When I first told people I was touring the bodegas, or wineries, of Mendoza by bike, their response was more or less:
“That sounds dangerous.”
However, I learned that if you pace yourself, you could explore Mendoza’s viniculture without any falls or collusions. Just make sure you ask for a casco, which in Spanish means helmet.
Ten friends and I rented bikes from Mr. Hugo wineries and bikes for thirty-five pesos each. A tour consists of you, your bike (helmets are optional here) and a map of the wineries along Urquiza road. The trek along this road is twelve kilometers from Mr. Hugo’s to the furthest winery listed on the trail and back again.
The bike trail on Urquiza reminds you of a Texas shantytown. The scenery consists of slums dotted with villas here and there where three or four barking German Shepherds patrol the front lawn. It rained the night before we went, so mud splashed onto my pants and jacket as I rode. Cars have the right of way in Argentina, not bikes, so on the roads without bike paths, I had to be careful to stay on the shoulder while cars and motorcycles zoomed past me.
Our first stop was not a winery, but an olive oil, chocolate, and liqueur making store two blocks north of Mr. Hugo’s called Entre Olivos. We tried two different types of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a variety of olive spreads and wine jellies, dark and white chocolate, and two shots of liqueur of our choice, all for twenty-five pesos. I personally elected to taste the Tia Maria coffee and Dulce de Leche flavored shots.
Next, we biked six kilometers to Familia Di Tommaso, a cottage-style family owned winery built in 1869. Here, we tasted Cabernet, Malbec, Torrontes, and sweet Amabile, a rose-colored port. My favorite winery was Mevi, which looks like a plantation. I tasted their Malbec, Syrah, and Cabernet reserves — a full glass is considered a tasting here — for thirty-five pesos. All were excellent, but it was the Malbec Reserve that became my favorite.
We finished our self-guided tour in a small outdoor restaurant called the Beer Garden. We wanted to try one of the three cervesas (beers) on tap, and to eat pizza and empanadas. The restaurant was beach-themed with tiki-surf decor, making for a chill ending to a cool afternoon of biking and drinking.
What I found most surprising through biking the bodegas was a stark contrast between the slums and a few considerably nice houses which were protected by wrought iron fences and barking dogs.
There are slums called villas in Buenos Aires. But living in Palermo or Recoleta, I rarely see them. Under the umbrellas of fancy cafes, one would forget that Argentina is viewed as a third-world country by some. In the outskirt cities, even on the most touristic locales, it is a sobering reality.
Article written by Courtney Pruitt.