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How to visit the best wineries in Mendoza, Argentina
Before moving to Argentina, I was a vodka tonic girl. But it wasn’t long after stepping foot in Buenos Aires before wine (the country’s official beverage) began to take over for me. Wine is very affordable in Buenos Aires and, unlike with liquor here, the quality is reliably fantastic. So obviously, Mendoza is a favorite destination of mine.
I’ve been to Mendoza twice now, spending a total of eight days (so far) tasting wine and visiting wineries. It’s my favorite area of the country. Besides tasting wine directly from the source, the location at the foot of the Andes Mountains offers a stunning backdrop that is hard to beat. This post is a complete guide to help you plan your visit to the mecca of Malbec, including a breakdown on the three wine regions here, the best wineries in Mendoza and how to get to them.
When to Visit Mendoza?
The best time of year to visit Mendoza is generally from October until April, from planting until harvest. Spring (September-November) will be warm but with great weather! Visiting in summer (January and February)? Expect hot temperatures and intermittent rains. The best time to visit is in March (in the Fall) for harvesting (the “cosecha” or vendimia).
We’ve visited in September and in March. In March we were there a week before the actual harvest festival, so we were able to see the vines full of grapes but missed the bulk of the crowds and the weather was fantastic. In September, we were there just after most wineries had done their pruning, so we didn’t see any vines. The vines will begin to regrow for spring at around the end of September. Before pruning, seeing the naked vines with no leaves or grapes are beautiful in winter.
Most people choose to base themselves in the city of Mendoza, taking day trips to the wineries or into the mountains. I personally recommend skipping the city and going straight to the countryside (more on that later). The beauty of Argentina is its natural riches.
Argentina is one of the most beautiful countries in the world but it’s not filled with particularly beautiful cities (personal opinion here!). While I recommend basing yourself in the Uco Valley (scroll ahead if you think that sounds like you!), many may feel more comfortable in the city.
Is staying in Mendoza city for you? If you’re nervous about renting a car and setting out on your own in a foreign country, stay in Mendoza and take tours (there are plenty!). If you’re a backpacker or young solo traveler who wants to meet fellow travelers or enjoy the nightlife, stay in the city.
Do you want to stay in the city? Check at the end of this post for my hotel recommendations.
Wine Tasting in Mendoza: Why, How and Where
Mendoza is to wine lovers what Disney World is to a 6-year-old, paradise. Wineries are everywhere, they are beautiful and best of all, they are very affordable to visit. Here’s the lowdown on visiting Mendoza’s best wineries.
Why go wine tasting?
Maybe you’re wondering why even bother wine tasting in Argentina, or anywhere at all for that matter. You don’t need to be a sommelier or a sophisticated gourmet to enjoy visiting vineyards and wine tasting. Visiting wineries and tasting a variety of wines (both in grape varietals and in different price ranges) will help you define what you like best.
Seeing how wine is made and all of the work and dedication that goes into it will give you a new appreciation for it. You’ll learn how to taste and before you know it, you’ll be the person announcing to the dinner party that you taste hints of lemongrass in your sauvignon blanc!
How to go to wine tasting in Mendoza
As my dad always said, you can’t swing a dead cat by the tail without hitting a winery in Mendoza. (Come at me if you hate that saying, this cat lover loves it for some reason). But how can you get to them? There are tours galore, hop on hop off buses and (my personal favorite) you can rent a car to take complete control of your trip.
1. Rent a Car and Explore
I’m an accidental advocate for the rental car industry because I think there’s no better way to explore a new place than with your own car. At least in a country as expansive as Argentina, the distances can be vast here. If you’re willing to leave the city and stay in a resort amongst the vines (see below on where to stay), you’ll need a car.
Also, my favorite wineries (and the most beautiful) aren’t accessible by bike or public transportation, and perhaps the cheapest option will be a rental car. Warning, manual transmissions are most common here. Renting an automatic will be more costly. Check rates here for rental cars from the Mendoza airport.
2. Private Tour with a Driver
The next best thing to renting your own car is hiring a driver to take you on a customized tour. And if it’s in your budget, it may even best thing, seeing as you won’t have to worry about driving after all that wine tasting. A driver will pick you up from your hotel and see to it that you have the best day possible. I particularly like this tour because he brings you to the Uco Valley. This area is without a doubt home to the best wine and the most beautiful Mendoza vineyards. Check rates and reserve your tour here.
3. Bus Vitivinicola: Hop On-Hop Off Bus
Don’t want to drive but don’t want to pay for a driver? Take the hop on hop off bus to hit up the best wineries, the tickets are an affordable $22 US. They operate in different wine regions depending on the day of the week. I personally recommend the El Rio and Valle de Uco days if they work for your trip. Reserve your hop on-hop off bus here.
4. Bike Rentals and Bike Tours
Out of the three wine regions, two are bikeable. You can bike in Maipu and Lujan. I’ll get more into detail on the specifics of each region below. The two companies worth your time are Mr. Hugo’s Bike Rentals in Maipu and Baccus Biking in Chacras de Coria in Lujan. Of the two, I wholeheartedly, without a doubt, recommend Baccus (I’ve done both and speak from experience).
5. Best Mendoza Wine Tours
And of course, there’s a lot of tour options to choose from. Here are the best reviewed and most popular tours to choose from.
The Three Wine Regions of Mendoza
Mendoza is divided up into different wine “departments’ or regions and each has its own particular charm. I’ve been to them all and boy, do I have opinions. The three main regions are Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. I’ve listed them below in order of importance (as in, starting with my least favorite and escalating in beauty, ending with the best).
Starting with the area closest to Mendoza city proper and possibly the easiest to visit, Maipu. This area is quite popular with backpackers. It was also my least favorite. The main road was very industrial, alongside the bike lane were mainly 18 wheeler trucks and large lorries, not exactly fitting with the romantic image I had imagined of riding among the vines.
Once we were in the wineries themselves they were quite beautiful. Two of them included a free bottle of wine to take away as a part of the tasting package. If you’re planning on biking, rent bikes from Mr. Hugo’s Bikes and follow his map of the area. You can take a bus or a taxi to get to get to Mr. Hugo’s.
Wineries in Maipu, Mendoza
We started our day at Bodega La Rural.If you’re interested in history you’ll love La Rural and their museum filled with wine production antiques. Unlike most Mendoza wineries, most of their wine is consumed locally, rather than for export, so if you’re visiting from abroad the wines may be new to you.
Next, we were off to Tempus Alba for lunch on their terrace. Lunch was decent and the views were nice. We skipped a tour and tasting but followed their self-guided walk through the vines reading the plaques along the way. With a free bottle of sauvignon blanc in my backpack, we were off to our third and final stop, Mevi.
This was our fourth day of wine tasting on this particular trip, so we skipped the full tasting in favor of ordering a glass to enjoy on their terrace. Trapiche is the one winery in Maipu I wish we had had time to visit but weren’t able to.
My Overall Impression of Maipu
Not a fan. I even chose to write about it first mainly to get it out of the way. The wineries were beautiful and the wine was good. I just found Lujan de Cuyo and Valle de Uco to be infinitely more beautiful and having visited them before Maipu, it was just a little disappointing in comparison.
2. Luján de Cuyo
Luján de Cuyo, now we’re talking. We loved Luján de Cuyo so much we went twice on our first trip, and returned on our second. It is incredibly easy to get to from Mendoza. You can take a city bus from Mendoza to Chacras de Coria. The bus will take around 45 minutes. A taxi will be very affordable as well and only take around 20 minutes. In Luján de Cuyo you’re closer to the Andes than in Maipu, making the views much more impressive.
Bike Rentals in Chacras de Coria
I always recommend Lujan over Maipu to those that want to bike to the wineries. Baccus Bikes was such a great experience! The bikes were much nicer than those at Mr. Hugo’s. The woman who welcomed us set us up with an itinerary by calling the wineries ahead of time so they would be expecting us as well as arranging our lunch reservations. If you don’t speak Spanish, you can also hire a guide who will bike with you as your personal translator (we met a few along the way and everyone seemed to be having a great time!).
Standout Restaurants & Wineries in Luján de Cuyo
Carmelo Patti: This is a must visit if you’re in the area. I’ve been twice! It’s a garage winery, which means there is no cellar, but really it’s also in a garage-feeling warehouse. Carmelo Patti is the winemaker, owner, and even the tour guide! No need to make a reservation, confirm the opening hours on his facebook page and just show up. He’ll give you a tour free of charge. He loves to share his knowledge and passion for wine. If you buy a bottle, he’ll likely sign it and write which year to open it for best results.
Cava de Cano: One of the best lunches on our first trip was at Cava de Cano, a restaurant housed in the old governor’s residence. We were ushered down to our private dining room, which was inside the old water tanks in the basement. Great ambiance! The table was already set with the mother of all picadas: meats and cheeses, vegetables, malbec infused rice, malbec infused everything. This was just the first course. Next, we were served empanadas, followed by spaghetti bolognese, followed by an ice cream sundae for dessert. With all of this flowed bottomless Malbec, with our choice of sparkling wine or whiskey and a cigar with dessert. All of this cost us the equivalent of $20 US each at the time. Best. Meal. Ever. We were full until breakfast the next day.
Alta Vista: We had a three-course picnic lunch at this winery on our most recent visit. The food was good but not great. But it was still a nice experience, the price is very reasonable and it’s a good option if you want to eat outside rather than inside at Cava de Cano or visit on a Monday or Tuesday when Cava de Cano is closed.
The above are possible to visit by bike with Baccus (among many others not listed). The wineries listed below need a car, driver or may be possible by hop on hop off bus.
Melipal: We visited Melipal recently and it was one of our favorite tours. The building is impressive and modern, nearly blending in with the landscape while also standing out amongst the vines. This was a highlight for us and you won’t regret a visit to Melipal.
A16: I chose A16 purely because I’d never heard of it before. I like to visit boutique wineries or wineries that are new to me, rather than try wines I see all the time in the shops at home. The random choice paid off because the wine was delicious and our tour guide was very friendly. I particularly loved their white wine made out of Malbec grapes!
Ojo de Agua: We had a delicious three-course lunch with wine pairings at Ojo de Agua. We sat outside on the porch by the vines with a view of the snow-capped Andes. So the food being fantastic was icing on the cake of an already great experience. They don’t sell their wines in Argentina or export to the US, so eating here is a great chance to try their wine.
My Overall Impression of Lujan de Cuyo
Obviously, I enjoyed it. We went back for seconds! It’s accessible and beautiful. It felt more rural than the area of Mayor Drummond in Maipu, where we were surrounded by trucks. The quality of wines was also better than those we tasted in Maipu. Don’t think twice about visiting this region!
3. Valle de Uco
The Uco Valley is the END ALL BE ALL. It is stunning. Set at the foot of the Andes, the vistas are breathtaking. The quality of wine produced here is top notch and you’ll be hard-pressed to have a better experience than the one you’ll have in the Uco Valley.
Valle de Uco is widely considered the best wine region in Argentina so if you only have one day to spend tasting wine in Argentina, then choose a tour that will bring you here.
Best Wineries in Uco Valley
O. Fournier: This winery is far. But, it’s worth every minute you sit in the car to get there. It took us an hour to get there from Tupungato and it will take an hour and forty minutes from the city of Mendoza. The wines were spectacular and the building was as well. If you love architecture, you’re in the right place. The highlight for me (besides the wine, of course) was the massive tanks that also served as structural columns.
SuperUco: This was my favorite tour and tasting. This winery is owned by the four Michelini brothers and is a family passion project. They grow and produce their wines organically and biodynamically, aiming to keep everything as close to the way nature intended as possible. You can see this in how they grow their vines to how they’ve designed the architecture of the building itself.
The tasting took place on their deck, with a view to the Andes in front of us. It was a great experience and I highly recommend visiting SuperUco. Tours are in Spanish or English, but English tours are available every day except Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
Bodega La Azul: We had lunch here on both of our visits. I liked it so much the first time that I was thrilled when they invited me back. They agreed to host me for lunch and a stay in their hotel, and I’m thrilled because it’s still the best lunch I’ve ever had! I know I just said that about Cava de Cano in Lujan de Cuyo, but I can’t help myself. We ate very well in Mendoza.
Bodega Azul offers a 5-course lunch with wine pairings. The wine flows freely and the views are unbeatable. After lunch, you are taken for a private tasting of a reserve wine straight from the barrel. This may be the smallest winery in Mendoza but it’s one of the best.
COMING SOON: The Bodega Azul Experience: Everything you need to know about visiting the most beautiful winery in Mendoza
My Overall Impression of Valle de Uco
A++++ If you can make it to the Uco Valley, DO IT. It’s further from Mendoza city, but it’s worth the trek. The wines are the best you’ll taste and the views are incomparable. I loved it so much that I’ve been twice and on any future trip to Mendoza we will only stay here.
Vineyards for Architecture Lovers
A team of two architects together make up the firm Bormida y Yanzon. If you love architecture and design, you’d be well served to take their projects into account when planning your wine tasting itinerary. Together they have designed the most impressive buildings that dot the landscape across Mendoza.
They incorporate innovative materials such as concrete, stone, wood, and glass into their projects that result in a building that echoes the land around it. Their winery projects are both modern and functional but also fit perfectly into the natural landscape of Mendoza. A few noteworthy bodegas that they’ve designed include Salentien, O. Fournier (above), Septima and DiamAndes.
Mendoza Wine Tasting Tips
Planning your day of wineries in Mendoza can be overwhelming. There are so many to choose from and information about the winery’s tours aren’t often displayed clearly on their websites. Here are a few my ideal Mendoza itineraries to ensure that you have the best trip possible.
If you’re driving yourself, you’ll need to contact the wineries ahead of time to make your reservations. In the itineraries below I’ve linked to their websites. There is usually an email address, phone number or contact form under the tourism section of their site. If you’ve hired a driver, they should take care of this.
Most wineries begin offering tours from 10 am. Ideally, you’ll visit two wineries at 10 am and11:30(ish) and a third for lunch. Lunches are best at the winery’s themselves, most offering a fixed coursed menu with wine pairings (even more vino!).
Pro Tip: I always like to have a few extra wineries in mind that are nearby. I won’t reserve a tasting with them in case there’s no time. Two tours and a lunch can usually fill the day. But if there is time, I’ll swing by and see if they have time to squeeze me in for a tasting (you won’t have time for a third tour).
Wine Tasting Itineraries
Uco Valley Itinerary
If I were to plan a wine tasting in Valle de Uco Itinerary for a friend, this is the day I’d schedule for them.
- O. Fournier – 10 am – This winery is the furthest, so start here and work your way back up. Their first tour is at 10 am, so wake up early and eat a hearty breakfast to prepare yourself for all that wine you’ll be drinking today.
- SuperUco – 12 pm – It will take you 40 minutes to drive here from O. Fournier so you’ll need to schedule SuperUco for no earlier than noon.
- Optional Bonus Tasting at Corazon del Sol or Solo Contigo: If you have time for an extra tasting after SuperUco and before your lunch reservation, see if you can squeeze in a quick tasting at one of these two wineries. They’re on the same property as SuperUco (as they form part of The Vines).
- Bodega Azul – 2:30 pm for lunch – You’ll spend the remaining hours of your afternoon hours here, so sit back and enjoy the meal. Stretch your legs in between courses under the Mendoza sun looking at the mountains, or lounge on the sofas in the grass after lunch.
Lujan de Cuyo Itinerary
This is my ideal day in Lujan de Cuyo, and it’s tried and tested because this is how we spent a day here this year. You’ll need a car or a driver for this itinerary as these wineries aren’t reachable by bikes rented from Baccus. It’s worth the effort, I promise.
- A16 – 10 am – Start your day with a tasting and a tour at A16.
- Melipal – 11:30 am – Melipal is only a few minutes from A16 so it was ideal and we made it just in time for our tour and tasting here.
- Ojo de Agua – 1:30 pm for a winery lunch – It took us about 15-20 minutes to drive to Ojo de Agua from Melipal. Enjoy a leisurely lunch, we finished lunch at 4 pm.
- Optional Bonus Tasting after lunch. Wineries close at 5 or 6 so if you play your cards right you can squeeze in one last tasting (no tour) after Ojo de Agua. Choose from: Septima, Cruzat, Viña Cobos or Ruca Malen.
Map of Mendoza
Use the following map to see the locations of the best Mendoza vineyards, hotels & restaurants.
Where to stay in Mendoza
My personal recommendation, one that I swear by and I promise if you follow it you won’t regret it, is stay in Valle de Uco. The Uco Valley is what dreams are made of. Hotels are set up amongst the vines at the foot of the Andes. It’s peaceful and idyllic. On our recent trip, we spent three nights in the Uco Valley split between two hotels.
We spent two nights in Tupungato Divino and it was, well it to repeat the name, it was divine. At only $97 US a night it was very affordable. It’s made up of small cabins set on a farm that grows grapes to sell to other wineries. The view from your bed consists of vines, the Andes and one hell of a sunrise or sunset. There’s a good restaurant on property serving up simple but very good lunches and dinners. Check rates here.
Finca La Azul Guesthouse
We spent our third and last night in the Uco Valley at Finca La Azul Guesthouse. It was ideal after having lunch at their restaurant and trying all their wine. The winery and guesthouse are a family project, and the hotel itself is actually the family’s original home that’s been reformed and added onto. I can’t imagine being lucky enough to live in such a beautiful location, but lucky for us we were able to pretend it was home for a night.
I loved our night here! I enjoyed a long hot bath in their huge bathroom, it was a great way to unwind after a long day out. Also, and this is important in Argentina, the breakfast was superb. You don’t often get yogurt, eggs, or fresh fruit on a breakfast buffet in pastry and toast loving Argentina. Check rates here.
Best Hotels in Mendoza City
If you’ve heard all I had to say above and still prefer to stay in Mendoza city proper, here are some great options for accommodation in Mendoza to consider.
- Bed and Breakfast Plaza Italia: We stayed in this B&B on our first visit to Mendoza and it was a great experience. It was before my blogging days so I don’t have any pictures of it to show you, but I can tell you that the pictures here are accurate. The owners were so friendly and gave us the best restaurant recommendations and it’s centrally located. It’s ideal for couples. Check rates for your stay here.
- Park Hyatt Hotel Mendoza, Hotel & Casino: If you’re looking for luxury hotels in Mendoza, this is it. It’s beautiful (I completely rubbernecked as we walked by it last week). It’s also perfectly located, right on the main square in the center of town. Check prices here.
Best Hostels in Mendoza City
- Hostel de las Artistas: This hostel is a beautiful home that’s been converted into a hostel. It’s decorated well with artistic touches in the common areas, including a piano and record player. There’s also a great garden to lounge in and take in the sun after a day of wine tasting. Check rates here.
- Windmill: Traveling solo? Windmill has a ping pong table and darts in the common spaces (great way to meet fellow travelers!) and is ranked well for traveling alone. It’s well located, offers breakfast and wifi. What more do you need? (Oh yeah, wine, I’m sure it’s cheap nearby). Check rates here.
- Break Independencia; This hostel is located in a large, beautiful historic building. Just take a look at the lobby! It’s not a chain hostel but offers a more local perspective. Check rates here.
Adventure Activities in Mendoza
If you want to do something that *gasp* doesn’t involve wine, there are plenty of adventure activities to do in Mendoza. The location next to the Andes Mountains offers a lot of choices for the active traveler. There are hikes, mountain biking, white water rafting and horseback riding excursions.
If you’re staying in the Uco Valley, there are hikes and horseback riding excursions that leave from the Manzano Historico south of Tupungato. Your hotel should be able to arrange a tour and guide for you.
We chose to drive to the town of Potrerillos in the foothills to spend a couple of days relaxing and breathing that fresh mountain air. We were invited on a horseback ride and rafting experience, but all opinions expressed below are my own. We really loved Potrerillos and if you arrange a rafting tour from the city of Mendoza, it will happen here in Potrerillos.
Horseback Riding with Rincon de los Oscuros
We went on a short hour and fifteen-minute “cabalgata” or horseback ride with Rincon de los Oscuros. They are based in Potrerillos and the landscapes we rode through were stunning! I would have liked more time, so if you book with them book the two-hour ride. Check out their packages on their website here.
White Water Rafting in Mendoza
We went white water rafting with Potrerillos Explorer. I admit that I was a little nervous beforehand, I did not want to fall into that ice cold river! But they were very thorough in preparing us and I felt very safe the entire time. The river will get higher and the rapids more rough as temperatures warm. Expect a relaxing ride in winter and an adventure in January’s summer heat. Reserve your rafting experience or one of their many other tours here.