Mountains and Malbec in Mendoza, Argentina

Argentina has pretty much been our top travel destination for some time now and we couldn’t wait to start sampling the steak and red wine!

We have seen some breathtaking mountains in our months away so far and the Andes are up there with the best.   Getting the coach from Chile to Argentina meant crossing the Los Liberatores pass over the Andes at around 3200m.  Bad weather can close this pass for days on end so we were a bit worried!  However we picked a lucky fine weather day and after a spectacular 9 hour coach journey up and over the mountains we arrived in Mendoza.

It was important to be on time because we were meeting Beccy, a good friend of mine, in Mendoza who would be joining us for a couple of weeks.

Mendoza is a sleepy city with a small population of just over 100,000 people.  However it is famous for its wine country and therefore its suburbs and outer regions means that the greater Mendoza region is home to over 1 million people.  We planned on staying a couple of days in the city all together (eating steak and drinking the red wine that we had been promising ourselves) before Beccy and I headed out into the Uco Valley for a few more nights.  Ryan would be going onto early Buenos Aires to catch up with some work there.

An early highlight of our trip was visiting a restaurant that me and Ryan had been wanting to go to for years and fortunately that Beccy also wanted to visit!  This was Siete Fuegos, Francis Mallmann’s famous restaurant where all food is cooked in or over one of the seven fires that gives the restaurant its name.  We treated ourselves to a tasting menu with matched wines where each course is cooked on a different fire!

It was really amazing and I almost cried when I saw the steaks being cooked!  It was certainly the best and poshest BBQ I have ever been to…

Our hotel in the Uco Valley was spectacular and although the weather was usually bad when we were there (as everyone seemed to tell us!) we had a couple of beautiful clear days when we could enjoy the views.

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The view form our hotel

On one of the good weather days Beccy and I headed up into the mountains with our hire car to immerse ourselves in the rural Argentine landscapes (and we were surprised at just how rural and ‘off road’ it was!)

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A stop for some tasty empanadas!

After our lunch stop we continued up into the mountains to a small town called Uspallata which felt almost like it was from a different time.

However, it was pretty chilly up in the mountains so when we realised that the cafe we had our eye on for tea and cake was closed we decided to head back down the Valley.

We were fascinated by roadside shrines peppered throughout the mountains, towns on even on open stretches of road.  We later found out the the red shrines are for Gauchito Gil a semi-mythical folk-saint who seemed to have been a kind of nineteenth century robin hood.  It is hard to miss the shrines and clearly the legend of Gauchito Gil is very close to the hearts of the people of Mendoza.

Along with the shrines the landscapes, and in particular the various colours of the mountains, were spectacular.  Fortunately for most of the time we had the roads to ourselves which made the driving a lot less scary!

Obviously the other main draw for the region, other than the mountains is the wine – in particularly the regional speciality Malbec.

We visited three different vineyards during our time in the Mendoza region, Selentin, Domaine Busquet and Familia Zuccardi.  We can say with true authority that both the wines and food at each one was amazing!

A few tastings – we don’t mind if we do!

I learnt more about wine than I ever have done before – sadly Im not sure how much I will remember!

On our last day we decided that we should treat ourselves to one last ‘outdoors’ day in the mountains.  However, this involved no effort on our part (no horse trekking or hiking for us), just soaking in the natural hot springs at Thermas Cachueta in the foothills of the Andes.  A perfect way to get ready for our overnight bus journey to Buenos Aires that evening (and guess what – they serve steak and Malbec on the bus too!)

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