Grape Time had by All

Our first few nights in Mendoza were spent at the rather unpleasant Damajuana Hostel, a nominee for the worst night’s sleep so far. It was worthy of a rather stinging review on Trip Advisor – Damajuana Hostel.

Things improved immeasurably though when we met up with Lucy’s family at Cavas Wine Lodge, a boutique hotel nestled amongst the vines with an uninterrupted view of the Andes. The aid package from the UK, including Colman’s mustard and Cadbury’s chocolate, was also very well received! We spent an incredibly enjoyable week sampling some of the wares of the 1,500 different vineyards in Mendoza. Tough gig.

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The vineyards we visited were; Bessia, Ojo de Vino, Catena Zapata, Trapiche, CarinAE, Archaval Ferrer and Tapiz. These were the ones that stood out –

Catena Zapata – Self-styled as Mendoza’s most well-established and exclusive vineyard, Catena does produce some delicious, but not inexpensive, wines. We suspect they deliberately make it extremely difficult to get a reservation to reinforce the brand’s exclusivity, and it is only thanks to Lisa and her perseverance that we managed to get one. The winery was designed to resemble an Mayan pyramid, in order to clearly articulate the Latin American origin of the wines, and to differentiate them from those of their European competitors. The result resembles somewhere a dictator may enjoy living. Inexplicably our guide started to sing at one point as a ‘gift’ to us. Loco.

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Achaval Ferrer – According to Robert Parker, an american lawyer turned doyen of wine tasting, this vineyard produces some of the highest quality wines in the world. He rates wines out 100 points and some of the wines produced here score 99. Up to 85% of the grapes are cut from the vines, a few months prior to harvesting, and used as fertilizer for the plants to maximise the quality of the wine. A fascinating approach and, if the amount of wine we bought from this vineyard was anything to go by, Achaval Ferrer was definitely our favourite.

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Ojo de Vino – This is a small vineyard, which produces organic wines and benefits from breathtaking views of the Andes. The labels are inspired by traditional polo team kit, with each grape variety being represented by a different colour. These wines were/ are top drawer. So much so, they are a strong contender for our wedding wine.

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Trapiche – This is one of the largest vineyards in Mendoza by volume of wine produced. They recently bought, and faithfully restored, a early 20th century building to house the production of their premium wines. They have done a great job on the building, and the wine wasn’t bad either.

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In addition to the wine tasting, and in line with Lucy’s dad’s mantra that ‘every meal is a celebration’, we dined out at some remarkable restaurants whilst in Mendoza. In the interest of science, and to amuse ourselves whilst we lounged by the pool, we scored each restaurant. Suffice to say the best food and wine (a top drop by the name of Caro) ever consumed by mankind was done so at ‘1884’; a joint venture by Catena and Rothschild families. On the off chance anybody is planning a visit to Mendoza see our score sheet below –

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We also spent a very enjoyable day on the Pan-American highway, driving high into the mountains to visit Volcan Aconcagua, which at 6,961m is by some distance the largest mountain outside of the Himalayas (and one of the ‘Seven Summits’). We also visited the very unusual Puerte del Inca; a natural rock bridge formed by minerals from some nearby hot springs.

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There is a curious phenomenon throughout Chile and Argentina of stray dogs stalking you as you walk through the cities; nowhere has this been more prevalent than Mendoza. One chap, who we dubbed Limpie Joe, on account of him having only three legs, was remarkably adept at following us wherever we went during our walk of the famous squares of Mendoza!

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All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Mendoza, especially catching up with the Woods! Come again.

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