Note to readers: This blog post has been finalized and posted from quarantine during 2020 Covid –19 outbreak. Stay home & stay well!
I totally love my life this very moment. It must be the combined effect of an extended wine tasting and delicious picnic lunch with more freely flowing wine and freshly baked empanadas in the beautifully groomed gardens of Alta Vista winery. Oh, and what divine, chilled desert: an explosion of colors and tastes.
There is a huge horde of green parrots making a ruckus in the tops of the trees, a collection of grand specimens of special trees: oak, linden, araucaria, larch. Flanked by ancient gnarled olive trees
and a border of flowering lavender, it is a cool oasis with a nice breeze in otherwise hot, hot, hot Mendoza. Mighty glaciers glimmer white in the distance watching over rows of Malbec vines.
All we need now is a hammock or at least a blanket to take a siesta.
With so many wineries and so little time, (how is there always too little time?), how does one choose? The classic, the modern, the oldest, the biggest, or the boutique?
Well, our first choice is simple; Alta Vista speaks to us on a very personal level. We have been making our home for the last twenty years at Alta Vista in Orinda, California.
I am not a wine connoisseur by no means. I am not a sophisticated drinker, and I am far from a wine snob, but I have enough drinking years under my belt to know what I like and what I don’t like. No buttery Chardonnay. No tannins in reds. No barrique oaky taste. I am a flower power girl. I am a Zin Girl and also a Malbec Maiden. Give me fruity, give me smooth, give me blackberry or chocolate undertones anytime.
Mendoza with its celebrated Malbec grapes
was anticipated with much excitement from my side. With Argentinian wines attractively priced and Argentine peso low on the exchange market I could anticipate to afford drinking some excellent wines. On our last visit to California we were blown away by how expensive the wine has become. What I paid there for a glass, I could get in a full bottle of excellent wine. And believe you me, with my husband a dedicated beer drinker and hence dedicated wine tasting driver, I indeed managed to down a few bottles solo!
Here the ritual of wine tasting by itself is also not a money making machine as it has become in California, but a friendly introduction and fun time spent in the cellar,
the winery, and the vineyard. For years I had a privilege to help in my friends Captain vineyard, so I certainly appreciate what hard work it is to produce a bottle of wine, especially in a small winery, where everything is done by hand.
Besides tasting wine, visiting wineries for us has a second benefit – interesting architecture. Whether it be old
or ultra modern
Where there is money there is also art to stimulate your other senses.
Where there is art and wine there invariably are interesting people. Be it people in the know
or people seeking new knowledge and experiences.
Sometimes new knowledge is based on theory
and sometimes of more practical nature
Another thing we both really enjoy very much is label design. Human creativity is indeed divine and infinite. I so envy people who can take a blank page and create something new. And they are not intimidated that millions of wine labels have already been created.
How sweet is this Rosé label?
How cool is this 3D Cab lock?
I insisted we time our trip to Mendoza to coincide with the Harvest festival Vendimia. I like traditional festivals, I like costumes and ceremony. I read about Vendimia and it sounded so attractive. I even asked our friendly Airbnb host to buy me a ticket months in advance.
Alas, just like Brazilian Carnival this festival did not turn out to be what we anticipated. Just like carnival it brings in tons of visitors and makes a traffic mess. And as usual in these areas, information is hard to come by. And much of it is garnished with “maybe”. Like in: The procession will go down San Martin Avenue, maybe. As we were wandering down empty dark streets
trying to find the big fete, we were gratified to see we were not the only ones lost.
Like for the carnival the locals really don’t care for Vendimia and actually avoid it at all cost.
Except those locals whose streets have been closed down for the nightly procession.
It starts very traditional with Mary, Queen of Heaven, but quickly turns modern with trucks, floats, strobe lights, electronic music, and the queens of earthly domains.
And aspiring princesses, too.
And former queens, too!
At the end I never used my ticket for the big gala at the stadium where the Vendimia Queen is chosen.
On our last evening in Mendoza after an hour driving in circles, trying to get to the stadium and find parking, we gave up and drove back home. There is always consolation to be found in a bottle of good Malbec wine. Will toast whomever was the winner. Cheers!