Published: November 23rd 2008November 16th 2008
Vines of Malbec grapes, what Argentine wine is famous for.
Ever hear of a Tour de Franzia? No that isn´t a misspelling on the Tour de France. It is more closely related to cirrhosis of the liver than to a healthy heart. Unless you are up on the parlance of cheap binge drinking of the day, I would guess not, so, let me explain. A Tour involves taking the vacuum sealed bags out of boxes of Franzia, forming the appropriate number of teams (one per bag), and the first team to finish their bag wins the race. Not exactly the best way to start off a night, and certainly one of the worst ways to wake up the next morning, but it can provide some cheap excitement for an evening. Right? Well, my friends from high school and I were headed to a party the summer after Freshman year in college and decided to do this, but to take it a step further. Being from the boonies, and no one wanting to drink and drive (we were responsible young men after all), we decided to ride our bikes to the party and make the Tour de Franzia a bit more closely related to those of Lance. So, we hid stashes of
Franzia along the roadways and took pit stops on the route. Down a bag of Franzia, get back on your bike for another fifteen minutes to the next pit stop, quench your thirst again and move on. We showed up in grand fashion. Mendoza, and here is the point to this stupid story, is much like the grander Tour de Franzia, if you so choose to call it. You can rent bicycles and ride to the numerous wineries, or bodegas, in the area, take tours of their cellars and sample their wines at minimal cost. Of course, this also involves buying a few bottles of wine along the way, sharing them with your friends, and having a grand old time on antiquated cycles in complete disrepair while riding down potholed country roads without sidewalks (or shoulders for that matter) as Argentines fly past you honking their horn at you. Its great.
We arrived off the night bus from Valpo on a Saturday morning not really sure how to approach the aforementioned tour, and heard stories about how most of the bodegas are closed on weekends. Of course this upset us greatly, however, we found a group of Swiss, Germans
Octanz, my favorite wine
This was the best one at Carinae, in my opinion
and Canadians about to embark on the voyage and figured we would give it a try too. Of course it was immensely successful and we had a blast. The first winery, Carinea, was by far my favorite. The wine was fabulous, produced in small batches, bottled by a single individual, and sold, largely, only at their store. It was really something unique. I don´t know a ton about wine, but am definitely able to appreciate it enough to know that theirs was damn good. The second winery was probably the funniest though. Our tour guide was insanely gorgeous. She was seriously, stammeringly, befuddling, stupifyingly, "lupdid"ly, hot; if Natalie Portman and Penelope Cruz had a love child, this would have been it. Surreal. Eric hated the tour because it just made him angry, having to look at something so beautiful but knowing he would not achieve such greatness here (Eric's edit: As our friend Jon would say, "She was great..."). I, on the other hand, just sat there with a stupid grin on my face and agreed with everything she said.
"This wine is a bit... um... how do you say? Oaky? Is that how you say it? Oaky?"
definitely. 100%. Oaky. Say it all the time."
"Yeah. All the time. Some one asks me hows it going, and I´ll respond oaky. Definitely oaky. Always say oaky."
"Okay. Will you marry me?"
Okay, maybe it didn´t go quite like that...
"Um... okay... will you please not stand so close to me?"
Closer, but still kidding. Ugh. It was incredible.
Anyway, at the last bodega, I think it was the third or fourth, we were sitting in the lawn next to the vineyard enjoying a bottle and struck up a conversation with some locals. They mentioned that there was a huge wine tasting going on at a very large winery about an hour outside of the city the next day. They said there isn´t public transport, but it is the biggest event in Mendoza each year and that we needed to go. They offered to pick us up from our hostel and give us a lift, and we gladly accepted. (Eric's edit: If everybody in the world was half as friendly as the Argentinians we've met, there would be world peace. Florencia, the girl who both told us of the event, offered to take us,
and then picked us up at our hostel for the trip, told me she likes showing visitors a good time because she wants them to think good things of Mendoza. I told her I would tell all my friends that Mendoza is home to wonderfully friendly and generous people.) The event was absolutely ridiculous. It was about $8 for all you can drink of around 30 different kinds of wines from 10 am until 6 pm. There were thousands of people around the grounds, live music, tango dancers, food vendors, and wine stands everywhere you looked. At the beginning I was really trying to enjoy each different wine, get a feel for the different subtleties in each one, and try to pick out my favorites. By about glass ten I was done with that and was just going for refills. I can at least say I tried to appreciate them. Burton and Eric said screw it early on in the effort and just went for it, tasting be damn they took them down like shots. (Eric's edit: Florencia and her entourage of friends we spent the day with are all wine connoisseurs. Though I took my wine down like shots
it was pretty funny pretending I otherwise knew what I was doing - smelling each wine, swirling each glass to examine the characteristics of the wine´s "legs," and of course commenting after each glass something along the lines of "I appreciate the smoothness of this Malbec. You can tell it spent longer in the barrel.")
That night we jumped on a bus for Bariloche. It was a 20 hour bus ride. We sat down and passed out straight away. We woke up the next morning almost halfway through the ride. A perfect way to make that run...
Anyway, we are now safely in Patagonia, Argentina. Life is amazing. There is beautiful hiking, as amazing as I´ve ever seen, and the outdoors is calling me hard. So, it might take a while for the blogs to be forthcoming, not out of frustration with internet, and not because I don´t have anything to write about, but because I´m too busy soaking up the amazing mountains, crystal clear waters, wonderful alpine trees, fresh mountain air, and blue skies. It is the place, more than any other, that drove me to quit my job and come on the trip and it is
phenomenal. So, I likely won´t be as quick with blogs, but they´ll be good when they come. I heard reports, and I won´t name names, ahem... Mr. Alan Bronstein (that is Eric´s dad who seriously looks uncannily like The Dude and has been mistaken for Jeff Bridges while walking to work in Manhattan), but supposedly the Valpo blog wasn´t that entertaining... I agree. Nothing crazy happened there, just furthering the point that I don´t make this shit up!
There are more photos below