Crossing through the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina
One of the most beautiful features of Chile has to be its majestic Andes mountain ranges. We decided to see it for ourselves up close by taking a bus from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina. This meant an 8 hour bus ride that traverses through the scenic pass that connects both countries.
Even though we rode up during August, it is considered the start of spring for South America. This area is prone to road closures and as you can tell it was still packed with plenty of snow. It was really beautiful scenery to look at – a white wonderland of snow covered mountains.
A big chunk of our time getting to our destination was due to the security check point at the Chilean/Argentinean border. It was much more extensive than going through security at an airport, and the cold temperatures did not make our experience any more pleasant while we stood around waiting for the officers to rummage through our luggage. While waiting for our luggage to be checked, our bus driver went around with a cup asking for “propinas” or “tips” for the officers. Everyone seems to be contributing a little to the fund so I throw in 200 Argentinean Pesos. Tiff asks me how much I put in, I reply, “I dunno, like $2?” We go back into the bus after and look up the conversion rate and find out I actually tipped $20USD! Lesson learned, make sure you know your currency conversions before you get to the next country!
After about an 8 hour bus ride (including the time consuming border crossing), we make it to Mendoza, Argentina. The reason why most people visit Mendoza is because of the wine that comes out of that region – mainly the Malbec variety. Even though we are not big wine aficionados, we really appreciated all the information and explanations that they went over with us during our wine tours.
A basic wine tour goes through the entire wine making process. They first show you the vineyard where the grapes are grown.
As you can see there’s really nothing impressive. The reason being is that it’s still considered Winter in South America so there are no grapes on the vines or any leaves for that matter.
From there, they lead you inside to show you where the grapes are washed and cleaned.
The grapes then go through a masticating machine and the juices get stored into huge vats for fermentation.
From the huge vats, they then move to large pools to continue the fermentation process.
The pools move to storage in oak barrels to continue the aging process of the wine.
They then usher you to a cooled room to show you the bottles of wine that have been aging after being bottled.
The best part is in the end where we tasted the wine. Since we were the only english speakers of the tour, we were treated to a private wine tasting room by the guide.
There are a few steps to wine tasting. First swish the wine in your glass to air it. Bring the glass up to your nose to smell the aroma of the wine where you can determine what types of flavors it produces. From there, slant the glass to look at the color of the wine, finally, take a small sip and move it around your mouth to get the full flavor of the wine.
We were all new to this but after following the directions, we can now truly taste the different flavors of each of the wine they served to us. It was very intriguing.
Argentina is highly praised for its beef. We ended the night dining at a parilla (steakhouse/grill) Don Mario that served up an amazing assortment of steak.
A must have with any steak dinner in Argentina is not complete without a bottle of Malbec. This was just the regular house wine but it tasted better than the stuff I’ve had back in the States.
Overall, Mendoza is a wonderful little town to visit if you’re into wine. It seems to be the Napa Valley of South America. We had our expectations for Mendoza to be similar to Napa wineries where everything is lush and beautiful, but it seems Mendoza is more about getting good wine for a cheap price. It’s less of the romantic and relaxing getaway that Napa wineries seem to market. We went to about 3 vineyards and walked away with some great bottles to enjoy at home.