Arrived in Mendoza mid-afternoon on Sunday to find everyone was somewhere else or enjoying a siesta – a city of more than a million people with almost deserted streets. We were expecting to meet up with the MG people who had driven up from Buenos Aires and also a few people from the local Classic car Club but it took a while to track them down. Meanwhile we went for a stroll around this beautiful city with its tree-lined streets and plazas. Well away from the Patagonian winds now so there are lots of cafes with outdoor tables to choose from.
Finally the MG Car Club people arrive with a rasp of pre-war exhausts right outside the Park Hyatt – Horace and Carlos in their red and blue 1934 J2s, Mario and Maria-Laura in their replica Q-type and Raul in an MGB. Lots of car-talk breaking down the language barrier – Hector and Maria-Laura performing the interpreter roles when hand gestures failed. A few drinks at the bar on the corner then off to a nearby restaurant along with Leo and Elle, Patricio and Willy from the Mendoza Classic Car Club. A great evening with a nice presentation from the BA guys.
In the morning we have a few hours to catch up on some car maintenance – in our case to find out why the cooling fan failed, again, and to fix a door latch which fell apart on some rough roads a few days ago. All fixed by 12:30 when we are invited to drive in convoy to a nearby winery for lunch. I could get used to a city like this with wineries only a few kms from the city centre.
Nieto Senetiner winery is one of the oldest wineries in Mendoza and dates back to 1888. Very polished with beautiful gardens and vineyards right next to the outdoor dining area where we enjoyed our best meal since arriving in Argentina – a lunch lasting nearly 4 hours! The plates of Argentinian beef just kept arriving. We haven’t found the part of Argentina where these cows are raised, occasionally we see are a few goats but most days there is no stock to be seen at all. Mendoza is the home of Malbec and the one from this vineyard was the best we have tasted. They also offer a Cab Sauv and a grape we haven’t come across before, Bondara. Tasting and looking very like a Barbera. We were amazed at the generous irrigation, water flowing freely in open channels along each trellised row. So different from Australia where every precious drop is precisely metered to the vines.
At first blush Mendoza seems to have everything a winemaker needs; good soil, warm and dry summers with little risk of rain at the wrong time, plenty of sunshine and most importantly, abundant irrigation from the rivers flowing from the Andes. The only real concern is that the snow fields are shrinking each summer and their reservoirs are drying up. A problem for manana….