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My idea of a weekend getaway in Mendoza, is a getaway to the Uco Valley. Spend the week enjoying the culture and buzz of Mendoza city and its surrounding wine regions of Maipú and Luján, and spend the weekend soaking up the sun, silence and Malbec in the Uco Valley.
Head out on a Friday afternoon, in time to catch the sunset in the Uco Valley, and enjoy the drive from Mendoza down to Tunuyán at a leisurely pace - marking the changes in the mountains, the different food trucks and fruit stands on the roadside, and the gradual quietening of pace and people.
Swing a right at Tunuyán city, and head straight towards the Andes. As the mountains grow before your eyes, the humble homes will transform into majestic temples of wine, and the tall trees will size down into low measuring, but high reaching, vines. Welcome to Mendoza’s Uco Valley.
For an unparalleled sunset vantage point, The Vines of Mendoza is a perfect pillow to lay your head. (If you want a more affordable feather-rest, try Tupungato Divino which has views just as divine - hence the moniker.)
Watch the sun paint its vibrant colours as it dips behind the mountains, while you warm up with a glass of Malbec by the fireplace and get ready for a steak dinner. Steak and Malbec is quintessential Argentina, and quintessential Uco too.
The early bird catches the worm, but not on the weekend. Best to lie in and let the birds wake you rather than your alarm, it is a Saturday and all the Uco Valley wineries are literally on your doorstep. There’s no need to rush in the Uco Valley, no-one else will.
After some medialunas and coffee, get started on a cultural note with some of the most impressive architecture in the southern hemisphere and an art collection to match. Bodegas Salentein is the most visited winery in Mendoza, even at 100kms from the city center, and it is easy to see why. Locals call this the wine cathedral, and the amphitheatre structure inside gives it perfect acoustics for a choir. The architecture will leave you breathless, from which you can be quickly revived with a wine tasting to put you in the right mindset for a quick spin around the art gallery - one of Argentina’s most intimate but finest galleries, with a wing of Latin American art and a wing of Dutch Golden Age art. The Dutch may have been masters of light, but they never saw the skies of Mendoza and so while its easy to be entranced by the Golden Age art collection, there’s beautiful Cuyo sunlight waiting for you outside and, this time, the wine is beckoning.
There are countless wineries to enjoy in the Uco Valley, but you are probably hungry and - as you’ve already got the art bug - head back down to the southern region of the Uco Valley and the Clos de los Siete family of wineries. Here you’ll find another modern-day cathedral to wine, Bodega Diamandes, and if you are running early, make sure to stop there for wine tasting and a tour of the striking cellar. The vinous gem I’m recommending today though is Bodega Monteviejo - the first winery to open in the Clos, and the latest restaurant on the block.
This is home to Argentina’s first 100-Parker-point winemaker, Marcelo Pelleriti, and the wines are polished and, unpredictably, great. The wine isn’t the only jewel in Monteviejo but also the culture. This extends to a sculpture garden, an art exhibition, several exciting artistic collaborations, and - most recently - a restaurant by renowned Spanish-cum-Argentine chef, Nadia Heron. Take a seat at the intimate eatery and enjoy some fine cuisine, fine wines and a fine view over the vineyards of Vista Flores.
For the final wine stop, head to the Winemaker’s Village at The Vines. This is a hub of activity by Argentina’s top winemakers and a place where private labels are shown to the public. My favourite wine family in Argentina is the Michelini family, and it is here in the village where you’ll find the heart of their family production - Super Uco. A magnificent concrete crown among the thorns.
Wine is part of family in Mendoza in general, which is what makes it such a special wine community. And there’s no better embodiment of this than the Michelini family. The first to succumb to the charms of winemaking was Matias Michelini, and he coaxed his three brothers Juan Pablo, Gerardo and Gabriel into the game - along with countless children, nieces, nephews, in-laws and friends. Any gathering at the Michelinis is a family affair, and that includes the tasting room.
Whichever strain of the bloodline that welcomes you, you’ll instantly feel like a relative and should sit back and relax into the tasting where you’ll be taken on a whirlwind of styles, varieties and flavours - all from the Uco Valley. As the sun begins to dip behind the mountains once more, you’ll know it is time to lay your heavy, and fabulously happy, head.
As you wake with the birds, turnover to the other side. It’s a Sunday. Sleep, relax, enjoy, breath the mountain air, and maybe walk in it, but most importantly, forget about all your worries of the week. That’s what a weekend getaway is all about, isn’t it?
Written by Amanda Barnes
Photo credits: Respectively belonging to each winery.