Day of Wine Tasting in Lujan de Cuyo
The day after our trip to Valle de Uco, we decided to venture into Lujan de Cuyo which is located only 35-40 minutes South of central Mendoza. We loaded up our rental car with plenty of water, mate and snacks and made our way through the hectic traffic of Mendoza and out onto Route 40 towards Lujan de Cuyo.
Our first stop was Paul Hobbs' Vina Cobos. While there is a direct turn off to Vina Cobos via Route 7, we ended up taking the exit into central Lujan de Cuyo and driving past some of the downtown wineries. From those roads, we couldn't find access to 7 and ended up driving off onto a dirt road before circling around and ultimately arriving at the winery two hours late.
Despite our tardiness, the guard let us in and Pablo, our hospitality host, came out to greet us in front of the Bodega. He gave us a quick tour around the facility and a brief history of the vineyard sources before guiding us to our seats for the tasting.
We tried the Felino and Bramare line-up along with a side of cheese, walnuts and crackers. Between the two brands, we were able to get a much clearer picture of how Malbecs differ regionally and from Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignons. After completing our tasting, we thanked Pablo and took home a bottle of the Bramare Malbec from Valle de Uco.
We didn't have any other reservations in the area so we decided to swing by a couple of nearby Bodegas before heading back into central Lujan de Cuyo.
We stopped by Bodega Ruca Malen first which was next door to Vina Cobos, and got some incredible pictures of the snow-capped Andes. Then we moved on to Melipal Winery. There were no guards here, so we drove right up to the beautifully designed property. We stopped by the crush-pad and went inside, but It was clear they were frantically preparing to receive newly-harvested grapes, so we didn't stay long. On our way out, we had to get some pictures of their vines; unlike the usual vines which may be 3-4 feet tall, these reached heights upwards of 7 feet.
In Mendoza, netting is commonly put up over the vines to protect them from hail which are often the size of golf balls and can take out whole crops!
After driving around, we drove into Lujan de Cuyo for our final visit of the day: Carmelo Patti. He has an incredible word of mouth following in Mendoza and we had to stop by. After several failed attempts to locate the building during our drive, we parked and searched by foot. We asked people in local markets, schools and nearby Bodegas where to find it and they either didn't know or told us to keep going until we got to a tall white building. Seriously? That's like trying to find a tall guy at a basketball tournament...they're everywhere1
Finally we came across a large white building (our third on that street) with a man sitting in the windowsill who indicated that we were in the right place. We walked in and looked around the property until Carmelo finally walked out and greeted us.
He showed us to his tasting room where he proceeded to bring out all of the awards and press he's received in magazines, newspapers and competitions. He was quite the character! He tasted us on his 06 Malbecs and his Cabernet Sauvignons, some going back to 2003.
These were nice departures from some of the more modern, oak-driven, wines that we had tasted thus far. They were more rustic and not heavily manipulated, but at the same time, not flabby or unstructured. He is half Italian and he likes to make wines in a similar old world style and only releases a vintage after the previous is sold out. This gives each wine the time it needs to become truly ready to drink, and is a rarity in Mendoza.
One thing to note was that unlike many Bodegas that have large, cooled warehouses to keep their wines cool and stored, Carmelo keeps his finished wine in his dark, makeshift brick garage. Right above the stacks of packaged wine he places sheets of styrofoam to insulate them from the heat; needles to say we were skeptical. To prove his uncommon method really worked, he pulled a bottle out from one of the boxes for us to feel and, without a doubt, it was as cool as ever.
after about an hour with Mr. Patti, we left happy, but exhausted from all of the time spent searching for each Bodega. Overall, we felt Lujan de Cuyo produced great wine, with more intense flavors and color than Valle de Uco, but with less acid and structure. In our opinion it's worth a visit to both regions to taste and decide for yourself