Monday, February 11, 2013

Wine the day away...

We decided to hit the wineries today on bicycles, but first we needed a home base from which to launch our attack on the Mendoza bodegas. We found a place called Tikaykilla, with an excellent host named Francisco and a perfect location nestled into the vineyards of the Maipu region just outside Mendoza. The bikes were there waiting for us and we pulled into the villa, parked the motos and headed out right away. We went to the beer garden before we got going on the wine so that we could have some lunch and get a good base in our stomachs to handle the massive amount of wine we were about to stuff into them. The beer was some of the best I have ever had and the empanadas were outstanding! There was even a puppy to play with and a couple of varieties of fresh plums on the trees in the garden to snack on for desert. The first winery on our tour was the biggest, Trapiche. The grounds were impressive and the wine even more so. We took the tour to start off and saw how the region got its start as the building had a ton of history. The first wine makers were housed there and they revolutionized the wine production industry in the region with automatic presses and a train track to haul the wine away. The bottling all takes place at the point of creation nowadays because of a crazy past where they would ship the wine all the way to BA and get charged by the bottle and the bottlers would dilute the wine to increase profits, with sometimes deadly results. The wine tasting was a blast because the jefe was gone and we got to sample some premium wines! She also just left us with the bottles and said we could have as much as we wanted! We loaded up and headed for our next stop, a small family run bodega called Di Tomasso. The wine there was excellent as well and we got to tour the inside of the old fermentation tanks and even had another light meal before heading back to the hotel. A great day was had by all and we woke up the next morning to a fresh cooked breakfast and blue skies. The sky soon took a turn for the worse though as towering cumulus began to build over the mountains. We met a road block on our way into the pass that turned us back to Mendoza due to rock slides that had covered the roads because of heavy rains. We decided to check out a local hot springs and wait for the road to be cleared, but we encountered strike two when we needed a reservation to get in. Instead of giving up we found a pool and lounged the day away in the sun. The water was refreshing and the pool was clean. We headed for the road block in the afternoon and found it open. With such a late start on the pass we decided to stop short and stay in Uspallata for the night at a nice camp in the trees. The night was quite stormy and when we woke up it was pouring rain and we were in a giant mud puddle. We managed to pack up only to find that the nights rains had caused 20, yes 20, more rocks slides covering the highway and blocking our route into Chile. We decided to turn back and head south for a different pass over the mountains. It was bitter sweet as we could see Aconcagua in the distance and we were
really looking forward to the Andes, but this way we got to see some more of Argentina. The countryside was full of hills and twists and we made our way to Malangue and found a campsite just in time to chef up some vegetable soup and get some groceries before it started to rain. We played some cards in the tent as it started to hail! The stones got up to quarter size! Safe and warm in the tents now we are falling asleep to dreams of crossing into Chile tomorrow, and sea bass leaping into our helmets once we reach the coast.

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