Sondo, Sondo, Sondo, Sondo
Today was not just a Good Friday but a great one! Bearing in mind that today was a public holiday, especially in a country as Catholic as Argentina, the doors and hearts that were opened to us were all the more gracious and generous for that fact.
Our first stop was to what has got to be the quintessential Mendozan vineyard – that of Angel Mendoza – yep, that’s his name, Angel Mendoza! It wasn’t surprising to learn that he’s widely regarded in the industry and many of the people we’d met on previous days, attributed much of their learning to him. None more than Lucas from Trapezio who, as it turns out, is Angel’s son. He was there when we arrived hard at work squishing family grapes. It was such a delight to see him again so soon.
Angel took us on a tour of the vineyard while Lucas changed into something less stained. The vineyard itself was spectacular with massive olive trees creating avenues and protecting the vines from the sondo which was still gently blowing from the day before. Naturally we ended with a tasting but there’s no way of knowing which was more intoxicating – the wine or the Mendoza family charm.
They waved us goodbye as we headed to our final wine destination – Alpamanta – by far the most remote and taxing on poor Dario’s car as we took half an hour to traverse the last 5kms down a very rocky and dusty road.
When we arrived, the asado (BBQ) was already fired up and a sumptuous good friday feast laid out for us to share with the family. The adults wined and dined while children and dogs ran wild. The highlight for me was a delicious malbec tart served with barbecued quince and dulce de leche – malbec being the grape varietal for which Mendoza is renowned (as an aside, my computers face recognition program suggested that the attached picture of the tart was in fact me! It doesn’t even have eyes!).
The tour that followed once again showed us the extraordinary diversity of winemaking (and winemakers!) in the region. Andreas’ wines are entirely organic, as are all his farming methods which include such rituals as burying a bulls horn stuffed with its own poo in a corner of the vineyard to encourage growth and the hanging up of a deers bladder filled with certain flowers to ward off bad luck. It definitely seems to be working for them.
We drove back into town accompanied by the sondo and said our final farewells to Dario, driver and translator extraordinaire and Tom, our host with the most. Without them, we were at a bit of a loss with what to do with our last night in town so we left the map behind and followed our instincts… right across the road to the helado (ice cream) cafe that had been calling our names since we arrived. I had ‘super dulce de leche’ and ‘vanilla with malbec’ – the former was dulce de leche ice cream with a dulce de leche swirl, the latter was wine in ice cream – more literal than I’d anticipated but delicious none the less.
We took a short stroll around town to see the aquaducts that run along the main streets to keep the trees green which in turn protects the city from the worst of the sondo. Although we’d already had dessert, we then opted for a dinner which we agreed was nothing to write home about, so I won’t.
Our time in Mendoza has been such an extraordinary privilege and an unmitigated pleasure not afforded to the average tourist. I know very few of those involved will be reading this but I want to send out my gratitude to each and every person, my sisters included, who have made it a time in my life that I’ll never forget, although never quite believe was real.