Budget-Friendly Option For Wine Tasting In Mendoza: A Self-Guided Bike Tour

bikesAs soon as you step off the plane in Mendoza, Argentina, it will be obvious that you are in wine country. Billboards advertising different wine brands, neatly terraced vineyards and marketing for numerous wine tours, cooking classes and tasting sessions will be everywhere you look. While many of these options are worthwhile, most are very expensive. On a recent trip to Mendoza, however, I discovered a fun and inexpensive way to experience the best wine the region has to offer – a self-guided bike tour.

To get to Maipu, where “The Roads of Wine” are located, take Bus 10 from the city center. The ride will take about 45 minutes and you can ask the driver where you should get off. Once you get to Maipu, begin walking north and make a right onto Gomez Street. Here you’ll find a charming house and sign that reads “Maipu Bikes.” Immediately upon entering the wrought iron gates and talking to the wife of the family-run business, we were offered a glass of fresh juice, handed a map and given an in-depth analysis of each winery. The bikes are 35 Argentine Pesos (about $8) to rent for the day. However, when the owner noticed I was staying at Hostel Mora she gave me a 10 ARS$ discount, so let them know what accommodation you’re staying at. Along with the bikes, we were given a bottle of water and backpack to keep our stuff in. With that and our map, we were prepared for a full day of wine tasting.wineThere are 16 stops on the itinerary, including wineries; the Wine Museum; a beer garden; and opportunities to sample liquors, chocolates, olive oils, jellies, chocolates and, of course, vino. For tours and tastings you’ll usually have to pay about 20ARS$ (about $5), although there are some stops that have free offerings, such as complimentary admission and wine tasting at the Wine Museum and a free self-guided tour at Tempus Alba.

You can choose to start wherever you would like, although, I would recommend beginning at the Wine Museum to get a sense of the history and creation of the product. Here we got to browse contraptions from centuries ago that look more like torture devices than tools for making wine. We were also able to have a free tasting, and learn more about some of Argentina’s most famous wine-makers. From there, we went down the street to the family-run Viña María. I really enjoyed this place, as the girl working was a wealth of knowledge on wine in the area and educated us on how to pair our wine with food. The golden rule: drink what you think tastes good.

While all of the stops had something worthwhile to offer, such as llama-spotting at Trapiche and a tasting terrace with sweeping views of the vineyards at Tempus Alba, our favorite spot was definitely Entre Olivos. For 20 ARS$ (about $5), you’ll get a tour of the property, learn about olive harvesting and also see how olive oil is made. The best part, however, is the unlimited tasting that follows. Your first course is the olive oils and pastes, some of which include chardonnay mustard, olives with blue cheese, olives with garlic, chilli and different strengths of extra virgin olive oil. From there, you move on to the marmalade and jam table, tasting varieties like dulce de leche with coconut, apple with whiskey, pear with chardonnay, pumpkin with cinnamon and Malbec jelly. Next, it’s time to get a little tipsy, as you get to choose two shots from an array of liquors. Some of your options are dulce de leche, chocolate, spicy vodka, white chocolate, peach, pineapple and the strong-tasting Absynthe, which is served properly by lighting sugar on fire and adding it to the liquid.

And, if you still don’t feel as though you’ve sampled enough wine, you’ll be offered a complimentary glass of vino once you return your bike to Maipu Bikes. This was a great way to end the day, as we got to rest our tired legs while sitting outside in their peaceful yard. At this point, you will not only feel like a wine connoisseur, but also pretty budget-savvy, as your self-guided tour has cost you a quarter of the price of booking through an operator.

Experiencing The Beauty Of The World’s Second Highest Peak: Cerro Aconcagua

mountainCerro Aconcagua, located in Mendoza, Argentina, is a mountain in Aconcagua Provincial Park. At 22,841 feet, the mountain is the highest in the southern and western hemispheres. In fact, aside for the Himalayas, it is the world’s highest peak.

To get to the park from Mendoza city center, take the Puente del Inca bus, which is 26.50 Argentine Pesos (about $6) each way. The excursion continues to be budget-friendly, as the entrance to Aconcagua Provincial Park is only 10 ARS$ (about $2). If you want to go to the base of the mountain, you will pay more, but only about $17 total. You can choose to simply hike the park for the day, as I did, or trek to the top of the mountain. This is only for the most fit of adventure enthusiasts, as the hike takes about 10 days each way and about three people die each year trying to make the ascent. Moreover, if you’re going to go this route make sure to leave some time before the hike to fill out the necessary paperwork.

However you decide to explore the area, just make sure you do it. The contrasting landscape of the park almost seems unreal, as lagoons, prairie, grey stone, fairy chimneys, rainbow-colored rock and snow-capped mountains all inhabit the same area.

For a more visual idea of my day experiencing the beauty of Cerro Aconcagua in Aconcagua Provincial Park, check out the gallery below.

Update: A commenter below points out that the Himalayas have over 100 peaks about 2,400 feet, and we acknowledge that encompassing all those into one can be misleading. Moreover, she posts a great guide for those who want to actually hike to the top of the mountain. Rest assured, it’s a glorious hike!

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Where To Get The Best Empanada In Argentina

empanadaWhen hearing the word “empanada,” many people immediately think of Argentina. The truth is, the type and taste of empanada depends on where you are in the country. Because of the different climates and geographies throughout Argentina, the best ingredients to cook with vary.

On a recent trip to Buenos Aires, I was sitting with a group of locals asking them about where to get the best empanada. “The north,” they replied in unison.

I sulked. They didn’t mean the northern area of the city, they meant the north of the country. Cities like Salta, Tucuman, Santiago del Estero and Jujuy are where natives agree the best empanadas are. Moreover, Mendoza, Cordoba and Rosario also have delicious empanadas, varying a bit from place to place. For example:

  • In Mendoza, traditional empanadas use a filling of beef, onion, egg and sometimes olives or cheese.
  • In Salta, potatoes, beef, chicken and sometimes even llama meat is used for the dish.
  • In Cordoba, empanadas are sweet, with white sugar, potatoes, olives and meat.
  • In Tucuman, the dish is cooked in a clay oven with lemon juice. Traditionally, the empanadas have beef, chicken and tripe; however, newer varieties also include cheese and onion.
  • In Jujuy, the addition of peas, pepper and onion give the meal a unique spice.

If you have your heart set on visiting Buenos Aires, but also want to try some amazing empanadas, don’t fret. There are two great restaurants, both located in Recoleta near Rodriguez Peña and Santa Fe streets, that was recommended to me by various locals – and for good reason. First there is Cumana, an upbeat venue that uses an adobe oven to create traditional dishes. The other is La Cholita, a rustic venue, which gives generous helpings for a good price.

[Photo via From Argentina With Love]

Photo of the Day: Mendoza mountains

Off in the distance, there are mountains. Gently zig-zagging ridges hidden under a layer of mist and slowly evaporating fog. When the sun strikes them just so, like we see here in Flickr user morrisey’s photo in Mendoza, Argentina, they can create a striking visual spectacle. It’s almost like looking at a series of waves crashing along the beach, gently rolling towards the shore driven by an unseen wind.

Taken any great photos during your own travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.