I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! I’m writing to you for the first time from the South American summer. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting my dream to come true so quickly but here I am happily determined to savor every moment.
A couple of posts ago, I told you about the National Harvest Festival in Mendoza and how I was nuts about the celebration, watching every YouTube video of it I could find.
Well, you know how it is when you google stuff, information comes flooding out like a geyser. And then of course ads for flights to Argentina started popping up on screen. So one day I asked myself, why not do some tourism in Mendoza?
Something that in my mind was just a remote dream started to gnaw away at me so much that it suddenly didn’t seem so remote at all. I decided to treat myself and stretch out my spring break a little. I knew that the time was right.
Tourism in Mendoza: the beginning of my Argentine adventure
A week ago, I took a direct flight from New York to Buenos Aires. I made my first friends in the queue to check in at JFK: Julieta and Tomás, a couple from Mendoza coming back from their first visit to NYC.
They got very excited about my viticultural adventure (which is what they called my visit to Mendoza). We chatted a long time before boarding, they were raving about the snow, the MET, pretzels and Max Brenner hot chocolate – I told them that they needed to go back to try Jacques Torres version – and I shared how excited I was about Malbec, mountains and the fact my trip just happened to coincide with the harvest.
They gave me a lot of very useful tips – to always wear a hat, sun block, comfortable walking shoes and mosquito repellant – and promised to take me on a tour. I was sorry when we split up: they were spending the night in Buenos Aires and I had a connecting flight to Mendoza that day.
I don’t have much to say yet about Buenos Aires, I only saw the city through the window of the bus that took me from Ezeiza Airport to Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, where my flight to Mendoza was waiting for me. I did set aside a few nights to tour the capital at the end of my trip but for the moment I just wanted to get to my destination.
I fell in love with the place from the moment I landed: the mountains right in front of you, the blue, cloudless sky, and a fierce midday sun. But it’s a dry heat, not like in New York. Hot but invigorating.
On my first day as a tourist in Mendoza, I went for a walk around my hotel, within a few steps I’d already identified a couple of distinguishing features: the trees, lots of big leafy ones that line the streets, forming green, shady tunnels, and the irrigation channels that run between the street and the sidewalk.
I sat down in Santa, a restaurant with a small market and outdoor tables from where you can see the lilac profile of the Andes. They serve local cuisine and wine by the glass. I think that was when my soul really felt at home in this hemisphere and to celebrate I toasted with L’Argentin de Malartic Rosé de Diamandes – they say it’s a huge winery, I’ll have to visit – and so I was welcomed to the country.
Something else I noticed right away is how hospitable everyone is. Juli and Tomi call the locals Amigueros. As soon as they got off the plane, they wrote to me promising to take me to see amazing places and on road trips through the hills and wineries organizing delicious meals with their friends and family and chatting for hours afterward in their garden at home, glass in hand of course.
We made a list of must-visit wineries – they recommended a lot of the same places as Alex! – but the five of us (including Sole and Valen, Juli’s sisters), are only going to make it to two. Fortunately, I’d already made a bunch of reservations back in the USA to visit on my own.
Tomi is organizing an asado barbecue in my honor and I don’t want to miss out on seeing how he cooks the vegetables so I can pick up some tips. The guests will include an agricultural engineer friend of his who works at a winery and a sommelier. Wow, for them it’s completely normal to hang out with the kind of professionals I’m in awe of.
I’ll tell you more later, don’t worry, I promise to keep you up to date with all my visits. ¡Cheers!