Wineries in Mendoza—Argentina’s equivalent to Napa Valley—may be a little late to the wine tourism game, but they’re sold on it now. For the last several years, select wineries (both big and small) have opened their doors to visitors eager to tour the facilities and taste the fine Malbecs and other varietals cultivated in this arid land. So what’s the next big idea in wine tourism for this vineyard-covered town in the foothills of the Andes? Wine and wheels, of course.
The notion of touring the wineries by bike has been catching on over the last few years, especially in the Mendoza neighborhood of Maipú. There, it’s easy to pick up a rental bicycle and a convenient bike & wine touring map at one of the many bike shops in the area (we rented ours from Maipú Bikes). Then, start hitting up the boutique wineries, which welcome visitors as early as 10 or 11 a.m. and stay open until 6 p.m.
Our tour began with a stop at the small Viña María. The tasting room is tiny yet quaint, but we preferred to take our wine glasses with us as we strolled the grounds, marveling at the grapes on the vine and the ripening olives. Established in 1889 by the Cavagnaro family, Viña María produces varietal wines, olive oil, jam and marmalade. They also run a rural B&B on the ranch property.
The next stop was Bodega La Rural (Rutini Wines), which has a more dramatic room for tastings. The wine offered for tasting is decent, but the real treat is a walk through their wine museum, which is filled with photographs and wine-making tools from another era.
Trapiche was the next winery on our list, and it made a powerful impression. Certainly bigger in scale than our previous stops, this mid-size winery greeted us first with a security guard, then with acres of vineyards, a manicured lawn and a glass pyramid structure in the front of the winery reminiscent of the Louvre. A little pretentious, to be sure, but the wine was a step up, and the tour was informative.
The terminus of our wine & wheels tour was Familia Di Tommáso, an intimate boutique winery that should not be missed. This family-run affair offered the local flavor we had been looking for that we felt missing from Trapiche, and the warm welcome that didn’t quite come across at Bodega de Rural. At Familia Di Tommáso, the sommelier told us more than we would have thought to ask about wine, and she never cut short her answers to any of our questions, even when it was long passed closing time. The wine tasting selections were delicious.
If you go: Start your bike tour early, as there are numerous stops to make along the 7-10 kilometer route to sample both wine and olive oil (another big export). You’ll pass countless casual restaurants, so you can stop at any time for a bite to keep up strength (and keep the wine from going to your head).
Bike rentals and route: Don’t expect a lot of options, bike-wise, but these simple machines work fine, even on Maipú’s rough roads. There’s a bike lane along the major route, but the street itself isn’t scenic. The ambiance changes when you roll onto the winery grounds. Olive tree lined and thick with vineyards, the scenery is just as indulgent as the heady scent of ripening grapes in the air. Drink deeply.