A trip to the wine region of Mendoza has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Ok, well at least as long as I could drink wine. To me, the wines from Mendoza top the list as some of the best wines in the world. The full bodied reds are exactly what I want when I have a delicious steak dinner which is why it is no surprise that Argentina is renown for both wine and steak.
As part of our vanlife South America trip, we spent the last two weeks of our journey in Northern Argentina chasing down all of the wine we possibly could find. Bottle after bottle, winery after winery, the last few weeks of our holiday was nothing more than one splurge or treat after the other.
Part of what made our experience phenominal in this wine region of Argentina is the amazing boutique wineries in Mendoza that we found. Coupled with some of the best dining experiences that we had in South America, our trip to Mendoza was nothing short of amazing.
If you are looking for boutique wineries in Mendoza, boozy lunches and even quality breweries for those of you who have drug your partner across the world to indulge in wine for far too long, then you are in luck in Mendoza.
So without further adieu, here is our list of the best boutique wineries in Mendoza, the most amazing places for lunch and a handful of breweries just to add a bit of uniqueness to the list!
Best Boutique Wineries in Mendoza
Bodega La Azul
Bodega La Azul is a small boutique winery in the heart of the Uco Valley. With a production of only 59,000 liters, Bodega La Azul tenderly cares for their small batch wines ensuring the best tasting experience which is why it has landed on our list for the best boutique wineries in Mendoza.
As of February 2019, the vineyard offers seven different types of wine. For those interested in the five-course tasting menu (further details below), a sample of five wines is included. The tasting includes three varieties from their young stainless steel barrels, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. All of these wines are young and easy to drink. The remaining two include the Azul Reserve and Grand Reserve, both a blend of Malbec and Cabernet. Aged in French and American Oak, the reserves provide a rounder, fuller complexity to their younger counterparts. All five wines, however, consist of tantalizing aromas, round finishes and the perfect balance of tannins. You won’t be disappointed!
In addition to the tasting, a tour of the facilities is also available. The tour explains the history of the facility including the name of the bodega (I won’t spoil this cute story for you) and their wine producing methods. If you are only interested in a tasting and not lunch, these can be arranged from 10:00 – 12:00 and 16:00 – 16:30 from Tuesday to Sunday.
Bodega A16 is a relatively young winery dating back less than ten years ago. Located in Luján de Cuyo approximately forty minutes from Mendoza, the bodega is the perfect place to start off your day as you explore the best boutique wineries in Mendoza. The staff genuinely enjoy sharing their knowledge of the winemaking process with you. Plus the wines are quite delicious.
A delicate Sauvignon Blanc is given to you as a welcoming drink upon arrival before starting the official tour. With a light citrus aroma, it is a refreshing welcome after spending the morning in the hot sun. During the tour, you get to taste a young Malbec varietal straight from the barrel to be compared with the final bottled version at the end of the tour. This gives you the chance to taste how the wine changes as it matures. If you are interested in more tastings after these three, you may continue with the reserve wines. Our favorite wine was the Punto Ar Malbec. The grapes, picked at night once the temperature drops, provide perfectly balanced tannins with hints of vanilla and dates. You will definitely want to bring this home as a memento or gift.
Pro-tip: This bodega is small batch and boutique, so make sure you visit before the secret is out. To visit, book a reservation as no walk ins are allowed.
- Address: Cobos, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
- Hours of Operation: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Website: http://www.a16sa.com.ar/
- Cost: Tastings range from $350 – $1,000 per person
Looking for a winery with a tour by the winemaker himself? Look no further than Carmelo Patti. Carmelo Patti runs a small bodega just on the outskirts of Luján de Cuyo. What the bodega lacks in vines, it more than makes up for with character from Carmelo himself. In addition to the tour being given by the winemaker, what sets Carmelo apart is the fact that his explanation relies heavily on the packaging and distributing of the wine. Most vineyards tell you about the wine making process, but leave out the other “boring” stuff. We learned how the position of the bottle in the case (i.e. upside down in the box or right side up) impacts the tasting of the wine. How fascinating! Needless to say, the tasting was unlike all the other tastings in the area and one not to miss.
Pro-tip: If you plan on going, book a reservation as Carmelo is not always around. Also, ensure you bring along a Spanish speaking friend or can speak the language yourself. Carmelo’s tour is only in Spanish, but we managed to get by on Spanglish.
- Address: San Martín 2614, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
- Hours of Operation: Monday to Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
- Website: Carmelo Patti Facebook
Bodega Artesanal Vina el Cerno
Viña el Cerno is an organic winery located in Maipu, the closest wine district to the Mendoza city center. While not our favorite, what the wines lacked in flavor and aroma they more than made up for in the size of the pour. We heard previously that this winery offered generous pours, but our expectation of generous was well surpassed. Think more along the size of a glass of wine from your local wine bar back home without the hefty price. Two tastings, one of three wines and one of two, cost only ARS $270 or approximately USD $8 as of February 2018. The price is unbelievable!
We skipped the tour of the vineyard, so we cannot comment on this. We opted instead to sit outside enjoying the warm sun on their terrace overlooking the vineyards. Beware though, there is an abundance of flies swarming around. If they annoy you, then I advise you to stay indoors.
- Address: Carril Perito Moreno 631, Coquimbito, M5513 Maipú, Mendoza, Argentina
- Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and Saturday from 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Website: http://elcerno.com.ar/
- Cost: $270 for two tastings (one of three wines and one of two wines)
Best Boozy Lunch in Mendoza
There are few things that pair better with wine than amazing food. When visiting wine regions throughout the world, finding the perfect place to eat lunch and dinner is almost as important as finding the top Mendoza wineries. I spend just as much time researching the best places for wine and lunch pairings as I do for the best Mendoza vineyards.
During our weekend in Mendoza, we ate at Bodega La Azul and Cava de Cano. Both turned out to me some of the best dining experiences that we had in South America.
Bodega La Azul
Bodega Azul, although already listed under wineries, also belongs here. In South America, it ranks as one of our favorite wining and dining experiences. Set against a backdrop of vineyards in the Uco Valley, this rustic farmhouse leaves you with lasting memories. Book yourself a five course tasting lunch and thank me later. Costing only USD $35 per person, the bodega serves five delicious courses consisting of three entrees, one main and a dessert. To accompany the meal your choice of still or sparkling water is provided plus a wine is paired with each course. Do not worry about finishing your wine before the courses is over either. The pours are generous and the staff make sure you are never without a full glass.
As the menu is a five course lunch, the menu is always changing and evolving. Our menu consisted of the following:
- Salad with cooked peaches and blue cheese drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette
- Empanada with your choice of meat or veggie
- Main (choice of):
- Steak with mashed potatoes
- Pork knuckle with mashed potatoes
- Grilled vegetables
- Dessert (choice of):
- Creme brûlée
Each course was just as exciting as the one before culminating in a perfectly orchestrated meal. It is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon relaxing and enjoying the view as opposed to hopping around the Mendoza vineyards. Make sure you book a reservation in advance though and turn up early for seats with the best views.
Cava de Cano
I am a serious planner. It is unlike me to pick a spot for lunch and not already know everything about it including what I am going to order. This, however, was not the case for us at Cava de Cano. Previously reading about picadas in Argentina, I was excited to try one in Mendoza. A picada is a gathering of Argentinians centered around food, wine and conversation with friends/family. Typically, the food is a few types of cured meats, cheese, olives and bread. Well this is what I thought. I expected a standard charcuterie and cheese platter that I find in the US. Oh, how I was wrong.
Arriving for our reservation at noon, Cava de Cano told us to wait a few minutes while they finished setting up. We looked at each other very confused as to what “setting up” could mean. When the waitress ushered us into our own private room with over 30 small plates scattered on a large table plus a charcuterie and cheese board, we finally understood why. This was why we waited. Stunned, Eddie and I stared at each other for what felt like ten minutes. Not knowing whether to proceed or run, we waited for further instructions.
The waitress returned to explain that all of the food on the table was indeed for us. While pouring us a glass of wine, she proceeded to describe the hot picadas which would be in addition to what was already on the table. Again… we sat baffled again. Eddie concerned my oversight would lead to a hefty bill at the end of the meal. I baffled by how I managed to get us into this situation.
Eventually, we bucked up and tucked in to the tantalizing food on the table. We had no choice but to sit back, enjoy the ride and deal with the consequences (i.e., the bill) later. On the table sat grilled vegetables, a variety of marinated beans, tapanades with fresh bread, olives, cured meats, fresh cheese, fruits, and much more tempting us.
The hot picadas left no room for disappointment either. The first hot picada arrived with much anticipation. A perfectly prepared empanada stuffed with tender goat meat. It was amazing. Quit possibly our favorite empanada in Argentina. Then, continuing on with a goat theme, our second hot picada was a yummy stew with vegetables. Simply divine! By this time we could eat no more. Sufficiently stuffed, we opted out of the third hot picada skipping ahead to dessert instead.
And it was a good thing we did. The dessert was a huge bowl of ice cream with your choice of a glass of whisky (with a cigarillo) or a glass of champagne. Needless to say we did not leave Cava de Cano hungry. We did not leave thirty either as their was endless wine and water flowing throughout the whole meal.
Finally done, we asked for the thing that scared us the most…the bill. With all of the food and wine consumed, the bill had to be an extraordinary amount. Deep breathe…the total summed to only USD $35 for the both of us. I could not believe it. Again, this restaurant left me stunned! Just STUNNED!
In conclusion, Cava de Cano is most certainly a dining experience to remember and definitely one to book while in Mendoza. I cannot say more about the place, the service, or the food. The quality of the food is not commiserate with the price which in this case is a good thing. Where else offers you that MUCH FOOD for that LITTLE PRICE? Incredible. Do yourself a favor and book a reservation before the secret is out!
Best Brewery in Mendoza
Hangar 52 is located in the heart of Mendoza along Avenida Aristides Villanueva. The popular brew pub offers a wide arrange of Argentinian beers and a few house brewed beers. The outdoor seating is a perfect place to observe the hustle and bustle while sipping some of the finest beer in the city. Plus they offer a solid happy hour until 21:00 with two for one pints. This is a good deal considering the price of beer compared to wine in Argentina.
Pro-tip: Make sure to pay for your order from the cashier before heading to the bar to order as you are required to show your ticket to the bar staff before service.
A Tasting of a Different Sort
Pasrai Olive Oil
While perhaps at the top of your list of activities to do while in Mendoza, an olive oil tasting provides a nice break to all the wine tastings. Just outside Maipú lies Pasrai Olive Oil. Pasrai offers daily tours of the production area explaining the process of making olive oil. You learn about the process as well as the difference between extra virgin and regular olive oil. The best part, however, is the tasting of the various types of olive oils offered and accompaniments. A free tasting of six olive oils with bread and some with different tapenades given at the end soaking up all of the wine you have consumed earlier in the day. It is a lovely way to spend an hour allowing you to sober up a before the next glass of wine.
I hope our experiences help you to plan and enjoy your upcoming trip to Mendoza. Let us know your thoughts and if you find new places to visit keep us clued in, so we can update the list! Happy wining and dining!