My friend and I arrived at the airport bubbling with excitement, we were so ready for a weekend away in the mountains, drinking wine and exploring a new city. We couldn’t wait to board our flight and be on the way, but we were flying out of Buenos Aires, from Aeroparque, which meant that our flight was of course, delayed. And delayed. And delayed. After hours of anxiously checking the flight boards and sitting on the airport floor, I could finally make out a fuzzy announcement in Spanish that our flight was getting ready to board. We sprung up, collected our bags, and hustled over to join all the other passengers. Within a couple of hours, we touched down in Mendoza. After a quick dinner we got to our room and collapsed, exhausted from our day of travel and wanting some sleep to prepare for a full day tomorrow.
Our first full day in Mendoza began at eight AM; we had to be ready to leave for our first tour of a bodega at nine o’clock. We were picked up and driven an hour outside the city, to the south, to UCO Valley. Our drive was dreary, thick clouds masked any views we might’ve had and a light rain patted rhythmically against the windows, and it wasn’t long until we were both asleep again. When we woke up, we had arrived at the first bodega and saw the small, modern, concrete-and-wooden building that housed Solocontigo Bodega. The best way to describe the building as we walked up is cool, extremely cool. We were met in the doorway by the winemaker, who would lead us through our tour. As we stepped inside the building, our jaws dropped. It felt like was had walked into the incredibly chic living room of an old friend, it was both homey and welcoming and entirely stylish. Floor-to-ceiling windows revealed the lines of grapes outside, dormant in the winter, and our tasting table was in the center of the room with glasses glittering, waiting to be filled. A brightly colored velvet couch hugged around a sleek fireplace, and beautiful artwork hung on the walls; the bodega doubled as an art gallery featuring artwork from local Mendoza artists.
After a few awestruck moments, we were led outside to see the different parts of production of the wine. We saw the different tanks in which the wine was aged—concrete, steel, and wooden ones, each meant to impart unique properties to the grapes they contained. The mechanics of the storage process was explained to us and the winemaker told us of the specific ways that they treat their grapes (which was all very interesting but sadly went quite over our heads). After seeing the tanks, we were taken down into the wine cellar. The first thing one notices here is not the dozens of barrels all aligned quietly in the dark, but the glass-walled room at the back of the cellar. Enclosed within is a handsome table surrounded by rich leather chairs and lit magnificently by a crystal chandelier—the “VIP” tasting room. It was breath taking; we did not qualify for entry.
We toured the cellar and were instructed on the barrelling and aging processes, we even got to try a wine straight from the barrel to understand the significance that the process adds. Then it was upstairs to our tasting. We sat at the table and tried three different, all fantastic, wines produced right in the rooms we’d just stood. It was impossible to pick a favorite, between the crisp and beautiful white and the rich comforting Malbec. Even our tasting was guided, with the winemaker detailing the complex flavors that would’ve been missed by our untrained senses. It was a fantastic experience, both the wine and the ambiance creating a perfect atmosphere. Solocontigo was my favorite bodega of the five we would visit that weekend, and it was very hard to leave that gorgeous place. But once we did, we were rewarded: as we drove away down the gravel road, the clouds began to lift and the sun broke through their cover. Suddenly we could see that we were driving through a bowl of mountains, the imposing and beautiful Andes were all around us. We smiled; our adventure was everything we had hoped it would be and much more.