I honestly just felt like stringing along as many wine related terms that start with M as I could. Masserias is the Italian word for vineyards, as many Italians settled in Argentina and around Mendoza, and I remember from my university buying a Magnum of wine which was a 1.5 liter bottle, and just once a Methuselah which is 6 liters of wine.
However, this is simply a story chronicling the day we spent biking around Argentina’s famous wine region Maipú, a gentle suburb southish of Mendoza. We had heard that it was the most famous tourist activity in western Argentina, and some Aussie guys staying at Campo Base Hostel had a great time there.
How to get there: You can look it up on Google Maps, or from Plaza de Indepencia take #10 subroute 171, 172, or 173. Remember to stop by a kiosk and buy a bus card and charge it for 4 pesos each way because that’s about all they take on the bus. If you’d rather not spend extra on a card, you can always jump on the bus and offer other passengers cash if they swipe their card, which is was we did the first day. It takes about 25-30 minutes to get there from the centro. You can ask the driver to let you off at Urquiza street, they’re usually pleasant enough. If not, you’ll recognize bike and wine country because it’s the only area with paved bike paths on the side of the road.
Rent a bike: Don’t go to the cheapest place like we did! At Coco’s bike rentals you get shoddy bikes with missing brakes, worn tires, and duct-tape-repaired seats that promise the sorest biking bum ever. We found out later that along a 1km stretch heading south on Urquiza there are numerous bike rental shops, and most of them are around 30 pesos, including a basic map of the nearby vineyards and attractions. We were told afterwards that Mister Hugo’s is a good bet.
So after haggling with a lovely abuela, we headed out armed with a map and bikes from the 60’s, with Marelise and I on a tandem bike (because I thought it would be fun). How wrong I was, man; the steering jerked at the slightest touch, and it was definitely a heavy bike. There are about 12-15 vineyards in the area along a 12km stretch of Urquiza street. Traffic wasn’t too bad heading out, and the roads were manageable, a little hilly but we made good progress.
The first place we pulled up to was Tempus Alba Vineyard. It’s a gorgeous micro vineyard and a beautifully built and decorated building that I believe is meant to look like a traditional Italian villa. It’s a quick self-guided tour on the grounds, and heading indoor you can take a look at and learn about the varieties they grow, their fermentation and storage processes, and so on. We headed upstairs to the roof where they have comfortable terrace overlooking their vines. We ordered several samples each and traded sips of their reserve wine, Malbec, Malbec rose, and their Shiraz. None of us are sommeliers of course, but we really enjoyed the wine, and had a relaxing time. With a couple of glasses of the different wine to hand, it was interesting and delicious tasting the subtle differences between them. (Kiernan didn’t like the Rose too much, but I thought it was pleasantly light).
We next headed out to Viña el Cerno Vineyard. This place looked a lot more simple, with more farm equipment out front, and evidence of hard work going on. They have a simple farm-house style building where we tasted several of their Malbec’s from different years and had a blasty blast. Four glasses were passed around the table, sips of Malbec melted like creamy chocolate in our mouths and while we couldn’t tell you what we tasted in the wine, we can assure you they all tasted gooood. 🙂
Originally we were headed to another Vineyard but as it was closed and we were getting a little parched (and increasingly unstable on our bikes), we headed to the nearby Cerveza Artesana or the craft beer bodega. It was actually really decent beer, they had a Blond and Pilsen on tap, and some excellent, fresh empanadas. They were filled with spiced ground beef, hot out of the oven; the first bite of golden flaked crust and steaming juice gave us all blisters, but that didn’t stop us taking an instant second bite… The rest of the place was pretty packed for a beer hangout in wine country and we had a good time chatting with some Kiwi’s we met there.
By this time as we weren’t feeling much pain and didn’t want to risk biking off the road on the way back, so we checked out one last place. Alas the vineyard was closed (probably because it was off-season) so we decided to stop by a tasting bodega called Club del Olivos. Possibly because of all the wine we had sampled in the name of being good tourists, this was possibly our favorite spot. For around 30 pesos you are walked through a 20 minute tasting course in three sections. On the first table they had several types of fine olive oil (plus infused olive oil), balsamic vinegar, tapenade (one with garlic), and a basket of bread wedges to sample everything. The second table had marmalade, jams, preserves, organic honey, chilli peppers, and a chardonnay honey which blew my mind. At the bar you are offered two shots from their selection of homemade liquors and cordials like Irish Cream, Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, Porto, Rose, Limonchello, Absinthe, Sangria, something with chilli’s, herbs, peach, strawberry, vanilla possibly and a couple of others. With your drink they also offer a small plate of several types of sweet chocolates but I unlike everything else the chocolate is actually from Brazil.
After several minutes of appreciative moans of enjoyment which probably scared the employees, we got onto our bikes, and made the painful & grudgingly slow trek back to Coco’s where we dropped off our bikes that had miraculously not collapsed under us, and grabbed the bus back towards central Mendoza.