Tasting our way across Valle de Uco. Mendoza Day Two

The trip through the Valle de Uco brought me back to France a bit. A few years ago Jesse and I took a road trip around France through the Loire Valley to Claremont-Ferrand then to Lyon and Dijon and finally back to Paris. This trip reminded me a lot of driving through the Loire Valley and the wine tasting we did there. The vineyards were spaced out leaving plenty of room for the luscious landscape. The large bodegas, not unlike the chateaus and vineyards that dotted the Loire Valley, all had very helpful staff who guided us through an array of wines. The big differences here were the looming mountains in the background and the more modern architecture.

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Like the previous day, it was a foggy morning.

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Really foggy. It makes me so nervous driving in this fog, and I imagine I’m not alone.

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If you look closely in the center of this pic, you’ll see a miniature Christ the Redeemer replica. Randomly placed…

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These little temple/sanctuary/religious set ups were all over the place, not just here but in other parts of the area as well. They remind me of what you see in the Vietnam rice paddies where people go to worship when they’re out working for a long while.

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Despite the clouds, beautiful and stretching views.

La Azul

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This family-owned boutique bodega once just sold their grapes to winemakers. But a couple years ago, they decided to get into the game themselves and started producing their own wines. They have a very small production and are actually the only Argentine-owned bodega in this region.

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The guide was really nice. He actually lived in NYC for about 10 years before, recently, moving back to Argentina to settle down.

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He pointed out the difference between the French oak and the American oak. Among other things, if you look closely, the American oak is more porous and lets in more air, which affects the production of the wine.

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Tasting the Gran Reserva straight from the barrel. Delicious!

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Their small production house.

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Inside the restaurant. Its so cute and very shabby chic/DIY modern.

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I have seen this on pinterest like a million times! They actually did it. ha ha

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While the gourd is in focus, the most exciting thing in this pic, as Jesse will point out, is the oven behind the gourd.

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There was a classic car parade going on in a town in Valle de Uco! So cool!!

Atamisque

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Atamisque is a mammoth of a bodega. It’s not just the bodega but will soon be a resort and spa and golf course. It’s owned by a wealthy French woman and was described to us as “her hobby”. What a hobby.

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A dirt road leading up to the bodega that blends into the landscape on the left.

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Like most of the bodegas here, the grounds are really breathtaking.

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You pay for a tasting here, like many of the bodegas, but it’s not much and you have a few options at different price points.

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To top it off, a really delicious sparkling wine.

Lunch at La posada del Jamon

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This cute little place is a hotel/restaurant in the area. It’s adorable and is well known for its pork products, so of course we had to stop by.

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A little fiambres to start us off.

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A pork milanesa with apple sauce – so juicy and delicious, savory and sweet.

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We also got to try some wine from a local bodega. Quite tasty as I recall. (You can see Jesse’s plate of sausages and asado in the background.)

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These little guys were hanging around, just chillin. I think they’re pheasants, but I really have no idea. Anyone know?

Driving to O’Fournier.

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We got a little lost.

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But it’s ok, because it was so gorgeous.

Bodega O’Fournier

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Our last stop on our Valle de Uco journey and we weren’t disappointed.

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After about a mile of driving through grape fields, you arrive at this building. I have to say, O’Fournier is one of the most thought out bodegas I saw in Mendoza.

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The view from outside the winery.

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A lot of the larger, modern bodegas have a chemistry lab set up. Seems so counter to the whole French wine mentality, but I guess a modern vineyard calls for modern technology.

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Reminds me of the Chinese Terra Cotta Army.

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The bushes in the foreground are rosemary bushes and are directly over the wine barrels in the Terra Cotta Army picture above. These bushes not only add an aroma to the surrounding area, but also absorb sunlight, cooling the bodega down and keeping the barrels beneath them at the optimal temperature.

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The restaurant has amazing views and apparently an amazing chef. If we come back, I would really like to go here for lunch.

Dinner with Chef Mun at Casarena

Saturday night we had dinner in Lujan de Cuyo at one of the most well-known and best reviewed restaurants in Mendoza, Chef Mun at Casarena. The chef is a Korean-American who lived in NYC and was trained in California. He gained notoriety in Argentina when he opened his puerta cerrada in Buenos Aires. Recently, when the bodega Casarena decided to open a restaurant, they asked Chef Mun to be the executive chef. The chef does one seating  per week of about 40 people on Saturday nights. I suppose this will change once the official restaurant opens, but it was pretty cool.

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Gathering in the welcome area, greeted with a glass of champagne.

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Looking into the dining area. Their restaurant was still being built at the time of our visit so we got to sit in the wine celler room where two long tables were set up. Dramatic and romantic, I would hope the decor would carry over to the restaurant.

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Chef Mun on the right and the front of house manager/his partner on the left. Chef Mun came out at the start of the meal to explain each course and his partner gave a description of the wines.

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We sat next to two really interesting Swedish couples and had some really great conversation the whole night.

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Vietnamese/Thai Salad with a sesame-peanut-fish sauce dressing

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Spicy Tom Ka Gai Soup (too spicy for some of the Argentines)

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Some of the best sushi we’ve had in Argentina. Too bad there were only 3 pieces. 😦

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Steak with wine reduction sauce and potatoes

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Chocolate souffle with a raspberry wine reduction sauce

Everything here was delicious. The presentation and ambience were both wonderful. But truth be told, based on the press and our experiences at other puerta cerradas in Buenos Aires, we were expecting a little more. More creativity, better ingredients. Korean short ribs maybe? It seemed a little… standard. I wonder if his stuff was much different when he was on his own… But, based on the experience and the food, I would definitely recommend the place for those who want a nice night out.

 

Other recommendations for Valle de Uco: Clos de los Siete, Andeluna, Salentein, and Jean Bousquet

Next… a ride across a river and asado in the mountains with a gaucho. 😉

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