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Published: October 22nd 2018
With my friends Pablo, Salvador, and Nicolas.
Friday night marked the end of our work at DAD, though we will return to say good bye to students and staff on Monday, and so a celebration was called for. (The principal of the school had just been named superintendent of the high school district and that seemed worthy of celebration as well.) So we hosted a dinner at Cava de Cuno (cellar of the governor) for five of our new friends including the administration of the school. The restaurant is the former home of the governor of the region, and we were given a tour of the wine cellars and the structure before dinner.
As is often the case here, the meal stretched on for hours, we sat down at 9 p.m and left at 1 a.m.
The weekend was our time to do a bit of sight seeing. We headed for the Uco Valley, one of the major wine-producing areas in the region. First stop was a knife shop where a family, everyone from the mother and father to the now-grown children have a roll in producing the knives. They begin with steel from Spain, leather from southern Argentina, and fine woods
from the north and end up with collector-quality knives and cutlery.
From there we drove to the town of Tupangato, a village built around the farming industry. We wandered the streets, joining the community on what seems to be market day. The most fun was stopping in hardware and dry goods stores to shop amongst the local population.
On we went into the valley to Bodega La Azul, a small winery that also features a restaurant. I had visited the winery last March but was not able to get a reservation for lunch, this time I had planned ahead. We sat down to a five course meal, each course accompanied by one of the winery's select bottles. We began with tender beef wrapped in a crepe all baked in their wood fired oven. Then empanadas followed by salad and mains including both roasted pork and beef. For perhaps the only time in Argentina I choose pasta--albeit ravioli stuffed with lamb. Again, as is the custom, we sat down at around noon but did not leave until four. One of the other happy occasions here was that I was able to reconnect with Paoula who
had been our guide to the winery back in the spring (their fall).
From La Azul we drove to Sol e Nieves, a small tourist village best known as a place where San Martin, the great liberator, stopped for a rest during his campaign against the Spanish. He was said to have slept under an apple tree, thus the town is also known as the apple tree village. There is a monument here to San Martin which we toured and heard more about the revolution he lead that created a free Argentina.
On Sunday morning we dropped in on Bodega Laureano Gomez. Senior Gomez is one of the best known wine makers in the region, having created both the Trapiche and then the Salentine lines before deciding he was done with large production efforts and wanted to build a smaller, boutique product. We had not been able to reserve a visit ahead, so just dropped in and were fortunate to fine Senior Gomez trimming vines in the back of his home which is where the bodega is. He agreed to give us a tour, but more than that, he gave us a three hour
course on wine making, from how he chooses his vines, decides to pick the grapes, how he makes and matures the wine, how he blends it, he even showed us his labeling machine and put labels on bottles that he autographed for us. We were beyond fortunate to have met him and spent time in his bodega.
We went on to another bodega, Black Rock, where our guide was a young American in the country for a year. The wine tour was excellent, but we also learned a lot about living in Argentina from her perspective. One thing that she confirmed was that Argentine youths do not drink as much as Americans (she also went to college here). As she put it, "Americans drink to get drunk, the see it as a sprint to drink as much as possible, Argentines see it as a marathon, you are enjoying a long meal or time with friends so you enjoy what you are drinking."
Our final stop this weekend was to spend the night at Finca Garciarena. I had stayed here in March and was treated so well, including joining the family at an Asado, I
Straight from the aging barrel
Laureano Gomez shares his work with us
wanted to return. I was treated like family again, this time with an Asado prepared in the gaucho way, a large rack of meat on a frame cooked over an open fire. In addition to the meat there was tripe, sausages, onions, and salads and the family's own wine made from the grapes that grow all around the house.
Pablo, on the the brothers that owns the Finca, is an attorney who works to bring to justice those who were part of 'the disappeared'. This was a campaign by the military government and supported by the US, to eliminate any "communist" (as in anyone who disagreed with the junta) from the country. In the 1970s dissenters were imprisoned, tortured, and ultimately murdered--some simply drugged and thrown from airplanes into the sea. The were called the disappeared because at a press conference the president, when asked what was happening to people, said he did not know, they just disappeared. Pablo works on brining to justice former military members who did this, another branch works to find children, now adults, who were taken from dissenter families and given to 'more appropriate' homes.
Today we have breakfast
at the Finca, return to Mendoza for a last visit to DAD, visit the museum of the disappeared (arranged by Pablo) and attend a farewell, you guessed it, Asado.
(PS. Make sure to check out all the photos, the asado was something to see.)
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