Achaval Ferrer: We enjoyed a “wine breakfast” at this beautiful winery on the edge of the Mendoza River, which features spectacular views of the Mendoza Valley and is committed to producing small quantities of excellent red wine. This was one of the few tasting in which we enjoyed every wine we tasted.

  • 2010 Malbec: strong dark fruit aroma; bold, “biteful” young wine with mod-high acidity
  • 2009 Quimera (5 grape blend): lighter fruit smell; fruity start, with spicy, lingering finish
  • Finca Mirador 2009 Malbec: Robert Parker 96 points; light, soft & smooth
  • Finca Bella Vista 2009 Malbec: blackberry aromas; full-bodied and smooth
  • Barrel Tasting – Finca Altamira 2010: The 2009 version this wine received 99 points from Robert Parker. Only 1 other South American wine has ever achieved this high of a rating. Unlike barrel tasting from other bodegas (Norton, Tapiz, etc.), this sample was balanced, full-bodied, already incredibly complex, and only slightly over-oaky. This will be a bottle to keep on your radar – it’s one of the finest wines we’ve ever tasted, and it’s not even finished!

Chandon: Our visit to Chandon was another benefit of having a multi-talented remis (taxi) driver. Originally, we intended to visit Catena Zapata, but were unable to reserve a spot at this popular destination (even when we emailed requests months in advance). Instead, we enjoyed joining a large group of Brazilians for an exploration of the world of bubbly. Carolina – though she had already been to their property in Napa – fell in love with the French décor here.

Choosing to eat early (12:30), we enjoyed a private dining experience at Chandon. Skeptical at first, we soon realized that champagne goes with almost any type of food!

Further reading: Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine Chapter 61 “Eleven reasons to drink bubbly throughout dinner tonight”

Pulenta Estate: Never having tried Pulenta’s wines before, we booked this tour mostly because of raving reviews on Trip Advisor. And we are incredibly glad we did! This turned out to be one of our favorite wineries in all of Argentina and Chile.

A private guide gave us a full tour of the facility, including a chance run-in with the winemaker at work sniffing the barrels. We learned they use only a select 25% of their best grapes, then sell the rest to other wineries in Mendoza. The best part, the tasting, was a repeat of Achaval Ferrer: we loved every wine we tried.

  • La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2011: grapefruit smell; dry and slightly acidic
  • Gran Cabernet Franc 2009: green bell pepper smell; fruity and acidic on the tongue
  • Gran Malbec 2009: fruity on the nose; starts bold & spicy, but finishes peppery & fruity
  • Gran Corte 2008: oak and tobacco smell; plum/cherry/canela taste – a full-bodied delight

Tapiz: Our final stop for the day was at bodega Tapiz. Best known for its restaurant and hotel (Club Tapiz), Tapiz also doesn’t do a bad job with their wines. Though this wasn’t our best tour (the Tapiz guide was a little smashed from over-sampling with guests on the earlier visits that day), we still couldn’t complain about mounting a horse-drawn carriage to catch a glimpse of the vines up close. And, we discovered a perfect, fruity red wine as a present for the cousins and Don Hugo!