Hi, wine lover! How are you doing? Very well, I hope. I’m happy; it’s like the tango says, “You always return to your first love.” And now that I feel a little Argentinian myself, I’ve come back to my first love: Mendoza.
The province is so full of attractions, there’s always something you haven’t done yet. This time, I went to visit some wineries in San Rafael, one of the most important tourist destinations in Cuyo and an obligatory stop on the Wine Route. Let me tell you how it went:
Wineries in San Rafael: past, present and future
La Abeja, a winery with history
In San Rafael you don’t even need to leave the city to visit wineries. La Abeja, for example, is set right in the middle of the town center and is one of the region’s pioneers.
Founded in 1883 by the Frenchman Rodolfo Iselín, the estate is a delight to visit, thanks to its long history and exciting present. On the guided tour, you learn about Isélin’s fascinating life and work, which parallels the history of wine in San Rafael.
The winery is open to the public and provides a tour of its facilities. You can also see the founder’s old home, where his descendants still live today.
The Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards are open to visitors and you’ll want to round off the experience with one of their best wines. Anyone wanting to stay on a little longer can enjoy a gourmet deli platter.
So it’s time for my recommendations from La Abeja: in their Original line, they have a wonderful Chenin, a traditional variety in San Rafael, and of the Reservas I especially liked the Tempranillo.
Iaccarini: a living tradition
Another option for sampling wines and wineries in San Rafael is to visit Iaccarini. Founded in 1903 by the Italian winegrower Pascual Iaccarini, the current owners refurbished the winery in 2009 and made it a leading light on the local scene.
Located in the Las Paredes district, it’s divided into three parcels and is sheltered by long lines of poplars.
Although the facilities are modern and sophisticated, there’s also room for the past: there’s a small exhibition about the origins of the wine industry that also features works by local artists.
Iaccarini’s wines are made by Daniel Pomar, a young but very well-respected oenologist.
As well as learning about the winemaking process, you oughtn’t miss the winery’s new wine bar. It’s set up in old, decommissioned vats and offers the winery’s best wines by the glass, accompanied by tapas in a warm, innovative environment.
My recommendations: the Vía Blanca Terroir Series Malbec is crazy good. I also loved the Cavas Don Nicasio Reserva Bonarda, which I’ll be taking home to give my dad as a birthday present.
Bianchi, the giant of San Rafael
No tour of wineries in San Rafael would be complete without a stop at Valentín Bianchi. The family vineyard was founded in 1928 by the Italian of the same name and today, it’s a real giant. Their wines are available in more than 40 countries.
At Bianchi you can do all kinds of things: guided tours, wine tastings and snacks, and walking, bicycle and electric bike tours of the vineyards. You can even pretend to be an oenologist for the day!
Yes: Bianchi allows you make your own wine, an experience that encourages you to experiment and flex your creative muscles.
One of the jewels is the beautiful dome where the tastings are held. Forming a semi-circle around the center, visitors to the winery can hear talks by Bianchi’s oenologists and guides while enjoying some of their best wines.
Of course, I have a few favorites: Particular Merlot is a star of Argentine viticulture, as is the Enzo Bianchi Grand Cru.
The last stop on my tour of wineries in San Rafael was LJ Wines. It’s a family enterprise created by Cecilia Benavídez and Gonzalo Sosa who spent years abroad but now dedicate their lives to viticulture.
A nice detail is that the project was inspired by the couple’s daughter, who is portrayed on the labels flying a kite. The estate is called “La Julia” in her honor.
Here, one finds Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines, and the winemaking is overseen by Fabricio Orlando, an oenologist from San Rafael who has also worked with some of the biggest wineries in the country.
Orlando’s contribution builds on those of Cecilia and Gonzalo. The project isn’t run for profit at the moment but the wines are available for sale.
My recommendations: LJW Scrabble Pinot Noir and LJW Reserva Malbec.
So, that’s my travelogue for today. I hope you enjoyed it and it make you keen to visit San Rafael. See you after my next adventure!