Malbec is Argentina’s signature grape. Nowhere else in the world does malbec rise to such heights of quality and richness as it does here. Our fun-loving group of wine enthusiasts based ourselves at the Cavas Wine Lodge in the Lujan de Cuyo wine region of Mendoza, where the majority of the country’s top wines are produced in the high-altitude desert-like conditions surrounded by the majestic Andes mountains.
The region of Lujan de Cuyo is known as the First Zone because it was the first place where Malbec was planted in Mendoza. The wines coming from this area are acknowledged to be among the best in the country. The altitude ranges from 2600 to 3100 feet and the average temperature range is 45-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Arriving to the delightful Cavas Wine Lodge, A Relais & Chateau property –
Of all the Wine Routes in the world- the one that runs through Mendoza is one of the most charming- due to the beauty of the landscape and the quality and variety of the vineyards. At the foot of the Andes- A beautiful 18 room property in the middle of a 55-acre vineyard- Cecilia Diaz Chuit and Martin Rigal have created a splendid hotel built in a Spanish colonial style and devoted to the joys of wine. The Arabian feel of the patios- the burgundy colored cushions- paintings and pottery throughout the rooms and spa are a constant reminder of what the place is all about. Chardonnay- Sauvignon- Torrontes- Malbec- Bonarda-Tempranillo and other exceptional wines grace the hotels cellar. Cheers!
The Lobby –
The Grounds –
The Spa –
The Villas –
And those Views ! –
The first evening we started with wine tasting at a famous winery right in the middle of the city of Mendoza, Caro – Bodegas CARO.
The partnership between Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and the Catena family was born in 1999 with a plan to produce a single wine that would combine French and Argentine cultures and the two signature grapes of each producer, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Catena family has produced wine for three generations. Consequently, it was able to draw on its vast knowledge of the high altitude terroirs of the Mendoza region as well as its passion for Malbec to find the best vineyards. DBR (Lafite) contributed its centuries-old skills in growing, vinifying and ageing great Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as its know-how in blending different grape varieties to produce one wine that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Dinner with Argentina’s most famous chef, Francis Mallmann’s 1884 exceeded our expectations! If you don’t know who Francis Mallmann is, here is a great article to wet your appetite until you get a chance to watch the Netflix Chef episode about him.
In sum and oversimplifying his complicated cooking, It is all about meat and the many ways to cook on open fire.
Dinner was spectacular and for someone who would not waste a night out on a steak dinner, this was by far the best meat I have ever had anytime, anywhere and the steaks of Argentina are very much meant to be eaten with wine and we did!
I polished nearly every bite of this exquisite Wagu beef and fried potatoes. Heaven on a plate.
Cycling the beautiful foothills of the Andes and the Uco Valley were a great way to soak in the terroir of the region!
We spent the next day exploring the Uco Valley: This is an up-and-coming wine region, located one hour south of Mendoza. The landscape of this area is impressive, with glaciers and year-round snow overlooking the adjacent river and the vineyards. The altitude ranges from 3200 to 5200 feet and the average temperature range is 45 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Salentein is the pioneer bodega in the Uco Valley, well known for it three grape growing areas at altitudes ranging between 3500 and 5200 feet.
Its iconic wine is Salentein Gran Valle de Uco Blend, a Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon mixture that reflects the essence of Uco Valley’s terroir.
The Cathedral is a dramatic subterranean cellar –
Off on the bikes again to lunch –
Andeluna Cellars, located on 200 acres of mountain vineyards at the foothills of the Andes, is where we gathered for a six-course lunch paired with wine. At Andeluna the chef purposely create each course to perfectly compliment the wine. The wine is the reason for the menu and it is spectacular to see how perfectly each bite compliments the sip! A beautiful meal and stunning afternoon!
The beautiful menu –
And the lunch –
Perfect weather – Mendoza enjoys a dry and sunny climate most of the year with warm days and cool nights.
Last stop for the day was to my other favorite property in Mendoza and a pioneering project in the Uco Valley called the Vines of Mendoza.
You can even play winemaker by purchasing a plot of land on-site whose cultivation is overseen by the resort’s agronomist. Two of our travel companions got to see the vineyard plots owned by their friends as we visited with the winemaker and agronomist at the Vines while tasting his Recuerdo wine.
The entire team here could not have been more genuine and welcoming. One feels very much at home!
The Vines Resort & Spa has Francis Mallmanns Siete Fuegos restaurant that we got to visit while testing some meat preparations for the evening dinner –
The Vines Resort and Spa – The perfect blend of rustic elegance and modern comfort, the resort features spacious private Villas, a luxurious Spa, world-class service, and breathtaking views of the Andes at every turn. A few of the villas that we visited –
What a wonderful day out and a lovely surprise welcome back to Cavas Wine Lodge was waiting for our group – champagne and charcuterie!
Heading out for our last day of exploring Mendoza started with a stop at our “namesake” winery for a picture! LaMadrid is actually quite a good producer and there will definitely be some of this in our cellar soon! How could we resist?
The next stop on our tour was to visit a fascinating husband and wife team of artists.
Miguel and Laura have established themselves in Dorrego, an area where artists (painters, sculptures and craftsman) moved to create a bohemian town. Here many of the artists took advantage of the big dimensions of the old abandoned houses and bought them for restoration. Influenced by his carpenter father, Miguel started working with wood as a small child. He collected wood to make his own toys and then as a teenager turned his attention to furniture design. While Miguel’s craft is based on strength, Laura’s art is based on delicacy. She works with paper, almost as if she is embroidering. Laura has been the director of the Municipal Modern Art Museum in Mendoza for years and with this support, has created a style that is unique from other artists
Alejandro Vigil is without a doubt the winemaker who has obtained the most recognition in all South American with wines that have received 100 points by Parker! This young and innovated winemaker has position himself as one of the best in the world. Head winemaker for the Catena Zapata group, Vigil started his own wine line, El Enemigo, and built his beautiful boutique winery in a new area: Chachingo. The winery is somehow labyrinthic and inspired in La Divina Comedia, with areas named after the book: Paradise, Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. An entire cow on the spit and even a craft brewery create a lively and unpretentious setting to enjoy these fantastic wines!
The most fun was our wine blending competition at Casa El Enemigo Vigil where we were divided into two groups and were provided five different different wines ( Malbec, Cabernet, Syrah, Petit Verdo and Merlot). The sommeliers chose the winner!
The competition was taken very seriously – no competitive people in this bunch – somehow Casa Wilde won! 🙂
Gotta love an entire cow cooking on the spit at El Enemigo –
Touring the cellar and bizarre and unique art collection –
Virgils only white wine is a stunner!
What an outstanding lunch starting with an Empanada to die for!!
Mas Vino!! Yes, we all shipped home the 100 point Robert Parker rated –
El Enemigo Gran Enemigo Gualtallary Single Vineyard 2013
Clearly a magical day for all!! Can you say PERFECTO?
Thank goodness Mendoza takes its emergency services seriously!
I truly adore these people!! Best wine crew ever!!!! Mas Vino, por favor!!