Mendoza is essentially a desert with only 5% of it being cultivated for vineyards using ancient indigenous irrigation methods so it’s kind of like Las Vegas where the fruit machines are actual vines and everyones a winner! Today, we certainly were.
We were picked up by Tom and Dario and taken to the only civilised place to start such a day – Cruzat Champagne Vineyard. We were met here by Don Pedro, a seventy-something ex-professor who decided to go into wine making after being forced out of the education system by the ruling fascist forces for defending his more socialist views and those who shared them. You know straight away, I love this man!
He humbly and generously walked and talked us through the entire process from the vine, to the blending, to the bottling and cellaring, to the inserting of the cork, to the popping of it. He shared his stories as we sipped away on his balcony overlooking his exquisite vineyard. Listening to him describe his champagnes only made them all the more captivating, not least of all when he compared them to Brad Pitt and Leonardo Dicaprio!
It was with a heavy heart and light head that we left Don Pedro to our next rendez vous down a long and dusty road to an unmarked vineyard, found only after following the lead of its owner Gillermo of Marguery Wines. We walked through the vines, picking and tasting the last of the vintage straight from the vine, all with The Andes as a backdrop. He then led us up some more long and dusty roads to his much smaller, less extensive but just as inviting operation where we had the rare opportunity of trying the wines in the very early stages of their development straight from the vats.
We farewelled Gillermo and headed to our last vineyard of the day, Trapezio, for yet another remarkably different experience. Here we were met by Lucas, Marcelo and Mauro – three young guys trying new and interesting varieties and methods as a counter point to the long standing traditions of Mendozan wines. They joked that their wines tasted like them but I’m yet to see that much charisma in a bottle! Perhaps is was the day of drinking, or the sun setting over The Andes or the fabled ‘sondo’ wind* picking up but our time at Trapezio was pure joy. We didn’t want to ever leave but we had dinner plans…
Although Trapezio was our last vineyard of the day, we still had one more winemaker to meet. We had the extraordinary privilege of being invited into the home of Matias of Eral Bravo wines for a private tasting and dinner with his family. Up until this point, we hadn’t actually seen much of Mendoza city and what we were treated to tonight was certainly not representative. Matias picked us up and drove us through increasingly exclusive suburbs until we reached the security gates of his own. Their home was the stuff of design magazines, in fact it was designed by a famous architect and personal family friend whose name currently escapes me. The opulence would have been intimidating if not for the genuine warmth of our hosts.
Today was a reminder of the ever presence of beauty, not only in nature but in the generosity of the human spirit. To everyone who made it possible, you have my eternal gratitude.
*The ‘sondo’ is a hot wind that blows over The Andes from Chile, stirring up the desert dust, wreaking havoc on all in its path. Without exception, it is despised by the locals but as tourists, we enjoyed the novelty of it even though we were covered in dust.