02 November 2013

un viaje a mendoza

i spent my second-to-last weekend on a getaway to mendoza, argentina: the heart of argentinian wine country, nestled in the andes mountains. i didn't think i'd make it there before i left, so this felt like a bonus trip - and i loved it. i'm so glad i got to go.

we spent the first day exploring the beautiful, verdant, wide-street city and then on a wine tour that took us to two distinct bodegas plus an olive-oil plantation and a sort of catch-all homemade food shop specializing in oddly-flavored liquors, artisanal dulce de leches and jams, chocolates, olive pâtés, vinegars, and more.

templo del sagrado corazón de jesús.

our lady of good voyage, exactly what i need! :)

walking into plaza españa, famous for its spanish-tiled everything.

with tamar.

i don't think this man could possibly look more typical argentinian.

not quite sure they got that spelling right...

since the city is in a desert area, irrigation canals line the streets.

plaza independencia, the center of the city.

walking along arístides, the most hip street for young people to hang out, especially at night.

tamar (also vegetarian) and i were so excited to find an amazing argentinian vegetarian buffet a block from our hostel. but our friends did a lot of unnecessary moaning and groaning when we ate lunch there on saturday... so tamar and i went back alone for dinner sunday. never pass up a good vegetarian restaurant.

the first bodega was called familia cecchin, a small organic winery that focuses on maintaining environmental balance and natural methods instead of using monoculture and chemicals.

bottles ready to be packed.

old-fashioned machinery seen through the branches of an olive tree, one of many trees and other plants coexisting with the vines.

the wine is aged in these concrete rooms before being bottled or barreled.

malbec is the principal red wine grown in the whole region, but other grapes are grown as well. one, called carménère, was presumed extinct for years before being rediscovered and is now frequently grown in chile and argentina.

i should've bought some honey.

approaching a second winery - this one, vistandes, practices more conventional methods and monoculture.

vistandes, a "technological" bodega according to our guide, felt a lot like it was built (in 2007) specifically as a tourist destination.

the wine at vistandes is aged in these technologically-advanced stainless-steel tanks - completely different from the first winery.

the taps for the second stage of aging. some of the wines then go into oak barrels made of french or american oak. the winery guide tried to tell us that french barrels give flavors of butter, cocoa, and toasted almonds while the american barrels impart notes of cinnamon, vanilla, coffee, and tobacco, among others. really?

maybe i'm just a snob for organic/environmentally friendly/not a tourist trap (i am) but the wines at the first bodega were way better.

next: off to an olive tree plantation and factory (called laur) that makes olive oils, olive pâtés, balsamic vinegars, and many more incredible foods. the factory was opened in 1906, so the oldest trees are about 100 years old.

tamar tries to smell some olive buds. did you know that green and black olives come from the same tree, just the black olives are allowed to mature longer before being picked?

a "museum" detailed the old method of extracting olive oil: time-consuming and labor-intensive but ingenius.

the new method.

old-fashioned canning and labeling machines.

TASTING TIME. we tried several distinct varieties of olive oil, black and green pâtés, balsamic vinegar sundried tomatoes, straight olives, and more. it was delicious

i'm so excited about a couple of goodies/gifts i'm bringing home. ;)))))))

last but not least: the homemade dulce de leche/liquor/chocolate/etc. shop, "a la antigua."

i really like how they called a tasting a "degustación" in spanish. like, you know you'll like it.

we got to try a little bit of everything. i never knew i'd be so stuffed on free samples.

creative dulce de leche flavors included hazelnut, coffee, coconut, chocolate, and whiskey-nut.

on sunday, we took a tour through the andes, including seeing aconcagua, the highest peak outside the himalayas, and puente del inca, a famous but odd half-human, half-natural landmark. i am newly reminded how much i just adore the andes mountains. something about them makes them so special, and i would love to go back to the chilean side soon.

lago potrerillos.

the gang. (ava, andrew, amelie, laura, jessica, tamar, me.)

las estadounidenses.

tiger's favorite pose.

for a time, the mostly desertic landscape suddenly turned dark green, with trees and bushes everywhere. but it soon turned back to scrub as we climbed up into the mountains.

picheuta, a colonial bridge over a small river located in an idyllic valley.

the mountains were really red.

selfie buddie.

none of my wheel poses today were top form, but they add to my photo collection nonetheless. this one was particularly scary, it was quite uneven terrain.

a shrine or memorial.

laura climbed up a massive boulder.

i am silly. i know.

there were beautiful vistas on every turn.

we could almost be in the alps.

stopped at penitentes, a big ski facility during the winter. rows of ski lifts with no snow are an eerie sight; it's hard to imagine what it was like in july.

"it's like they're trying to be a ski lodge in switzerland, but they missed the mark."

such gorgeous views.

a checkpoint since we were on route 7, the road to santiago de chile.

puente del inca village (ok, more like a tourist market masquerading as a village).

the railroad used to be hugely important but is now abandoned.

PUENTE DEL INCA. what a crazy sight. presumably discovered hundreds of years ago by the incas, it's a spot with natural thermal water whose mineral-rich properties caused the drippy orange and green deposits. the building built under the bridge was a thermal spa before it was abandoned along with the early-20th-century hotel, which was destroyed by an earthquake in the '60s or '70s, i believe. now, the spa building has been somewhat reclaimed by the mineral deposits and the sight is a strange mix of natural wonder and human destruction/alteration.

the ruins of the hotel are on the right.

tamar is a dancer! and she indulges my urge for yoga photos everywhere.

i can do so much better... ah.

the natural bridge.

dealing with some crazy wind.

classic argentina: cow skins everywhere.

towards the town.

as with salta, the colors of the mountains were incredible and one of the highlights of the trip was the view out the window.

and as always, the bus ride was beautiful, especially since the four of us on the bus home got all four seats in the front row.

¡que tengan un fin de semana lindo!

x, m

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