The Vines of Mendoza

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Michael Evans is the Founder & CEO of The Vines of Mendoza.

Correspondents' Picks: Mendoza, Argentina: NEWSWEEK


Mendoza, Argentina


By Kate Tedesco


Kate Tedesco has been covering Latin America on various fronts for more

than a decade. She spent a chunk of a recent trip to Argentina

exploring the dynamic wine scene, and its corresponding culinary and

design boom, in the city of Mendoza, which is fast developing an

international reputation as the “New Napa.”

Mendoza is nestled in the shadow of Acongagua, South America’s tallest peak, and

has some of the highest vineyards in the world, so in addition to

tasting world-class wine visitors can also take in some stunning

scenery. The desert-like climate and rocky soil don’t necessarily make

for easy agriculture, but area vineyards are irrigated by a

pre-colonial canal system that channels melting snow from the

surrounding Andes, and the challenging growing conditions contribute to

the depth and complexity of the region’s wines. Malbec, Argentina’s

signature red grape, thrives under Mendoza’s nearly-constant and

highly-concentrated sunshine, but there are also a number of excellent

local Cabernets and Merlots, and some younger vineyards are beginning

to diversify into edgier varietals like Shiraz and Bornada.

Taste: Start with a swing by the Vines of Mendoza, South America’s first regional tasting room (

Its cozy courtyard garden serves as a gathering spot for enthusiasts of

all stripes, and the knowledgeable staff guide visitors through flights

of boutique local labels, many of which are not available abroad (and

all of which can be purchased and shipped back home at minimal cost

through their Acequia Wine Club).

The Vines also serves as a

comprehensive concierge, and will help tailor itineraries and tours—an

important service, since many wineries are located off the beaten path,

about an hour’s drive outside the city, and require reservations in

advance. O Fournier (

is a bit of a trek, but worth it for the winery’s sleek, almost

space-age design, offset by a sweeping snow-capped backdrop. The

post-modern theme continues inside as automatic sliding doors

dramatically beckon visitors to enter the cavernous, steel-beamed wine

cellar, which also doubles as a contemporary art gallery. A tasting at La Azul (

is by no means grand, but at this informal boutique winery—which

handpicks just a fraction of each year’s harvest to produce extremely

small quantities of extremely fine wine—straight-from-the-barrel never

tasted so good. Achaval-Ferrer (

is a newer winery, passionately helmed by a former national business

executive and Stanford MBA, who has in just a decade already unveiled

two of the world’s highest rated Malbecs. And for a truly authentic

tasting experience, go straight to the suburban home of Carmelo Patti

(0261-498-1379). A modern Mendoza legend, for more than three decades

Patti has been producing top-quality Cabernet and Espumante (sparkling

wine) with antiquated equipment, directly from his family’s garage.

Eating: Many wineries offer formal four-course lunch pairings in rather spectacular settings, like the sun-soaked dining room at Bodega Septima (, or the lush garden café at Ruca Malen ( Almacen del Sur (

does not make wine, but this renowned lunch spot on a family farm also

functions as an artisanal delicatessen, and produces instead its own

line of gourmet spreads, chutneys and jams.

Dinner in Mendoza

often doesn’t get underway until after 10:00 pm, so if your stomach has

not adjusted to local time, stop by the outdoor cafe next to the retail

chain Winery (

for an early evening snack of tapas with a glass of espumante. But when

the dinner hour arrives, don’t be afraid to stray from steak and try

some other dishes made with locally-raised meat, especially traditional

specialties like Chivito (young goat). At Azafrán (,

diners can visit the restaurant’s on-site wine cellar to select their

own bottles to pair with some of the city’s most creative contemporary

cuisine, like a succulent pork tenderloin glazed with pomegranate

sauce. La Sal (

offers a more intimate, artsy setting, with a seasonal menu and live

music. But if you insist on beef and nothing but, locals swear by Don Mario ( as having the best cut in town, and the menu more than trumps the restaurant’s modest décor.


The center of Mendoza is easily navigable on foot, and the best time to

be seen in its parks and plazas is right before sunset, when the city

begins to come alive after a long afternoon siesta. The Plaza Espana is especially beautiful for its intricate tile work, and the public gardens in the Parque San Martin are impressively lush considering the city’s dry air. A walk down Avenida Sarmiento presents a number of shopping distractions. Sol & Vino

(Sarmiento 664) carries a fine assortment of quality leather products,

gaucho-inspired gear and Asado carving knives: but if you buy one, just

make sure not to store it in your carry-on. And if you eventually tire

of wine, peruse the bars along Calle Aristides Villanueva for viable beverage alternatives. Antares (

specializes in microbrews and—despite the long-standing national

rivalry with neighboring Chile—any bartender worth his salt working

along the block can still whip up a fine Pisco Sour.

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