Sunday, April 09, 2006

Disaster Narrowly Averted

Biking in Buenos Aires is perhaps a bad idea; biking and wine-tasting in Mendoza is surely worse.

But it was a beautiful day and the image of pedalling through vineyards was too appealing not to try it out.

Both the Napa and Colchagua (Chile) Valleys boast of wine trains. Mendoza can proudly claim the wine bus: the 10 line crawls through the southern part of the city, before twisting and turning through the wine-growing region of Maipú.

However perilous combining cycling and degustation may sound, “Wine and Bikes” is an outfit that facilitates such foolishness. You take the 10 bus to the Plazoleta Rutini in Maipú. There, unafraid of lawsuits, they provide you with a bike, no helmet, and a map plotting a 24km circuit that has stops at 6 or 7 bodegas.

At Bodega La Rural, the first winery, providence intervened in the form of a lanky Belgian from my hostel and an Israeli woman he had met on the bus.

After tasting a couple of glasses of mediocre wines, the three of us decided to have lunch at Casa de Campo, a little restaurant 50 meters from where I had rented the bike. The menu featured three entrees and 5 pages of wines. We all ordered colita de cuadril with a malbec sauce (pot roast, Argentine-style) and shared a bottle of Trapiche Fond de Cave Malbec. Both beef and wine were delicious.

As our sobremesa stretched into the late afternoon, we ordered dessert: fig ice cream, served with candied figs and cognac. Instead of a meager dribbling of liquor, we were surprised by an entire bottle that the amenable host set on the table. The combination of fig ice cream and cognac was unexpectedly tasty, and some of the cognac found its way into our empty glasses.

At this point you could nearly call it evening and the topic of conversation ping-ponged between exclamations of a deep self-satisfaction and compliments to the chef.

We weren’t done yet, though. We asked for the bill and a taxi at the same time and, within a few moments, were speeding down the narrow, tree-lined highway that I had intended to bike.

The wine-tasting ended at the charming Bodega Familia DiTommaso, a family-owned winery whose cellar dates from 1869 (see photo above).


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