Michigan Wine Country: Unexpected and Beautiful

Michigan, wine, Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, Sip and Savor, wine tasting

I was looking forward to visiting Traverse City, Michigan and exploring the neighboring areas but little did I know my timing was going to be SO good.  You see, that weekend, the Leelanau Peninsula Spring Sip & Wine was taking place (check here for other events!).  Over 20 wineries participated and the ticket included a small appetizer and several tastings of wine at each participating winery.  Heaven!Michigan, wine, Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, Sip and Savor, wine tasting

I did have to mind how many places I visited as I only had one afternoon and I would not want to rush just to score more wineries!   (<- crazy talk)  Plus, it was my first time in the area so I wanted to also admire the scenery.

Upon entering Leelanau Peninsula, our first stop was the Ciccone Vineyards.

Michigan, wine, Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, Sip and Savor, wine tasting, Ciccone, Madonna

If the last name sounds familiar, it is Madonna‘s last name:  it is her Dad’s winery.  I don’t know the full story but I know at some point (and maybe still) they are not close.  The “savor” part at this winery was the homemade chili by the owner.  It was delicious and perfect given the rainy weather at that point in the day.  We enjoyed chatting with the staff!

Michigan, wine, Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, Sip and Savor, wine tasting, Ciccone, Madonna

The grounds of the Ciccone vineyards

My partner-in-crime, er, fellow traveler and I moved on to Blustone Vineyards which stole a piece of my heart…  Why?  They were serving CUBAN PERNIL (pork)!!!!  As a 100% Cuban-blooded human being and cook of Cuban pork myself I was impressed with the quality of the pork.  The pork was from Georgina‘s in Traverse City (I looked at their menu online and I immediately started salivating!!  Next time in TC, I will HAVE to visit!).  Kudos!

Michigan, winery, vineyard, Traverse City,  Blustone winery, Leelanau Peninsula, wine tasting, wine tasting room

Plus, the wine at Blustone was the most impressive of the whole lot I sampled on this visit.  I also did love the space:  modern, spacious, and well lit with natural light.  It got quite packed after we arrived but there still was plenty of space to hang around.  Good job, Blustone!

Michigan, winery, vineyard, Traverse City,  Blustone winery, Leelanau Peninsula, wine tasting, wine tasting room

Random driving led us to encounter 45 North winery.  “What’s with the name?,” you may say?  Well, it is near the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole!

45 Parallel, Michigan, road sign, halfway

The place was festive on the inside and out as you can see!  We enjoyed being served our tastings there and watching the “hat scene”.  Good job, 45 North!

Michigan, wine, vineyard, winery, 45 North, wine bottle, Leelanau

The tasting area and the bottle tree that greets visitors – pretty cool!

Michigan, wine, vineyard, winery, 45 North, wine bottle, Leelanau, food, white wine

What greeted us upon entering the testing room!

Michigan, wine, vineyard, winery, 45 North, wine bottle, Leelanau, hat, clever

One of the cleverest hats I saw!

It was time to keep on trucking along and we decided to go to Old Mission Peninsula to try a winery that was recommended, Brys Estate.  I enjoyed their reds – and the view of the east bay.  Though there was a great outdoor seating area with Adirondack chairs, because of the slightly weather, we did not partake of the outdoor.  But that was fine because we enjoy chatting with our server and some of the other visitors.

Brys, Estate, winery, vineyard, Old Mission, peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan

Brys, Estate, winery, vineyard, Old Mission, peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan

A view of the east bay

So, after this Saturday spent driving around these and other Michigan wineries, I can safely say it is a GREAT way to explore the beauty of Michigan – and enjoying delicious food and wines!  I do hope to return as there were many wineries I did not get to check out.  I love having a reason to go back to places I like!

Virginia is for lovers. Wine lovers.

Wine being poured at a winery in Virginia wine country

This past weekend, I got to explore an area most will never think of visiting when looking for wine country:  Virginia!  Virginia may be for lovers, but Virginia is DEFINITELY for wine lovers!

Wine being poured at a winery in Virginia wine country

I have been very lucky as a wine lover AND a traveler to have visited some primo wine country in my travel lifetime.  Bordeaux, Hunter Valley, Sonoma/Napa, Mendoza, Stellenbosch, Burgundy, Moldova, Mosel Valley, the Loire Valley, Tuscany, etc.  I have never thought the U.S. had any good wine regions besides California and Oregon.  And I don’t know but Virginia would have never been in my top guess list…  But some Virginia friends introduced me to Virginia wine with one named Octagon from Barboursville winery, north of Charlottesville, VA.  It was good!

Octagon from Barboursville Vineyards - a great Virginia wine

We had talked over the last couple of years of getting together and making a trip to Virginia wine country. FINALLY, we scheduled it for this past weekend.

My friends suggested we head to the wine region in the Piedmont area, on the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  One of their favorite wines, the Octagon referred to above, is from the area and they had not been to the winery so I, of course, happily went along with the suggestion!  Of course, going to see Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home on the countryside) and University of Virginia (founded by Thomas Jefferson) were of interest so it was a great destination choice.

The Vineyards and the Wine

Jefferson Vineyards

After visiting Monticello, we stopped at Jefferson Vineyards since it was very close to Monticello.  Of course, this likely means it is more touristy and the price tag for the wine tasting showed that (it was $10 whereas the rest of the wineries were $5; oh, and they do not take AMEX in this day and age…).  However, you can take your large Riedel wine glass after the tasting which makes it an OK price.

At Jefferson Vineyard in Virginia wine country

A wine wall:  wine bottles!

Some of the staff was very friendly but our server, though he shared information, just seemed to be going through the motions – he was not rude by any means, just uninspiring.  It was the only winery at which I did not buy a bottle (and I ended up buying no less than 3 at least per winery…).  .  Wineries, remember, your servers are the front line.  It applies to your business as to any other business!  But I did not buy wine because of him.  The primary reason was that it was just not for me.  Most of the wines seem too light for me.  That may be what others find enjoyable in a wine but the whites and reds were not robust enough for me.  Also, the wines, even the Riesling, were generally drier than my preference.  However, it surely is worth a stop – you may enjoy their lighter and drier wines and end up with one of the friendlier servers.

Barboursville Vineyards

Fortunately, the story gets better from here on!  We had planned our first day (of two) in the area with two anchors:  an early visit to Monticello (more about it in another post) and a late lunch at Barboursville Vineyard’s Palladio Restaurant which features northern Italian style cuisine.  The lunch can be done with wine pairings but  we were going to do tastings after lunch since we did not have enough time between the Monticello visit and the available slot for lunch.  Therefore, we opted to save a little money by not doing the pairings with the lunch and instead going for that delicious Octagon wine of theirs.  The wine tasting of 21 wines would come afterwards – but only after we walked the grounds to help push our digestion!

Vines and ground of Barboursville Vineyard in Virginia wine country

Beautiful grounds at Barbousville Vineyard in Virginia wine country

The good thing is that Barboursville offers more than food and wine.  It also gives you a helping of history.  See, Mr. Barbour was a governor of Virginia in the times around Jefferson.   Jefferson designed Barbour’s house which unfortunately burnt down one Christmas Day in 1884.  However, ruins remain of the skeleton of the house which allow you to see yet more columns and another octagon.  Yes, Thomas Jefferson was rather predictable.  (Unfortunately, Charlottesville and UVA keep thing more columns and octagons make tons of sense…)  Anyway, Barboursville offers this and plenty of space and grounds to grab a bottle of wine and hang out some more.

The Barbour mansion's ruins in Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia wine country

The ruins of the Barbour home

 

The grounds in Barboursville Vineyard in Virginia wine country great for picnics

Perfect spot for a wine picnic!

The wines were overall very good.  We also enjoyed having a lady named Jessica as one of our servers.  She was extremely knowledgeable and truly shared that knowledge with us.  We had a good time asking her questions people had just asked her and she obliged with a fun attitude right back – wineries, this is the kind of person you want facing your customers!

Surprisingly for me, I enjoyed Barboursville’s Chardonnay (aged in steel barrels) better than their Chardonnay Reserve (aged in oak barrels).  I especially like their Cabernet Franc Reserve (intense dark fruit flavors), Octagon (which I already knew and loved), and their Malvaxia Passito Reserve dessert wine (nice!!! sweet but overly so).  I departed with a good 6 bottles wishing I could take more (had to pace myself, still had 4 wineries to visit the next day!).  How do they manage to make so many good wines???

Cardinal Point, Veritas, and Pollak Vineyards

 

We hit these two wineries first on the next day.  At Cardinal Point, we enjoyed talking to the two ladies at the tasting room and found their wines nice.  I ended up with a box of 3 to take home.  At Veritas, we got to sit in a nice leather couch for our tasting and soak in the ambiance of the tasting room.

Nice leather couch in the tasting room at Veritas winery in Virginia wine country

Comfy seating to enjoy wines!

The winery has a large tasting room and it was built in the 2000s – the vines themselves were planted in 1999 (quite recently when you think of vineyards in Europe!!).  Their White Star blend of white grapes (Viognier, Traminette, Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc) was pleasantly surprised me – low on residual sugar I think it is a wine to be enjoyed on its own for sure.  Let me re-state that, it very pleasantly surprised me!

The grounds at Veritas Vineyard - great fall colors in Virginia wine country

Best time of the year to visit – just look at this!

We made our way to Pollak Vineyards, which has a spacious tasting room and outdoor terrace.  Its vines were planted in 2003.  Casey was our server.  We learned from her a good bit and enjoyed talking to her – great job!  I especially enjoyed the Petit Verdot and the Cabernet Franc (nice hints of chocolate and coffee) wines.

Pollak Vineyards' outdoor space in Virginia wine country

Pollak Vineyards’ outdoor space

King Family Vineyards

Our final stop in wine country before going to the airport was King Family.  We promised ourselves a short visit to ensure we were on time but we enjoyed our visit so much we stayed longer at the tasting room.  This vineyard has a great setting and outdoor open spaces that are great to hang out – we stayed indoors sampling and talking wine though for a good 45mins to an hour (who was keeping track of time?!) (I did make it to the airport with plenty of time, by the way!).  In the summertime polo matches are played Sundays on the grounds of the winery!

King Family Vineyard in Virginia Wine Country

The grounds of King Family Vineyards

At King Family we were treated to awesome wines.  I liked just about each of the wines I tasted!  The Viognier had nice mango/peach overtones.  The Chardonnay, though aged in oak, was very enjoyable for me (a rarity).  Their Cabernet Franc was lighter than I expected and, as I prefer fuller-bodied wines, was not one I would have bought definitely had good flavors so I would drink it.  The next 4 wines were all outstanding:  the Meritage (a Bordeaux-style existing mainly in the U.S., created to not infringe on the French region’s ownership of the destination of origin), the Seven (a red wine with hints of dark chocolate and vanilla), the Loreley (excellent level of sweetness:  some but not too much), and the Petit Verdot (incredible power!!).

King Family vineyards' Seven - a great wine from Virginia!

What Did I Think of Virginia Wine Country?

Well, as you may glean, I enjoyed it!  However, with a visit to 6 wineries I have barely scratched the surface of wine country in Virginia.  I love Virginia and its wines!

Have you visited wine country anywhere in the U.S. or abroad?  Which ones?  How did you find the experience, the wineries, and the wines??

Sampling Wines in Moldova – and a One-of-a-Kind Wine Cellar

In deciding to go to Moldova, the last thing that occurred to me was that I could go and do wine tastings of the local wines – because I had NO idea Moldova made any amount of wine!  A month before the idea was in my head, I would have laughed – blessed (or cursed) ignorance!  I was to re-learn the lesson to look for the un-expected such as olive oil ice cream or wine from Michigan.

As I e-mailed with the guide I had found on what could be an itinerary for a 2-3 day visit, he mentioned visiting wineries.  As I talked about the possibility of this trip, a fellow travel blogger mentioned that her husband had been to Moldova and had enjoyed the wineries he visited.  Huh.  Well, maybe I should check them out…  In doing some research, Moldova ranked 22nd in the list of wine producing countries but its production is mainly for export since the Middle Ages!!  Moldova was the largest wine producing region in the Russian empire.  I guess as the Ukraine was the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, Moldova was the wine barrel of Russia!  (Who knew, right??)  Sadly, the two World Wars, among all the destruction, destroyed the wine industry which only got re-started during the 1950s.

Moldova grows grape varietals that are local or from the region as well as varietals introduced from France around the 19th century (Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.).

Chateau Vartely – Excellent Setting, Great Food and Good Wine

Chateau Vartely was on my first day’s schedule.  It was going to also be where we would have lunch.  Besides the building with the restaurant & rooms for events, and besides the winemaking & storage buildings, Chateau Vartely also has accommodations on offer, both rooms and VIP apartments with all the amenities of a hotel/resort – probably a great idea if one is planning to sample lots of wines!  Vartely is located on a hillside which offers a great view of the land around.  It was a real treat to take in the views!

Chateau Vartely, a winery in Moldova

We were rather hungry so we proceeded first to eat.  We chose to sit outside on a large balcony that overlooked some of the property.  A very pleasant place to sit down for a leisurely lunch.

Chateau Vartely winery - balcony area

This meal was my first in Moldova but it would not differ much from my meal the night before in Iasi, Romania.  That makes sense as both countries are very similar in culture and history.  My meal started with a delicious broth – just right to open up the appetite!

Then, for my main course, I took the advice of Dumitru, my guide (and a super guy!), and went with the mamaliga along with pork (nothing better for a Cuban!).  Mamaliga is polenta and, as you can see in the picture below, it is accompanied by sour cream and sheep cheese (a bit salty).  Here it was also accompanied by a small serving of eggs. The whole thing was simply delicious!

Mamaliga (polenta) and pork - typical food dish from Moldova

After the lunch, we toured the winemaking facility.  Nothing new to me  in the tour itself.  We moved to the wine tasting rooms.  They had one with bottles of wines from all over the world for those interested in comparing the Chateau’s wines with comparables from other parts of the world (the World Collection Room).  I was not there to do that as I wanted to maximize tasting Moldovan wines so we moved to the other room.

Chateau Vartely wine tasting room

In this tasting, I was introduced to the Feteasca Alba grape that yields a nice dry white wine that is quite fruity and fresh – a white wine I can drink!  The Feteasca Regala and the Merlot also merit a mention as I enjoyed them too – especially because I took the leftover from the tasting with me <grin>…

Chateau Vartely was a very pleasant experience from the food to the wine, though I have to say that the food was simply superb.  It is a newer winery that combines the wine experiencing with tourism but done well and in a beautiful setting.

Milestii Mici – Great Wine and an Amazing Wine Cellar

Milestii Mici is in a category of its own when it comes to wineries – anywhere that I’ve been (Stellenbosch, Bordeaux, Hunter Valley, Sonoma, Tuscany, Mendoza, …).  I do not know where to being but let me begin with what I saw first:  I saw entrances at the bottom of the hill to my right that looked like small tunnels…  More on that as this writeup progresses…

Tunnels in Milestii Mici winery in Moldova

The Garden and Fountains

My first stop out of the car was the amazing little garden area near the store and offices.  Besides the pretty flower and all that stuff relevant to a well-designed garden, what caught my eye were the two fountains in the midst of the flowers… One for red and one for white…

Fountains in Milestii Mici winery in Moldova

Milestii Mici winery garden in Moldova - large wine glasses

Is anyone else having heart palpitations looking at this ungodly scene???

Fountain in the gardens of Milestii Mici winery in Moldova

There ARE more sober pictures of me from this trip.  Somewhere.  OK, let me get past the garden, I have quenched my thirst…

On to the store, which is built into a tunnel itself.  It not only sells the wine, but also shows a few of the tools used in older times to make the wine.

Store at Milestii Mici winery in Moldova

The Tunnels and Cellars

So on we go and we get back in the car to begin our tour.   Yes, back in the car so we can enter the tunnels of this incredible winery.  You see, this winery is using the tunnels dug up when limestone was being mined here to build all those “lovely” Sovietish buildings and other structures with better looks and uses.

To be more precise, this winery has 160 miles (250 km) worth of tunnels out of which 75 miles (120 km) are currently being used to store over 2 million bottles of wine, making Milestii Mici the world’s biggest wine cellar.  (My basement cellar pales a little.)  These limestone tunnels keep a constant humidity and temperature throughout the year.  Bottles are cellared here for DECADES before they are sold.  And many an important collector actually pay to store their wines here (not just their Milestii Mici wines).

Dusty wine botles in Milestii Mici winery in Moldova

Dust on bottles CANNOT be faked!

Wine cellar wall in the tunnels of Milestii Mici winery in Moldova

“99 bottles of wine in the wall, 99 bottles of wine.  Take one down, and pass it around…  98 bottles of wine in the wall…”” (never mind, I WON’T pass it around – it’s mine to keep!)

Wine cellar in Milestii Mici winery in Moldova

Private wine collection stored in Milestii Mici's tunnels in Moldova

Private wine stored in the wine cellars

We drove along the road (another tunnel) and got off at different points to see the different areas of the wine cellars.  One of these had a false wall that looks like the ones above built in the 1980s.  See, Gorbachev decided then that alcohol was a problem in the good ole Soviet Union and banned alcohol <the reader gasps>.  The folks in this winery held a treasure trove of good wine so they built this fake wall so they could hide all these bottles which otherwise would have been destroyed.

Finally, the great moment:  the wine tasting!!  I could have done a lunch paired with the different wines but, alas, my time was short that afternoon as I had a plane to catch to return to Bucharest.

Entrance to wine tasting area at Milestii Mici winery in Moldova

Entrance to wine tasting area

So, a simple wine tasting was it for me.  My favorite:  the dessert wineMargaritar.

Milestii Mici's dessert wine (Moldova)

Nectar of the gods. Or this god, at least.

I love dessert wines and this one delivered!  I waited until I was in duty free at the airport to buy some as I was not clear  on security requirements/constraints at the airport so I did not feel like risking buy a bottle to lose it at the airport…

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

When I decide to open that dessert wine from Milestii Mici, I will remember that amazing winery with one of the most unique wine cellars I have ever seen!  If you make it to Moldova, do NOT miss Milestii Mici and make sure you also check out Chateau Vartely and other wineries in Moldova!

 

 

 

When the Winery Comes to You – Frog’s Leap Wine Tasting

Frog's Leap wine cork

Normally, I write about going somewhere but Frog’s Leap winery just came to me instead of me going to it – a phenomenal wine tasting with friends and good food!

Since 2001, I have been part of a wine tasting group of friends.  Some have cycled out when they moved out of town but the group has mostly been the same since 2003/2004.  It makes for a great night of tasting wines, catching up, and getting a little silly.  And usually, discovery of some good wines.  This past weekend we had one of these tastings.  And that night was not to be different!

The Setup

Our friends J&J were in charge of the tasting and it was held at my house.  Being in charge meant they picked the theme,  the wine to go with the theme, and munchies to go with the wine (cheeses, chocolate, fruits, etc.).  In 11 yrs we have done “new world” vs. “old world” wines, blind tasting of reds with high typicity (how well a wine represents the grape varietal’s “agreed-upon” traits), wines of country X (“Italian reds”), wine X across several wine regions that make it (“Cabs from Australia, California and Chile”), and so on.

This time, our hosts decided to do wines from one winery.  We had never done that!  They picked Frog’s Leap as J1 is a
Fellow of the Frog“.  I have had Frog’s Leap before (Rutherford!!) and liked it a lot but had not tried, for example, their whites.  So this was going to be a new way of sampling wines for our group.  I linked their site above and it will take you to an intro.  Normally, I skip intros but this one is playful!  Ribbit.  (But don’t go there now – finish reading this and THEN go.)

Frog's Leap wine cork

Cork by Frog’s Leap, Fingers by Schmitt

The Food

As part of the tasting, we have munchies.  Partly so stomachs don’t empty throughout the evening (most people eat a light dinner beforehand), and partly to help the tasting of the wines as some foods help highlight the flavors of the wine (whereas others can make the wine flat; that is part of the learning to do in a wine group!).

What was served?  Well, here, let me tell you…

  • Camembert and Chevre from Calyroad Creamery in Sandy Springs http://calyroadcreamery.com/ For the apricot/chevre, dried apricots were diced up with the chevre in a food processor.
  • Cheddar – Cabot Reserve Aged Cheddar
  • Prosciutto rolls from Costco
  • Savannah Bee’s Honey from Whole Foods for the cheeses or the prosciutto rolls
  • 3 types of Ghirardelli chocolates
  • Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and dried cherries
  • Baguette from Breadwinner Cafe in Sandy Springs, GA  http://www.breadwinnercafe.com/index.html
  • Cucumbers and parsley were from Split Cedar Farm from North Georgia (bought at the Sandy Springs Farmers’ Market)
  • Maine Lobster Dip was from Costco and it was served in cucumber slices!
Lobster dip from Costco served in cucumbers

The Maine lobster dip

Cheese and crackers always good for a wine tasting

Cheese and crackers couldn’t be absent!

Pistachios served while enjoying a wine tasting of Frog's Leap wines

Pistachios and other items ready for the tasting

Ghirardelli dark chocolate awaiting the start of a wine tasting
Delicious chocolates await us…

The Winery

Briefly, Frog’s Leap was founded in Napa Valley about 30 or so years ago at a place known as Frog Farm.  It is claimed that frogs were raised there for sale to the big city (San Fran).  Don’t worry, that’s a long time ago and the vines are free from any frog-smell!  It produces – organically – both whites and reds, with an annual production as of this writing of about 60,000 cases.  Besides the wine, the next best thing they have is their motto:  “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”

The Wines

The moment we have been waiting for:  the wines!  The stars of the evening were:

  • 2009 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2009 Chardonnay
  • 2009 Zinfandel
  • 2007 Merlot
  • 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Bottles of Frog's Leap red wines

Half the stars of the show! Let the games begin!

Both Sauvignon Blancs were well received by the group.  Clearly one being 2 yrs younger than the other would translate into more of an edge on the younger one but everyone felt that fit well if you are wanting to drink a white wine outside on a hot day.  It felt more refreshing than the 2011 and someone said it sort of popped on your tongue, alluding to a slight sense of effervescence without actually being effervescent.  The 2009 had nice acidity and stronger fruit flavors – it paired very well with the raspberries but not with the blackberries, something we couldn’t quite understand.  I feel I could drink these on a summer day but also other times of the year with certain dishes, especially strong-flavored fishes (e.g., salmon) as it would help counter those flavors.

The Chardonnay was a pleasant surprise as it wasn’t as oaky as many of us expected – which was good in our book.  It almost had an old world style which explains at least why I liked it as I generally do not like California Chardonnays but do like French ones.  It had a buttery sensation to it but it was not too strong along with good fruit flavors.  Very mineral and crisp.  We noted the pistachios went well with it.

We moved on to the reds at this point and first in line:  the Zinfandel.  It had a nice bouquet and light tannins.  While it has a spicy start, it was not overly spicy.  We found out it went well with the raspberries too.  As with the prior wines, it had a short finish.  I really enjoyed this Zinfandel.

On the Merlot, I can tell you it was the one wine the majority said was their favorite of the group because it felt well-balanced.  It went really well with Ghirardelli’s Cabernet Matinee which we kept calling Cabernet Manatee (initially, someone WAS really confused!).  It had a strong scent of grapes and probably the strongest finish of the group.  Probably the extra years helped make it the favorite – wine, after all, gets better with age!

Finally, we hit the Cabernet Sauvignon.  It had strong flavors of cherry and wasn’t a full-bodied red which pleased most in the group though a couple of us gravitate towards full-bodied reds.  It was well-balanced like the Merlot and a pleasure to drink.

What struck us all was how good the wines were across the board.  One cannot go wrong choosing any Frog’s Leap wine, it seems, and that is good to know!  Now we all think we are fellows of the frog (lower case as it is unofficial) and continue to be best friends with the Fellow of the Frog in the group, J1, for having chosen well and introduced us more fully to this winery.

And the Non-Sensical!

Oh, and what is a wine tasting with this group (or others, I am sure) without the non-sensical things that are said or done.  OK, not all are for this blog, and not all do I remember why they were said (except I jotted them down in my handy notepad) but they are part of what makes a wine tasting with friends so much more fun than one at another venue.  A very small sample to keep this blog from being banned… and to protect the innocent:

  • Reminiscing about a wine someone had had elsewhere, the descriptor was “sweaty sock” – wish I knew what wine that was to not try it!
  • Overheard:  “Can you pour some honey on my prosciutto?”
  • Overheard:  “Come from the backside”
  • All fun and games until someone breaks a chair…

The main explanation of the non-sensical:

Before and after at a wine tasting of Frog's Leap wines

Before and after…

————————————————————————————————————————————

If you are interested in starting a group like ours, feel free to drop me a note here or in my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ilivetotravel

Mendoza Wine Tour

Aroma Room at Belasco de Baquedano winery in Mendoza, Argentina

As I said in my previous entry about Mendoza, wines are the other good reason to go to Mendoza – the capital of wine in Argentina.

Wine tasting in Mendoza

I had Saturday to play around so I opted for a tour of several wineries as I didn’t feel like renting a car and driving around solo in unfamiliar territory.  It was a great choice.  The wine tour I chose was offered with Trout and Wine.  The tour cost about $135 lasted from 9AM until 5PM and covered 4 different wineries.  At one of the wineries we were to have a 5 course lunch paired with different wines.  The tour was a great idea as the wineries were guaranteed to be open and ready to receive you (though I sensed that would not have been a problem in this season).

Land around a winery in Mendoza, Argentina

At one of the wineries

All the wineries offered us a tour of the facilities as well as a tasting either by sitting down at a pre-set table or by standing around a bar or table (except for the lunch one where we sampled wines paired with the various lunch courses).

Wine barrels in Mendoza wineries in Argentina

Heaven

Wine tanks in Mendoza wineries in Argentina

Heaven, part dos!

We visited Terrazas which sat us down at a table and where we felt we were just having a chat with a knowledgeable friend about wines.

At Belasco de Baquedano, we were treated to the aroma room where you can walk around and try smelling different scents to train your nose.  I actually tried to do the smelling blind to see if I could detect the aromas.  I didn’t do too well, I must admit…  But the concept was phenomenal.

Aroma Room at Belasco de Baquedano winery in Mendoza, Argentina

Aroma Room at Belasco de Baquedano

Our tour guide, Cecilia, had worked at one of the wineries in the past and knew a lot about wine.  That, combined with the on-purpose small size of the tour group, made for a great day.  Along with me were a Danish father and son, and a California couple.  We enjoyed talking throughout the day and exchanging travel stories.

I had asked Cecilia about a good parrillada place for dinner (meaning, a good local place) and she recommended Estancia La Florencia on Ave. Sarmiento which was really a building away from my hotel.  The California couple and I decided to go together for dinner and we had a fabulous dinner in a mostly-locals only restaurant with great atmosphere.  It was the perfect place for a piece of Argentine steak!

Wine tour ends – Cross back the Andes!

As I flew back Sunday, I got to see Mt. Aconcagua (tallest mountain in the Americas, north of 22,000 feet).  Unfortunately, it was on the opposite side of the plane so I could not get a good picture of it but I did manage to get a few good pictures from my side of the plane.  Enjoy!

Crossing the Andes by plane - view of the mountains!

The awesome Andes

 

 

Crossing the Andes by plane - view of the mountains!

 

 

%d bloggers like this: