My wife Jill and I visited Mendoza last month to evaluate the Private Vineyard Estate offer by The Vines of Argentina. During the planning phase of our trip, we assembled an itinerary for our visit with the assistance of Jimena TogniÃ³n from The Vines. Jimena made the entire process very easy, by recommending everything from restaurants to wineries, making sure we got a good 'taste' for Mendoza during our visit. This was critical, as we had only two days and two nights to get to know the area.
Our trip from California was uneventful, with a short stopover in Buenos Aires, allowing us just enough time to walk along the coast outside the airport and stretch our legs.
Upon our arrival in Mendoza, we were greeted at the airport by Jimena, who drove us to the Hyatt. From the moment we met her, Jimena was delightful company, and extremely professional in every respect... and her English is impeccable!
The Hyatt Mendoza is a world class hotel, and could hold its own against any 5-star hotel in New York City. Its location was ideal for our purposes, as it is situated less than a block from The Vines' tasting room, in an area that includes numerous restaurants within walking distance.
After arriving at the Hyatt and getting cleaned up, we had just enough time to relax a bit before walking to The Vines' tasting room for a sampling of local varieties before dinner. The tasting room appears to be the only establishment of its type in all of Mendoza. Its interior is very pleasant and tastefully appointed, with a courteous and professional staff that make you feel immediately at home. All of the staff speak excellent English. There is also a 'VIP room' on the premises, which is apparently reserved for meetings with potential investors and PVE buyers/owners. A brief tour of the facility was followed by a tasting of some wonderful premium local wines, in the relaxing ambience of the VIP room.
We then met almost the entire Vines management team for dinner at a local restaurant. It was in this relaxed, informal atmosphere, that we got our chance to make our first 'gut-level' evaluation of the management. I am happy to say, the team is composed of very enthusiastic, intelligent people, all of whom seem genuinely excited about this new business venture. They are optimistic about future prospects, while maintaining a healthy and realistic understanding of the challenges ahead. Overall, our impression of the management team is that they are smart, competent, and flexible - all necessary qualities for managing a startup venture.
The next morning, Jimena drove us out to the PVE site in the Valle de Ucco, where we were met by Pablo Gimenez and a small group from The Vines. At the site, we toured the property on horseback, prior to a delicious barbeque, or "asado, prepared by Pablo.
In addition to the fact that the Valle de Ucco is high desert, the season was the end of winter, so the foliage in the area was extremely barren (this includes the local vineyards, as the vines were bare and leafless). However, with the tremendous awe-inspiring view of the towering, snow-covered Andes mountain range, one can imagine how much more beautiful the area is in the spring.
The next day, we again got an early start, and set out on our tour of local wineries. Since we chose not to rent a car during our trip, Jimena arranged for a private car and driver for the day. Jimena also accompanied us on this tour, and again impressed us with her professionalism and charm.
The day before, we had stopped by the Salentein winery while driving to the PVE site, and now we spent the day touring several other wineries and tasting rooms, including Achaval Ferrer, Carlos Pulenta, and El Lagar de Carmelo Patti. The various wineries ranged from 'traditional' (Camelo Pati), to modern and luxurious (Carlos Pulenta), to what I can only describe as 'modern gothic' (Salentein) in its scale and ambience.
In addition to providing a great experience of the local wines (which are fantastic) and a feeling for the local geography, the winery tour also helped us to form a subjective evaluation of the local sentiments as they relate to our venture. There seems to be a clear trend toward producing premium wines in Mendoza, and there seems to be general agreement that the Valle de Ucco is the best place to grow premium grapes in the area. Also, there has clearly been a recent infusion of capital into the area, by large, well-funded wineries.
That evening, we again had dinner with the good people from The Vines, prior to saying our 'good-byes' and flying to Buenos Aires the next morning.
The trip was too short to be relaxing, but thanks to our hosts, we were able to form a good impression of the local area and The Vines' management. Overall, our impressions were overwhelmingly positive.
We hope to spend more time on our next visit.