How to visit the best wineries in Mendoza, Argentina
Before living in Buenos Aires, the first thing that came to mind whenever I thought of Argentina was steak and red wine. So I was very excited when I finally planned a trip to the mecca of Malbec: Mendoza. There’s a lot to do in Mendoza from wine tasting to adventure activities, but I only wanted the vino. I planned four days of wine tastings in three different “departments” or regions of wine production. Here’s a breakdown of these three regions: what to expect, the best wineries to visit in Mendoza and how to visit 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 fall for harvesting (the “cosecha” or vendimia). We visited in March 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.
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 to visit in Maipu, Mendoza
These are the wineries we visited. There are also plenty of places to try olive oil, honey, chocolate and liqueurs along the way. 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, so we skipped the tour in favor is ordering a full glass to enjoy on their terrace. My wine of choice for most of the trip was rosé made from Malbec grapes, I highly recommend it! 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! It’s incredibly easy to get to from Mendoza. You can take a city bus from Mendoza to Chacras de Coria that will take around 45 minutes. A taxi or remis 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, she also made lunch reservations for what would end up being one of the best lunches I’ve ever had.
There are also some wineries in Chacras de Coria proper that are easy to visit on foot. We enjoyed the town so much that we came back on our last day and visited two wineries and walked around the adorable town.
Wineries we visited in Luján de Cuyo
Carmelo Patti: This is a must visit if you’re in the area. It may not be beautiful, but the wine is incredible and you’ll be tasting with the man himself. Carmelo Patti is such a character and I really enjoyed meeting him!
Bodega Lagarde: Nearly across the street from Carmelo Patti was our next stop, Lagarde. We opted for a tour and a tasting. The vineyard is beautiful, with trees growing amongst the sprawling vines to absorb excess water to meet traditional standards. I hear their restaurant is spectacular if you’re looking for a nice relaxed lunch. We had other plans…
Cava de Cano: We had lunch reservations 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. It was 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 (disclaimer that I’m not sure what they charge today). Best. Meal. Ever. We were full until breakfast the next day.
We had a tasting reserved at Alta Vista at 3, but lunch ran long and we missed it. Next time!
Wineries in Luján de Cuyo, Round 2
On our next day in Lujan de Cuyo, we just visited two wineries in Chacras de Coria. We started at Pulmary, a boutique organic winery. While we waited for our tour to begin we were offered a free glass of Torrontes (above) to ease the wait. No complaints from me! The wines were great and it was nice to see a different approach to production.
Next, we made our way to Clos de Chacras and enjoyed a tasting with a cheese plate. I haven’t said it yet but can we just all stop and admire how a “tasting” in Mendoza is actually three full glasses of wine? It’s a magical thing.
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 was 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, then choose a tour that will bring you here. Wineries here are further apart and we reserved our tastings and meals in advance, so it required more planning than Maipu or Lujan. We had a car and drove ourselves but there are many tours that come here as well. Here’s how we spent our day in Uco Valley.
Best Wineries in Uco Valley
Bodega Salentein: We had a 10 am tour and tasting reserved at Salentein. Too early for wine? Nonsense! The winery and vineyards are gorgeous (see above). The building seems unassuming but it actually plunges multiple stories underground. It was designed to blend in with the landscape and I’d say, mission accomplished. They have pianos next to wine aging in barrels that magically don’t disturb the wine. The acoustics are designed to send the sound upwards, ricocheting along the center of the room, while the wine rests undisturbed. There’s also an art gallery on site. Oh and the wine? The wine was fantastic.
Bodega La Azul: We had lunch reservations at Bodega La Azul, across the street from Salentein. It was the best lunch I 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. The 5-course lunch with wine pairings was fantastic, the wine flowed freely (wine pairings with refills!), and the view was unbeatable. We were sitting outdoors at the foot of the Andes Mountains! After lunch, the owner took us for a private tasting straight from the barrel. This is the only winery in the Uco Valley that’s 100% owned by Argentines, that alone makes it worth a visit.
Bodega Gimenez Riili: After lunch, Martin had had enough. He had to drive us all the way back to Mendoza and we drank a lot of wine with lunch. But me being the passenger, I wanted just a bit more. So we pulled into Gimenez Riili on a whim, hoping they’d let us do a tasting without a reservation. They were kind enough to let me relax on their porch with a few glasses. This family-owned bodega was a great find, just look at the view below!
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’m going again in September with a friend and we’re skipping the city of Mendoza entirely. We’ll spend one night in Lujan de Cuyo and two nights here in the Uco Valley, staying at Tupungato Divino. I’ll update this post afterward to let you know how it went! Watch this space!
Mendoza Winery Tours
Now you know where to go, but how can you visit these wineries? We had a car for the Uco Valley and took public transportation to Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I get that! There are tons of tour options for wine tasting in Mendoza. Take a weight off and let someone else drive you around. You won’t get lost and you don’t have to worry about drinking a bit too much with lunch.
There’s also a hop-on/hop-off bus that you can take. I have never taken it so I can’t vouch for it first hand but it may a good option to consider. Check their website for more information. They operate in different wine regions depending on the day of the week so make sure you check ahead to see if it works for your schedule and which wineries are included.
I hope you enjoy your trip to Mendoza, cheers!