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This post by Beth Delthony is a participant in the 2014 Guest Bloggers' Program sponsored by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.
All photos Copyright Beth Delthony
Spending the weekend visiting wineries in Mendoza is great except that many wineries are closed on Sundays! Rather than driving all over trying to visit the few that are open, head down to Valley Uco. Most wineries here are open on Sundays and closed on Mondays, so take advantage of this great opportunity to explore them. Many are located close to the base of the Andes, which make a gorgeous backdrop for your afternoon.
Bodega La Azul in Mendoza's Valley Uco
Valley Uco is about an hour and a half drive from Mendoza’s city center, and you will need to rent a car, hire a driver, or take a tour to get there. If you want to hire a driver, enquire at your accommodations for reliable recommendations. You can rent cars at Mendoza’s airport or at locations around the city. If you’ve spent any time driving around Mendoza you will quickly realize that the lack of good maps and road signage can make it difficult to easily find your destination. To help we’ve chosen vineyards that are close to each other on Route 89 which is easy to get to, especially if you’re driving yourself.
The wineries in Valley Uco are among some of the newer wineries in the Mendoza region, as such many of them seemed to have been designed more specifically with tourism in mind. You often encounter large cellars and tasting rooms at the larger wineries and smaller outdoor focused areas at the smaller wineries. To visit several of the wineries in the same day, you’ll need to get an early start, and try to schedule a few tastings without tours. The tours generally take an hour and a half with the tasting at the end. Note there are many other wineries open for visits in Valley de Uco. If you want to visit one of those, plan your day accordingly as driving between the wineries can take a while.
Enjoying the view of the Andes from Andeluna
Unless noted the wineries request you book your tours or tastings in advance but, especially if you’re visiting outside of the summer/harvest busy season (December-March), you should be able to arrange them on short notice. You can e-mail many of the wineries for reservations prior to your trip but for next or same day visits it’s better to call. For winery lunches you almost always need to book in advance, even those with larger restaurants, they often fill up quickly especially on the weekends or holidays, but don’t worry, you have a lot of options to choose from.
Andeluna is a newer winery started in 2003 they are owned by the Lay family (of potato chip fame), but don’t worry, they have received a lot of praise for their wines. They offer a 6 course lunch here, with a unique view into their open kitchen so you can watch your meal unfold before you. Unfortunately their restaurant isn’t open on Sundays, but they are still open for tours. You can just also just do a tasting at their bar or relax and enjoy some of their wine in their lovely open lounge or outside on their patio overlooking their vines and the ever-present Andes.
Relaxing at Bodega La Azul
Bodega La Azul is a small rustic winery that only grows two grapes, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead of focusing on big buildings, they’re trying to incorporate the background of the land into their winery. Normally they do their tastings and lunches outside on their grassy patio so you can enjoy the beautiful backdrop of the Andes Mountains with your wine, but there is indoor seating should you have less than ideal weather. They offer guided tours of their winery with their tastings, all their operations are on site so it’s a very short but personalized tour, ours included a barrel sample. They also run a small restaurant if you prefer to have lunch or snacks with your tasting.
The wine cellars at Salentine
Nearby Salentine is a stark contrast, this massive winery has their own restaurant, bar, gift shop, church and art gallery on site, in addition to their winery operations. If you have a love of architecture do a guided tour here as the winery buildings are impressive and the wine cellar is specially designed for concerts and other events. If you want to enjoy some of their wines at their bar you can just stop in without a reservation and explore their main building which includes their art gallery.
Domaine Bousquet is open for tours and tastings from 10am to 6pm every day except Tuesday. They offer several different tastings including options with tapas. Additionally you can do private tastings or learn even more about combining food with your wine with one of their cooking classes. Their restaurant Gaia offers 3 different set menu options focusing on organic food, if you have any food allergies or issues, contact them to see about a special menu. If you’re interested in something more athletic or outdoorsy keep an eye on their website, they’re planning to offer picnics and bike tours through their vineyard in the future.
Enjoying a glass of wine watching the sunset over the Andes at Salentine
Finca Sophenia is open for tours and tastings, and if you’re interested in learning more about specialized harvesting processes, head here. They are one of the oldest wineries in the valley with vines planted in 1997. The grapes are harvested and selected by hand and they only harvest during the cool hours of the early morning. They take great care to ensure that the grapes are not damaged while harvesting and only the best grapes are selected during a second selection.
I have not listed any prices as they are subject to change regularly due to the current rate of inflation in Argentina, please contact the wineries directly for their current prices. The larger wineries accept credit cards, but smaller ones are generally cash only, so make sure to ask, additionally $USD may be accepted as payment.