What better way to end a 2+ week trip to South America than visiting the vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina??? As much as I was excited to go to Patagonia, I was also really looking forward to enjoying the gastronomical forces of Mendoza.
How to Get to Mendoza, Argentina
From NYC? Super easy! Fly direct to Buenos Aires (EZE) and then book another flight to Mendoza from the domestic airport (AEP). The flight between Buenos Aires and Mendoza is about three hours or less.
From Patagonia? Do a ton a of research! We really had to coordinate this carefully as there are not that many flights out of El Calafate. In addition, within Argentina, many flights require a stop in Buenos Aires before venturing onto another city, even if the city is not in the same direction as BA. Quite annoying but I think it’s just the way their infrastructure is. At the beginning of planning our trip for November back in June, I remember seeing a LATAM flight at around 4 pm on a Saturday leaving from El Calafate to BA, and then to Mendoza. A few days later, that flight completely disappeared!! And never returned (I checked again as our trip got closer). So we ended up booking with Aerolineas Argentina again, which was really great and on time throughout our trip. Since we knew we were going to be in El Chalten a few days, we needed to plan our trip to Mendoza carefully. We ended up booking a 2:15 pm Saturday flight out of El Calafate to Buenos Aires EZE, arriving at 5:10 pm. We then had to transfer to the AEP airport and then catch an 8:20 pm flight from AEP to Mendoza, getting in close to 11 pm. We had no other choice because there were NO flights that we could book from El Calafate to Mendoza (via BA) on Sunday, the next day. Initially we were going to try to do two full days (Thurs + Fri) in El Chalten, then leave super early in the morning to go to Perito Moreno glacier and then get dropped off at the airport by 12:30 pm. However, we ended up going to the glacier on Friday and then taking our time to get to the airport on Saturday. I’m glad we ended up doing this as we wanted to enjoy visiting the glacier and not feel rushed. In addition, getting from EZE to AEP was smoother this time around as there was no rush hour traffic when we left EZE at 5:30 pm. We made it to the airport just after 6, with time to grab dinner and check in.
Where to Stay in Mendoza
There are three main areas people generally stay in Mendoza:
Mendoza City Center - you can stay here and take buses or hire a driver to take you around to the vineyards
Lujan de Cuyo - This area is just about 20 minutes from the city with many vineyards concentrated around here
Valle de Uco - This area is about an hour away from the city with a ton of newer vineyards and I recommend staying out here to be closer to the Andes Mountains and hire a private driver!
On our first night, we stayed at the Sheraton Hotel in Mendoza since we were there really just to sleep. After days of backpacking/roughing it a bit, it was nice to stay in a true hotel! The Sheraton is the tallest building in the city with a 360 degree view of the city from its restaurant.
The rest of the time we stayed at Postales Valle de Uco, a small, intimate boutique hotel which helped us organize our taxi driver and vineyard visits.
A very important thing to know when planning Mendoza is to do your research on which places you want to hit up! I didn’t know this until a few weeks before we left but most of the vineyards are either closed on Sunday or Monday, and we were there from Sunday to Wednesday! Luckily I was still able to organize a decent itinerary but it was a bit stressful trying to coordinate it all. You should also double check/request the tours are given in English, if you want to do a tour in addition to the tasting. I believe that Valle de Uco tends to be closed on Mondays while Lujan de Cuyo tends to be closed on Sundays. Not all vineyards are closed on these days, but most seem to be when I was checking. And just because something is stated on a website doesn’t mean it’s true, so always call or email yourself to ask (Bodega Andeluna and your Sunday sunset wine tastings, I’m looking at you).
Valle de Uco is a newer wine region, having being discovered and built upon 15-20 years ago and many more continue to be built today. Most are foreign investors from Europe but they’re all different and each vineyard also has unique architecture/history to it.
Bodegas means a wine a shop or a cellar, not just your local NYC small grocery store! The suggestion is to visit only 3 vineyards a day, and go out to a dinner at night. Definitely make a reservation a month or two before you go, especially if you’re staying on a weekend. Sometimes a credit card was necessary to hold a meal reservation but not always. Our Mendoza itinerary was as follows:
Lunch at Bodega Lagarde in Lujan de Cuyo
Transfer to Postales Valle de Uco hotel from Sheraton Hotel
Dinner at Alpasion in Valle de Uco
Morning visit to Bodega Monteviejo in Valle de Uco
Lunch at O. Fourniers in Valle de Uco
Pool time at Postales and dinner at the hotel
Morning visit to Bodega La Azul in Valle de Uco
Lunch at Bodega Andeluna in Valle de Uco
Afternoon visit to Bodega DiamAndes in Valle de Uco
Dinner at the Vines Resort in Valle de Uco
Morning visit to Bodega Dominio del Plata in Lujan de Cuyo (also known as Susana Balbo)
Extra visit to Carmelo Patti in Lujan de Cuyo [Note: we did NOT have rsvps here—we called up that morning last minute to see if we could swing by and he squeezed us in! Tastings are free; this guy basically makes wine out of his home and loves to share it]
Head to airport for 3:30 pm flight back to Buenos Aires
I had made a rsvp at Bodega Melipal but I got my dates mixed up! So didn’t get to go but that was a place I wanted to try as well. I made a back up rsvp for lunch at Bodega Norton in Lujan de Cuyo but we were so full from eating basically the same menu every day we ended up skipping this on Wednesday.
Of all the vineyards we visited, these were my favorites, ranked:
Best All Around Vineyard: Bodega Lagarde
This was our first vineyard that we visited and coincidentally the most we bought wine to take home from. The grounds here are beautiful, the food was fresh and delicious, and the wines were fantastically drinkable. I bought three different wines from here, and they also had some deals going on which we took advantage of (like if you buy 4 bottles you get another for free, so we split up the deal). I would say most of the vineyards we visited, we can’t buy the wine here in the USA which is why we made sure to buy our favorites. I was worried if I bought too much right away I wouldn’t have room in my luggage but the wines from this bodega were my favorite of the trip. Lunch with wine pairings came out to about 2325 pesos per person (I think one of us had a premium tasting which we shared).
Best Lunch: Bodega Andeluna
Although the food at Bodega Lagarde was good, the lunch at Bodega Andeluna was even better! The salad tasted like it fell from spring and the steak was perfectly cooked at medium rare. The restaurant and vineyard is also gorgeous, but I like the intimate feeling of Lagarde (the servers were generous with their pours!) as a best all-around. Andeluna is tops for their menu though, which also included a fresh fish and other items. Lunch with wine pairing was 1675 pesos per person.
Best Architecture: O.Fourniers
I didn’t get a picture of it but I loved the buildings at O.Fourniers. They look like spaceships set amongst the Andes Mountains. The restaurant we ate at here was also nice and worth visiting, sitting atop a man-made pond.
Best Part of a Conglomerate: Bodega Monteviejo
Bodega Monteviejo is a grand winery, one of the most popular ones from the Clos de Siete group, which owns 6 vineyards around Valle de Uco. Bodega DiamAndes is also part of this group and though the vineyard was grand and fancy, I didn’t enjoy the wines as much. DiamAndes wines seemed heavier, more full-bodied which I’m not a fan of. Monteviejo had a few nice wines and I still regret not buying a inky Malbec we tried.
Best Boutique Vineyard: Bodega La Azul
Bodega La Azul is the only Argentinian/locally-run winery in Valle de Uco. The family has owned the land for years and it was started by a female. We sat in the shade as we listened to the history of this beautiful place. I read that the food here is also great but their reservations for lunch were full so we only got to do a tour. Very intimate and you can also buy jarred fruit/garlic (garlic is plentiful in this region). Bodega Dominio del Plata is also run by a woman and was a nice visit as well, though it’s not small by any means! It’s the total opposite and Susana Balbo is well-known internationally for her wines.
Best Dinner: The Vines Resort and Spa
If I had the money I would definitely stay here next time! This resort is gorgeous and looks like a Caribbean hotel that was plopped down in the middle of the Andes Mountains. We wanted to use the spa here but it’s reserved for guests only. However, you can come for dinner which I highly recommend! The chef is well celebrated and this was the best meal of our Mendoza trip. They don’t have their own wine as some hotels might so we ordered a bottle of Solo Contigo, which is another local wine and after trying it I wish we had known about this vineyard as I loved it and would have loved to take a bottle home! The menu here has a lot of steak options and I had the grilled wagyu-styled steak which was excellent.
You haven’t had Malbec unless you have it in Argentina!!! Highly recommend a trip out to Mendoza, especially if you have a penchant for gastronomy and art.
Getting Around Mendoza
Our hotel hooked us up with a local driver who lives in the Valle de Uco region. He doesn’t have an online presence but was super reliable at affordable prices (if you’re in a group). He charged us about 3000 pesos a day if we visited 3 vineyards (they wait for you while you’re there) and 2000 pesos if we went out to a nearby dinner in the area. Almost every vineyard took us btwn 20-40 minutes to get tp (on avg. it was mostly 30 min). and we paid cash for all our taxi rides. He also charged us 3500 pesos to pick us up from the Sheraton to get to Valle de Uco and on the way back, it was 4500 pesos because we also went to a couple of vineyards and then to the airport. At the time of our visit the exchange rate was $1 USD = 35 pesos. He was reliable and we were never late to get to anywhere.
If interested in using him please feel free to contact me at [girlfromny] at gmail and I’m happy to share his info!