Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mendoza - Maipu

When you've been in Buenos Aires for enough time, if you don't figure out how to pull your feet up and let the crowds carry you, it can get a wee bit stressful. Ok, it can get very stressful. Where do you go for a little open air, and dare I say, wine??? Mendoza. It's about 1,000 km away, which is this far:
How do you get from A to B? Well, you could fly and it would take 2 hours. Or you could take a 14 hour overnight bus with Chevallier in which you are served wine, dinner, whiskey, coffee, and breakfast while enjoying your own personal television and seat that lays flat. The first class like seats were around $100USD, which ended up being our most expensive bus ticket on our travels. However, it was the nicest and also the longest bus ride we took, and it was well worth the money.

We arrived in the morning in Mendoza and took a taxi from the bus station to the hotel. It was a little confusing getting our huge packs put into the taxi by one guy and then having another guy get in the driver's seat. Turns out the first guy was just "helping" and needed a tip for this service. This wouldn't be the last time we encountered such a situation. Finally, arriving at the Intercontinental (don't get impressed, I got a work discount), we checked into our very nice rooms, and got ready to explore Mendoza. We took a city bus into the center and explored the plazas and artisan fairs. Let's get down to it. Why do you go to Mendoza? Wine. So here we go, bodega-hopping in Maipu (which is pronounced 'my poo' - it's ok to laugh, lord knows I did). My wonderful friend who runs this amazing liquor store in Minneapolis set up a great tour with Rutini Wines at Bodega La Rural. La Rural is home of one of the oldest working wineries in the area, there's a museum on site - pictured below is one of the old fermentation containers on the traditional wood floors.
We got a tour of the museum and also were lucky enough to try many Rutini wines, including my new favorite, their Torrontes. I'd never heard of Torrontes before, and now I'm a fan. It is to white wine what Malbec was to red. That's the prediction. It's a smooth full white wine very much worth a try. Their Cabernet was amazing as well. And I did love that it's pronounced phonetically in Mendoza, no dropping syllables in Spanish!

We got to taste all this wine (and learn all about it) with Alejandro:

After Rutini, we headed to Trapiche, another antique winery in Maipu. The facilities were really impressive and beautiful, and the tour guide was entertaining. Trapiche was one of the labels of Malbec we drank frequently in BA, so it was fun to get to know their process and their other wines. Plus, it was the prettiest bodega, in my opinion:
Important things to note when visiting wineries on a budget:

Each tasting will cost around $30AR

Think through options on transportation. We chose taxis for our day in Maipu. We had a terrible experience on our way to Rutini. The hotel called a taxi, we told him exactly where we needed to go and he replied with "si, si, si" - which, would indicate he knew where he was going, right? After 3 times stopping at gas stations (letting the meter run the whole time), looking at maps (sometimes upside-down), and talking to Pilar (our contact from Rutini) on Kat's cell phone, we finally got there, and he tried to charge us $80AR. Laura wouldn't go without a fight, and Pilar came out to back her up. Overhearing the back and forths in Spanish confirmed my belief that this trip would've been much harder without Spanish speakers leading it. We ended up paying him the fair price. Pilar was kind enough to get one of the Rutini drivers to take us to Trapiche and then take us back to the hotel for a bargain of a price. Sometimes you may pay a bit more by hiring a driver, but not having to deal with taxis trying to rip you off, may be worth it.

Bring some granola bars. Most tastings don't offer food. And you'll want to taste all the wine you can - it's good.

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