Founded in 1561, Mendoza is the capital of Argentina’s wine country. The nation’s wine industry (one of the world’s largest) has been around for a few centuries, largely influenced by Italian immigrants, but it wasn’t until very recently, in the 1990s, that it really took off. And the Mendozans have been capitalizing on it ever since.
Indications of the intertwined bond between wine and the city are unavoidable around town: framed photos of vineyards and bottle labels in my hotel‘s hallways, bunches of grapes in architectural details adorning random buildings and in glazed ceramic tiles in Plaza España, souvenir wine-barrel pencil holders, extensive wine lists in every restaurant.
Of course, the best way to appreciate the wine culture here is to visit a few of the more than 1,000 vineyards around the region. So I hired a private driver, Pablo, to chauffeur me around while I imbibed in the area’s bounty.
After tasting three samples at CAP Vistalba Winery and another five at Finca Achaval Ferrer, I was feeling just fine as Pablo drove past fields of tobacco, onions, and garlic on our way to a late lunch at Finca Decero (“Winery From Scratch”), founded by a Swiss American 3,500 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. On the second floor of the main building, in a dining room perfect for a small wedding — with its views of the vineyards, the snow-capped Andes in the near distance, and the Tupungato volcano, and a terrace where you can soak in the panorama as you sip a soothing red or white — I was served a particularly delicious meal that made it difficult (but certainly not impossible) to continue on to four more samples in the winery’s tasting room. It was a very good day.
Try This: The muted colors of the dining room and the quiet outside — after all, you’re surrounded by nothing but acres of grapevines — set the mood for a relaxing and outstanding meal. Your lunch is accompanied by a full glass of a Decero wine especially matched to each of three courses. Begin your meal with sliced chicken roasted in herbs with avocado, paired with a Syrah. For a main course, enjoy some succulent fillet of steak marinated in herbs on a bed of char-grilled asparagus and baby spinach, paired with the region’s highly popular, and endlessly rewarding, Malbéc. Do not resist dessert: a mini lemon-curd tart with strawberry ice cream and fresh mint, paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon.