Argentina 2013: A Wonderful Hunt and Fantastic Vacation; Mendoza, Vino Anyone?

by david on September 20, 2013

Our first stop on the wine tour was actually an olive oil factory.  “Pasrai” olive oil has been around for a long time (its founders arrived in the 1920s) and our tour showed us some of the older processing techniques.  It was interesting to note that when we entered the modern section of the plant, the newer equipment was simply the old equipment with electric motors attached.  The philosophy, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, is very evident here.  The olives were washed and separated from the leaves and then ground under two huge stone grinding wheels yielding a mushy paste.  The paste was dispensed onto woven wire plated with a hole in the middle.  The plates were then stacked on an approximately six-foot tall spindle and eventually ended up in a press to remove all of the oil.  Finally, the oil is either filtered or not and then bottled.

The last stop on this tour was the tasting room and store.  We were treated to samples of filtered vs. the unfiltered oil, flavored oils and invited to try the soaps and lotions made with olives and olive oil.  I was unsure about the cloudy-looking unfiltered oil, but when I tasted it I was amazed at how much more flavor it had over the unfiltered.  I will definitely have to look for some when I get home.

The first winery on our list was “Vistandes”, and the tour was very educational.  The girls and I were separated from the rest of the group and given our own English-speaking tour guide.  We learned that after the grapes were steamed, washed, and then crushed, they go into holding tanks and allowed to ferment naturally with no added sugar or yeast.  After fermentation, the wine goes into huge concrete holding tanks and it is aged for approximately nine months.  After it has completed aging in the tanks, the top part is bottled and the bottom part is put into oak barrels to age a little longer.  After several more months, it is bottled as “reserve”.  I would have never thought that a few short months in an oak barrel would make that much difference, but it does.  During the tasting, it was very obvious to my palate the oak aging was worth the wait.  In the end we all decided the “grand reserve” was the way to go and, at 85 peso’s $15.50 per bottle, it was a deal as well.  I made sure to find out who their US distributor was so we could find this wine when we got home.

Cavas De Don Arturo was the next and last winery of the afternoon.  Vistandes was a small winery (approximately 750,000 liters per year), but Don Arturo was tiny by comparison at 100,000 liters per year.  Their wine is a little better, however, and brings a premium price.  It is only made in small quantities and, much to my chagrin, is not exported to the US.  It makes me sad that I can’t bring some back with me because this stuff is really good.  I also learned what the word “Roble” meant.  It means the wine was aged in oak and is a very good word to find on the bottle’s label.  We left the winery as the sun was setting and headed back into Mendoza.

We went to a new place for dinner tonight.  The name was “Anna Bistro”.  Janice found it online before we left the US and it has very good ratings.  It lived up to its reputation and then some.  The food was the best we have had yet.

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