I had reached that absolute state of euphoria. One of two times I can remember. When everything else falls by the wayside in a rush of buena onda, what the Argentines call ‘good vibes.’
I was biking the dirt roads of Mendoza’s wine country. Malbec pulsing through my veins as I breathed the fresh Andes air. I reach for another croissant stashed in my bike’s basket. Trying to balance the bike with map in hand I search for the next bodega(winery) circled on my list.
The promise land. Where water is turned to wine as it is cheaper than water. A gift of communication through gatherings, asado and storytelling.
It’s roots reaching back to the 1500’s, Mendoza lies at the foothills of the Andes mountains. Thus a perfect blend of beauty, adventure and culture.
It’s 8am and I pull into the bus station of Mendoza after my twenty-plus hour ride from Patagonia. Hostel Mora, I found just a few streets away offers asados(Argentine BBQ), free tango, Spanish class and most importantly, wine. Done.
I drop off my backpack and immediately head out to the Maipu region. Vineyards seemingly endless to the snow-capped Andes. Learning of the different varietals Mendoza had to offer, I tasted my way through several different bodegas.
One of which (VistAndes) offerers the only Carmenere in all the region which happened to fall into the top 5 in the world of its kind.
Afternoon rolls around and the Argentines begin to disappear for siesta hours. I’m craving something to pair with all the wine and I find a riding tour that leaves from an estancia just outside the city, followed by asado. Perfect.
We take off around 4 in the afternoon from the estancia(ranch). One of the gauchos is already lighting the fire for the asado. Just minutes later and we’re blasting across the rolling hills heading for the mountains. Butch Cassidy just might show up.
I try to manage the galloping horse all the while trying to take a few scenic snapshots.
We follow our noses, and just as the stars begin to flicker, we return to the estancia. In a small tack shed, the dirt floor slants into a pile of hay. We’re fed steak, after steak, after steak. Nothing but the sound of a few guitar strings and the rumble of the earth as the horses are released to pasture. And then of course there’s the bottles of wine- endless. Riding a horse is one thing, trying to drink wine as the gauchos do and stay upright on a slanted floor is another. I hold on tight to my tipping chair. It’s time to go.
I wake up the next morning ready to do it all over again. This time I head to a smaller community inside of Mendoza called Chacras de Coria.
There I catch up with a few others from the hostel and we hire bikes for the day to tour the bodegas.
Riding through the vineyards we visit a small olive oil factory and I break off the group to visit one of the bodegas on my personal list.
I ride up to the gate of Kaiken only to be met with a guard, large gun strapped to chest asking what business I had there.
Trying to speak in my gringa Spanish I babble on about vino long enough for him to make a few phone calls to inside. A few minutes later and just like that, I’m met with a lady who gives me a personal tour of the vineyard and tasting.
Walking through the vineyards she shows me the organic system of growing wine starting from the ground up. They have sheep, chickens, different vine/root systems and even wait on the stars to tell them when to fertilize and when to harvest the vines.
Mendoza is truly special in culture and beauty while it’s wine embodies that of the Argentine’s dedication and love for it.
Another twenty hours on a bus and I’m back in Patagonia, where the tierra is drunk with bursts of red and the soft dust of snow atop the peaks. The wood stoves are cranked, books are pulled from the dusty shelf and I can’t think of anything better to accompany it with than a glass of vino.