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Mendoza Winery Tour by Bicycle

I fan­tas­ize about riding a cute bicycle with a basket, while wearing a dress and my hair per­fectly blowing in the wind. Add to this fantasy the idea of riding along the many rows of grapes belong­ing to a vine­yard and grace­fully jumping off my bicycle at the doors of the vine­yard to sample their wines, and the dream is com­plete. The world is a won­der­ful place when it enables your fantas­ies to come true.

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In the small town of Maipu, 30-minutes from Mendoza, Argentina you can rent a bike and ride among the vine­yards from winery to winery tasting wines along the way. A bike costs 50 pesos (~$8.00 CAN) for the day, you just have to be back to the shop by 7:00 pm or earlier. Most of the vine­yards close between 4:00 — 6:00 pm, so this isn’t dif­fi­cult. What was dif­fi­cult, and not part of my fantasy, was the 40 degree desert sun and the giant semi trucks passing when the bike path dis­ap­peared and the road had no shoulder. While the traffic wasn’t ideal, when there was a gap in the traffic, I still loved the feeling of riding my bike down the long road with giant trees on either side that met each other in the middle. I conquered the heat by wearing a hat, sun­screen, sleeves to protect my shoulders and just embra­cing the sweat.

Most of these images are from Chris camera: Fuji x100s. He edited the images in this post using Snapseed, a much better iPad app than the one he's been using for the last few posts: Photogene.

Most of these images are from Chris camera: Fuji x100s. He edited the images in this post using Snapseed, a much better iPad app than the one he’s been using for the last few posts: Photogene.

Be warned, the maps the bike rental shops give you are not to scale, so while it may appear the dif­fer­ent vine­yards, museum, brewery and olive oil factory are sep­ar­ated by even lengths of city blocks, they are not. What the lady said was 5 km, was def­in­itely more... or at least the desert sun made it feel so.

Each bike shop offers a map of the area. While the shops are competitive on price, each offers bikes of varying quality. Also, only some offer helmets. Shop around.

Each bike shop offers a map of the area. While the shops are com­pet­it­ive on price, each offers bikes of varying quality. Also, only some offer helmets. Shop around.

Chris read on another traveller’s blog that the best idea was to bike the fur­thest dis­tance at the begin­ning and then work your way back to the bike rental place. This seemed like an excel­lent piece of advice espe­cially since each time you get on your bicycle to ride along­side the semis you are more and more inebriated.

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We started our journey late in the day, around 1:15pm and reached our first vine­yard, Familia Di Tommaso, around 2:00pm. We were starving for lunch upon arrival, and very sweaty, making the wooden chairs and tables in the shade facing the rows of grapes look even more appealing.

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The next English tour started at 3:00 so we ordered the Chef’s daily special, rabbit with salad paired with one of the vineyard’s Malbecs for 140 pesos (around $20 CAN). This was my first time eating rabbit and it was tender and deli­cious, even though I found it’s tiny bones slightly annoy­ing to eat around. Ha, ha. Chris and I couldn’t help but think of our dear friend Christine Campbell who has a pet rabbit she’s taken all over the world with her: France, Italy, Spain, England, etc. We ima­gined her being slightly mor­ti­fied as we ate a rel­at­ive of her beloved pet.

Mmmmm... Rabbit!

Mmmmm... Rabbit!

Being the lushes we are, we ordered a cool, refresh­ing glass of white to enjoy while we waited for our meal.

Our first Argentine wine, and one of our favourite grape varietals: Torrentes.

Our first Argentine wine, and one of our favour­ites: Torrentes.

Of course the food and GIANT glass of malbec arrived only moments after being served our white. Now we REALLY looked like lushes. The vine­yard was very accom­mod­at­ing though. The server put our wine aside and said we could eat our desert and finish our wine after the tour!

The tasting of four wines and a short tour of the his­toric vats took about 45-minutes. This winery is a his­toric site dating back to the 1830’s, so they no longer use the vats and cellar for their main pro­duc­tion. However the barrels lining the walls were full of aging wine. We sat on them in the cellar while our tour guide explained the pro­duc­tion. There was some­thing exhil­ar­at­ing about sitting on a full barrel of wine.

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Bottles aging in the old vats of  the Famila di Tommaso bodega (winery).

Bottles aging in the old vats of the Famila di Tommaso bodega (winery).

The blissfully cool basement of the bodega. Our guide told us staff like to take siestas down here.

The bliss­fully cool base­ment of the bodega. Our guide told us staff like to take siestas down here.

After the tour we fin­ished our wine and desert and were back on the road by 4:30. The next vine­yard we planned on seeing closed at 6:00 but our plans were altered when a group of five tour­ists stopped us for dir­ec­tions. We told them to follow us because their des­tin­a­tion was the dir­ec­tion we were going. When we reached it, we decided to stick with them. We found ourselves at the Tempus Alba winery. They didn’t offer guided tours and the tasting was not inform­at­ive or inter­act­ive. You chose your wines, they poured them in glasses and gave them to you. I wouldn’t recomend this winery, unless all you care about is trying wines and decid­ing for your­self if you like it or not. The wines were tasty though.

The industrial-scale vats at Tempus Alba.

The industrial-scale vats at Tempus Alba.

Chris and shared five dif­fer­ent samples of wine and enjoyed con­ver­sa­tion with the other tour­ists, includ­ing a nice couple from England, a couple from New Zealand and an American lady. Leaving the vine­yard at 5:30 pm, there was no time for another vine­yard so we cycled back to Mr. Hugo’s rental shop with the Brits where we met up with other tour­ists we had met along the way. Our vine­yard touring came to an end as we sat around a table swap­ping stories and sharing laughs with fellow travellers.

Drinking buddies.

Drinking buddies.

This colourful fellow lives in the Courtyard at Mr. Hugo's Bike Rental.

This col­our­ful fellow lives in the Courtyard at Mr. Hugo’s Bike Rental.

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