On our second day of our arrival into Mendoza, we took a private wine tour Steve (DOS) had previously arranged prior to our arrival in Argentina. This is a quick 4 day trip for us from Orlando to Mendoza, taken over the July 4th holiday weekend, to maximize my time off for work by taking only one vacation day. We are staying at the beautiful Park Hyatt in downtown Mendoza.
Unlike many large cities, Mendoza has a quiet and relaxed charm to it, and there are many restaurants within walking distance. This important wine region is renowned for its Malbec, and the wineries are a comfortable day tour trip from our hotel. We booked a 2 day private tour with Leo, the owner of Vendimia Mendoza Wine Tours and couldn’t have made a better choice! Leo and his guide Rolly were wonderful hosts, and arranged exactly the type of premium wine tour DOS had requested – everything exceeded our expectations.
while his assistant Rolly provided excellent commentary and information on what we were about to see.
The first day, we toured the vineyards of the Uco Valley (valle de Uco) that were more distant from the hotel than the second day’s tour, but were definitely worth the extended drive. The Uco Valley was a very scenic one hour plus drive, with the road paralleling the snow covered Andes Mountains in the distance.
As the seasons are reversed in South America, it is actually winter in Argentina, and coming from the heat and humidity of the Florida summer, it was quite refreshing. While there was snow on the Andes mountains, the temperatures were quite mild in Mendoza and surroundings, ranging from 40 – 60s F. It warmed up as the day progressed, so we dressed in layers and were quite comfortable.
As a bonus, Carolina (the Sales Director at Corazon del Sol winery we would later visit that day) rode with us to the vineyards the first morning. Carolina was a delightful and personable woman, and unfortunately her car had broken down and she needed a lift to the winery where she worked while her car was being worked on. Here is a photo of Rolly and Carolina on the drive to the Uco Valley providing us laughter and some good stories along the way.
It was well over an hour’s drive from the Hyatt to the Uco Valley, so the five of us had plenty of time to talk, get to know each other, and learn about Mendoza and the wine regions. It was nice for us too, as Carolina gave us a more in-depth and first hand account of the Argentina wine industry, especially the Uco Valley, and vineyard where she worked. As we got further away from the city of Mendoza, the scenery seemed to get more beautiful as we got closer to the Andes Mountains, and driving along this long road of beautiful trees, even without their flowers now, as it is winter.
Our first stop was at The Vines of Mendoza, where the Tourism Manager, Daniel gave us a tour of the facilities and explanation of the ‘Vines’ concept in wine making. Of all the vineyards we have been to world-wide, this ‘Vines’ concept was a first for us, and quite intriguing. Here DOS and I are standing with Daniel, with the beautiful snow capped mountains as a backdrop to the vineyards.
Daniel described it as a ‘condominium’ concept of wine-making. Daniel showed us a map of the massive property, which was marked with individual plots of 1 or more acres, and a number indicating the owner of that parcel.
Basically, people that want to own a part of winery, invest at The Vines, with a minimum 1 acre, and then hire The Vines staff, or an outside vendor to manage their land, harvest the vineyard, label and bottle the wine etc; really a cool concept! Daniel said they have everything from individual owners, to corporations that want a wine marketed with their companies logo. For a wannabe wine owner that doesn’t have the resources, time, or knowledge for buying and running their own winery, this is an amazing concept – make and grow your own wine! The owners can then sell some of the wine back to The Vines for sale to consumers or keep it or sell it themselves. The Vines also produces wines themselves with their hundreds of acres available above and beyond their ‘condo’ sales. We didn’t stay there, but there is a luxurious lodge on the property as well. I told DOS I would stay there just for this one-of-a-kind elevated gym out overlooking the vineyards! Believe me, I’d get a photo of me taken on the treadmill with a glass of vino! LOL!
We continued touring the wine-making facilities with Daniel prior to our wine tasting.
We had a wonderful outdoor private tasting in a ‘living room like’ patio setting, just the two of us and Daniel, complete with a million dollar view of the snow-capped Andes mountains – what a place to have a premium wine tasting!
It was more than a wine tasting with premium cheeses and crackers, it was quite informative too. Daniel explained that depending on the individual owner’s requirements, a contract is written as to the quality of wine the owner desires. For example a mass market wine a company might use for incentives, might yield 4,000 bottles to the acre. A more complex wine would yield only 3,000 bottles to the acre, on down to 2,000 bottles to the acre, and even an iconic wine at 1,000 bottles to the acre. It’s all about the level of quality one desires in their wines. The best grapes are close to the ground, and thus the hand picked grapes from the lower vines will be the best. This is also why machine picked grapes are not as good, as they take the whole vine; good grapes and bad, and you can’t distinguish the two just by looking at them. The cheaper more mass market wines will not have the quality of grapes that the more selective hand-picked vines have.
We sampled several wines with Daniel, starting with a 4,000 bottle production, then 3,000 etc, and finally up to the iconic 1,000 bottle production. Argentina is renowned for the Malbec grape varietal, although Daniel said this massive property had a total of some 28 different varietals amongst the various plots of land. Each varietal, however, must be planted on at least one acre of land. Like everywhere we would tour of the next two days, the wines were terrific, and we especially like the last wine Daniel served us (the 1,000 bottle produced iconic wine), which we bought three bottles to bring home. We had a white tasting sheet we set our glasses on, numbered 1 to 4, each indicating the wine we were having. It was fun trying the least expensive to most expensive, and then comparing one to the other as we did so.
After our tasting, we went into the office there, and DOS purchase three bottles of their iconic wine.
After buying our wine and saying our goodbyes and thank you’s to Daniel, we moved on to our next winery, Corazon del Sol.
Here we met up with Carolina again, this time for a tour and tasting. Here we met three other guys already there who were touring from Philadelphia, so we had a nice chat with them over the welcoming glass of Rose Carolina handed us, before explaining the history of the winery. I immediately loved their logo, and asked if they sold the glasses, which fortunately they did. Corazon del Sol was founded by an Indian Cardiologist, Dr. Revena, who lives and has his medical practice in the United States. He started out his passion for wine by buying a winery in Napa Valley, and later expanded his wine holdings with land in Oregon state, before buying this property here in the Uco Valley. Even with my limited knowledge of Spanish, I understood the meaning of Corazon del Sol in English; “Heart of the Sun”, very appropriate as the founder is a cardiologist, and the valley has sun most all year round.
Carolina had explained on our drive to Uco valley, but also elaborated on it during the tour, about how precious water is in this dry desert area. Water is such a scarce commodity here, and is meticulously regulated by their irrigation department. It’s not like you can just buy a plot of land and start a vineyard, as you must have water rights for the land itself – you can’t just go and drill for a well. Kendall Jackson winery had purchased several hundred acres of land a while back, Carolina said, but they only had water rights for 35 acres! That seems like a major faux pas for such a large corporation to make, so perhaps who ever was advising them was ignorant of the intense water restrictions in the Uco Valley. Anyway, that’s why the first place we visited, The Vines, is sitting on a gold mine as all of their plots of land for sale already have water rights.
Carolina gave us a nice tour of the facility at Corazon del Sol prior to our sit-down tasting. As Dr. Revena has a winery presence in the United States, they are able to offer free shipping to the States, which is a huge advantage for us, as we are limited in how much wine we can bring home. We had brought with us our wine carrier valet we had purchase on a previous trip to Napa Valley, which holds a case of wine, and you can check it like regular luggage. We also had six individual wine protective (plastic) holders which we can pack in our luggage, giving us a maximum of 18 bottles to take home.
While touring the facilities, we actually got to taste some wine-in-progress straight out off the tank!
Our guide Leo was always smiling and taking photos – I think he really enjoyed watching us having so much fun! We didn’t know it at the time but he gave us a DVD of our visit on our trip back to the airport after our two day tasting was completed.
We had a nice tasting in the elegant cellar tasting room, with Carolina serving us and the 3 guys from Philly. That’s one thing we love about going to the different wineries; each winery has it’s own charm and character, and different tasting experiences and environments. Here we are seated in the basement cellar tasting room, enjoying our vinos, with Carolina providing descriptions of what we were being served.
We were the last of the group to leave the tasting room, and judging from the many empty glasses and mess we made, I’d say we really enjoyed it!
Back upstairs in the main tasting room, we ordered six bottles of wine to be shipped home.
And finally, before leaving Corazon del Sol for our late lunch stop, I took a selfie of Carolina, Rolly, Leo, Steve (DOS), and myself Steve (UNO). Do we all look happy or what?
Our last stop of the day on our first of two days touring with Leo, was at an authentic and wonderful family Argentina barbecue type restaurant, located in the Gimenez Rilli Winery vineyards.
I love barbecue, and here it was cooked on the large indoor wood-fire grill oven.
The winery website link above shows information about the family winery, but it’s a bit hard to know there is a wonderful restaurant there, without clicking a few links under ‘Visit Us’, as the restaurant is showcased on the main web page. Here is a link to their wonderful restaurant El Grill de la Famila. This window photo isn’t the best picture I took, but gives you an idea of the location of the winery and the restaurant in the Uco Valley, looking out to the beautiful Andes Mountains.
We had a pre-arranged set menu, which included different wines with each course. I asked our friendly server if I could take a photo of her with the wine at each course so I’d remember what we were served, and to buy what we liked after lunch. They even had classy, family-styled napkins, but I didn’t see any for sale.
Here are some of the photos of our delicious lunch including appetizers, and some bubbly to start.
The wines were continuous it seemed and I lost track of what we had somewhere along the way. We did save room for dessert though.
So that will wrap up this post for now. I know it’s a long one, but it was such a fun-filled day touring the Uco Valley. Leo would drive us back, and later we would have dinner in town. I’ll do a separate post on the restaurants we had dinner in. But for now, don’t we look happy?