"What's not to like about Mendoza?" asks sommelier Sorrel Moseley-Williams. "The province is truly picture perfect, thanks to its stunning Andes backdrop. Century-old bodegas vie with ultra-contemporary offerings for visitors' attention, and sipping your wine of choice while gazing at the panorama of South America's backbone is unbeatable. And, as increasing numbers of wineries open their doors to tourism, Mendoza might soon overtake Buenos Aires as visitors' favorite Argentine city."
Moseley-Williams is an expert on what many are starting to call "Napa South." Mendoza, with its historic city center surrounded by nearly 1,000 wineries, is also home to an incredible array of luxurious hotels, world-class restaurants, and myriad opportunities to learn all there is to know about the art of winemaking.
Making your next trip even more enticing: The U.S. dollar has made gains against the Argentinian peso for the last two years, meaning your money goes even farther. And the climate in Mendoza ranges from average highs in the 70s from May to September to balmy 80s in the warm season between November and February.
For visitors who want to get their hands dirty, Moseley-Williams recommends The Vines Resort & Spa, a sumptuous new hotel and vineyard in the Uco Valley — currently the most raved-about site in Mendoza. Here, visitors can learn, and try for themselves, all different aspects of the process — from 90-minute vine planting and pruning experiences to blending and bottling their own custom vintage, to a three-hour "wine camp" where guests learn to harvest and sort grapes and even conduct a brix analysis (measuring sugar content in wine).
The Vines' chief agronomist, Francisco Evangelista, says that day visitors to vineyards are increasingly interested in getting as involved with the winemaking process as possible: "They're excited to learn about the process behind the bottle — what goes into planting, harvesting, or pruning grapes themselves, and seeing what the vines look like underneath the ground in one of our soil pits," he says.
The truly dedicated can purchase between three and 10 acres at The Vines, which are then looked after by professionals, who oversee every aspect of the process and even ship the bottles overseas to their owners.
Grapes on the vine in Mendoza
For those looking to enjoy more of the beautiful scenery, bike tours are the answer. Cycling from vineyard to vineyard is an increasingly popular method for touring the area (with the added benefit of fresh air and stunning views of the snow-capped Andes). Sign up for a luxury wine tour on two wheels with DuVine Cycling and Adventure Co. or simply rent a bike from Bike Cool Tours and create your own itinerary.
If you'd rather explore on foot, General San Martin Park covers nearly 1,000 acres and boasts more than 30 sculptures, a rose garden, a botanical garden, a zoo, and the Juan Cornelio Moyano Natural Sciences and Anthropology Museum.
The Vines is also home to Siete Fuegos (Seven Fires), a classic Argentine barbecue restaurant overseen by celebrity chef Francis Mallmann. His similar, award-winning 1884 — where cuts of world-class beef are roasted over carefully tended open flames, gaucho style, before melting in your mouth — is an excellent alternative in the city of Godoy Cruz, and has a wine list longer than some novels.
In downtown Mendoza, lauded Spanish chef Nadia Harón's latest venture, Nadia O.F., is an homage to truly seasonal cooking, with a Spanish-Argentine tasting menu that changes on a weekly basis.
The hammam at Entre Cielos
If you're in need of a few hours' break from the local wineries, get a whole new view of your vacation in the most luxurious way with a visit to Entre Cielos, a 16-room boutique hotel and vineyard with a dimly lit stone-walled spa and hammam. The six-stage circuit of alternating steams and scrubs will revitalize your system. And to prove that grapes can be used for something other than libations, you may opt for the grape seed scrub and wine bath.