The isolated desert plateau of Mendoza has shouldered its way triumphantly to the foreground of international winemaking in recent years, and with good reason! For centuries the magical terroir of the region has drawn growers and tasters en masse, all eager to sample the undeniably unique full-bodied reds and whites that issue forth from the ground season upon season. Today it’s transforming into one of the most hospitable tasting tourism destinations too, with a myriad of top-class hotels and wineries emerging as the leading providers of tours and excursions focusing on this, one of Argentina’s finer national arts.
Just to the south of Mendoza city, the quaint and homely vineyard of Domaine St. Diego epitomizes the earthy and organic leanings of the region itself. Accordingly, winery excursion itineraries hone in on the pre-picking process of vinification which relies on the expertise of owner, Angel Mendoza. Visitors are treated to tasting sessions in the on-site casket basement and walking tours around the lush green fields that range over the beautiful Lunlunta hills.
Proud producers of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec vintage wines, the Kaiken vineyard occupies a postcard-perfect position on the Mendoza plateau east of the Andes. It’s a place where growing and fermentation are meticulously carried to out to ensure every unique climatic aspect of the region shines through in the final taste. On site there’s a large tasting room and wine shop selling the trademark Kaiken reds, white, rose and sparkling variations, while tours encompass both the vineyards and brewing houses underground.
The stark terracotta red of the Ruca Malen vineyard and winery sets it in sharp contrast to the icy whites and blues of the mountain-peppered Mendoza horizon. Come to think of it, it’s the perfect metaphor to introduce the produce too: a range of distinctive, deep reds that have a well-rounded and wholly unique flavor. Ruca Malen run regular guided tours around the vineyard, along with frequent wine blending workshops to show visitors the more technical tricks of the trade.
With the soaring peaks of the snowy Andes in the distance, this homely, family-owned winery is undoubtedly one of the most eye-catching and endearing of the whole Mendoza valley. It’s housed in a classic post-colonial farm building that was more recently kitted out with all the mod cons required for cutting-edge vinification. The center is open for tours and tastings sessions all through the week, with guided sections focussing on the intricate aging processes that are apparently unique to Alta Vista.
The Norton Winery comes heavily decorated with accolades and commendations, including one totemic nomination for the bodega’s chief winemaker, Jorge Riccitelli (who was hailed as Winemaker of the year back in 2012). The folk at Norton have achieved a certain variety in their flavors by establishing five individual vineyards across the much-coveted growing territory of Mendoza’s so-called First Zone, a place where the regional terroir is touted as the very best. What’s more, there’s a whole host of visiting packages on offer and Norton is well suited to cater for large corporate events.