Hi, wine lovers! I’m living the dream. Every new installment of my travel diary represents an upgrade. And it just keeps getting better! Each day is a new thrill. Mendoza has adopted me and I love it. Today, I’ll going to tell you about my visits to a few wineries in Tupungato.
First, though, I have to admit that I’m not yet a fan of mate but the girls are so enthusiastic about it (they drink it all the time) that I feel like I’m missing out. Every now and again I ask to try it, hoping to develop a taste for the brew.
I’ve tried different versions; with aromatic herbs, sugar (which a lot of people regard as sacrilege), and orange peel. I quite like it when it’s organic with mint (dried from the garden in the inn where I’ve been staying for the past few weeks), and chamomile; it tastes smoother that way.
In other news, I’m known as “la Nicky” around here. In Mendoza, they often add the prefix of el or la to people’s names. When I asked my friends about it, they though it was funny and started calling me La Nicky, so I guess that’s who I am now!
As you’ll have gathered, a few days ago, I went on a trip with Sole, Juli’s sister, who’s a photographer and had a shoot at a winery restaurant. We went on a tour of the wineries in Tupungato, a department in the province that, together with San Carlos and Tunuyán, makes up the Uco Valley, one of the most abundant and varied wine regions in the world.
Ever since wine came into my life, I’ve heard and said the names a thousand times, but I never really realized how awe-inspiring and moving this landscape could be. The journey has definitely been something I can cross off my bucket list.
Wineries in Tupungato, not far from the city of Mendoza
While Sole was working, I went on visits and did tastings. Two days of lovely food, wine, endless conversations and pajama parties in new hotels. And it was all just an hour and half from the city. Let me tell you more about my tour of the wineries in Tupungato:
The first stop on my tour of the wineries in Tupungato was Atamisque, a winery that sits at the gateway to the Uco Valley. My friend was driving and she told me that there were two ways to get there: one, along the legendary Ruta 40 – the longest of the country, which runs all along the Andes – and Ruta Provincial 86, also known as the Camino de los Cerrillos. She chose the latter because of the hilly landscape and because it would take us past the Cristo Rey of the Tupungato Valley.
The winery is lovely and has a hotel, spa and restaurant, which we promised ourselves we’d visit next time. This time, we had a guided tour and tasting, a wonderful introduction to the wines of Phillipe Caraguel. These are wines that the guy in my favorite wine store in Brooklyn, Alex, describes as classic. I recommend trying Atamisque Assemblage, a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in a Bordeaux style, while another good one is Serbal Pinot Noir, which might well surprise Burgundy lovers.
At lunch time, we decided to sit at a table with a view of the Cordón del Plata (Silver Range). Sitting in front of the snow-capped peaks, I really understood their motto “We are mountain wines”: the idea is to capture the landscape in its purest state with all its winds and sand and clay soils in every glass. I tried four different wines, one with each course.
They say that the selection showcases the best of the winery. I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of Pasionado Cabernet Franc, because I hear that the oenologist there is the king of Cabernet Franc in Mendoza. After our meal, we sat back with a last glass of wine on the grassy slopes above the vineyard to chat and enjoy the afternoon sun.
We ended our tour at a winery close by Andeluna, where we decided to spend the night. We stayed at the Gaia Lodge, a brand new hotel with a terrace overlooking the Andes and a vineyard owned by Bodega Domaine Bousquet, who pioneered organic wines in Argentina. I couldn’t decide which I liked best: the morning when the sun shines down on the mountains and makes the snowy peaks and slopes sparkle, or the evening, when it dips down behind the peaks.
At Domaine Bousquet we spoke to Adrián Baggio, the head chef, who’s a local and knows all the produce to be had around there like the back of his hand. He took us on a tour of the vegetable garden, which wasn’t looking its best in winter but in summer is bursting with color and flavor.
We helped him to harvest some seasonal salad and in the evening enjoyed his creations at the Chef’s Table, the wine lodge’s new concept; an innovative way to try different wines with lovely food. I loved his peanut soup and gnocchi served with potato skins (delicious) and was surprised by the beef fillet with salt and foie gras inspired by the French heritage of the winery owners. To accompany it, we drank a 2010 Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec, which was excellent.
The next day, we met up with a couple of friends for lunch at the winery restaurant (Gaia Restaurante) and we all went back to the city together. Adrián prepared a menu of local delicacies: I loved his version of empanadas with rosemary-smoked osso-buco filling, which we enjoyed with a 2018 Gaia Cabernet Sauvignon.
I absolutely loved our trip and I promise that I’ll go on exploring the valley to offer you tips for your own journey. Let me know if you have any to share about wineries in Tupungato!
See you at the next uncorking!