Another Wine Tour in Mendoza
Having already done a horseback winery experience 2 days earlier, we opted for the Uco Valley Tour with Mendoza Wine Camp to see another region and learn something different.
The Uco Valley
Mendoza is Latin America’s largest wine making region with over 800 wineries and has been compared to Napa a few decades ago when it was first emerging. Uco Valley is located at a higher altitude closer to the mountains, where winemakers have been experimenting with the different micro-climates to create the best wines. The cooler temperature and rocky soil allow the grapes to have a longer maturation time and good irrigation.
Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, so the picture below doesn’t showcase the impressive, mountainous landscape of the region
Our guide, Myfawny, picked the four of us up and shared some of this information with us before letting us take a nap on our drive to the first of 3 destinations J She even provided us with little guide books for us to take notes if we wanted and it also had a glossary at the end 🙂
On the itinerary was a stop at three modern wineries of varying sizes – ranging from boutique and Argentine owned to large foreign investments with high-end tastings at each place followed by a 5 course gourmet lunch at the end. The Mendoza Wine Camp operation delivered on all of this!
Along the one hour journey, passing through some windy hillside roads, we drove through a small town where our guide pulled over to a small bakery to sample local pastries. This was a nice surprise!
Stop # 1
This estate is located in Tupungato, Uco Valley (Mendoza) and situated on the foothills of The Andes at an altitude of 1200 meters (4000 feet) above sea level. The vineyards are among some of the highest worldwide and within the highest in Mendoza. Due to its location, Domaine Bousquet’s vineyard benefits from a cool climate and constant fresh air.
We walked around the premises and toured their facilities:
Many vineyards have this mesh along their vines to protect the grapes from hail.
Once we finished walking around, we headed to their restaurant to begin our wine tasting and lesson!
Wine tasting lesson
On our first stop, we sampled 4 different types of wine.
Tips for wine tasting
Here, we asked Myfawny for some tips on wine tastings:
She commented that wine smells and tastes different when you let them sit out, so part of the process is to swirl, smell, taste and then repeat this again after a few minutes.
A lot of gardeners will be able to pick out floral scents, her background is cooking, so she picks up aromas of spices.
That’s whats so interesting about wines –it can be very personal!
I took a deep inhale and announced to the group: it smells like wine.
Nick also remarked that his glass smelled like grapes 😉
Disappointed, I tried the next glass… I still couldn’t pick out any particular scents! I decided to revert to my standard tasting method: simply, do I like it or not?
Hoping that my olfactory senses just needed time, I gave it a rest and asked our resident expert what she was picking up in the next one. She said “earth”. Hmm, I thought, it does smell earthy. (Funny how once someone makes an observation, you now notice it too!)
Finally, when I went back to one of the glasses to try smelling it again, I recognized something! I told the group: FIG! I smell fig! Everyone took an inhaled and agreed J This was a very personally, satisfying moment for me .. there was hope for my nose, after all!
We also got to sample a sweet dessert wine which I was bias to. In the end, we didn’t buy any wines but it was still a fun experience.
Stop # 2:
The GIMENEZ RIILI family has been involved with viticulture since the end of the 19th century. This 10-year-old vineyard of 16 acres is located in Vista Flores, Tunuyán, in Uco Valley, nearly 3,608 ft above sea level. The varietals planted there are Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. Given the altitude and latitude, this geographic area is colder and days tend to be sunny and warm with very cool nights. Its soil is stony, with lots of boulders due to fluvial erosion, making it a permeable soil where roots develop an important length as they reach for water that drains quickly.
We got to sample wine in all different stages of production – tank, barrel and bottle! This was a very unique and different experience and I could taste that the wine from the tank didn’t seem quite done or right.
Tasting wine from the tank, where the wine undergoes fermentation:
The wine then is stored and aged in different types of oak barrels, American and French. I had already learned from my previous wine tour that French Oak is smoother and more expensive.
Finally the wines are bottled.
We were seated in a room afterwards and with our wine, we were served freshly baked empanadas along with more of the cheese and fruit jelly dish I had the previous night for dessert! This was SO good. I knew that a gourmet 5 course lunch was coming next so I tried to control myself.
Self-control did not win that day and I continued to indulge in this sweet and savoury concoction.
There’s the family on the post card below:
Stop # 3:
Bodega y Viñedos O. Fournier aims to build a winery equipped with the latest technology. It will have a capacity of 600,000 litres in stainless steel, oak and cement vats, ranging from 6,500 to 25,000 litres in capacity. The new winery has been designed to work with gravity to minimise the use of pumps. The underground cellar will be able to hold up to 2,800 oak barrels at a constant temperature and humidity. In light of the company´s commitment to continuously improve its wines, it has plans for the development of an innovative laboratory with microvinification capabilities.
Very different and modern architecture
Apparently this whole operation was built to optimize gravity.
On our tour, we saw the same stainless steel tanks for fermentation and barrels for ageing – but the difference here was scale. There was SO much of everything and they were huge!
We also stopped by the offices and chemistry labs:
We went for a tour before lunch which was great so that I could try to build up an appetite again! This was by far the largest and most expansive winery we visited. The owner uses the wine cellar as an art gallery.
Wine cellar as an Art Gallery
Outside of the cellar is a fancy private wine tasting room and a small art gallery.
Upstairs, we began our lunch and wine tasting.
Another delicious lunch with a beautiful view
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Here came the food
What is this? Such a small appetizer?
OHH they pour a corn bisque over top! This was delicious! Stand-out dish!
Of course, we had to have some Argentine steak 🙂
This was the vegetarian option, a stuffed pasta.
A citrus sorbet.
Ice cream and custard.
Learning to read wine labels!
I have to say the portions of wine they offer were very generous!
My Eureka moment
Smelling one of the 5 wines and exclaiming – it’s apple pie!!! It didn’t taste like apple pie but there was both a rich, buttery scent along with a fruity aroma. I was filled with delight J
We went for a walk back to the van and stopped by some of the vines:
Here are a few of the last grapes on the vine – we were in Mendoza for the final days of the harvest.
One thing Myfawny emphasized over and again was that good wines begin in the vineyard!
A little piece of Vancouver, Canada in Argentina!
We were so full after this and all of us took a nap on the car ride back to Mendoza City Centre. It would be our last night in Mendoza and the next day would be an early flight to Puerto Iguazu so we decided to do some exploring.
Next: Walking around Mendoza
To view my complete Mendoza flickr photo gallery, please click here