Mendoza is a city in western Argentina, in the desert Cuyo region. The region is surrounded by dry lands & high mountains but it is mostly famous for its wine industry. Landing at the airport was pretty spectacular in itself. The moment you flew into Mendoza, it was impossible not to notice the vast scenery of snow capped mountains, greenery and of course, vineyards. We had our 2 very good friends from NYC with us in Mendoza so it was extra special to enjoy this time with them.
Required time in Mendoza: Approx 2-3 days.
Note; Similar to that of Spain, siestas are taken in Mendoza, mostly because of the summer heat. Summers can reach up to 40 degrees. Most of the businesses close between 12:30/1:00pm and usually re open around 4:00pm and stay open until 8:30pm.
Where to stay in Mendoza
Depending on what you’re after, you have the choice to stay in the town of Mendoza or near one of the 3 different wine regions. Staying in the city allows you walking distance to a range of restaurants & bars and Plaza Independencia which is the central main square that comes alive at night with markets and street performances OR staying by the vineyards which is noticeably quieter and more expensive. If you have a rental car, it would be easier to stay out by the vineyards as the distances for restaurants, bars, grocery stores are more spread out. Don’t forget; don’t drink and drive 😉 !
When planning a trip to Mendoza, it can be very overwhelming with the 100’s of winery choices. Considering I’d only just begun drinking wine, I had no idea what was what, or where to go, let alone what wineries to choose from! Whether it’s the architecture, ambiance, scenery, food or history that gets your attention, all of the wineries in Mendoza are unique in their own way and it would be hard to be disappointed.
There are 3 main wine regions in Mendoza and below is a brief rundown to help you choose which one you would like to visit.
- Luján de Cuyo – Lujan de Cuyo is located 40 minutes south of Mendoza city and is known as the land of Malbec. It is part of Mendoza River’s high region. The majority of the vines here are planted with red wines. Although Malbec is the most popular, it is not the only grape growing. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Torrontes are also present. This region is considered the place where Argentina’s wine movement originated.
- Maipú – The region of Maipu is located south east of Mendoza city and has around 20 wineries, much smaller than the surrounding regions. Maipu is very popular for olive oil tasting and the region that is popular for the bike tours between the vineyards.
- Uco Valley – The Uco Valley is located 75 minutes South of Mendoza and is Mendoza’s newest wine region. It is known especially for Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Semillon and Torrontes production. The natural scenery surrounding the Uco Valley makes it one of the most picturesque regions in Mendoza.
Wine Tours vs Private Drivers
Stunning wineries, beautiful scenery, great wines and excellent food make for a perfect tour in Mendoza but what’s the best way to do it? After extensive research and 100’s of questions we chose to create our own itinerary with a private driver and didn’t regret it one bit. Here’s why….
If you have 4 people, this is an awesome option. However in saying this, who you decide to hire can make or break your day. Our decision couldn’t have been better when we came cross Mauricio, a born and raised Mendocinan. If you’re coming to Mendoza, do everyone a favour and hire this guy for the day. For 6-7 hours you will have his undivided attention + a man with the most extensive knowledge in wineries of Mendoza. He wasn’t just our driver, he was our guide, our organizer, our planner and by the end, our friend.
Usually when you hire a driver, you give them your itinerary and they simply drive but Mauricio called our wineries of choice and made all the appointments for us, making for an even easier process. If you’re struggling to create your itinerary, give him your options and he will take care of the rest. We cannot recommend this guy enough.
- Your own schedule with more flexibility.
- A local guide who is 100% focused on you
- Stops wherever, whenever. Want a photo? Sure!
- Takes a lot more time to plan and research (unless you hire Mauricio)
- If you are less than 4 it can increase the cost for transport
If the above isn’t your thing, you have the option to book a tour with many of the tour companies in Mendoza. Booking a tour online is easy, it’s straight forward, read the information and press book. Tour companies generally know what they’re doing and will take you to best places but it’s always more expensive, otherwise how do they make money? Some well known tour companies in Mendoza are Mendoza Holidays, Ampora Wine Tours and Mendoza Wine Camp.
- Easy and quick
- Minimal research on your behalf
- Stress free
- You don’t get to choose the wineries
- The lunch restaurant is already chosen so if you’re a foodie you may prefer to choose where you eat and know what you’re eating
- More expensive
- Some companies can have groups of up to 16 people so it automatically makes it less personal
Our day in Mendoza
This was by far one of the best days we’ve had! We were so happy to spend it with our friends, the wine was delicious, the food was the best we’ve had in Argentina so far, the sun was out, the scenery was breathtaking and Jacob’s hat just topped it all off…..
Our first stop was at Melipal, a very modern winery with tastings in a cellar. We tasted 4 wines, 3 reds and a rose. Included in the price was a tour of the cellar and an introduction to the history of the winery and how their wines were made.
Cost – 170 ARS ($11 USD) for tour and tasting
Next stop: 5 course lunch at Ruca Malen with 5 (unlimited) wine pairings. This was absolutely out of this world amazing and a visit to Mendoza wouldn’t be complete without lunch at this winery. The tenderloin we had for lunch was so perfect that once Jacob finished his whole plate, we jokingly asked for a second one and sure enough out came a second steak, with no charge. The mountains and vineyards in the background were stunning so be sure to ask for a table outside upon booking. We tipped well 🙂
Cost – 830 ARS ($54 USD). The best $54 we’ve spent all week.
Last by not least, we stopped in at one of the oldest wineries in the Lujan de Cuyo region, Lagarde. Lagarde is exactly what you would think a vineyard would be if you hadn’t been to one before. The old Spanish architecture lends itself to the feeling that you’ve stepped back in time.
They have a great casual outdoor garden that is intimate and your view of the grapes on the vine is a sight for sore eyes. We tasted sparkling wine along with a very famous (& expensive) wine by the name of Henry Gran Guarda N°I. This bottle was the most expensive on the regular menu at US$60 a bottle. This particular wine wasn’t originally offered but after some persistence, he found an open bottle and let us finish it off. As delicious as this was, and as much as would have loved to buy a bottle, weight restrictions and our backpackers budget subjected us to just the samples.
Cost 150 ARS ( $9 USD ) for tour and tasting.
Please note; by creating this itinerary and with the help of our driver, the cost of this day was $70 cheaper per person than it would have been to go out on tour. $280 saved!
Other recommend wineries
It would be impossible and not at all necessary to list the 1000’s of wineries in Mendoza but a few more worth a mention are :
Tips for making your wine tasting a day to remember
- Bring cash for tips, most wineries take credit card but not all do so always have cash handy
- Plan your trip by region – Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo or Uco Valley. There is quite a bit of distance in between them.
- Make reservations at least one day in advance and even earlier for the weekend/high season to avoid disappointment
- Stick to 3, max 4 wineries in a day
- Always ask questions and ask to sample more than just the standard offer
- Refills are usually free.. don’t be afraid to ask!
If you’re sick of wine tasting (is there such a thing?!) there are a range of outdoor activities to get involved in too. We mixed it up a little and went white water rafting with Argentina Rafting. For a full day excursion, including transport to and from the rapids, the cost was 720 ARS ( $47 USD ) and it was really worth it. It was no more than 8 degrees Celsius in the water but we were provided with some seriously sexy wet suits and jackets to stay warm. The rapids ranged from class 2-3 but during the summer months they can get to class 4.
Apart from the rafting, the same company offers hikes, zip lining, horseback riding, kayaking, rock climbing, sky diving and 4×4 drives. Some of these tours can be combined with the rafting.
Whatever you choose to do in Mendoza and wherever you choose to go, we’re sure you’ll have an amazing experience. If we could give one tip over anything else, show your curiosity at the wineries, don’t be afraid of showing your how inexperienced you are (me!), don’t be shy to ask a lot of questions (me!) and always seek out tastings beyond what they originally give you, by doing so, they will usually bring out the top notch wine for you to taste too.
Married days survived; 376