The heart of Argentina’s wine country, Mendoza is a must for any oenophile visiting the country. With leafy streets, beautiful mountain views, world class wineries and restaurants it’s also the perfect break from the bustling city. Its hard to believe this verdant landscape is actually a desert but a continental climate and a clever irrigation system has created a tranquil oasis with sunshine three hundred days a year. Seriously what could be better than wine and sunshine!!
Mr S and I absolutely loved our time in Mendoza and we were seriously bowled over by the food and wine in Argentina. Here are a few of my recommendations for places to eat and vineyards to visit. Note we didn’t have enough time to visit the famed Uco Valley located around an hour’s drive from Mendoza so these recommendations are local to our hotel, Cavas Wine Lodge. They were all included as part of a special two night programme that you can opt for whilst staying there.
1. ABRASADOS restaurant, at Los Toneles winery
Mr S and I knew we were in safe hands as soon as we arrived in Mendoza airport and were quickly whisked away for lunch at Bodega Los Toneles, an absolutely gorgeous restored winery close to the city centre.
First founded in 1922 by the Armando family who built the vineyard in the Belle Epoque style, it was bought eighty years later by the Millán family who added modern technology to bring the glorious vintage vineyard back to life.
The restaurant Abrasados, is a jewel in the crown of this gorgeous winery and the interiors are visually stunning.
We admired the dry-aging cabinet located at the end of the restaurant as beef is the speciality and the dry aging process improves the flavour and texture of the meat. The quality is absolutely top notch here as the meat comes from cattle from the ranch belonging to the Millán family.
Chef Sebastián Weigandt’s menu is fairly simple but utterly delicious with a specialisation in roasted fine meat cuts and locally grown vegetables.
Starters were a classic empanada for Mr S and salmon ceviche for me. He opted for the classic steak main course whilst I went with the trout and a brownie for dessert. We also opted for the wine pairings including Toneles own wine which uses grapes of the highest quality paired with state-of-the-art technology for production.
I absolutely loved this elegant restaurant and winery and it was my favourite meal that we had in Mendoza.
Located in Lujan de Cuyo, Bodega Benegas is actually one of the most historical vineyards in the area having been founded in 1883 by Don Tiburcio Benegas who is seen a pioneer in modern wine-making in Argentina. The vineyard stayed in the family for four generations until it was sold in the 1970s. Current owner and great grandson of the original owner, Federico Benegas Lynch, was able to bring the wine trade back to his family by purchasing Finca Libertad, an old vineyard that was planted by Don Tiburcio in 1998. Two years later he bought a beautiful antique winery and installed all the latest technology.
Mr S and I had a tour of the vineyards and the production processes before being led into the cellar for a tasting. For the production of their wines, Benegas Lynch and Benegas Estate, the company only use grapes from their vineyards Finca Libertad and La Encerrada in order to assure quality control.
Cavas Wine Lodge
I highly recommend Cavas Wine Lodge, our home during our time in Mendoza. This family-run property is so much more than a hotel, it’s a boutique wine lodge with it’s own working vineyard.
Non-residents can wine, dine and spa at Cavas Wine Lodge, subject to availability, and enjoy the Relais & Châteaux approved cuisine paired with the lodge’s own wines. We were also very impressed by the knowledge of the sommelier who gave us a private tasting in the cellar.
El Enemigo Winery
El Enemigo is an incredibly popular winery in Mendoza and it’s easy to see why. The property is visually stunning and the food, wine and service are outstanding.
We had a tour of the property before lunch and we learnt that having been founded in 2007 it’s a fairly new wineyard. Founders are soil expert and winemaker Alejandro Vigil, who has been chief winemaker of Bodega Catena Zapata for 13 years, and his partner Adrianna Catena, a historian, and part of a family line of winemakers.
As well as learning about the soil and production we admired the beautiful modern winery and the art collection that can be found dotted around the grounds. It also boasts very photogenic tiles for those looking for that Instagram shot.
Once again lunch here was sensational, it may be impossible to find bad food in Mendoza, and we enjoyed a fantastic three course lunch made the freshest of ingredients. It’s also worth pointing out that we dined in the top restaurants in the area but prices are incredibly reasonable and portions are ginormous!
1884 Restaurante Francis Mallman
One of Argentina’s most famous and highly regarded chefs, Francis Mallman is well-known for reinventing the art of cooking over fire. Growing up in Bariloche in Argentinian Patagonia, he owes his cookery methods to native gauchos and after working in France he returned to is Argentine roots and now has nine restaurants around the world. With so much to recommend him including an appearance on Netflix series Chef’s Table, I was keen to try dinner at his Mendoza place, 1884 Restaurante.
The restaurant opened in 1996 but the name comes from the date of the original vineyard where it is set. The design of the restaurant is gorgeous with great attention to detail such as purple walls to represent the Mendoza wines and beautiful chequered floors. There’s also this central open courtyard which looks like a fairy tale secret garden.
The food is cooked over wood fires and in clay ovens using Argentine cooking techniques. We were recommended the signature octopus for starter – it’s huge you only need one!
Mr S had the steak of course and I had trout. I seemed to have a lot of trout and salmon while in South America but I’m not a big meat-eater though I still sampled every steak Mr S had. Don’t miss dessert at Francis Mallman as we ended our meal with a slice of chocolate heaven!
I think we covered some really great place in a short amount of time and I would highly recommend everywhere that we went. I’d love to know if you’ve visited Mendoza and have any further recommendations.
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