As international consumption of Malbec climbs (along with affinity for other Argentine wines), more tourists are drawn to visit the place where it all is cultivated, fermented, stored, and bottled: Mendoza. Wine tasting and visits to vineyards are top activities on visitors' itineraries, and drinking and dining at any number of the different bodegas could fill weeks of lush vacation time. The area, cradled in a valley and running up to the foot of Andes, also includes the city of Mendoza and sites for active excursions. Here is our insider's guide to experiencing the best of a little bit of everything in Mendoza.
Finding a vineyard for touring and wine tasting is not difficult in Mendoza, but Bodega Septima is a standout property. Located at the foot of the Andes, the vivid colors in and around the property, from the reddish tinge of the mountains, deep blue sky, miles of rows of laden grape vines, and fields of gold that would inspire Sting to sing, Bodega Septima is postcard perfect. The wine more than holds its own, as well.
Don't Miss: Lunch at the vineyard's MarÃa Restaurant is an hours-long affair, and for the equivalent of about US $50, is a ridiculously good deal. Each of the four delectable courses is perfectly paired with wine and servers constantly keep glasses full. Add to that views of the Andes and it becomes difficult to want the meal to end.
The Tallest Peak of Two Hemispheres
The king of the Andes range is Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in both the Southern and Western hemispheres, and is located within the bounds of Mendoza. Head to Parque Provincial Aconcagua for a day spent outdoors and out of town.
Don't Miss: Adventure seekers might look to experience the mountain and range in a more exciting way like on a rafting excursion, by paragliding off a peak to coast over the valley, taking a mountain bike ride, or saddling up for horseback riding.
Bike with Mr. Hugo
A popular option for cruising through a handful of Mendoza's many vineyards, especially for the active and those on a budget, is to go by bike. Mr. Hugo's is the most popular and well-established option for bike borrowing, and for good reason. The amicable older gentleman and namesake is so happy to get people out pedaling to and fro in wine country, armed with a map of the Maipú region, that a lovely time is guaranteed.
Don't Miss: Plan to hang around after retiring your bikes for the day, because Mr. Hugo's driveway and front patio transforms into a convivial international happy hour, with for complimentary post-biking wine, poured as generously as the host's smiles are big.
Meat at 1884 Francis Mallmann
The country's leading chef (Francis Mallmann) opened 1884 over a decade ago with vinter Nicolas Zapata Catena, he who is credited with the Malbec's rise to international fame, making a Mendoza power duo if there ever was one. The point of inspiration was Argentina and Andean cuisine and, naturally, wine, and this restaurant in the Godoy Cruz area serves up some of the best grilled meat in Argentina and beyond. The warm tones and wood floors of the dining area, high ceilings with floor-length windows and plush furniture and create a comfortable elegance.
Don't Miss: The grilled lamb dish (not to be mistaken for the grilled lamb steak that also is divine) is cooked for more than seven hours and gives new meaning to the term melt-in-your-mouth. Honor the other founder and order a D.V. Catena wine for a meal that will have you thinking back longingly and fondly well after you've left.
Post Up at the Park Hyatt Mendoza
Mendoza is a comparatively small city, all compacted around the main Plaza Independencia in town where people gather day and night to socialize and relax outdoors. A focal point on that plaza is the gleaming Park Hyatt Mendoza, a Spanish colonial building from the 19th century. For those looking for a luxury stay within the city limits rather than picturesque but more remote vineyard property, this is the place.
Don't Miss: The hotel's ringing casino is a happening spot for crowds of guests and non-guests in town.
Thinking of a trip to Mendoza?
For up-to-the-minute hotel and restaurant recommendations, as well as the best planning advice, check out our Argentina Wine Regions' Travel Guide.
Photo Credits: Bodega Septima: Courtesy of Bodega Septima; Aconcagua: Hiking to Aconcagua via Shutterstock.com; Mr. Hugo: Courtesy of Mr. Hugo; 1884 Francis Mallmann: Courtesy of 1884 Restaurante Francis Mallmann; Park Hyatt Mendoza: Courtesy of Hyatt Corporation