Mendoza Day Trip: Wine Tasting in Maipú, Argentina
"Malbec is my favorite wine," I overheard a bearded American cheerfully reveal to Alex as we stood on the second floor terrace of Bodegas Trapiche.
I was just wrapping my head around learning "bodega" didn't describe a corner grocery store: no windows of 90's posters showcasing scantily clad women and Camel cigarette promos, here. No variety of sweets behind a plexiglass shelf at checkout and no random cat in residence, either -- I wasn't in New York City anymore.
Bodegas in Argentina
The term "bodegas" is used to describe wineries (or "cellars", by definition). And Mendoza is home to Malbec and a number of acclaimed bodegas.
That guest was right to be in Maipú, just 20 minutes from Mendoza's city center, if he loved Malbec. Noted as a top Argentine varietal wine and brought to Mendoza from France, Malbec makes up the majority of Argentina's best known wines.
Deciding to visit Argentina's wine region and fulfill my love for vineyards was a no-brainer. Dedicating a full day to touring bodegas, wine tasting, and eating was a must.
Wines and Flavors of Maipú
Our first stop was Trapiche: a winery that immediately defied my expectation of what a traditional bodega would look like. A powerful fence opened as a security guard granted our van access to enter the property.
Inside Bodega Trapiche
Squinting under the hot sun, I noted a large, powerful structure ahead of me. It felt reminiscent to an armory / castle or something of the sort. It was their early 20th century Florentine-styled cellar.
To be honest, I was used to visiting delicate mom and pop vineyards, and could immediately tell this mom and pop made it big. But since I am not even close to being a wine expert, I didn't realize how well-loved Trapiche is in the wine industry. I had no idea I'd entered the most awarded Argentine winery in the world.
Running slightly behind schedule due to a bathroom run and Mendoza's rush hour traffic, our group ran upstairs to get straight to the wine tasting. Trapiche's in-house guide winesplained the three wines we were to taste (a Sauvingon Blanc, Malbec, and Reserva) and I glazed over the crowd, peering out the glass door at what I believed were olive trees.
That's when I heard the guest rave about Maipú's Malbecs. He was from Arkansas and traveling with friends. When his crew expressed no interest in wine tasting, he left them at the hotel and pursued his Malbec dreams.
I thought it was lovely to hear an early 20-something year old college student take that chance. It is difficult going on a tour alone and that age just plagues us with insecurities and "what if's". Touring solo requires you to take extra steps to be outgoing and can be socially exhausting. Luckily our guide, Lula was extra friendly and made an effort to individually check on each person. That solo guest warmed up pretty quickly.
After our tasting we explored the winery and learned about their processes, wine making history, and even checked out what was left of their classic train station. But time was tight and our tardiness set us back -- we had to move on to the next winery.
I followed the queue back to the van, the taste of the Reserva lingering in my mouth.
Eating Off the Vine at Bodega SinFin
SinFin, a family-owned winery meaning "Endless" was my favorite stop. I don't know if it was because of the chatty host who's English was perfected by watching Law & Order, or because at SinFin we got the chance to eat grapes right off the vine.
My, oh my. I didn't want to leave those grapes.
In my childhood home, grapes were as much of a staple as rice and beans. No grapes (or cold cuts) in the refrigerator meant it was time for another supermarket run.
Grapes and raisins are a lifetime favorite.
Past SinFin's modern building and on to their "School Vineyard", the grapevines were organized by type and the bundles hung in abundance, waiting for us to sample each taste. I was cautious at first: would I get sick if I accidentally ate a grape that wasn't ready? But I looked around me and everyone jumped at the opportunity, so I followed suit.
I loved the Merlot and Malbec grapes the most. But my afternoon hunger and excitement eventually led to overzealous grape picking -- regardless of the type.
Then our guide welcomed us to try strawberries.
What was she talking about? Where were there strawberries?
So excited by the prospect of tasting grapes, I hadn't realized that this School Vineyard was also an orchard. There was a bed of strawberries at my feet (most already eaten), peach trees, and more. I grabbed some strawberries, a peach, and a few more grapes before we were dragged away to continue onto our wine tasting.
The succulent flavors of the fresh, ripe fruits straight from an orchard kept me content.
Located in a trendy basement cellar, we tasted another three wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Bornada, and Malbec) before departing to our last wine tasting, dinner, and olive tour. We loved the Malbec so much that we purchased a bottle to enjoy on New Year's Eve.
Wine and Dine at Familia Zuccardi
My stomach was making awkward sounds by the time we reached Pan y Oliva, the restaurant we dined at for our late lunch at the Familia Zuccardi vineyards. I was starving and couldn't bear to think of anymore wine before eating food.
Thankfully, that fruit tasting at SinFin held me over, but if I could do it all again I would've taken a snack bar with me (or eaten a much bigger breakfast).
Dining at Pan y Oliva, which translates to "Bread and Olive", I got to try three wines paired with a meal (a white for our appetizer, red for our main course, and dessert wine for our postre). While there wasn't much of a "tasting" or presentation of the wines by the restaurant, I believe most of the guests were so hungry that we didn't care.
I know I didn't.
Our meal was delicious, showcasing the best of Argentina's dishes beyond parrilla: cured meats and farm-to-table produce paired with a variety of Zuccardi olive oils.
The air was filled with chatter and 90 degree summer heat seeping into the room. Eventually, while we began to drunkenly dose off with gastronomic satisfaction, Lula rallied the crowd for one more tour: a quick look at the processing and production of olive oils.
We toured the back of the restaurant (where the olive trees were), led by an American expat, and snuck into the air conditioned room where the olive oil processing took place.
Soon we returned to the van for drop-offs and within a sleepy blink I was back at my hotel, pleased with food and wine joy.
Was the Maipú, Mendoza Wine Tour Worth It?
It was certainly a long day, but worth every moment. From 9:30 am pick up to 7:00 pm drop off, we certainly got what we came to Maipú for.
We tasted nine wines, endless amounts of grapes and fruit, three olive oils, and an Argentine three-course meal.
Compared to tours I've done throughout the world, this experience was the most well rounded in offering and left me exhausted -- I had to rest the entire next day (which turned out to be an even hotter day).
Would You Visit Argentina to Go Wine Tasting?
Our tour guest ages ranged from 23 to 70 (that I know of). Wine tours are one of those experiences that are perfect for everyone (as long as you drink wine, of course).
Would you visit Mendoza for a wine tasting experience in Maipú?
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- Olivia Christine