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The Best Wineries (and More) to Visit in Mendoza, Argentina

When most people think of Argentina, three words often come to mind: Messi, Mendoza and Malbec. While meeting soccer star Leo Messi may be difficult, it’s relatively easy to explore the exciting city of Mendoza. In this bustling city in the Cuyo region of central Argentina, you can sip through hundreds of variations of its best-known varietal, Malbec.

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In recent years, Mendoza has seen the growth of luxury hotels, wine bars, internationally recognized restaurants and other gourmet experiences. With more than 200 wineries open to guests, there’s never been a better time to go. Here’s a list of the best places to visit and some tips from a local to help you make the most of your time there.

The colours of a warm autumn day in Mendoza, Argentina
Getty Images

The Best Time to Visit

There is nothing quite like autumn in Mendoza. The golden yellow leaves of poplar trees and grapevines in the vineyards during this season are absolutely stunning.

Fall starts in March, which is the peak of the harvest season. It’s usually during this month that tourists and locals can attend La Fiesta de la Vendimia, or the harvest festival, which includes a parade and a musical show in an open-air theater situated in hills just outside Mendoza city. During Easter week, there is also a series of classical music concerts in select wineries, which feature violinists, pianists and cellists playing among the oak barrels. Springtime is a splendid season, too, since it’s when vines start coming out of dormancy.

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Travelers visit the city all year round and there’s no wrong time to go. “There is no off-season in Mendoza anymore, we only have mid and high seasons now,” says Claudia Yanzon, Mendoza’s tourism director. When we spoke, she was arranging for a visit from the president of the Ibero-American Academy of Gastronomy—an influential organization that recently named Mendoza the Ibero-American Capital of Gastronomy and Wine

Bodegas Salentein
Image Courtesy of Bodegas Salentein

Where to Taste

Renacer, a small winery nestled in Pedriel, Lujan de Cuyo, is a prime example of the region’s gastronomic excellence. Surrounded by organic vineyards and bucolic stone walls, the Tuscan-style winery has a Michelin-recommended restaurant overlooking a large pond. It also has a solid selection of well-made wines. Make sure to sample its Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Milamore, a unique red blend made through the “appassimento” process in which grapes are dried to create full-bodied wines packed with intense fruit and balanced acidity. Guests can taste these excellent selections through various tourism packages that range from vineyard and barrel room tours to a wine and tango experience with professional dancers.

Another winery that offers visitors more than standard wine tasting is Santa Julia. At the sprawling winery, guests can cycle through its organic vineyards and olive trees before sipping Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and more. The family-owned winery also offers equally delightful Zuelo olive oil tastings and cooking classes for kids and adults at the onsite restaurant, which is hailed for its seasonal produce fire-roasted in clay ovens.

Bodegas Salentein, in the Uco Valley, was built during the region’s modern winery wave of the late ’90s and early 2000s and offers some of the most unique experiences in the area. It’s a must-visit for those who love wine and design. Guests can explore its cultural center, Killka, which features a curated collection of local art. Outdoors, visitors will want to check out the beautiful chapel, inspired by traditional Andean architecture, while walking along a vine-lined path to the winery, which utilizes a gravity-fed winemaking system. Not to be missed is its stunning underground cellar, which doubles as a concert venue during the Musica Clásica por los Caminos del Vino festival, and its restaurant, which serves traditional Argentine fare, like empanadas cooked in a clay oven.

Angélica Cocina Maestra
Image Courtesy of Angélica Cocina Maestra

Where to Eat and Drink

The culinary scene in Malbec country is grabbing the attention of tastemakers. Last November, the Michelin Guide expanded to include Mendoza and bestowed a coveted one-star rating to four restaurants, plus a green star to an additional three establishments.

Naturally, restaurants at wineries are especially strong at food and wine pairings. For example, Catena Zapata’s restaurant, Angélica Cocina Maestra, has a wine-first concept that makes wine the star rather than an accompaniment. Unlike traditional wine pairing menus, the experience often starts with bold reds (pay special attention to the outstanding Addriana Vineyard Malbec) before moving to vibrant whites, like the complex Addriana Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay or the elegant White Stones. Then it switches back and forth between styles. Dishes epitomize the region’s hearty fare, such as a smoky charcoal-roasted pork pancetta with green apple chutney.

Another must-visit is the Zuccardi Valle de Uco restaurant Piedra Infinita Cocina. The pairing menu highlights regional ingredients and dishes like tortita Mendocina, a local biscuit served with Arauco olive oil and black pepper, and grilled steak cooked to medium-rare perfection. It’s paired with their terroir-driven Aluvional Paraje Altamira Malbec whose freshness, mineral texture and fruity character make it an excellent match to the mouthwatering Argentine staple.

“Mendocinian cuisine is based on new techniques that allow us to understand and value our regional produce,” says chef Santiago Maestre who also explores hyperlocal ingredients of Luján de Cuyo, including meats, cheeses and local olive oil (a pillar of Mendoza’s cuisine) in his menu at La Vid in Bodega Norton. His set menus feature dishes matched with picks from the winery, such as ribeye with Cabernet Franc-blend Lote Negro. The aromatic and lively Altura Semillon accompanies octopus seasoned with lemon, ginger, mustard, Boniato and black garlic. The wine’s subtle citrus and saline notes enhance the flavors of the dish.

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Although most high-end restaurants in Mendoza are in wineries, the city has many destination-worthy options, too. In the city center, Azafrán offers a contemporary take on traditional cuisine, with dishes like Mendoza-style Tomaticán stew, a traditional vegetable dish made from tomato and corn, and black rice with trout and apple.

República Bistró, owned by the “Messi of Wines,” Alejandro Vigil is located on bustling Aristides Street. The restaurant features both an à la carte and a pairing menu, with hearty offerings such as pastas, beef Milanese and beet risotto served alongside his El Enemigo wines. The wine list also includes a wide selection from other renowned local producers.

For breakfast, or a mint-infused lemonade in the afternoon, stop by the Bröd Bakery’s outpost near Plaza Independencia to enjoy freshly baked goods, such as croissants and alfajores, on its enchanting patio. Though the bakery has multiple locations throughout the city, this one is inside an old building that is also home to a large wine shop and a brewery that serves cheeses and charcuterie. It’s a perfect spot to relax after a morning of hiking or tasting.

An even more laid-back meal option is to picnic at one of the wineries, many of which offer packages that allow guests to snack among the vines while admiring breathtaking views. One of them is the family-run Bodega Bressia, which offers a garden picnic package of cold cuts, olives, homemade bread, chipa (cheese rolls), dips and more. It comes with a bottle of wine per two guests. Go for the Lágrima Canela 2020, an elegant blend of 70% Chardonnay, 30% Semillon.

SB Winemakers House and Spa Suites
Image Courtesy of SB Winemakers House and Spa Suites

Where to Stay

Waking up and looking at the snowy peaks of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Southern and Western Hemispheres, is a breathtaking experience. From spa hotels to glamping, there are plenty of options that accommodate such a view—among vines, no less.

Gaia Lodge, a small yet vibrant hotel with seven rooms and a lounge, is a standout. Located adjacent to Domaine Bousquet, one of the largest producers of organic wines in Argentina, it’s a place where guests are immediately immersed in the winery activity from the moment they wake up. From your balcony, you can see the winemakers pruning the vines and handpicking grapes during harvest. (And if you want to get your hands dirty, guests can assist in making biodynamic compost.) “Guests have an unforgettable experience in contact with nature, surrounded by the magnificence of the Andes and our organic vineyards,” says Labid Ameri, co-founder of Domaine Bousquet and the proprietor of Gaia Lodge.

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Other options include Chozos Resort in city of Luján de Cuyo, where many rooms are housed in small dwellings with unique domed ceilings inspired by Andean structures. Alternatively, opt for one of the “Glam Camps,” a set of igloo-like structures with all-around views of the neighboring vineyards.

There’s also the new spa hotel Susana Balbo Unique Stays, from renowned winemaker of the same name, located in Luján de Cuyo’s small but enchanting Chacras de Coria district. The boutique hotel is intimate—it only has seven luxury suites—all outfitted with relaxation-minded amenities like a sensation shower, oversized soaking tub and massage tables for in-room massages. In the restaurant, elevated Argentinian fare pairs exquisitely with the impossibly well-curated list of bottles featuring Balbo’s wines and other local bottlings, which, given the hotel’s credentials, makes perfect sense.

Spending the night in the Uco Valley? The Vines Resort and Spa does the trick with its nearly two dozen sleek villas, all of which boast private patios, luxe bathrooms and kitchens stocked with treats. Don’t forget to book a meal at the property’s restaurant, which is overseen by pioneering open-fire chef Francis Mallmann. The 16-room Casa de Uco, set in a 790-acre vineyard estate, is also an excellent choice. Rooms are thoroughly modern and sleek with plenty of polished concrete; some villas are situated in the vines and are outfitted with private rooftop hot tubs.

View of Mendoza city
Getty Images

Travel Tips

The main wine regions such as Luján de Cuyo and Maipú are about 20 minutes from the city, while a ride to the Uco Valley will take at least an hour. This is why most visitors opt to rent a car or book a private tour to visit wineries. There is also a wine bus, called Bus Vitivinícola, with a hop-on and hop-off service that takes you to the main valleys with the option of visiting up to four wineries a day.

Remember to reserve tastings in advance as many wineries and restaurants are usually booked or do not accept walk-ins.