Mendoza, Argentina is one of my favorite cities in the world. Not only as a kickoff point to adventures in the Andes Mountains, but for the multi-cultural ambiance of the tree-lined city streets, sidewalk cafes and the world-renowned wines of the region.
The quickly approaching 2016 Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (The Grape Harvest Festival), or simply Vendimia, occurs in the first week of March, each year.
The preceding three months sees
preparation for the festival in each of the 18 departments in Mendoza Province leading up to Vendimia (Ven-dee-mee-ah) with their own festivals and events celebrating the wine and wine making industry, including the selection of their entrant to the ultimate selection of National Vendimia Queen, in Mendoza, the culmination of the festival.
Last year, following a weeks-long trek in Aconcagua National Park, the group of friends I was travelling with found ourselves witness to the buildup of activities and preparation for Vendimia 2015. Posters advertising various events and declaring favored Queen contestants were in nearly every shop and restaurant window. Banners festooned building exteriors and hung across the promenade Paseo Sarmiento near Plaza Independencia.
We had returned from the Andes to Mendoza to recover, clean up, return to civility and take in a few sights before heading to our respective homelands. Following, our first order of fun was intended as a tour of museums and galleries then leading to wine bars. We found few museums (nor tried very hard), but did find vino and great food. We ate delightful sandwiches from a street vendor, stopped at the Spanish restaurant (El Mesòn Español) for wine and tapas, then on to an evening of more wine tasting at an event associated with Vendimia.
A young man working at a tourist information kiosk found somewhere in that day’s wanderings recommended that evening’s event, which included the viewing of wine related artwork, wine tasting, even Power Point presentations by various vineyards and wine makers. Quite a refined crowd, save for us in our somewhat vagabond wear.
On rented bikes, we cycled our way out of Mendoza city next morning and found ourselves in the prime bicycling and wine touring areas of Maipu. We visited a couple bodegas (wineries) and had lunch at Mevi winery then on to Vistandes, which specializes in a limited release Carmenere, a very pleasant red varietal originally from Bordeaux, France.
I cannot think of a more delightful way to experience Mendoza Provence, its excellent wines and culture. This time of year has so much to offer with harvest festivals, wine tasting, cycling, easy access to affordable lodging and Mendoza’s vibrant night life at many of the city’s plazas, on the Paseo Sarmiento and any of the activities leading up to or during Vendimia.