You could imagine some Spanish wine maker roaming the same corridors a hundred years ago fretting about the wines. We headed home for lunch and discovered that everyone wanted to play by the pool, and according to the weather forecast it was the last truly sunny and warm day for the week. So we had an epic pool party, lots of people got pushed in the pool and fun was had by all.
That night we were treated to some amazing clouds in the in the distance; I took a time-lapse and posted it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ANVPh7tO00
We had decided earlier that Tuesday was a bit of a work day for Maddy, and I had to get the breaks checked due to some squeaking that was occurring. There were no Toyota repair places in town so we figured the next best place was Walmart car repair. They told us after much translation that the breaks were crystallized and that they should be replaced if the noise bothered us but they were fine for the time being. John was nice enough to watch the kids while we went about our business. He also was kind enough to watch the kids and gave us a night to go out and have dinner away from the kids… yeeesssss. We went to a restaurant in downtown Mendoza, somewhat of a French Bistro, I had steak because, yep we are in Argentina.
The next day we went exploring the Valle de Uco the southern edge of the better Mendoza wine growing areas. We started at La Ciela one of the original wineries to plant Malbec in the area and is stilled named after the original owners wife. The wine vats from the original construction were still being used, with several coats of epoxy; it was a great historical overview of the area. To contrast that winery we next went to O Fornier which a had an ultra-modern looking facility which looked a bit like a space ship landing pad with about the largest cellar I had ever seen. Something out of James Bond, they also sell plots of land along with access to the winery for producing wine. Anyone got a spare 0.5 million USD lying around for a couple of hectares.
Our next stop had a similar architectural style although instead of having our own personal tour we shared with about 20 German tourist, a very nice presentation though.
Our last stop was Azul and was likely the best, it was a small boutique winery but great wines and had laid-back feel, a nice break from the last two wineries.
The weather was turning colder and cloudy so we didn’t spend as much time in the pool when we got home but cooked dinner and chatted.
The next day John and I took the day to go hiking up in the mountains, we grabbed some breakfast and drove up route 7 into the mountains. We had thought about driving up to see the Inca bridge a natural stone formation over the Mendoza River but we decided to hike to a water fall that wasn’t as far up the highway. The water fall was on a somewhat unmarked trail called Salto de la Quebrada del 55. It was a couple mile hike right along a stream but it had some neat grasses and other terrain. Once we completed the hike we took some time to explore some other spots along the river and also spotted about 20 Andes condors that were circling overhead there must have been a condor rookery nearby.
Once we got down out of the mountains we visited three wineries before heading of home to Maddy and the kids. The first was a smaller boutique winery called Bodega Caleum, they had a nice short tour and some flavorful wines. Our host was nice enough to call Chandon and schedule us a tour there which John wanted to hit. Once we got to Chandon we were escorted by a large looking gentleman in a suit, he joined us with our tour but we finagled getting out of the tour and got our buddy to get us some some moldy cheese (seriously tasted like a rotten shoe) and sausage too. The Sparkling wines were very good, some dry some sweet, Maddy was a bit irritated we went without her. Our final winery was Septima which was a much larger winery focusing on the reds of the region, it was a good final stop before heading back to Maddy and the kids.
We had another great night of hanging out with John before we gave him a ride to the airport the next day. We had some other errands to run around town but basically we were lying low preparing for another long drive the next day; this time it was Buenos Aires!!