argentina's mendoza region is large and diverse so, if you plan to visit, it would be worth it to spend several days but since we were there for 2 nights only, we focused our tour on wineries in the premium area of luyan de cuyo, home of fantastic malbec wines.
the itinerary was arranged by the good people of cavas wine lodge who really did a super job for us. we had a driver which was really worth the expense as there was no time wasted because directions and road signs in those back country roads are practically non-existant.
first, was a tour of catena zapata. a stunningly beautiful winery with amazing architecture and surrounded by breathtaking views. if you visit a winery for a "cultural experience" and mainly looking forward for the free glass of wine afterwards, zapata is probably the best (read slickest) wine tour i have seen. since i was not looking for that type of experience...
we quickly moved on to the next stop on our list which was my beloved viña cobos, a partnership between california's paul hobbs and mendoza's luis barroz & andrea marchiori. the friendly cecilia gave us a private tour of their super top modern, if not a little industrial wine production area and "cellar" where they make absolutely magical nectars.
robert parker's team passed by a few weeks before us and gave top scores across the board among cobos' 3 main ranges:
1) their premium wines include "cobos" made from the oldest (up to 80 years) and best malbec vines and "unico" which is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and malbec. both are sourced from their own marchiori vineyards and are aged 18 months in new french oak. top quality is key here and they do not look at the expense to produce only top wines.
2) the "bramares" series includes a malbec, a cabernet sauvignon, and a chardonnay. also sourced from their own marchiori vineyards, they are aged 18 month in oak (50 percent new). robert parker gave them scores in the 90's and considering the price they sell for, these wines represent amazing value for money. my own tasting generated superlative notes showing amazing complexity and wonderful suppleness.
3) last but not least is the "nativo" collection where they have a little bit of fun sourcing most of the grapes from wine farmers in the region and blend them to a large proportion to their marchiori grapes. they are: el felino (malbec), crocodile (cabernet sauvignon), lagaro (merlot), benteveo (chardonnay). 9 months in oak (20 percent new) these are also excellent quality for money.
our third stop was bodega weinert. a completely different experience altogether. a super traditional winery: fermentations are still done in traditional concrete vats (with epoxy lining) and the wines are aged in large casks (size 2500-6000 litres) - no new oak here! no fancy technology either, the cellar is completely left to itself and some of the wines age for years in those large casks before bottling. the results are very elegant and subtle wines showing amazing finesse, complexity, and layers after layers of beautiful aromas and flavours. a very special visit.
next on our tour, was terrazas de los andes, now part of the lvmh group. state of the art technology in very traditional surroundings. very pleasant people and superb wines. in fact, i would describe them as "perfect" wines. technically very well made, excellent representation of their kinds, absolutely ready to drink, yet can improve with some ageing. i can see how this winery fits well into the lvmh portfolio of wine labels. we were told they have 2 bed & breakfast type of accomodations right on the property and i can imagine it would be quite an interesting place to stay during vintage when they ferment all these grapes into wines. worth checking it out for our next stay in mendoza, hopefully when the action is in full swing.
last on our list was a tour of bodega tapiz. formely the vineyards of kendall-jackson, the operation is now completely argentinean. very interesting tour where they gave us a horse-carriage ride around the vineyards to see some examples of malbec and cabernet sauvignon grapes where we then went straight into the wine production facilities to try wines directly from those large stainless steel vats. not filtered, not blended, and still raw, it was for me a new experience of tasting. hopefully the first of many more such. tapiz is a very proud winery and also very dynamic. their wines are not in the same league as cobos, weinert, and terrasas but they are certainly interesting and worth looking at. although i did not meet the owner i can imagine him the archetypical entrepreneur full of energy and ideas. good tour.