After my awesomely hectic re-acquaintance with Mendoza, I needed a day to recover, do some laundry, find a bank, drink mate, and hang out with other guests. My hostel hosted a weekly pizza party, where they brought in a chef to make a variety of pizzas and kept them coming until we were seriously full. Naturally, this attracted a lots of guests and led to a festive, social atmosphere. I ended up talking to two British girls who planned on touring one of the wine regions of Mendoza on bike. While there are many different tour agencies that offer to guide you, they planned on going independently: taking a local bus out to the suburbs and renting bikes directly from the bike outfitter. I quickly decided to join them.
We left Mendoza early the next morning and boarded a local bus that goes to Chacras de Coria, a small village located in one of the main wine regions in Mendoza. The girls had heard about Baccus Bikes, so we headed there to rent bikes. The woman staffing the agency turned out to be the owner’s wife, and she was incredibly helpful and patient in mapping out her suggestions and providing alternatives. She emphasized safety and suggested roads that were less likely to lead to a flat tire or into a more isolated neighborhood. After discussing our game plan, we headed to our first stop, Bodega Lagarde.
Most of the wineries have deals with the various bike rental agencies and give you a discounted tasting, which usually includes a tour. Baccus also tries to call ahead and make reservations for lunch in case they are necessary, which is really helpful. As we were waiting for our tour at Lagarde to begin, I spotted an American whom I’d met at the Salta bus station while waiting for our bus to Cafayate, which is one of those random travel experiences I always find amusing and fun. This was fortuitous for me: I ended up tagging along with her and her friend, as the girls I’d come with wanted to visit far-off wineries on more dangerous roads, and I wanted to take it easy and enjoy my day. 😉
After a tour of Lagarde’s winery, an explanation of their approach to wine production, and peeking at their vineyards, brown and dormant in winter, it was time for our first tasting. We all opted for the deluxe tasting to try some of the high-end wines. When in Mendoza, you have to take advantage of these opportunities! I liked their wines and ended up buying a bottle to enjoy back at the hostel; I later bought another bottle in Lima. 🙂
After saying goodbye to the British girls, we headed back along the main road to Clos de Chakra, which gave me a chance to appreciate how gorgeous the Andes were in this region. It doesn’t get much better than snow-capped peaks in the distance.
Clos de Chacras is often recommended because it is one of the most historical winemakers in the area, and because they have a lovely restaurant. You are encouraged to order a flight of wine to accompany your meal. We ended up having a snack instead of a meal, which meant that these very generous pours of wine hit us hard!
Luckily, we still had a tour ahead of us. Our tour guide was my favorite of the three wineries we visited that day; he had studied winemaking in northern California and spoke English and Spanish fluently. He was also down-to-earth and friendly, happy to show us around the winery and tell us interesting stories.
After leaving Clos de Chacras, we stopped in at a small store along the way, where I was able to get a vegetarian quiche from a local pasta maker. I was super hungry and needed some food to balance out all the Argentine reds!
From there, we moved on to Bodega Pulmary, one of the newest arrivals to Clos de Chakras, known for its organic wines. Our host was actually part of the family that owns the vineyard and told us how he had left his work as a lawyer to join his family in this endeavor. The tasting was different here; he actually poured wine from the massive vats directly into our glasses to so we could sample the differences as the wines aged and matured. The art pictured above was made by a well-known Argentine cartoonist and is one of the showpieces of their winery.
Finally, I said goodbye to my American friends, as I wanted to check out the homemade jams and jellies and infused oils, vinegars, and liqueurs at A La Antigua, and they’d already visited first thing in the morning. I timed it right and arrived about 20 minutes before a large tour group, which meant I could sample to my heart’s content. I particularly enjoyed the homemade chocolate.
As the sun began to set, I biked back to the main plaza to return my bike and get directions on how to get back to Mendoza. I managed to find the right bus and even to get off at the right stop, which made me feel very proud in my wine-influenced state.
All things considered, the self-guided wine tour on bike was a very budget-friendly choice, and I had a great time with my new American friends. That said, I am not sure I would recommend biking as the best way to do a wine tour in this region. As I am not a particularly heavy drinker, I was very cognizant of how much I was drinking and its effect on me, even pouring out wines I did not particularly care for. While drivers are used to seeing tourists on bikes on the main roads, these roads are still highly transited by cars, which can be unnerving if you’re not a confident biker. I might have a better time today after spending the summer biking around Boston. 🙂
Recommendations for Chacras de Coria, Mendoza, Argentina:
- I would absolutely suggest that you rent bikes from Baccus as they were extremely helpful and personable. I felt like they took care of their bikes and were concerned about our safety.
- Make sure you have goals for your trip, such as how many wineries you’re going to visit. I went on this trip without knowing anything about it, which was fine because I did not have high expectations and was happy to enjoy the experience. If you are a wine lover, you may want to visit only the highest quality or most established wineries.
- Of these three wineries, I thought Bodega Lagarde had the best wines, but Clos de Chacras had the most gorgeous location, including an outdoor patio, a fine dining restaurant, and a fascinating winery.
- There are other parts of Mendoza besides Chacras de Coria that offer wine tours on bike, including Maipu. This is a wonderful description of how to stay safe and maximize your time while biking around Maipu. You may also arrange a bike tour with an official guide.
- This a good description of the various types of wine-tasting experiences you can have around Mendoza. I’ll talk about my experience wine-tasting in Luján de Cuyo in a future post.