MENDOZA LIES ABOUT 600 MILES west of Buenos Aires, and the two cities could not be more different. Buenos Aires, a major port city, bustles with dozens of diverse neighborhoods. Mendoza, at almost 3,000 feet elevation, rests in the foothills of the Andes, a popular stopover for climbers on their way to 23,000-foot Mount Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Western and Southern hemispheres.
The scenic region around Mendoza is also the largest wine-producing area in South America, with more than 1,500 wineries and many vineyards planted with Malbec. Grapes here grow at high altitude in intense sunlight and cold nights. Although visiting Mendoza’s wineries along Argentina’s Wine Route, like Bodegas Salentein and O. Fournier, is a daytime activity, evenings are as delightful.
Returning to Mendoza after a day of wine touring or hiking in the beautiful Uco Valley, you will find several deluxe hotels and sophisticated wine bars and restaurants. In late afternoon or early evening, stop at Bodegas CARO, 15 minutes’ drive from city center. It’s the only winery to offer tastings in the evening, which this year include three wines from the latest harvest: Aruma, Petit CARO and CARO. French and Argentine cheeses accompany the tasting; reservations are required.
Located downtown on the historic Plaza Independencia, the 186-room Park Hyatt Mendoza Hotel, Casino & Spa is the city’s first 5-star hotel. The property’s Bistro M, serving Italian cuisine, and the Grill Q – Parilla Argentina offer perfect venues for a business dinner. Consider Uvas Lounge & Bar for drinks and snacks. The spa’s extensive vinotherapy treatments use grapes and grape seeds and skins to rejuvenate the body.
Filled with locals as well as visitors, the casual restaurant María Antonieta lies a short walk from downtown hotels. Chef/owner Vanina Chimeno offers braised endives and grilled shrimp with new potatoes, or oriecheti pasta with smoked salmon. Her mentor and husband, Argentina’s celebrity chef Francis Mallmann, was a participant on Chef’s Table. Mallmann’s own restaurant, 1884 (next to Bodegas CARO), offers food cooked over wood fires and in clay ovens. Set in an old vineyard established in 1884, it features elegant indoor and candle-lit outdoor dining. The wine cellar boasts more than 12,000 bottles, resulting in a 75-page wine list.
After dinner, check out the Sheraton Mendoza Hotel’s Devas Bar, serving snacks and local wines until 2 a.m., a relatively early hour in Argentina, where dinners start at 9 p.m.
A small but vibrant LGBTQ+ community exists, with Queen Disco the most popular gay hangout in Mendoza. Playing the latest Latino pop and techno music, it is open weekends 11 p.m. until late.
Wine tourism in Mendoza is changing rapidly as more travelers discover Argentina beyond Buenos Aires. Businesses based around wine — from smaller bodegas and rustic accommodations in the countryside to tasting rooms and hotels in Mendoza City — modernize with fresh investment, and the region’s gastronomy is finally receiving well-deserved praise.
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