Saturday, November 22, 2008

The valleys around Maipu

Another night bus brought us to the highly regarded city of Mendoza, in the foothills of the Andes, and famous for being the centre of the Argentinian wine industry. We found cheap digs in the centre and set out to explore the city, including Villanueva, the nightlife area. Mendoza had been hyped to us and we were a bit disappointed in the city itself, Although there were some nice plazas it lacked any of the charm of Barriloche and also Villanueva seemed to be packed with gringo superhostels and fairly uninviting superpubs, also not comparing well with less regarded cities like Salta.

But Mendoza has gorgeous surroundings including the wine valleys around Maipu. It was my birthday and we hired bicycles and set off on a wine tasting tour, closely followed by Staffan and Hans, the Swedish intellectuals. They were soon racing ahead however as we had to return to base following a chain malfunction. Bloodied with oil my bike creaked back into town to be replaced and then, in all the excitement, I muffed the map reading and we missed the first wine tasting. Meanwhile, the Swedes had got lost and also missed the first stop so we went together for the rest of the day on an odyssey of wine, cheese, sun and closed museums. Really, we had hardly tasted any wine as our winery hosts had seemingly failed to grasp the contextual link between sampling and purchase. Thankfully the day was saved when we arrived at the small boutique family winery, Carmelo Patti, as the sun began to set. Our bike rental told us it was a bonus birthday treat – and it was. We had a charming host, awesome wine and witnessed the world's largest guestbook. The wine was a but much for our wallets but Hans saved our faces by stocking up and we invited them to join us for dinner.

We did have an ulterior motive in truth as we had spotted that the free birthday diner in the all-you-can-eat needed to be accompanied by three paying guests. The Swedes and Anna fitted the bill and we gorged in food Disneyland. When we first arrived it transpired that we had a very proactive waiter who immediately plopped a huge sample leg of succulent beef on Anna's empty plate just be way of a taster. I was in heaven.

A wine tasting sans mucho vino

Hold it in

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