Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Semana Santa Travelogues: I heard it through the grapevine

Or: Bicicletas & Vino

I have mentioned here, Mendoza is particularily famous for its wine. So obviously we could not spend a week there without getting acquainted with some of its fine grape juices. And since everyone at the hostel recommended us to rent some bikes and tour some wineries that offered wine tastings for a small amount of money (30 pesos each = ca. $1.50), we set out for a little bike adventure the day after we arrived in Mendoza.

Since that meant we had to get out of the city center, we had to take the bus to a darling place called Chacras de Coria which is a small town outside of Mendoza city. And even though half of the bus was empty, of course Rachel and Erin sat on the reserved seats on the bus that are actually meant to be for old, disabled or pregnant people. Now they are definitely not old... 

Rachel and Erin enjoying their "special seats" *

Once we got there we found the bike rental place and got ourselves some bikes and helmets. Because after all it’s safety first, when you’re plans include riding a bike while intoxicated. Plus, it made us look all nerdy and tourist-y.

I want to ride my bycicle...*

At the bike rental place a nice young lady named Mariana planned out our route for us and sketched it on a map. Which was quite helpful because the wineries all had different opening hours, and by knowing them we were able to schedule our bike trip accordingly.

The route Mariana had planned out for us

So we set out for the first winery of the day, which was called “Bodega Pulmary”. It was a rather small, family-owned winery where we got to see the wine making process in a small format. I also liked this place a lot because they had put up a lot of artwork of local artists. And all of you who know me well enough know that I kinda have a weakness for art. It was also quite good in my opinion, though very expensive since the artist was apparently like a local celebrity. That winery was also where I had my “favorite wine of the day” – a very tasty vintage of Malbec.

Degustación: Our guide handing out my favorite wine*

Girls in the wine cave*

Favorite piece of art

After that we sat outside under a sunshade made up of grapevines and ate the sandwiches we had brought. Which would have tasted a lot better if it weren’t for the Asado (=BBQ) that was offered by the winery to its guests. Unfortunately you had to pay quite a bit for it, so no Asado for us.

I heard it through the grape vine..

The girlies under the grapevines*

After some troubles with the map we then went on to the next winery which was called Alta Vista. That place was a lot bigger and you could actually see the vinyards surrounding the winery. Normally you are advised to schedule a tour there but since we hadn’t done that we had to wait for a bit. So we sat down on the front lawn and enjoyed the sun. And some wine which they offered to us while waiting. Even though I don’t mind waiting, I sure did enjoy having a glass of wine to pass the time. While waiting we met some fellas from Australia, the UK (which also stayed at our hostel) and even one from the beautiful region of “Franken” in Germany. Since half of my family is from that part of Germany and thus talk in a distinct accent that is spoken there, I did enjoy chatting with that one quite a bit.

Twisted vision*

So we passed some time enjoying the sun and finally got to go on the tour of the winery. Which was very large compared to the previous one. Now this winery was more commercial and sold wines for ridiculously high amounts of money. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try the really expensive vintages so I cannot tell you whether or not they are worth their money. Pretty much we got to see the wine making process again, but this time in a much larger scale. We then went on to the caves where they stored the wine barrels during the ripening process and the owner’s collection of fine wines. Ultimately we came to the bar, where we got to try some of their wines which were all very tasty, but didn’t make it to my favorites list.

I definitely enjoyed their harvest...

...however not so much their prices! 
(divide by 5 to get the Dollar amount)

Me, Bridget, Rachel and Erin in the vineyard at Alta Vista*

Beautiful scenery

We then left and had a winery and a Absinth/Pesto/Dulce de Leche/ Jam/Chocolate place to go. We were a little short in time for the winery so we decided to skip that one and go straight to the other place.

There we first got to try the pestos and hearty bread spreads. They mostly contained olives or similar things. Though one was a mixture of blue cheese and olives, which was particularly delicious. I had to think of my sister because I’m pretty sure she would have loved that one.  

Next up were the sweets. Which meant we got to go round a wine-barrel/table trying lots of different kinds of jam and Dulce de Leche. Up until then I have only had plain normal dulce de leche (which I could probably eat with every meal) and I was very fond of two of the offered flavors, Coco and Coffee. I decided to buy a jar of coffee flavored dulce de leche to bring home to my family. Let’s hope it will survive the next few months and actually make it to Germany!

Sugary goodness!*

Last but not least we also tried some of their Absinth/Liquors. I stuck to the sweet and delicious ones, dulce de leche & banana and hazelnut chocolate. But Izzie was as brave as to try the “Muerte Rusa” which translates to "Russian Death" was a sort of absinth that was made of green pepper, I think. Though she was as kind as to shar. Curios? Well I was and luckily I got to try since Izzie was in a generous mood she shared it with us (or she wasn’t “man enough” to drink the whole thing haha). Anyway, I got to try that one as well and I have to say I have never tasted anything like it. It was sweet but really spicy at the same time. Such an interesting flavor! It kind of made me regret my decision to only pick sweet liquors.

Preparing the "Russian Death"*

The Liquor Selection* 

After that it was time to get back to the bike rental place. But since we enjoyed the landscape so much we made some detours just for the detours’ sake to take in some of the beautiful scenery before we handed our bikes back over to Mariana.

And to those of you who are concerned about my alcohol intake on that particular day, let me assure you that we had long pauses in between the wine tastings and for my part I didn’t feel like I was drunk or tipsy at all.

We then took the bus back to the hostel a girl there asked us if we wanted to join a movie night with wine and cheese. And what would be a better way of ending a day of wine-drinking than drinking some more wine? 

One of the best food&drink combinations: 
Wine + cheese + crackers + grapes*

So we joined her for an Argentinian movie named “Un Cuento Chino” (=A Chinese Tale) which was one of those odd yet amazing movies. It starts out with a proposal of a Chinese man to his Chinese girlfriend on a little boat when suddenly a cow falls from the sky and kills the girl. Did I get you curious there? If you are into movies with extraordinary and odd characters you should definitely watch it. I’m not sure if they have it in English though. Well, whatever… go learn some Spanish. That’s what I’m doing ;) 

On another note, I would like you to know that the pictures marked with a * have not been taken by me. Which is why I would like to give a big shout out to my friend Izzie Atkinson because she so generously supplied me with those pictures after my camera battery had died that day. 

Thank you, Izzie!*

Also, this is the third part of my Semana Santa Travelogues. I have already written about the trip and my company and my first impressions in case you have missed those posts or want to re-read them while waiting for the next one. Though that one is already written and only needs some pictures and fine-tuning and it's good to go online. So keep checking in!

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