From Cordoba to Mendoza

Sometimes it´s nice to hit a town that isn’t packed with must-see sights.  It means you don’t have to get up early to catch a tour or make it to a museum before siesta starts.  The days have a different kind of pace.

Cordoba is such a town.  With six universities it has a youthful buzz and I had warm, dry weather there that made it seem like a very livable city.

I spent most of my time wandering the streets, enjoying the colonial architecture, checking out the stunning frescoes in the church and eating tasty food.

Leafy pedestrian shopping street

Fresco on the church ceiling

Back of the church

Art students drawing the church

One the many unique pieces of art/sculptures scattered around the city

Yummy sausage sandwich

Mendoza was much more of a surprise.  I thought the home of Malbec would be a little wine village.  But Mendoza is a huge city, with at least three different wine regions located 1-2 hours outside of the city.  This presented a bit of a problem because there were only two options to get to the wineries: an organized tour or a rental car.  There is a bus that goes to one area, but only the main part of town and not the outer areas where there are many wineries.  You can also take the bus to one town and rent a bike to visit all of the wineries, but that is not for me.  I like to enjoy my wine without worrying about road rules!  I am also not a huge fan of large group tours, especially when it involves drinking wine!  Luckily, my temporary travel partners — John-Henry and Mary — were down for a car rental and as JH doesn’t drink, he was happy to be our designated driver!

Fountains run red in Malbec country

Mendoza´s Plaza Independencia

We visited two of the regions: Maipú and Luján de Cayo.

First stop: AltaVista Wines, located outside of the center of Luján.  Everybody says you must make reservations for tastings at wineries in Mendoza and online information supports that.  However, we just rocked up and they had no problem letting us in for a (paid) tasting.  I am not saying you shouldn’t book ahead — but my guess is most places will let you pay them to taste wine.  (If you want a tour of the winery, that may require advanced booking.)  We paid roughly $10 US at this midsize winery to try four of their varieties, including a Bonarda — a type I had never tried before.  The grounds here were lovely, with an English tea-time ambiance and large picnic blankets and pillows strewn about the grass.

AltaVista vineyards with Andes in the backround

Wine tasting at AltaVista

Red-cheeked and a bit tipsy, JH drove Mary and I back to Main Street, where we popped into the boutique winery, Carmelo Patti.  He is both a man and a brand, operating since the 1970s out of his house.  While his grounds have expanded to include machinery and other wine-making objects, our tasting took place in what I think was once his garage.  He has no website and does no advertising.  Originally from Sicily, he moved to Argentina as a boy and today has the look of a charming older Italian gentleman.  Our tasting was filled with laughter and while he let us try all four of his wines for free, we walked away with a bottle of CabSav..

Raising a glass with Carmelo Patti

By now we were quite giggly, but that didn´t stop us from making our lunch appointment at Familia Zuccardi.  This 7-course chef tasting with wine pairing was spectacular and great value at $65 US.  (We did need to make a reservation the day before.)  You can see pictures of each dish HERE.  If you love food and wine, don´t miss this experience.  The food was high-end, delicious and the experience was good fun.

Thankfully, we weren´t hung over the next day so we took a two-hour local bus ride to a hot springs spa.  These were more simple than those I visited in Caldas Novas, Brazil, but they were a relaxing place to spend a few hours.  You can´t really go wrong lounging about in hot, bubbling water while looking at beautiful mountain views!

Hot spring spa

I will be back in Argentina in a few weeks… but first, it´s on to Chile!


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