A Wine Lover’s Tour of Argentina and Uruguay
Why Argentina? Good question, and it was one that was asked frequently of me before I departed for Latin America. It’s a pretty simple proposition really: Argentina is one of a handful of countries where the dollar still goes a long way, it is an easy flight from the U.S. with no effects of jet lag, and in a trip that comprises of a week sandwiched by two weekends you can structure a very balanced itinerary.
Buenos Aires is a lot like New York City. Neighborhoods constantly seem to be reinventing themselves, which is wonderful news because it is one of the finest walking cities in the world. An ideal staring point is the Cemetery in Recoleta, resting place of Argentine luminaries and where it is easy to understand why there is a constant refrain that it costs more to die in Argentina than it does to live... (Photo courtesy of Veer/pablo hernan)
Next, the original docks and warehouses of the Puerto Madera district now teem with pubs, clubs, wine bars, and restaurants and are a good way to approach the legendary La Boca district. Best reached by cab from Dique 2, this gritty area is known as much for its famous soccer stadium and team as it is for some of the best quality and most reasonably priced food in the city.
This is personified at El Obrero, part soccer shrine and part restaurant that, two trips in a row, served up one of my favorite meals in Buenos Aires. Waiters greet regulars by planting a kiss on the head of a daughter, tousling the hair of a son, and generally giving the impression of an extended family get-together at meal time. Get the restaurant to arrange a cab to nearby El Caminito, if only for a photo opportunity to capture the iconic multi-colored corrugated iron houses. Otherwise this street is a tourist trap. To round out the day, head to San Telmo and stroll its antique store-lined cobbled streets and visit its covered food market.
Swapping the frenetic energy of the city and flying two hours west to Mendoza, I based myself in the wine region for three days of wine tasting — the wine landscape is changing so rapidly that it is essential to visit every couple of years to determine which winemakers and vineyards are excelling. There are two new developments worth mentioning. The first is Vines of Mendoza, a soup-to-nuts way for you to be a vineyard owner and winemaker extraordinaire in the Uco Valley. This valley is generating some of the area’s best fruit and VoM has bought a large swathe of land, engaged winemaking consultants, and has given rise to a whole generation of vintners. Planting, harvesting, winemaking, bottling... they do it all and you can be as involved as you want. With a resort, cellaring facility, and accommodations under construction it really is safe to say that there is nothing quite like this project anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
The second development to put Uco Valley firmly on the map is Clos de los Siete, brainchild of Michel Rolland. Across 2,000 acres of prime land, he has garnered the investment of some heavyweight French wine families who are making wine across five facilities. The wines are as distinct and different as the architectural styles of the respective wineries. Among the most striking is Lindaflor. It seems to rise out of the valley floor, the winery replete with vines planted on its sloping roof, quite mesmerizing.