I can’t actually remember the last time either of us was on a bike. I think it was back in 2005 in China, and it didn’t end well. The ride itself was fine but the pain the next day, less so. But in the town of Maipu, 16kms outside of Mendoza, it’s the transport for getting yourself around the wineries.
After renting our bikes, we started to slowly peddle down the main road in search of our first winery, 5kms or so away. You might be imagining us cycling down beautiful country lanes, but that wasn’t quite the reality. Swerving to avoid pot holes and with cars and trucks whizzing past us at high speed, we were soon questioning the wisdom of our decision – and we added hadn’t even added wine to the mix yet. 3kms in, the bike lane ended and we were riding on the edge of the road with the same cars and trucks speeding past us. Not the most fun we’ve ever had, but thankfully we soon turned off down a smaller road and arrived at our first winery, Tempus Alba. We were hot, tired and needed a drink!
After the long and stressful ride, Tempus Alba was the perfect start to our day. We took the short self-guided tour around the small, family-run winery, before finding ourselves in the most perfect place for wine tasting. With the vines and mountains as the backdrop, we took a seat at one of the beautiful tables. This is the life.
For around $5 each, we were able to select 5 of their wines to taste, along with their premium reserve Malbec. We were served generous tasting portions of our selected wines – the Rose, Tempranillo, Syrah, Malbec and Cab Sav. We all agreed that their Malbec was the best wine we’d tried.
The experience and the tasting at Tempus Alba was a highlight of our stay in Mendoza.
Setting off again, this time feeling happier and more confident in our cycling abilities, our next stop was Vino el Cerno. Despite the lady behind the counter claiming this was the best wine in the region, after our tastings, we would have to disagree. We should have known something was off by the size of the tastings portions we were poured – they were huge. After Tempus Alba this was a big drop in standards. Even so, we finished the wine, as we can never let wine go to waste.
Moving on feeling a little frustrated, we decided a change was in order, so we stopped at the Beer Garden for lunch. After a really nice pizza, Craig and John also enjoyed an extremely tasty pale ale and red ale, perfect for the hot afternoon.
The final winery we visited was Trapiche, one of the biggest wineries in the region. Luckily we arrived just in time to make the English tour. The tour itself was really interesting, as we got to go behind the scenes and learn more about how they produce their wine. As Australian wineries are so much younger than most other places in the world, it was interesting to see some of the older wine vats and buildings they used to, and sometimes still, make the wine in.
The guide gave us one of the best tours we’d had on the trip so far. I really liked his honesty regarding wine tasting, as he admitted having a terrible nose for wine, but knew a good wine when he tasted it. I feel the same way, as I’m not very good at picking out the nuances of wines. My favourite wine description ever is from the movie ‘Somm’, in which one of the sommeliers describes one of the aromas of the wines as smelling like a can of freshly opened tennis balls. It’s a great movie if you’re into wine.
For our final stop of the day we parted ways, as Erin and Craig wanted to visit one more winery and we wanted to visit Entre Olivos. Despite our best efforts to get lost and scared after being chased on our bikes by a snarling angry dog, we eventually made it there before they closed for the day.
Entre Olivos was a nice place to end the day, as we were able to taste their mustards, oils, chocolates and liquors. The liquor tasting was interesting as we ended on shots of absinth that were 75% alcohol – yiks! The girl doing the tasting cooked off some sugar beforehand to add to the glass, so the absinth wouldn’t burn our throat – which it pretty much still did. All in all not the best quality, but still fun. We peddled quickly back to the bike rental to meet Erin and Craig before the absinth kicked in.
The next day it was time for us to say goodbye to Erin and Craig after 4 weeks of travelling together. They were heading off to more tropical climates for their last few weeks of travel, before heading back to Canada for their wedding (you can read more about their travels here) and we were continuing northwards in Argentina.
We not only learnt a lot from Erin and Craig (the card games, the cooking, being prepared etc) but also had such a great time travelling together (the wine, the singalongs etc). We feel lucky to have made such great friends on our travels. Mendoza was the perfect place to end our time together – Partners in Wine.