Going on a bicycle wine tour in Mendoza is a quintessential backpacker experience. A few days before I was due to leave the city, I was invited by Antonella of Kahuak to join them for a day of wine tasting.
Having already been on a wine tour a few days earlier, I confirmed that their tour would be to three different wineries, in a different region of the city. And instead of hopping in and out of a van, we'd be on Trek mountain bikes.
At 9:30 AM, I was picked up at my hostel, and along with a German family of three, we drove South.
We were let out at a bike rental shop. It being Autumn, there was a serious chill in the air, and I soon realized it was exacerbated once you began pedaling.
The ride to our Filosofos, a small, family owned organic winery was no more than 15-minutes, but I could barely feel my knuckles by the time we arrived. As the winemaker's daughter began the tour, I hoped it would last long enough for us to warm up.
Having already visited three larger wineries on my previous tour, I found the visit to Filosofos to be a nice change. Our guide, along with her siblings, were following in their parent's footsteps by learning about the winemaking process.
And I appreciated the fact that they are taking an organic approach to growing the grapes.
Wine Tasted: Vina el Cerno Malbec (only 9,000 bottles produced per year)
My Thoughts: Excellent wine, which tastes all the better because it's organic, and made with a lot of love. I wanted to take the mini-barrel with me!
By the time we were riding to Lagarde, our second winery, the sun had risen higher in the sky, and had the temps had begun to warm up. It didn't hurt that we had already consumed our first glass of wine either.
My knuckles were no longer suffering from the cold, and I was better able to appreciate the scenery.
After 20 minutes of riding through the quaint streets of southern Mendoza, lined with the colorful trees of Autumn, we entered the Lagarde winery.
Much larger than Filosofos, Lagarde offered a look at wine production on a much larger scale. While we were in the fermentation room, we could see men washing out a giant contraption used to suck (or filter) the wine out of the immense, stainless steel tanks.
The temperatures in the fermentation rooms, like the wine cellars, are strictly regulated, and kept quite cool. It's interesting to see how the wineries differ in their approaches to winemaking and storage.
Some wine cellars are underground, while Lagarde's was above ground, in a massive warehouse adjacent the fermentation room.
The most interesting thing I noted on this tour was the 5-step process used to cork the sparkling wine. The process is still done manually, by a single guy, in a very small space.
After the tour, by the older brother of our guide (who also use to lead tours at a winery), we had another tasting. This time, we were able to try four different wines.
I've noticed the larger wineries are often more generous with the amount of wine you're allowed to taste. Not necessarily the pours, which vary by guide, but the number of different types you can try.
Wine Tasted: Malbec 2010, Viognier 2011, Syrah 2010, Guarda 2009
My Thoughts: They were all good, however I liked the 2010 Malbec the most.
Cava de Cano
From the Lagarde winery we rode our bikes to Cava de Cano, a restaurant which is more akin to an institution. The cool part about Cava de Cano is the way they have separate dining rooms to cater to individual wine tours.
Our group of five was lead to a smaller room, with a wild boar's head mounted on the wall, among other animal skins (and even a pair of what appeared to be ostrich feet). Tango music was piped in to set the mood.
On the table, an Argentine picada. This was to be our first course. Picadas are finger food, usually consisting of different meats, cheeses, and vegetables. The table featured everything from corn on the cob to tripe.
My favorites were the goat cheese, carrots in a vinaigrette, rice with Malbec, and roasted garlic. Our waiter was the Manager, who was an Argentine-American. He said he likes to help cook and serve when possible, as he gets to know the food (and customers).
The lunch features all-you-can-drink wine, made specifically to be served in the restaurant. And they are not stingy when it comes to refilling your glass. If you don't leave the wineries woozy, you can always make up for it at lunch.
The second course was two types of baked empanadas: beef, and caprese (mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce). The third course was a meat stew, and the fourth course was spaghetti with fresh-grated Parmesan sauce.
For dessert, we had a few options. I chose the vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche sauce.
Needless to say, I could barely move after lunch. And that's exactly why our third and final winery was only a few minutes bike ride away.
Wine Tasted: A house-made red wine (probably a Malbec).
My Thoughts: It's good, you can't get it anywhere else, and it's all you can drink, so enjoy!
According to our guide, Carmelo Patti is an amazing winemaker. If I remember correctly, the winemaker was born in Italy, but his family moved to Mendoza when he was very young.
He spent his early years learning to make wine for others, and only in the last decade or so, put that knowledge to use by opening his own winery.
We took a quick walk through his winery, and then tasted two of the reds that he produces. I was glad we actually got to meet one of the wine makers, which is a benefit to going with a guided tour as opposed to renting a bike and going off on your own.
Wine Tasted: Malbec 2007 and one other red.
My Thoughts: I'd consumed so much wine by this time, I honestly can't remember my thoughts!
From Carmelo Patti's winery, it was a short bike ride back to the shop where we began. From there, we took a van transfer back to our respective accommodation.
Overall, despite the early morning chill, I had a wonderful time on this bicycling wine tour in Mendoza.
The full day itinerary included three different size wineries, and a gigantic lunch. You'd be hard pressed not to get your money's worth of wine and food on this tour.
What You Need to Know
Difficulty: Easy. The city is very flat, so it's not hard getting around by bike.
Where to Book: Kahuak offers a variety of wine tours, including this bicycling tour, as well as others that feature horseback riding and vintage cars.
What to Bring: A daypack if there's a chance you'll buy wine, jacket, hat and gloves (depending on the weather), sunglasses, sunscreen.
Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary tour for the purpose of writing this post. All opinions are my own.