We stayed in Mendoza for 4 days but only ended up venturing out on a tour one of those days. After more than 2 weeks of hiking in Torres del Paine, El Calafate, El Chalten and Bariloche, it was time for some well-deserved rest. And what does one do when resting? Drink wine, of course! There are many companies in town offering tours to the famous wineries of Mendoza but being the travelers we are, we decided to go on our own. It's cheaper and we liked having the freedom to go to the places we were most interested in. After a bit of online research, we decided to try 3 wineries and 1 olive oil factory. We'd heard from people at the hostel that the olive oil factory had weird hours and closed for a few at lunch time so we stopped there first. It was the farthest one too, which worked out well, as we started there then made our way back into town.
We arrived to the Laur olive oil factory mid-morning with no else around as far as we could tell. We entered the only open building, the shop, where the shopkeeper informed us that there were no tours available until the afternoon but that we could try the oil if we'd like. After about 15 minutes, the shopkeeper returned with a huge platter of olives, oil, tapenades, sun-dried tomatoes and bread (all this for 30 pesos, mind you) and began to explain the process & differences in their many oils. Despite the language barrier, I feel like I managed to understand most of what he explained – thanks in large part to his patience and simple words. The oil itself tasted delicious and was a great start to the day. We particularly liked tasting the differences in the oils based on the seasons the olives had been picked.
Note: tasting was 15 pesos/person
The sheer quantity of wineries in the area can definitely feel overwhelming when deciding which ones to visit so take a little time researching them, if you decide to go the self-guided way. We chose the following three as we felt they offered something a little different from each other.
Familia di Tommaso
We chose to visit Familia di Tommaso because it is the oldest vineyard in the area. We also found it to be the most informative of the three. Though we had to wait for 20 minutes for the next tour to start, the woman showing us around was very helpful. She took the time to explain their history and process, making sure we understood everything; even sparking up a conversation with the guests. We never felt rushed and most enjoyed how family-oriented this place felt.
Note: tasting was 25 pesos/person for 4 wines. If you rent your bike at Mr. Hugo's, you'll get a voucher for a 20 pesos/person tasting.
After our tour of the olive oil factory and our first winery, we took a lunch break at La Melesca (see notes). With our bellies full, we got back our on bikes and headed to Trapiche, one of the biggest wineries in the area. You might recognize the name as the company exports many of their wines to North America and Europe. We found the tour of the winery and vineyards the most impressive out of the three. You could definitely feel the scale of this winery by the grandeur of its surroundings.
Note: tasting was 50 pesos/person for 5 wines. Make sure to get there before the last tour starts at 4 pm.
We ended our wine tour with a stop at Tempus Alba and found this winery to be the most picturesque out of the three. The tour of their winery is a self-guided one but we opted out of it since we were running out time and needed to return the bikes. Instead, we enjoyed their beautiful terrace upstairs amid the vineyards and the olive trees. Though we cannot attest to the winery itself, the view itself is worth the 35 pesos tasting. And the wine wasn't bad either ;)
Note: there are 3 tasting options. (1) 35 pesos/person for three lower Tempus wines (2) 45 pesos/person for two Tempus wines and one Pleno Reserve (3) 200 pesos/person for their premium tasting. You can also buy by the glass or bottle
Notes & A Few Helpful Tips
- We rented our bikes from a local shop, Mr. Hugo, and loved our experience. As soon as we arrived, he greeted us with a big smile and introduced himself to us. When we came back at the end of the day, he was just as smiley and offered us some fresh lemonade to cool us off from the heat. He even sent us back to our hostel with a full & free bottle of homemade wine... as soon as he made sure we had a backpack to carry it in for the bus ride back.
- Bike rental was 45 pesos/person
- Make sure to return the bikes by 6 pm before the shop closes
- Take buses 171, 172 or 173 to Maipú, the town where you'll find the wineries
- We stopped at La Melesca during our biking tour around the wineries and tried their parilla, which included grilled meats, bread, a glass of wine and coffee for 75 pesos/person. We found the food to be of good quality especially for the price we paid, though some of the meats were a bit too tough for our taste
- On our last night in Argentina, we decided to splurge and spend our last pesos at Maria Antonieta. We couldn't have been happier with our choices (pumpkin panzotti for Tyler, mushroom ravioli for Anais) and loved the casual vibe of the place.
Per a recommendation of fellow travel friends, we stayed at Hostel Empedrado, right near the center of Mendoza. This hostel is one of the best we stayed in South America. Not only are the rooms spacious (albeit a bit hot in summer), they also offer a big breakfast, free laundry (you just need to buy detergent) and a free wine happy hour everyday from 7-8 pm. They also organize all kinds of social events like empanada cooking classes, pizza parties, BBQ's, etc.