“We planned to go to a winery for lunch & after a quick bit of research found Ruca Malen – open & offering lunch on a Sunday (6 courses with wine pairings). Perfect… & it was!”
Wine (Malbec specifically)…. That pretty much covers it!!
Six Course Tasting Menu at Bodega Ruca Malen
The plan on our first day in Mendoza was to get the bus to Maipu & hire bikes to do an impromptu wine tour. My friend was very sceptical about the idea of me on a bike with wine but I managed to convince her it was a good idea (she’s known me a long time!). We were all ready to go when we just made a quick enquiry at the hotel reception, only to be told that as it was Sunday, there was nowhere open for hiring bikes & on a closer investigation of the guidebook, all the wineries were pretty much closed too!
We came up with a plan to go to a bodega (winery) for lunch & after a quick bit of research found Ruca Malen – open, offering lunch on a Sunday (6 courses with wine pairings), including a vegetarian option (my friend doesn’t eat red meat). Perfect… & it was!
The hotel reception booked it for us & although we were planning a bus again, time got the better of us. It took 40 minutes & AR$400 to get to Ruca Malen in the Lujan de Cuyo. The location was perfect – but it’s hard not to be when you have vineyards backed by the Andes (& when the cloud cleared for our lunch, we could see the snow caps).
The Tasting Menu is called “Footsteps of our Ancestors”. To quote “This menu is a tribute to the cooking techniques and products used by the native peoples who were guardians of the lands at the foot of the Andes along the Argentine territory before the arrival of the white man. Its cultural wealth leaves us with a legacy of knowledge, utensils and cooking methods that allow us to reconnect with the land.”
We started with a brief tour of the kitchen garden (including pits in the ground where they cooked some of the elements using traditional techniques), the vines & the cellar before settling down on the terrace for our meal.
The food & wines were amazing & the service impeccable throughout. The menu included beef carpaccio (beetroot for veggie), potato bread (cooked on hot coals underground & served on stones) with pork knuckle (gnocchi for veggie) & filet mignon for the main course (lasagne for veggie).
My favourite wine was the Ruca Malen Malbec 2014 served with the second starter of an egg with roasted pumpkin & carob bread. So much so I bought a bottle for the evening ahead & they were also kind enough to give us another glass while we waited for the taxi home.
We returned to our hotel in Mendoza fully satisfied, fed & watered after what turned out to be a spectacular Sunday after all!
Wine Tour of the Uco Valley with Trout & Wine
We had booked this online before we left for Argentina at a cost US$180 (with a deposit taken but most paid on the day & a small discount for cash). We were picked up from our hotel at 8.35am to discover it was effectively a private tour – with the 2 of us, our guide Juan & Enzo our driver. They were both lovely. Juan was incredibly informative about the geography and history of the area, had a great sense of humour & spoke impeccable English. They were also happy to stop whenever we felt the views were too good to pass up a photo opportunity.
We started the tour at the Pulenta Estate with a 9.30am taste of Rose on the terrace – backed by the vines & the Andes, before heading off for a tour. The tour was a basic introduction to the vineyards & how they make their wine, with a walk through the cellar & some information on their long-time association with Porsche.
“We then went back to the terrace to test our sense of smell – trying to identify several aromas with our eyes shut (tobacco, green pepper, cinnamon, chocolate etc). This was an interesting part of the tour which really opened our nasal passages to what we could detect once we started with the wines.”
The tastings at Pulenta are generally red wines (although the lady who had joined us on the tour had specifically asked for only white which they obliged, and as a result, we were also able to have a sneaky Sauvignon Blanc from her bottle at the end!). As with all the bodegas, we visited they have 3 lines of wine – the Young, the Reserve & the Premium brands (names change depending on the winery & prices increase respectively) & in each we got to taste a sample of all 3. If you choose to buy a bottle at any of the wineries they do offer a discount but even so, the wine at Pulenta was quite pricey so we downgraded from a bottle of Merlot to a La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (AR$150).
We then had a 40-minute drive to our next tasting at Sophenia which, having crossed a small hill was in an even more stunning location close to the foothills of the Andes. This time the tour included an opportunity to see the bottling process in action before heading to the cellar for a tasting. We visited in April & due to the upcoming World Malbec Day (17th April), they were using the month to taste purely the different Malbec’s they produce. Fine by me!
Overall, we tasted 4 wines, including a rose & again spanning all 3 ranges produced. They also included cheese and crackers to enjoy & help cleanse the pallet. This time we bought a Sophenia 2 Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon blend 2015 from the mid-range, noticing that the prices generally were much more reasonable than Pulenta (AR$220).
Our final stop was just next door at Andeluna. This time there was no tour but we sat down to lunch in a spectacular restaurant, overlooking vines & the snow-capped Andes (again!) & this time also in full view of the kitchen. Outside it was hard to stand there & not believe that the view had been photoshopped. It seems closer to the Andes than the others, the vines were literally backed by the snow-capped mountains. We were in awe… again!
I’m pleased to report that there were also vegetarian options for each of the meat dishes. This time the menu included beetroot soufflé with goats cheese mousse, filet mignon wrapped in puff pastry (fish for veggie) & chocolate, pumpkin & toffee mouse for dessert. In addition, the tasting for dessert was our first sample of dessert wine which was delicious. We chose to take our desert & coffee on the terrace to make the most of the view.
This time I went for a bottle of Andeluna 1300 Torrontes 2015 for AR$200.
After a full day of eating & drinking we headed back & were at our hotel by around 5.15pm. Another beautiful day in a wine lovers paradise!
A Day in the Hotel & Spa at Termas Cacheuta
After 2 days enjoying the wine & food of Mendoza, we opted for something a little different for our 3rd day in the area – a day at the spa! Again, we had researched & booked before leaving the UK as we had limited time (but be aware if you do the same they are not always the most efficient at responding but you will hear from them). They also have offices in Mendoza, where you can book.
We were due to be picked up at 9am from our hotel – as we were the last stop it was more like 9.45am and the journey to the spa took around 40 minutes. Once at the spa we hired a robe (AR$40 each & essential in my opinion, unless you happen to be travelling with a white robe?!), were given our towel (you can get a second fresh one for the afternoon session) & wristband & taken down to the baths.
The spa is a half inside, half outside the complex in another beautiful setting on the side of a valley. The pools are naturally heated (apparently the water has healing powers) & vary in temperature from 43oC to (very) cold!
As well as the 10 pools, you can cover yourself with mud for a full face & body mask, visit a natural sauna in a cave (La Gruta), take a traditional sauna, make use of the massaging showers or just spend your time relaxing by the outdoor swimming pool. They also offer a range of treatments including 1 hour massage (AR$300) or facial (AR$600) from the therapists. Please be advised that you should request these when you book as all slots had been taken by the time we arrived.
Lunch was included in the price & was an impressive all-you-can-eat buffet with lots of options for meat eaters & vegetarians (I challenge anyone not to return with a plate piled high!). Drinks were not included but you could pay cash (wine & beer are available if you’d like, as well as the full range of soft drinks).
“Top tips for the day – definitely hire a robe, make sure you bring your flip flops & don’t forget your cash before you head up for lunch. Also after lunch we went straight back down to the pools. We have no idea where everyone else was but we pretty much had the place to ourselves for 30 minutes which was perfect.”
The total price for the day, including transfers from the hotel & lunch, was AR$865. Well worth it for a memorable & full day (pick up for the return transfer is 5.45pm) of relaxing, in a beautiful setting as an alternative to the food & wine indulgencies of the other excursions from Mendoza.
Where next time?
This would definitely be the self guided bike tour – bus to Maipu & hiring bikes from Mr Hugo for a cycle around the bodegas in the valley.
What do you think?
Where else have you been in the world that is great for lovers of wine & food?
What other activities would you recommend for a trip to Mendoza?
To see more of my photos from Argentina please visit my Gallery page!