Our guides had wisely reversed the order of our exploration of the Andes and our visit to the local vineyards and winery from the original itinerary. The Mendoza temperatures had moderated from the upper eighties when we were in the cool of the mountains yesterday to the more comfortable high seventies today.
Our first stop was to the recently modernized Trapiche winery. Built in 1883 and passed down from son to son for many years, the modernization has preserved many of the original historic characteristics and museum-like artifacts. However modern temperature controls and QC methods are now in use.
An interesting historic fact is the railroad siding which is still on the property. In the early days of the winery, the grape juice had to be transported by horse drawn wagons and often turned to vinegar upon arrival to the fermenting tanks. The newly built Argentine railroad passed a few hundred meters from the winery and the owner insisted that a siding be built to allow the juice to come directly from the trains (that did the transport far more swiftly without vinegarization) to the fermentation tanks.
We were guided through the building and shown the huge concrete (now lined with epoxy) fermentation tanks and the cellars with the casks of aging wine. While we did not get to walk through the room of barrels as we have done on other wine tours, we could see them through glass windows and actually walk on glass floors to view them below!
Our reward at the end of the tour was an elaborate lesson in wine tasting and the tasting itself. We tasted two reds since the white was not at the right temperature (Anne & Tom are white wine lovers, and were a bit disappointed). We were shown how to sniff and then swirl and then taste. By sniffing before swirling, the oxygen does not begin to change the aroma and what you smell is true to the wine, telling you if the wine is still good and not soured. The swirl releases the aroma and there is actually a change in the "nose". The first sip is only to clear the taste buds and the second is when you experience the true taste. We never knew any of these subtitles and were appreciative of the lesson.
Trapiche produces ordinary wines for mass consumption which provides finance for the extraordinary "Gran Reserva" which we tasted. After a trip to the wine store on the Trapiche property, we all got back in the bus and headed to a walk in Vinas de Barrancas where the viticulturist showed us the vines and the differences between the leaves that identify the variety of the grapes. Drip irrigation is used extensively and the grapes had only begun to form in what is now late spring in Argentina. He showed how a dead vine is replaced by taking a shoot from a healthy adjacent vine and inserting the end of the vine into the earth. When the new shoot is thriving, it is cut from the "mother" and it grows on its own.
As we wound down the agricultural part of the walk, we came to a shady spot where a bar-b-q lunch was set up and of course, we enjoyed the fruits (wine) of our exploration with the beef and salad courses. After one last view of the vast acreage of vineyards, we headed back to the hotel and later that night enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant where most of us had trout - a welcome departure from the extensive menu of beef. We looked forward to a good night's sleep to prepare us for the next leg of our journey to Patagonia the next day.