Mendoza, that tranquil wine country in Argentina, is quickly becoming my go-to spot for a few days of relaxation and rejuvenation. Cheap 1.5 hour flights from Buenos Aires make it an accessible and easy paradise. This last visit was the first time I had been there during the harvest – with the leaves turned golden and vivid red, rustling in the long shadows and cooler temperatures of autumn. Having loved Hotel Casa La Galeana so much the last time, I stayed there again, this time bringing along three friends for a weekend of massages, wine tasting, great food, and bicycle rides. We headed to El Mercadito on Friday night, sharing a bottle of local Malbec and dining on fresh and healthy entrees – zucchini noodles topped with homemade pesto, roasted cherry tomatoes, broccoli, peas, and squash. Delicious, light, and perfect. We went to bed, hearing nothing but the sound of beautiful silence.
Chacras de Coria, where the hotel is located, is a perfect spot to explore the vineyards – it is within a few kilometers of many, including Nieto Senetier, Lagarde, Luigi Bosca, Carmelo Patti, Clos de Chacras, and Altavista just to name a few. We headed for a 12:30 appointment at Lagarde. The vineyards are a sight to be seen in harvest – both grape vines and surrounding trees tinted all varieties of yellow, orange, and red, fiercely vivid and gorgeous in the bright sunshine. Lagarde is a vineyard without pomp and circumstance, but rather a friendly, casual, and welcoming place, eager to show you their process and love for wine.
If you can, definitely stay for lunch – not only is the dining room one of the most beautiful you can imagine, the open kitchen delivers food bursting with flavour and freshness, matched perfectly with the local wines (read about my first visit here). It is truly a farm-to-table experience. The three course menu begins with freshly baked crusty bread, dipped into Lagarde olive oil, pressed from olive trees within a couple hundred meters of the dining room. Next to the vines is a large organic vegetable garden, the basis for a lot of the dishes flying out of the kitchen.
I chose grilled shrimp as my starter, served with local spinach puree, tomato oil, and microgreens. Paired with a zesty young Chardonnay. The main dish was flaky tender fish, with roasted vegetables from the garden, sundried tomato tapenade and herbed cream. Vegetarians can sample the ravioli, huge tender pockets of pasta filled with cheese and served with a truffled mushroom sauce.
Entrees were served with “Henry”, the iconic wine of the vineyard, a blend which changes each year and takes five years to produce. The friendly servers are hardly shy about their wine pouring, but the more Henry the better!
The dessert, we all agreed, was the highlight, not only of lunch but maybe of life. Is that too much pressure for a dessert? I don´t think desserts feel stress so I´m going with it. Incredibly rich chilled chocolate pave, with crunchy hazelnuts and caramelized sugar laced through it, was served with smooth silky coffee gelato and caramel drizzle. Along with it came your choice of late harvest Henry, a white sweet dessert wine, or the Pinot espumante, a limited edition dry sparkling wine, only sold locally at the vineyard. We all went for bubbles.
A round of espresso and yet more chocolate truffles was enough to send us home for naps, and eventually massages at the hotel. Casa la Galeana has a sauna, Jacuzzi, and massage room situated in the middle of the garden, the perfect vantage point to sit with a book and a tea.
The next morning arrived sunny and fresh, and we hopped on the hotel bikes, cruisers complete with saddlebags to carry home purchases. At the Chacras plaza, the Sunday feria (market) is the perfect spot to pick up some local knits, handcrafts, or consumables. After some shopping we were off, cycling towards Altavista in time to catch a glorious sunset over the mountains and one last tasting. While you have to wary of the cars and narrow roads, in general the biking routes around Chacras are perfect – well maintained roads and friendly drivers abound. Altavista was the perfect spot to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine with a glass of wine in the grass.
This was my second time around at Casa La Galeana, Lagarde, and Altavista, and I can only recommend each and every one even more. This little corner of Argentina is fast becoming a favorite, and I hope you can make it there if you ever visit this vast country!