The idea for this trip was born out of a random statement Kris made to Dave a few years ago while buying his favourite wine in the liquor store. She said ‘I want to take you to Argentina to drink Malbec in Mendoza’ and thus, the vacation planning was started. Obviously many more things have been added since, but that was the first start to the plan. Mendoza is the famous wine region in Argentina. Like Napa is to California.
Mendoza province produces about 70% of the country’s wine. Jesuit missionaries from Chile planted the first grapes here in 1556. The wine valley produces very consistent vintages due to high altitude and low humidity. Grapes are cultivated with little or no pesticides, as the vineyards rarely have problems with insects, fungus or mold.
Lujan de Cuyo, just south of the city of Mendoza, is known as the home of Malbec. The vineyards are planted in alluvial soils which are part of the Mendoza River bed with boulders, gravel and clay layers, allowing good drainage of the soil. Grape vines do not need to be planted on hills here because the drainage is so effective.
The morning started with a tour at Bodega Renacer. They pride themselves on being an organic winery. Because natural cork is starting to become endangered, they have started making their wine corks from sugar cane.
Dave asked why they weren’t labeling the bottles before boxing. Each country they export to has different requirements, so the bottles are labeled just before shipping. A practical solution for a frustrating problem.
Milamore blend is Renacer’s ‘guest favourite’. We can see why – it’s mostly Malbec with Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Syrah. It was our favourite too. There might be a few bottles in our trunk today!
We attempted tastings at a few other wineries along the valley. Three times we were turned away stating we could not visit or taste without a reservation. The nice lady at Clos de Chacras apologized for being full for the day (although their parking lot was empty…) but the other two seemed very disinterested in making any sales today.
Luckily we had lunch reservations at Norton, Dave’s favourite winery. Norton was established in 1895 by the English engineer, Sir Edward James Palmer Norton and the winery is now owned by an Austrian Swarovski. Most of their vines were imported from France.
We did a four course tasting menu. Each course was paired with one of Norton’s wines.
The final course was a grapefruit sorbet mixed with espumante – sort of a champagne/ice cream float!
Two hours later we were sated. We don’t normally go for such extremes but we sure enjoyed it.
We did see a sign we liked: “Wine is like duct tape, it fixes everything”.
Olives often grow well in the same terroir as grapes – in Maipu, across the river from Lujan de Cujo, we found several olive groves. We did an olive oil tasting at Laur Olivícola. Also a very small winery, they use their grapes mostly to distill balsamic vinegar. We will bringing home some of both.
Tomorrow we will visit the nearby spa, then another winery lunch!