When someone says “wine,” my mouth salivates. When someone says “bikes,” I think exercise. But when someone says “bikes and wine,” I think fun and trouble. I should have got a BUI (Biking Under the Influence) in Mendoza, Argentina.
Mendoza, Argentina is known as the wine capital of Argentina with thousands of bodegas (wineries) nestled up against the Andes mountains. 75% of all the wine in Argentina comes from this region. Mendoza’s hot and dry climate makes it a perfect growing ground for red wines, the malbec being the most popular and recognized Argentine wine worldwide.
Most of Mendoza’s top bodegas are located on the outskirts of town within kilometers of each other. Hence, some intelligent business people have jumped on the opportunity to provide bikes for car-less tourists wishing to explore and wine taste.
There are several companies providing the bikes and wine experience – most notably, Bikes and Wines. But I decided against the obvious and most popular choice on a recommendation; I had heard great things about family owned and operated Mr. Hugo’s Bikes.
The second my two new hostel friends and I set foot on Mr. Hugo’s property we knew we made the right choice. Mr. Hugo’s was run by the bright and bubbly Mr. Hugo himself. His beautiful daughter equipped us with shiny new bikes, a map, and her best advice.
So on one of the hottest and driest days of the year, we pushed off for a day of tasting. By the time we reached the first bodega, Vina el Cerno, we were anxious for a glass or six. The 3 KM ride along dusty tree-lined streets from Mr. Hugo’s had worked up our wine appetite.
Our guide watched with a slight grin as the three clueless tasters in front of him swirled their wine, inspected it’s color, and stuck their noses deep in the glass. “Mmmm. That’s tasty,” I said, “Can I have another?”
We got through our 4 samplings, perhaps a bit too fast, and started debating which was the best. A 2003 cabernet sauvignon was the winner. Satisfied, we rode on.
The next stop on our list was bodega and restaurant Flia Di Tommoso. After a short tour through their historic wine cellar, and a bit of tasting, we headed to the outdoor restaurant for lunch. As we devoured our food and perfectly matched bottle of malbec, we couldn’t help but notice the beauty of the endless sea of grapevines laid out before us. “I feel like I’m in a movie about wine,” I said.
The wine began revealing itself as we pushed shakily off for the next bodega. After another long ride through the mid-afternoon heat, we arrived at Bodega Carinae. The French owner brought us our first cold drink of the day: a chilled bottle of rosé. We downed our glasses under the shade of a nearby tree and the conversation pushed below the surface, down into the deeper topics of life and travel. “This is good wine,” I laughed.
When the last drops of rosé were sucked dry, we decided to take a break from the wine to visit the olive plantation Laur, which sits just across the street from Carinae. We rushed through the tour before stuffing ourselves with bread, sun-dried tomato, and extra virgin olive oil. It proved to be a nice pit-stop on the road to drunkenness.
It was nearing 6 o’clock (bodega closing time) before we started heading back towards Mr. Hugo’s. With the alcohol metabolizing in our livers, we noticed that the ride back was significantly more entertaining than the ride there. We even have some funny videos floating on the web.
Back at Mr. Hugo’s, we were greeted by 15 other wine riders who were winding down after a day of drinking with… more drinks. Mr. Hugo kept the wine flowing (for free) and also entertained us with his happy-go-lucky attitude. We all shared our favorite glasses of the day as the heat started to dissipate over the valley. All perfect days end perfectly.
I won’t pretend to know a lot about wine, but I will say Mendoza wine, right from the source, will impress even the most inexperienced palate. A bike and wine tour in Mendoza is an absolute must. Just remember to drink and bike safely.
Derek Johanson believes in slow travel. He lives in places- he just doesn’t travel to them. For more information about his great trips and on slow travel, visit his website Live Uncomfortably.