We began our bike-tour of the Argentina while we were still in Salta. Unable to go mountain bikes we managed to find some ‘regular’ bikes to go for a spin around to the surrounding towns. The bikes were slow, we were out of shape from all this great food we’ve been eating, and we couldn’t find our way into the big forest that we had wanted to go to. Feeling ‘bike’ sore in more ways than one we began to worry about the other bike trips we’d be taking in the near future, we quickly reminded ourselves that those would be featuring wine!
After finally tearing ourselves away from our great hosts in Salta, we made it to the bus station in the nick of time to head on down to Cafayate where we quickly put our things in a hostel and got on with the wine tour. The first winery had 4 organic wines (Bodega Nanni, and they do export to the USA….yes, I said organic) to taste for about $5 pesos (3.8 pesos to the $) per person…good start. The second was closed for a private tour. The third wanted 15 pesos (for 10 pesos you can choose from about 1000 bottles in the store) for a single taste so we passed. The next one was closed. The one after that was open, but the person who handles the tastings was on vacation. The next one looked out of business. The following one let us have a taste of one red and one white, neither very good. We returned to the second one and the private tour was over but there was only a taste of the Malbec. The next winery was closed and then finally we found another one in town that was open with three wines to try. In total we spent about 5 hours on those bikes, and in those five hours we visited 9 wineries and tasted a total of 10 wines. Finally we returned to that first one to buy our own bottle for an additional 10 pesos…(that’s about $2.60 for a bottle of organic wine!)
After that we moved onto the real Argentine wine country…Mendoza. This is where most of Argentina’s wine comes from and we expected to be able to really enjoy ourselves. Setting off on our new rental bikes we soon learned that we would be wrong. We had expected to go to at least 10 wineries but soon learned we would be quite disappointed as well. Sure, all of these in Mendoza were open, there were plenty of tourists after all, but they all wanted 10-25 pesos for a taste of just 3 or fewer wines . (Several actually charged less for a bottle, but then charged a 15 peso corkage fee!)
Given that we’d heard from several sources that none of the wines on “the route” are known to be particularly good, we continued biking to the winery furthest from our starting and ending point. There we sucked it up, paid our 15 pesos to taste three wines, all of which were good. Adding only 5 pesos to the tasting total, the three of us (we managed to rope our CS host Jessica into coming with us…who qualified for something of a ‘local’ discount) enjoyed a nice bottle of rose with the lunch we’d brought along for the ride and spent the rest of the day lounging in the shade drinking wine. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, but certainly not the biking through vineyards we imagined. In a stroke of complete irony the bike rental company, who only charged us 15 pesos for each bike, then provided us each with a very full glass of wine, some cookies, and a bottle of water… Why couldn’t this woman be the one working the vineyards?
Although our image of cycling from vineyard to vineyard toasting wine after wine was a bit of a bust, the day had yet to bear its biggest bit of fruit. At some point Jessica mentioned that she had been trying to arrange a trip to Ushuaia. Over a few supermarket bottles of wine and those delicious empanadas (from the video!), we hatched our plans to meet at el fin del mundo. Nos vemos pronto!