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