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Buenos Aires, Argentina: Revisiting My First Love in the Form of A City

Buenos Aires: there is not much I can say about this capital of a nation of contradictions that you haven’t already heard. Buenos Aires is a city of faded elegance teeming with life, perched on the banks of a river which runs straight to the ocean. And it is also one of the places I once called home.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Bosques de Palermo
Sunset in the Bosques de Palermo, Buenos Aires

Back when I was a fresh faced girl straight from the woods of New England, I decided to spend a year abroad in Buenos Aires, studying Latin American literature, history, and culture, but most of all, to learn Spanish. I chose Buenos Aires because I wanted to experience city life, and once I got a taste of its culture, I was hooked. I fell in love with Buenos Aires, and fell hard.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Recoleta
Appreciating Fall in Parque Las Heras, Near My Old Apartment

I lived in Argentina from mid-2001 to mid-2002, experiencing the ups and downs of its economic crisis in December 2001 and the resulting devaluation of the peso, a decisions whose aftereffects continue to reverberate in the nation’s economy today. I visited the city in 2007, spending two weeks refamiliarizing myself with its streets and trying to gauge the nature of the changes post-crisis. When I went back to Argentina in 2013, I opted not to visit Buenos Aires again, as it was too far from my route north to Peru and Ecuador.

One of the awesome aspects of living in Chile is that I have several friends in Santiago, one of whom is my dear friend Diego, a Buenos Aires native currently living and working in Chile’s capital. In February, I finally got to meet Diego’s then-fiancee, Alejandra, and they invited me to celebrate their wedding in Buenos Aires this past June. Of course, I said I would be happy to attend and started looking for affordable flights!

Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Boda!
Enjoying the Fun at Diego and Alejandra’s Wedding in Buenos Aires

When I booked my ticket to Buenos Aires, I wrote to the rest of my Argentine friends to schedule some time to hang out. I also made a small bucket list of things I wanted do during my short visit to Buenos Aires, and especially things I wanted to eat! Here is a chronicle of my brief adventures in Buenos Aires, captured on my smartphone.

Savoring My Favorites in Argentine Cuisine with Friends

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Empanadas en La Querencia
Delicious Empanadas at La Querencia, Buenos Aires

While Chilean empanadas can be delicious, Argentine empanadas are the best. I particularly love humita empanadas with their creamy corn filling and any empanadas featuring leafy greens and herbs.

A photo posted by Kim Dodge (@blueskylimit) on

Humita at La Querencia, Buenos Aires

My dear friend Cynthia knew a good place to take me so I could get my fix and also some of my much loved northwest Argentine cuisine, including an actual humita, a corn husk stuffed with the same creamy corn filling. We headed to La Querencia in Recoleta. It was a good place for us to escape from the rainy weather and catch up.

A photo posted by Kim Dodge (@blueskylimit) on

Posing with Cynthia in La Querencia, Buenos Aires

The next night, I met up with another group of friends, whom I met 13 years ago when we were all traveling in Mendoza. We headed to Cumaná, another restaurant specializing in traditional Argentine cuisine.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Reencuentro en Cumaná
Empanadas, Crayons, and Wine at Cumaná, Buenos Aires

Of course, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to have more empanadas along with a delicious salad, and we shared the “pinguino,” a penguin-shaped pitcher filled with house wine. We spent hours laughing and catching up, and marveling about the fact that we are still in touch all these years later!

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Reencuentro en Cumaná
Posing with My Friends in Cumaná, Buenos Aires

Of course, I also had to sample Argentina’s rich helado (ice cream) a few times for old times’ sake. I always have to enjoy chocolate and dulce de leche flavors when in Argentina.

Can't forget to have helado in Buenos Aires! #helado #buenosaires #argentina

A photo posted by Kim Dodge (@blueskylimit) on

Ice Cream from Persicco, Buenos Aires

The last item on the food list was a delicious Argentine-style pizza. I ended up being super impressed by the impressive flavor combinations, including a pizza featuring the spicy jalapeño.

Friends in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Enjoying Pizza with Cynthia and Alejandro in Buenos Aires

This dinner gave me a chance to get to know Cynthia’s husband Alejandro better and enjoy one more good meal before heading back to Chile.

Revisiting My Favorite Places in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, Argentina: El Ataneo
El Ataneo, Buenos Aires

High on the agenda for my short trip was revisiting familiar places and wandering the streets of my old neighborhoods. Cynthia took up the challenge and accompanied me down Avenida Santa Fe over to the heart of Recoleta. I wanted to stop in at El Ataneo, the theatre-turned-bookstore that represents the well-read, literary culture of this intellectual city. I love browsing there and taking in the attractive architecture.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Bosques de Palermo
Enjoying the Sun in the Bosques de Palermo, Buenos Aires

While it was rainy for most of my trip, the sun came out on Sunday afternoon and I took advantage of the pleasant weather to wander through my old neighboorhood in Recoleta, as you see above, down to Plaza Italia and the extensive green parks of the Bosques de Recoleta.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Bosques de Palermo
Sunday Traffic in the Bosques de Palermo, Buenos Aires

Cynthia and Alejandro joined me for a sunset stroll around the lake at the Rosedal, prolonging the relaxation of the afternoon’s slow pace.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Bosques de Palermo
Sunset at Parque Rosedal, Bosques de Palermo, Buenos Aires

We also headed to the Planetario, which I actually think I had never visited, and I got to see the colorful light show on the dome of this structure.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Bosques de Palermo
Planetario, Buenos Aires

On my last day in Argentina, I headed to Palermo Viejo to take in the murals and graffiti that pop up all along these residential blocks and to do a little browsing and shopping.

Views from Buenos Aires, Argentina
Colorful Mural in Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires

While I didn’t come across quite as much street art as on previous trips, perhaps because of the route I took, I did appreciate some of the messages in the graffiti, like that in the photo below, which reads “Here no one gives up,” which symbolizes the Argentine spirit of continuing forward.

Views from Buenos Aires, Argentina: Palermo Viejo
Graffiti in Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires

After sufficiently wandering the streets and shops of Palermo, I headed back to a bright cafe I’d passed earlier in the day to enjoy another of my favorite Argentine traditions, that of sitting in a café, enjoying a sweet treat with tea, and reading a book.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ninina Bakery
Attractive Interior of Ninina Bakery, Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires

I ended up being super pleased with my decision as Ninina Bakery emphasizes simple, clean ingredients. They even put a bowl of unrefined sugar on your table to sweeten your drink. I opted for a pot of chai tea and some ginger pear scones.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ninina Bakery
Tea and Scones at Ninina Bakery, Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires

I really enjoyed my wanderings through my old neighborhoods, Palermo and Recoleta, and checking out new and old businesses. The city still has it.

Celebrating a Wedding Argentine-Style

A photo posted by Kim Dodge (@blueskylimit) on

The Happy Couple!

Of course, I have to mention the whole reason I made this trip: to celebrate the wedding of the lovely couple, Alejandra and Diego, two dear friends. This was actually my first ever non-American style wedding so it was interesting to compare the different customs in the ceremony and reception.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Boda!
Time for the Wedding Reception!

Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Boda!
Posing with Friends at the Wedding

The main difference is that the wedding takes place at night, so the reception starts later and goes until nearly dawn! In order to keep the festive spirit going, there is a moment of “carnaval” where everyone puts on masks, glow bracelets, and necklaces, plays with colorful sabers,and gets covered in confetti!

Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Boda!
Time to Dance! Hoy se baila!

There is also a sweets table late into the party to give people more energy to keep going, and at the end of the night, it is time for some restorative pizza after so much dancing!

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Santos Lugares
Mural at Santos Lugares, Buenos Aires

Because the wedding was in the greater province of Buenos Aires, not in the capital itself, I stayed with a friend of Diego’s, who took me to see the Santuario de Lourdes at Santos Lugares, a site of pilgrimage for many a believer. I appreciated the colorful murals outside the sacred grounds and the fancy cathedral.

A photo posted by Kim Dodge (@blueskylimit) on

Santuario de Lourdes, Santos Lugares, Buenos Aires

After my trip to Buenos Aires, I realized that the city still pulses with the vital energy that it has always had, and through and through the city is a cultured one. Porteños are always reading, going to the movies, arguing about politics, and checking out art exhibits. My friends claimed that Buenos Aires is more dangerous than it used to be, but thankfully, I have no proof of that and felt just as comfortable as I used to!

All things considered, I still love Buenos Aires and could even see myself living there again someday if the opportunity presents itself. Now that I live nearby, I hope to visit more frequently and take in the inspiration of the city and its residents.

Border Crossing Stories: Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Amazing Views of the Andes from the Bus Between Mendoza and Santiago

During my week in Mendoza, I’d come to the tough conclusion that this city of wine set among the high Andes would be my last stop in Argentina.  I’d originally hoped to revisit my former home, Buenos Aires, and spend time with my porteño friends, but after hearing horror stories about how dangerous the capital had become, I decided to save both time and money and head back to Chile to get to know Santiago.

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Blue Rivers and Lakes Leaving Mendoza, Perfect for White Water Rafting

I woke up early to leave for the bus terminal, where I’d bought a ticket for a 10AM departure.  I figured this would allow me to cross the border before it got too busy and arrive in Santiago before dusk.  As I was checking out of the hostel, the receptionist at Hostel Empedrado asked me if I had exchanged contact info with my Canadian friends, who had left earlier that morning.  I hadn’t, but, curious, I asked why.

As it turned out, they had accidentally forgotten their video camera under the bed and she wondered if I could return it to them.  (More proof of this hostel going above and beyond!)  I suggested she send them an email with my contact information, and agreed to take the camera with me to Santiago.  After all, they had lost most of their possessions when they were robbed in Buenos Aires: I wanted to make sure they got reunited with their video camera!

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Pretty Pink Rocks and Blue Skies on the Way to the Border of Argentina and Chile

I said goodbye to my new favorite Argentine hostel and headed to the bus terminal.  I had a decent amount of Argentine pesos left, and frantically purchased alfajores, chocolate, and other snacks to unload as many pesos as I could.  I couldn’t find a souvenir shop near my bus platform, or else I would have walked away with some cute Argentine flag pins or something.  I hung on to a few Argentine pesos in case I needed them at the border crossing.  In retrospect, I should have spent all my Argentine pesos, as they are virtually worthless outside the country; I changed them for a fourth of their original value back in Peru!

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
View of the Andes on the Way to the Border Between Argentina and Chile

This border crossing journey was much more calm and organized than the trip between San Pedro de Atacama and Salta; this is one of the most popular routes between Argentina and Chile and it works like a well-oiled machine.

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
A Snowy Welcome to Chile

So well, in fact, that I don’t remember much about the journey, except that we sat for quite a while in the line at the border and the bus got nice and toasty.  As you can see from the photos above, the route passes through the super blue rivers and lakes of the high Andes, where there are plenty of options for whitewater rafting and other adventure sports.  On another visit, I’d love to stay outside the city of Mendoza in one of these towns nestled in the Andes.  You can tell that the scenery along this route is seriously gorgeous because I got these awesome photos from inside a moving bus!

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Amazing Clouds Over the Andes near the Chile/Argentina Border

Paso Internacional Los Libertadores is an easy border crossing, with both of the Argentine and Chilean immigration posts located inside the same building, making it surprisingly efficient.  Unlike Paso Jama, they also have the equipment to clear away the snow that falls consistently at such a high altitude.  Interestingly, six weeks after I crossed the border, it got hit with such a major snowstorm that it, too, closed!

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Views of the Snow-Covered Andes from the Chilean Side of the Border

While the route to the border from Mendoza is fairly uneventful, the descent to Santiago takes you along a series of impressive switchbacks, leading to constantly changing views of the mountains.  Chile’s ski resorts are nestled somewhere in the Andes near this route.

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Getting Closer to Santiago and the Chilean Vineyards

As you continue to descend towards Santiago, you enter Chile’s wine producing region, almost equally as famous as Mendoza.  The hills changed to greens and burnished reds and browns, reminders that it was, in fact, winter in the region, even though we’d left the snow-covered high Andes.

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Speeding Past Chile’s Wine Country En Route to Santiago

I stared out the window at the expanses of vineyards that we continued to pass.  If I hadn’t just done a full tour of the wineries of Mendoza, I would have been tempted to explore the beautiful countryside (and drink more wine).

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Foothills of the Andes on the Chilean Side

At this point, we were getting closer to Santiago and leaving the Andes.  Once again, I saw those familiar Andean foothills, covered in green brush and vegetation.

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Sunset En Route to Santiago

We’d lost an hour crossing the border (and time zones), and the sun disappeared from sight while we continued our journey towards the capital city.  With the winter clouds in the sky, it made for a truly impressive sunset.  This is still one of my favorite sunset pictures, captured from the window of a moving bus!

Views from the Ride Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile
Pink Sunset Somewhere in the Suburbs of Santiago, Chile

As we approached Santiago, we entered its suburbs and hit the afterwork traffic you should certainly expect on a Friday evening.  I had already put my D40 away, but looked out the window to see this crazy pink sunset.  If you can believe it, I took the above photo with an iPod touch!  I couldn’t let these pink colors disappear into memory. 🙂  This ended up being the last clear sky I saw for a few days, so it was well worth documenting.

Finally, we arrived to the bus station in Santiago, which is located in the midst of a major transportation hub.  All the Chileans on my bus were complaining about the location of the bus terminal in the center of the city.  We spent an extra hour inching along city blocks during the rush hour commute.  By the time the bus got there, I was antsy to get off the bus and stretch my legs.  I quickly changed some dollars into Chilean pesos and eventually found a taxi to take me to my friend Francisca’s house in Providencia.

Since I’d had no way to call Fran to let her know I was running late, she had generously left the key to her apartment with her doorman and a note for me to make myself at home in her adorable one bedroom apartment until she returned from a yoga class.  I took the opportunity to make some tea, stretch, and recover from yet another bus journey.  When she arrived, we poured ourselves some Chilean wine, fixed some snacks, and excitedly caught up on a couple years of life until 1AM, when I was too tired to keep talking.  This was my first exposure to the famed Chilean hospitality, and I knew I was in for a great week in Santiago.

Recommendations for Border Crossing Between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile:

  • Buy your ticket in advance if you’re planning on traveling over the weekend, as I did, to guarantee a seat by the window.  Sit on the right side of the bus if you want to watch the river go by.
  • Leave as early as possible.  I left at 10AM and I probably should have left earlier to avoid rush hour traffic in Santiago.  The border can get really busy with all the buses and cars passing through.
  • Spend all of your Argentine pesos before leaving!  Argentine pesos have very little value outside of the country and you will get more for your money if you spend them on souvenirs and snacks before leaving.  It’s a good idea to bring some snacks with you for the ~eight hour journey, but keep in mind that Chile has strict rules about what kind of food can cross its borders.  Be prepared to eat any fruit, cheese, meats, etc. before you cross the border.  They x-ray all luggage looking for food.
  • If you still have Argentine pesos, change them at the currency exchange station at the immigration post.  Exchange rates are always best at the border.  You can wait until you get to the bus terminal in Santiago, but you won’t get the best rates there.  The border is also a good place to change dollars into Chilean pesos.
[Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile: August 2, 2013]

Mendoza, Argentina: Wine Tasting at Bodega Catena Zapata and Belasco de Baquedano in Luján de Cuyo

View from Bodega Catena Zapata, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza
View from Bodega Catena Zapata, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza

A few years ago, I picked up a somewhat pricey Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon out of nostalgia for South America.  When we poured the wine at our family holiday party, we were impressed by the quality of the wine and its delicious flavor.  Since then, it has become a family tradition to buy a Catena Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon each year to celebrate being together at the holidays.

This is how Bodega Catena Zapata became my favorite winemaker.  When I decided to return to Argentina, I knew I would visit the winery and taste the wines right where they came from.  At first, it seemed challenging to get out to the winery on my limited budget, as it is located in Luján de Cuyo, but far from the town center.  However, I’d asked one of the guides in Chacras de Coria for advice, and he’d told me that it was totally possible to get out there using a combination of public transportation and taxis.

Wine Tasting in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views While Driving Down Cobos in Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

On my last day in Mendoza, I woke up early, ready for my solo journey to Luján de Cuyo.  I was planning on catching a bus to Luján de Cuyo’s main plaza, where I had been assured that I could find a taxi to take me out to Bodega Catena Zapata.  I waited at the bus stop for quite a while, looking for the appropriate bus; there are many routes that go around the Luján de Cuyo region, and I needed a specific one to get me to the right place.  I finally spotted what I thought was the right bus and got on, asking the bus driver if the route went to my intended destination.  Instead of being helpful, he laughed at me for being a foreigner, assured me it did, and dismissed my concerns.  (See what I mean about Argentines not being particularly friendly to tourists?)

As you can imagine, I was not, in fact, on the right bus.  However, I was at least heading in the right direction.  As we approached Chacras de Coria, I recognized the town center and asked the bus driver once again if the bus would finish its route at the main terminal of Luján de Cuyo.  A little sheepish, he finally informed me that this bus did not go to the main station.  As it turned out I was not alone; there were two other people who had also taken the wrong bus, and he dropped us off at a bus stop in Chacras with some vague instructions as to what bus to wait for.

At this point, it was getting very close to my scheduled 11AM tour, and I nervous I would miss my chance to visit Bodega Catena Zapata.  I had no way to call the winery to tell them I was running late.  I knew I needed to somehow find a taxi to take me out to Bodega Catena Zapata.  As I was waiting to ask the clerk a corner store for advice, I spotted a taxi passing by and flagged it down.  I told him where I wanted to go, and he agreed to take me out there, warning me that it would be an expensive fare!  At this point, money was no object and I just wanted to get there; we agreed that it was complete luck that he’d been passing through Chacras de Coria, as it is not a place where you usually can easily find a taxi.

Finally, I was on my way again and I was able to relax and enjoy the ride, astounded by the appearance of the snow-capped Andes along the route.  As it turned out, the taxi cost $130 Argentine pesos, or about $23 USD, which was not too bad.  And in another stroke of good luck, even though I arrived about 25 minutes late, so had my tour companions, a couple from Brazil.  They’d gotten a bit lost driving through the back roads of Luján de Cuyo and had only been waiting for five minutes before I got there.  Our guide was a trilingual Argentine who spoke Spanish, English, and Portuguese fluently; you could tell she was very highly educated and well versed in the field of wine.  We were in for an excellent tour, conducted in a combination of Spanish, English, and Portuguese, as each of us had different linguistic strengths.

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Wine Barrels Inside Bodega Catena Zapata, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

Bodega Catena Zapata is a historical winery often credited with putting the Mendoza winemaking region on the map.  While Argentines have always had a strong affinity for wines, local wines used to be imbibed for their intoxicating properties, not for their complexity of flavors.  When Nicolás Catena and his daughter Laura took over the family business, they brought with them experience from the Napa and Sonoma regions of California and a strong desire to produce high quality wines.

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
American Wine Aging Barrels; A Very Special Wine Vintage; Bodega Catena Zapata’s Wine Vault

As we toured the winery, our guide explained the intricacies of the Catena Zapata method, including using both American and French barrels and producing several different lines for both the Argentine and international markets, tailored to the tastes and preferences of their consumers.  The bottle pictured above is one of the most valued wines in their wine vault, as it is a particularly special vintage from one of their highest quality lines.

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views of the Andes from Bodega Catena Zapata, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

After touring the winery, we climbed to the top of the building to look out over the vineyards, which stretched out for acres.  Can you imagine how gorgeous this would be during growing season, with green leaves everywhere, protecting the amazing fruit?

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views from Inside Bodega Catena Zapata; Enjoying a Tasting of Catena Alta Wines

Afterwards, we sat down in a comfortable lounge area for our premium tasting.  Our talented guide explained the guidelines for appropriate tasting to us in great detail, encouraging us to observe the color of the wine, showing us how to smell it, and helping us distinguish differences between the first and second sip.  Beyond the educational opportunity, I was so excited to try wines I could never afford to purchase back home.

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
2011 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, Produced for the International Market

Afterwards, we headed to the gift store, where you could see all the different brands produced by Catena.  The store sells both the wines produced for the Argentine palate and those sold abroad.  I had actually not been able to find Catena Zapata wines in Mendoza because they are sold under a different label.  Above are the entry-level wines which are most commonly available in the United States.

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
2009 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon, the Next Level of International Wines

This wine, Catena Alta, is the next level of the international wines, a step above the Catena line.  I really enjoyed these wines in the tasting and was so tempted to buy a bottle, but I was worried it wouldn’t survive my bus journey the next day.  Instead, I left with a Catena Zapata bottle opener as a souvenir of the experience.

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views of the Vineyards Around Bodega Catena Zapata

My Brazilian companions had kindly offered to drive me to my next stop, Belasco de Baquedano, which was just down the road but not really the walkable distance I’d been told.  While they purchased lots of wine glasses and bottle to take back to Brazil, I wandered around taking pictures of the vineyard.

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
The Main Building of Bodega Catena Zapata, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

Interestingly, Nicolás Catena had decided to construct the main building on the vineyard in a distinctive pyramid shape inspired by Mayan architecture.  I find this choice very interesting, considering the equally rich history of the Andes region where the vineyard is located. 😛

Wine Tasting at Catena Zapata in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Leaving Bodega Catena Zapata with the Andes in the Distance

My new Brazilian friends took me back along Cobos to Belasco de Baquedano, chatting with me all the way in a combination of Portuguese and English.  We talked about having dinner together back in Mendoza, but didn’t manage to touch base again.

Wine Tasting at Belasco de Baquedano in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views from Belasco de Baquedano Winery in Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

I arrived to Belasco de Baquedano just before my 2PM tour and tasting, and they asked me to wait a few minutes.  I went outside to explore the grounds and take in the vineyards.  This also gave me a chance to have a snack in the sunshine; I’d brought along a picnic lunch.  Belasco de Baquedano actually has a fine dining restaurant on site, but I hadn’t been able to find any information on whether they offer a vegetarian option; as it turns out, they do – I know for next time!

Wine Tasting at Belasco de Baquedano in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views of the Belasco de Baquedano Vineyards with the Andes in the Distance

Belasco de Baquedano shares the same gorgeous view of this corridor of the Andes.  While there are lots of vineyards around this area, few people actually live here; I learned that most of the winery employees live in Mendoza or in Chacras de Coria, driving or taking the one public bus that passes through here each day.

Wine Tasting at Belasco de Baquedano in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views from Belasco de Baquedano, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

I enjoyed exploring the grounds of Belasco de Baquedano on my own, as it was quiet and gave me a moment to process the fact that I was living yet another of my travel dreams.  The winery is a relative newcomer to the scene and has a modern approach to winemaking, using high tech machines and techniques.  However, it too tries to conjure up a sense of history, and its name reflects its Spanish (from Spain) heritage, including the traditional spelling of Belasco, which is usually written as Velasco in Latin America.

Wine Tasting at Belasco de Baquedano in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views from Belasco de Baquedano, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

I had scheduled a tour at Belasco de Baquedano based on the recommendation of a guide in Chacras de Coria; he told me that they had an aroma room, which was a great way to learn more about the different notes an experienced taster could distinguish in fine wines.  After having learned so much about tasting at Bodega Catena Zapata, I really appreciated the chance to learn more about the flavors and scents in wine.

Wine Tasting at Belasco de Baquedano in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina Wine Tasting at Belasco de Baquedano in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Swinto, One of the Wines Produced at Belasco de Baquedano; Tasting Their Malbecs

As it turned out, I was the only person on my tour, so I had a private guide through the winery and aroma room.  She seemed a little surprised that I wanted the tour in Spanish, but said that a lot of foreigners find it fun to practice their Spanish.  I just thought I would learn more that way. 😉  Like Bodega Catena Zapata, Belasco de Baquedano offers several different brands of wine at various price points.

After finishing my tour, it was time for the tasting at the attractive wooden bar.  At this moment, a Brazilian woman showed up with her son, insisting that she had scheduled a tour for this late hour.  My guide decided to take her on a whirlwind tour, and left her colleague in charge of my tasting.  This ended up being another blessing, as this woman was very friendly and showed me some aroma cards that I could use to try to pick out the flavors in each of the vintages.  My wine education continued and I feel like my ability to distinguish flavors in wine really improved as a result of this practice.

As I wrapped up my tasting, the original guide returned and I asked her for advice on how to get back to Mendoza.  Originally, I was going to call another taxi to take me back to the city center, but they informed me that a local bus would pass by in the next half hour or so.  If it didn’t, one of them would give me a ride back to Chacras de Coria or Mendoza.

Wine Tasting in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Views of the Andes on the Way Back to Mendoza from Luján de Cuyo

I decided to wander out to the main road, Cobos, to try my luck at the local bus.  As I was walking down the long gravel driveway, the Brazilian woman passed me in her rental car and asked me if I wanted a ride back to Mendoza.  Saved by Brazilians twice in one day!  As it turned out, her English was stronger than her Spanish (and than my Portuguese), so we chatted about her work in Brazil and her visit to Mendoza for her husband’s work.  I tried to speak with her son in Portuguese a little bit, too.  She dropped me off right at Plaza Italia, as they were staying at one of the top hotels in Mendoza.

After such a lovely day, I headed back to the Hostel Empedrado to prepare one more big dinner, chat with my hostel buddies, pack my bags, and finish the last of my wine before leaving for Santiago early the next day.  I had had an amazing week in Mendoza, but visiting my favorite winemaker was definitely an example of saving the best for last. 🙂

Recommendations for Luján de Cuyo, Argentina:

  • You absolutely can visit Luján de Cuyo independently, but you need to ask around until you find someone who can tell you how to get there.  Your best best is to ask the locals who work in the wineries as they know more about getting around the wineries than the average mendocino.  There is a local bus that runs down Cobos, which is the road where many of the top winemakers are located, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon, but I couldn’t find anyone who knew its schedule.
  • There are many local buses that go to the Luján de Cuyo region from the city of Mendoza, but you want the one that stops near the main terminal in the center of Luján de Cuyo, where the buses are serviced.  From there, you should be able to find a taxi to take you out to the Cobos street.  Depending on your budget, you may want to consider negotiating with a taxi driver to take you around for the day, rent a car, or take a personalized tour arranged through a local agency.
  • I highly recommend visiting Bodega Catena Zapata, especially if you’re already a fan of their wines from trying them back home.  The premium tasting was $100 Argentine pesos in August 2013 but was worth every penny.  You can tell that the guides working at this winery are the best of the best.  The scenery is also gorgeous.
  • Belasco de Baquedano is located on the same road as Bodgeta Catena Zapata and has a fine dining restaurant and an aroma room.  While I enjoyed their wines, I think their real draw is the unique experience they offer.  Their tour and tasting was $69 Argentine pesos in August 2013.
  • Personally, I think visiting two high caliber wineries was enough for one day.  I scheduled one for 11AM and another for 2PM and I was able to enjoy both tastings at a very relaxed pace.
  • Here are some very useful maps of the Luján de Cuyo region, including a detailed map and list of all of the winemakers in the region (the map at the top of the page – here’s a link to the PDF download).
[Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina: August 1, 2013]