4/16/10: Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza being the famous Argentinian wine region, I had been eagerly anticipating our visit to the city. Visions of beautiful countryside, outstretched vineyards, quaint patios and full glasses of wine swam around in my head. Ahhhhh…
Our hostel advertised two options for seeing the wineries: a minibus wine tour (two wine tastings and one chocolate tasting) and a bike rental (Mr. Hugo’s). We opted for the bikes because (a) lots of people had said it was the best way to see the vineyards and (b) Kevin doesn’t drink, so a minibus tour would have been totally pointless to him. At least by biking we’d see a little bit of the scenery and the countryside. Right?
We hopped on a local bus and finally arrived at Mr. Hugo’s 45 minutes later. We got off the bus, and as I looked around I felt an unfamiliar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, one I hadn’t felt much since we left on our trip. What was that strange feeling – no, it couldn’t be – but no! it was – the feeling of disappointment! I had pictured a small, dirt road with quaint country buildings periodically popping up on the horizon and nothing but grapes and more grapes in between. Instead, we were on a large road crammed with mini-markets and boarded up buildings. Trucks kept flying past us and kicking up dust in our faces. I looked all around me, but I didn’t see a single grape. Not even one! I was worried.
We picked up our bikes and a little map from friendly Mr. Hugo and rode off. My worries then became realities. The scenery was still all mini-markets and boarded up buildings. I consoled myself that at least we were riding in a lovely bike lane next to a ditch full of trash and dirty water. A few minutes later we arrived at our first stop, an olive oil/chocolate place. After a short tour we tasted some bread with olive oil, a few pepper pastes and some chocolates. Then we each had a shot of chocolate liqueur. Except by “we each” I mean I had two shots of chocolate liqueur. Kevin didn’t want his.
We left the chocolate place and went next door to the wine museum. We had missed the free tour by a few minutes so we spent some time taking pictures in sepia and black and white. Because we’re old-fashioned like that.
After 15 minutes or so, we got tired of waiting for the non-existent tour and left. We got back on our bikes, turned back onto the main road and headed in the direction where most of the vineyards were. The bike lanes, which had been the only redeeming feature of the road, ended abruptly and we were soon on a bumpy and even dustier road. “I don’t think this is very… nice!” I called back to Kevin. “It’s not!” he yelled back. “Then why does everyone do this? I don’t get it!” We rode on like this for about half an hour before we eventually decided to turn onto a side road with two wineries. I rode up to the one that was further away and contemplated it silently. Kevin pulled up beside me a few seconds later.
K: The other one looked nicer.
Z: Yeah, definitely.
We rode back to the other winery, parked our bikes and walked up the path toward the front steps. Suddenly, a man threw open the front doors, reached out toward us with his arms wide open and shouted, “Heeeeeeeey!” with a huge smile on his face. Uh-oh, I thought. Was he expecting someone? How could he possibly confuse us with anybody he was expecting to see? Should I explain that we’re not them? Or maybe it would be better to just pretend we were the people he was expecting? Could we get some free wine this way? By the time I finished this thought process we had reached the front door and the Super Amiable Argentinian Man (SAAM) threw his arms around me and squeezed me tightly for some very long seconds. I preemptively went in for the cheek kiss, but the SAAM preempted my preemptive cheek kiss and went straight bang for my mouth. I was a bit shocked but tried politely not to let it show. He let go and turned to Kevin. Kevin looked a bit stunned. I happily pictured what might happen if the SAAM went for Kevin’s lips and wondered which of the amusing scenarios in my head might occur, but then the SAAM just kissed him on the cheek. Bummer.
The three of us did the introductions, and it turns out he hadn’t gotten us confused with anybody at all – he was just a very VERY friendly person. He ushered us inside and up to the patio. He brought me a glass of Merlot and Kevin a bottle of water.
The SAAM came by every few minutes to put his arms around Kevin and rub his shoulders and ask how we were doing. I finished my glass of wine in record time. We went inside and I got a glass of the Malbec Rose, which we took out to the front and away from the amorous embraces of the SAAM. We sat underneath a trellis and opened up our salami and crackers. Kevin proposed a game of Scrabble, which I happily and tipsily agreed to. It took me a few tries to fit all my tiles into my rack. (I think somebody kept knocking them out when I wasn’t looking.) I contemplated my letters, closing one eye for a better view and some inspiration. A few minutes later I finally put down three letters: BUG, for 12 points. Kevin recorded the points and looked at me smugly. “What?” I asked. “I need to take advantage of this game,” he said.
We had only made it halfway through our game when the SAAM came out and sat down next to Kevin and put his arms around him. “We’re closing. Do you want anything else?” he asked. “Oh no, no, we’re good.” We packed up our half-finished game (which surprise! Kevin was indeed winning), I drank the last of my Rose, and we said our goodbyes. The SAAM sent us off with another hug and kiss, both a bit longer and potentially even more awkward than the first, and an empty wine bottle as a souvenir.
We got on our bikes to ride the half hour back to Mr. Hugo’s. I had a semi-irrational fear that I might fall off of my bike and into a ditch while Kevin rode away not seeing me flailing my arms and legs about helplessly, so I made sure that I rode in front of him. Despite my mental state being a bit wobbly (see: BUG as first play), my bike riding was actually very sound, so I made it back to Mr. Hugo’s in one piece. And even though the experience wasn’t what I expected at all, it still turned out great. The wine was excellent, the vineyards were very pretty once they came into view, and I never fell off my bike. Really, what more can you expect?
Oh, and once I sobered up I did beat Kevin in that Scrabble game.
Picture of the Day: From the wine museum.