Lujan Wine tasting – overdoing it in Lujan


When we planned a day of wine tasting in Lujan our goal was to taste a lot of wine.   We achieved our goal and learned the meaning of the saying, “too much of a good thing.”

Lujan is only thirty minutes from Mendoza, or ninety minutes if you get lost, end up in a traffic jam, get lost again, then end up behind a horse.

It's harder to pass a horse than you might think.

Our appointment (all wineries require appointments) with Kaiken was at 9:30.    We didn’t get there until 11:00 which is just as well. 9:30 am is a bit early for wine tasting, even for us.     There was already a tour scheduled, but they were super nice to let us tag along.

The first taste was straight from the tank. If I knew how much wine was coming later in the day, I would have skipped this one.

Tasting directly from the tank, sounds better than it is.

The following tastes were really good and plentiful.   Kaiken has some really great wines.

I must have already been tipsy at this point because I insisted we buy two Kaiken wine glasses.  I’m sure two fragile wine glasses won’t be too hard to pack in our already stuffed suitcases.

Just what we need in Seattle more wine glasses!

By this point it was good we had already agreed that Jeff would be the designated driver all day.   Jeff was completely sober before getting in the car, all day long.   The same could not be said for me as a passenger.

Next stop was Ruca Malen for a luxurious five course meal.  The lunch cost $100 US for both of us.    In Argentina that is a lot of money and for us on this trip it’s a lot.  We debated for days prior if we should do it or not.

 

You would think this was a government facility instead of a winery with the amount of security they had.  A security guard had to radio someone to confirm our reservations before opening the gate.

checking to make sure we're not....wine robbers?

Once we got there and saw the view, we didn’t have any doubts about lunch.

You know it’s going to be lavish when then menu of what you’ll be eating and drinking for the day is an entire page long.

this was all for lunch

Course #1 – corn soup served with chardonnay.  This was pretty good.  The wine was better than the soup.  I’m never crazy for soup where I need to floss afterward.

Course #2 – sweet potato and meat empanada with some kind of sauce, served on a fancy piece of wood, with a cute little shot glass of sauce. Served with a cabernet.   This was my favorite part of the meal. It was super good.

good presentation and delicous

Course #3 – honestly, by this point I had already had too much wine. They were pouring my 3rd glass, a syrah, while I was still on my 2nd.   At this point I wish I had remembered you don’t need to drink the entire glass.   Tasting is just fine, and chugging to catch up is not recommended.   The 3rd course was called a “creamy roasted aubergine croquette” also known as a giant french fry stuffed with eggplant.  I loved it, Jeff not so much.

 

Course #4 – they switched to larger glasses and larger pours at this point.   Our food was some kind of steak with a side of blueberries and stuff.   There were two glasses of wine with this course, both reds, both good.   At this point I had had so much wine that I didn’t even mind when I bit into a blueberry, a bug crawled out and onto my face.   Normally that would have caused a freakout on my part, but instead I just brushed it onto the ground and stomped on it.

steak, potato cakes with a bug filled blueberry garnish

Course #5 – OK this was the first course that I thought was stupid.   It was a glass of ice.   Pretty, but dumb.   Wine didn’t come with this course which was good because I needed the glass of ice break to catch up on the wines I was behind on.

could have skipped the glass of ice course

Course #6 – this dessert was awesome. It was some kind of white chocolate thing. It was served with champagne which I did not drink. By this time I realized it was time for me to stop drinking.

white chocolate desert

undrunk wine, sad really

Course #7 – finally, just coffee!   Some cookies and blobs of sweet stuff came with this course.

I think this dinner was supposed to take three leisurely hours.  We were so hungry going into it we somehow ate and drank everything in an hour. This was a mistake since we were not feeling so hot afterward.    They had some chairs outside the restaurant which I sat in to take in the view.   Later Jeff woke me up to tell me it was time to go.

Now this would have been a very good time to go home. But, when a rental car costs $100 a day, you have appointments at two more wineries,  and you are marathon wine tasters, you don’t let a little mid day hang over stop you.   As soon as we were rested and 100% sober, we were back to the car.

come on, we've got two more to go to.

Next stop was Lagarde.  Our appointment was at 3:00pm, but Jeff called them to tell them we would be late due to his wife being in a food coma.  They were nice enough to let us come at 4:00.

There was quite a lot of good wine to be tasted at Lagarde.

Our guide was super nice and happy to pour us as much as we wanted, but we had to cut her off.  That’s the first time I’ve actually liked the wine and had to beg NOT to try it.

And then it was off to yet another winery. Clos de Charcas.

We shared a tasting here which was a good move since even sharing was more than enough.

The outside patio was really nice and reminded us of some wineries in Washington State. Although, in Woodinville they don’t usually have to top their hedges with barbed wire.

barbed wire hedge

After this winery we went home and took a very very long nap.    Wine tasting in Lujan is really fun and I’m glad we did the fancy lunch. But, I wished we had taken our time with it and not visited four wineries in one day. I never thought I’d say it, but it was too much wine.

Was that way too much wine? Hell yes!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Argentina, Mendoza, videos, Wine | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

Mendoza Mercado Central- a perfect amount of gross

There are certain things I like in a market – produce, meat, local specialties, interesting people, and gross stuff.   The Mendoza market or Mercado Central has the perfect mix of all of these things.   I was able to shop, buy stuff for dinner, see cool stuff, and freak out at gross stuff.

The Mendoza market had just enough of everything.  This was different than the Salta market which had way too much gross stuff for my tourist eyes to take in.  Jeff wasn’t over the trauma of the Salta market either.

 

Please don't make me go in there.

We started in the food court.   We don’t usually take our laptops to a market, but it was nice to know we could.

There was nothing gross to see in the food court, and our lunch of grilled chicken was good.

I like this market.

We saw them delivering the wood used to grill our chicken.

This was just for one restaurant.

After lunch we headed in to the actual mercado.   First thing I liked, it was crowded, but manageable. It didn’t feel like you would get trampled by camera wielding tourists if a seafood vendor started throwing fish like in Seattle’s Pike Place market.

Crowds but not crowded.

We started off in the safe areas,  cheese, spices, candy.   Interesting, not gross.

Nothing gross about cheese.

Who doesn't like candy?

Here is a local specialty. It looks like it might be something really gross with a name like membrillo. The first time I saw it I thought membrane of what? Is it congealed fat?  But, no, it’s like a jam made out of fruit.

Next we headed into the meat section.   By this time I was itching to see something gross and was not disappointed. But, here’s the nice thing about the market, the organs were all under glass. Nothing is hanging in your face.

Tongues and brains anyone?

OK this stuff was hanging, but at least you could identify it, well some of it.

There is a seafood section which is interesting. It’s hard to find seafood in Mendoza. I’m guessing this is coming from Chile.

They had a nice selection of gross, but not too gross.

Same with the chicken vendors.  Chicken feet are gross to me.  But they’re behind glass, so no chance you’d actually bump into them.

Nothing like a good chicken foot on a crisp fall day.

Even the giant hanging slabs of meat were kept in the back. And, all the organs seemed to be inside the slab, not hanging out.

Things got a big worse gross-wise in the pork section.

this little piggie went to market (literally)

 

Worst of all was  a giant pig head hanging there staring at me.    The photo is pretty gross, but if you want to see it you can click here.  Photo of pig head.

But, then right when we were really grossed out, we met these super nice people.   We had a great time talking to them in a mixture of Spanish and English.  The man, we can’t remember his name, spoke really good English. Anita, spoke seven languages including English.

We bought a bunch of stuff, from figs, to pork tenderloin, to eggs, to an entire coked chicken.

These bags do not contain any pig heads.

We’ll be going back for more shopping in a few days. Now we know where to go for fresh veggies, meat, eggs and a little bit of gross.

Categories: Argentina, Mendoza | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Moving day – for the 7th time

In Seattle we lived in the same apartment for 17 years.

In Argentina we will have lived in seven apartments in six months.   Why so many?  Location, security, bugs, mold, more bugs, more mold, and most important WIFI, or lack of WIFI.

Why furnished apartments, not hotels or hostels?    We have lots of stuff, need lots of room and we like cooking.  This is different than most travelers that go from hostel to hostel.  It’s also different from expats who either buy a house, or rent one unfurnished apartment and stay there.  We’re either super fussy, high maintenance travelers or expats with attention deficit disorder.

Here’s a rundown on all the places we’ve called home so far:

Buenos Aires – Apt #1

code name– Kobayashi’s place.

positive – well decorated, able to watch dog walkers from balcony. Super nice father/son owners. Father looks like Kobayashi in movie Usual Suspects.

you can't see it, but he's holding a briefcase

From them movie. imagine him smiling with a beard

negative – mildew smell in all the cabinets, drawers and closet.   Small kitchen, or so we thought at the time. Now I think of that kitchen as a mansion kitchen.

highlight – making coffee for the first time in what I thought was a mini kitchen.

low point – every time I opened a drawer and almost passed out from the smell.

 

Cordoba – Apt #2

code name – Smelly Hell

positive – roof, 4 walls, internet

negative – smelled like inside of a raid can mixed with truck full of moth balls. Furniture must have come from a store called Grandma’s Moldy Basement

 

highlight – moving out

low point – moving in

Salta – Apt #3

code name – Home of the Trick Awning

positive – amazing deck with bbq grill and hot tub

negative – can’t use hot tub when you don’t have hot water (5 days) when it rains (every day) awnings fill with water, dumps on your head hours later when sitting near them having nice dinner.  No screens on doors = bugs, lots of bugs.

trying to pre-emptively rid awnings of water so it doesn't dump on our heads during dinner.

highlight – making or first asado (Argentinian BBQ).

low point – the day I made Jeff kill Bruce, our loyal pet bug.  We had tried to take him outside to freedom. But, like a dog, he always found his way back home. We missed him once he was dead.

RIP Bruce the bug

La Serena – Apt #4

code name – House of Cinnamon Soft Soap Ants.

positive – overlooking the ocean, can hear the sound of waves from the apartment.

negative – studio apartment + Sheryl + Jeff + 5 pieces of luggage + bike  = crowded,  also ants, lots and lots of ants.

highlight – sitting on our balcony, drinking coffee and eating pancakes.

low point – ants invaded our bathroom. We read you can sprinkle cinnamon on them to get them to go away.  Didn’t really work, but then we read you can use soft soap to get them to go away.  That didn’t really work either.  Our bathroom floor was full of soft soapy, cinnamon covered ants the entire time we were there.

Mendoza – apt # 5

code name = Dog Poop Palace

positive – super nice landlord,  cute little dogs running around the yard.

these little balls of fluff wouldn't stand still long enough for a photo.

negative – cute little dogs pooped on our door step every single morning., literally right outside our front door.

highlight – our landlord invited us to a family BBQ, so nice to be included in family get together.

low point – dog poop, every day, all day.

Mendoza – Apt #6

code name -The House of Near Misses

positive – everything brand new, great view of mountains, very close to hip restaurant street, rooftop BBQ.

view from our balcony

negative – large security deposit, twin beds, and non-working internet

highlight – cooking a rooftop BBQ while sipping wine and gazing at the Andes

low point – almost getting mugged a block from our apartment.  Elevator almost breaks with me in it. Next day sign goes up saying building not responsible for elevator accidents.  Very nervous our large security deposit won’t get returned (it did).

this sign went up the day after the elevator broke with me inside. It says they're not responsible for elevator accidents.

here's our returned security deposit. You can see why we were keen to get it back. Weird to see/have so much money in cash.

after moving out and getting the security deposit back, our landlord ripped Jeff's signature off each page in order to "end" the contract.

Mendoza – Apt #7

Since we just moved in we don’t have a code name yet.  So far it would be, “The internet works, it seems safe, no bugs or weird smells. Yippee!”

posivite –  interenet works, secure, queen size bed, amazing rooftop terrace with a pool.

I'm planning on spending most of my day up here.

negative – none yet, but we’ve only been here two hours. I’m sure something will come up.

 

Categories: Argentina, Chile, travel blah blah blah | 13 Comments

Not every day of sightseeing works


When I changed the name of my blog to Sounds Good on Paper, I didn’t expect the very next thing we did would fall into this category.  But, wine tasting in San Juan became one of those things that sounded so good on paper.   Sometimes things sound good on paper, turn out differently and are even better than planned.

And sometimes they just suck.  Wine tasting in San Juan turned into one of the sucks days.

On Paper: rent car, drive through beautiful countryside to city of San Juan where we would wine taste lots of amazing wine.

Reality: Spent way too much money on a rental car. Spent 9 hours driving, 8 of which we were lost.  Got to one winery, tasted one wine.

First thing that went wrong was the car rental. We had reserved a nice, cheap but safe car online.  When we got to the office, all they had was a tiny, very unsafe no airbag cars.  There are eight car companies in Mendoza, there was only one rental car in all of Mendoza with air bags, and it was twice the price.

Eight rental agencies, only one car with airbags.

But, we paid and were off.   Second problem, we could not find our way out of Mendoza, even with our GPS.  Jeff drove through dodgy intersections around and around, while that damn GPS lady kept “recalculating.”

can't imagine why we would get lost

But, then we were on the open road, ready to explore the province of San Juan.  I will admit, this was pretty…for the first fifteen minutes. This one continuous mountain got a bit old  2 1/2 hours into the drive.

We finally got to San Juan and after spending another hour lost, we got to the first winery – Graffigna.   The winery tour took an hour.   Jeff got to stand in a room made out of a wine barrel.

Who knew this would be the highlight of the day.

Then it was finally time for a tasting.  The one malbec we tried was good. If we knew it would be the only tasting of the day, we would have asked for a refill.

drink it slow, it's all you're getting

Then it was off to Callia.  This was one of the main reasons we went to San Juan. We’ve been drinking and loving their wine since getting to Argentina. We called in advance, they had tours at 9, 10, 11, 12, 2, 3, 4.   It was 2:00, more than enough time to get there.

Tell that damn GPS woman to shut up.

We got a bit lost, and then drove in circles, then we found the correct road and it was closed off for repaving, then we drove around in more circles, and then we almost threw our GPS out the window. But, we finally made it there at 3:22.  A guard at the winery gate greeted us and we had this exchange in Spanish:

Guard: Sorry last tour was at 3:00pm.

Jeff: But, we called the last tour is supposed to be at 4:00.

Guard: Yes, but not today.

Jeff: But…is today a special day?

Guard: No, every day the tour is at 4:00. But not today.

Jeff: Can we come in and buy a glass of wine.

Guard: No.

Jeff: Can we come in and buy a bottle of wine?

Guard: No.

Jeff: Can we come in and just see the winery?

Guard: No.

Sheryl (yelling from the passenger seat): We just drove here from friggin Mendoza. Can you just let us in for a minute to try your damn wine?

Guard: No

Jeff: Can you tell us how to get to another winery?

Guard: No, it’s complicated.

Jeff: Can you tell us how to get back to town?

Guard: Go to your right, it’s faster but is complicated. Go to your left, it takes longer but is easy.

We took the long way. By the time we got into town all the rest of the wineries were closed.  That was OK through. We found a wine bar. We sat down, a waitress came over, told us they didn’t have wine by the glass. In fact, they didn’t even have a bottle of the wine advertised on the tables.

Remember Napa and Walla Walla where you can actually taste wine?

So then we just went to another restaurant sat down ordered a big bottle of wine and drank it.

Then I saw these great mannequins.

Does she have cat ears?

Why so sad little mannequin boy?

Have you ever seen a mannequin with worry lines on his forehead?

After walking around town for awhile it was time for the 2 1/2 hour drive home.  First we spent an hour getting lost on the way out of town. But then we drove the 2 1/2 hours without incident.  Back in Mendoza we stopped for gas. The only station open had a 30 minute long wait.

What is this the 1970's?

We left our apartment at 8:30am.  We arrived back at 11:30pm.   While we didn’t do much wine tasting. We did get in some good wine drinking. Although it wasn’t the day we had hoped for, I’ve decided every day of travel is good, even when it sort of sucks.

Categories: Argentina, Mendoza, San Juan, videos, Wine | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Tereré – mate made cold

I’m totally obsessed with yerba mate. Not only do I like drinking it, but I LOVE to see people with their mate gourds drinking it.  I constantly am on the lookout for people with their gourds.

guy selling nuts and drinking mate

We’ve been invited to drink it with others several times now.   When this happens I am so torn.  I’m always dying to drink mate with Argentinians but, I can’t drink hot stuff.  It burns my throat, lips, tongue.  I can’t even fake it and just pretend to take a sip. When you are handed a gourd of mate, it’s polite to drink the entire gourd, no matter that you might be setting your throat on fire.   I always go home from mate drinking with a mouth so burnt I can’t taste anything for a week.

So, when our friends Nati and Frankie suggested a picnic in the park, I was super excited for several reasons.

1. Nati and Frankie are really cool and fun to hang out with.  Moving around always makes us the new kids on the block, and my poor Spanish makes me the dumb new kid on the block. So it’s really fun to have friends.

2. Frankie is from New Jersey and Nati is from Paraguay but spent a lot of time in the US, so the picnic would be conducted in English.

3. There was a rumor of guacamole filled deviled eggs.  Not a traditional dish of Argentina, but you can’t eat steak at every meal.

4. Nati was going to show me how to make tereré which is cold yerba mate, something that is very popular in Paraguay.

First, we ate the eggs (among other things).  To say guacamole filled boiled eggs are good is like saying there is a little bit of meat eating going on in Argentina.   They rank right up there with dulce de leche (the best food in the entire world).   If there is such a thing as guacamole-deviled egg rehab I will soon be checking in.   These things were addictive.

Then after eating we got down to the business of making the tereré.   Preparing tereré is similar to preparing yerba mate except you use cold water instead of hot.  First, Nati filled my gourd with the yerba.

 

I really like the kind that comes with stems and twigs.

this is the brand I like.

I’ve read online how the bombilla (fancy metal straw) has to go in a certain way.   Nati showed me how you put it in when the gourd is half full.

 

For sweeteners you can do several things. You can drink it without sugar. You can add sugar, or you can add stevia. Nati had bought stevia in it’s natural form at the market and we added that.   It was sweet but not refined sugar.   Then she also added chamomile but explained that you can add any other herbs you want.

Then we added cold water.   In Paraguay the water is usually ice cold, but since I didn’t have a cooler the water was sort of room temperature. But,still about 100 degrees cooler than boiling hot water.

And then we did something that would strike terror in most Americans. WE ALL DRANK FROM THE SAME STRAW!  That is the way you drink yerba mate.   Drinking yerba mate hot or cold is a social thing. Sharing the gourd and straw is part of the mate drinking.   The head mate maker fills the gourd then passes it to someone. That person drinks the entire gourd hands it back, the head honcho fills it again passes it to the next person etc.  There is no Purell. There is no sterilization, there is no switching out straws.  Everyone shares the same gourd and straw.

Nati

Jeff

Here’s the thing.  You drink this with friend and family. It’s not like some stranger off the street is going to hand you a mate .    If they are friends and family, you’ve already cheek kissed them and shaken their hand. You already shared germs. What’s a little shared mate drinking?   And, I think if people are sick they don’t partake.  We were at a picnic and someone said they had a cold, so they didn’t want the gourd passed to them.

Sheryl rockin the mate, not the new bangs

Frankie

So tererè is my new favorite drink. It goes down really easy on a hot day. It’s really fun to drink with friends, and it tastes really good.  The only problem is that I now drink a lot of tereré but haven’t given up my coffee habit.  It’s not a problem until 3:00am when I’m wide awake and have no idea why.  Then I remember that I’ve had several cups of coffee and several gourds of yerba mate during the day.

Here’s a video of us drinking it.    It was little boring, like watching people drink coffee, so I added music to liven it up.  Now it sounds like we’ll be passing the mate to Benny Hill next.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Argentina, Mendoza, videos | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments