One of the reasons that we decided to spend time in Mendoza was to visit a number of wineries. Fortunately for us, the owners of the apartment that we were staying at, recommended Bus Vitivinicola. For 370 pesos or $28 each, we would get driven around to 4 different wineries. There was also a half day tour for a little less money, but that only went to 2 wineries.
We tried to book the wine tour online but the website was extremely confusing. It re-routed us to a bus company site but didn’t give many details. Fortunately, the Cata tourism office was located right by the main square in town so we were able to go there and book in person.
We booked a full day Camino del Vino Lujan Sur wine tour which runs on Wednesday and Friday as that was the route that was recommended by our hosts and lined up with our timing. Our ticket included our transit from town to 4 wineries and transportation back to town. We had assigned seats on the bus and were told by the woman at the office that the passenger side seats are the best as you can see the mountain range as you’re driving to the wineries.
The Wine Tour
Before the bus leaves to go to the wineries, it stops around the city to pick up passengers. We were picked up at the Cata tourism office as it was the closest stop to our apartment. Right on time at 8:15am, the bus picked us up. When we boarded the bus there was a couple already on the bus and another couple who boarded at the same time as us. We made the stops at the other locations, but nobody else joined the bus, it was only the 6 of us.
The tour guide didn’t speak English so we communicated with him in Spanish. It wasn’t too bad to communicate even though our Spanish is a little lacking.
The tour has a total of 7 different wineries to choose from, but due to timing, we had to pick our top 4. We had 2 that we knew we wanted to visit, but weren’t sure about the other 2. Luckily, our driver was able to offer suggestions for the others knowing which ones had tours guided in English.
Stop 1 – Chandon
Since Andy’s favorite wine drink is sparkling wine, it made sense that we would include Chandon on our list of must visit wineries.
We arrived and were ready to go on the tour but were told we had to wait around 15 minutes. This was a little frustrating for me since I knew that we had limited time at the winery and would have liked to have time after the tour instead of before.
After a little waiting, we headed off on the tour. Everyone else in the group spoke Spanish but us, so the guide translated the tour into English as we were walking from point to point. The English explanation wasn’t as long as the Spanish, but we have been on enough wine tours to get the idea.
After the tour was over, we were on to my favorite part, the tasting. We tried a total of 3 different sparkling wines – a young sparkling next to an aged sparkling so we could see the difference as well as a sweet sparkling wine which was served with ice. Naturally, the sparkling wine that I liked the most was the most expensive one.
Before we left, we picked up a bottle of sparkling wine to have during brunch on Christmas day. We chose the more expensive sparkling wine which we tasted and was only available at the winery. We then headed to the bus to go to our next stop.
Stop 2 – Tapiz
We were not originally planning on going to go to Tapiz, but the guide convinced us to go because there was an English speaking guide. Our Spanish didn’t translate to him that we were ok with a non-English speaking guide, so off we went.
When we arrived we were the only 2 people, this meant that we were able to go on a private tour which was really nice. Our guide spoke absolutely flawless English, in fact she spoke so fast sometimes that even as native speakers we had a hard time keeping up with it.
This was by far the best winery of the day for us. We told her that we have been on a lot of wine tours before so she structured the tour differently. Instead of the standard script that she does, she gave us interesting facts and allowed us to taste sauvignon blanc from the tanks. It was interesting to taste 2 different tanks of sauvignon blanc, one which was picked earlier and the other picked later. We then were able to taste the finished product which was a blend of the 2 wines, making a wine which had good acid, but not too much as well as some sweetness, but not too much.
After we tasted some more wines we had to get ready to head out. We struggled with what wine to purchase since we liked just about everything that we tried. Our top 2 favorites were a malbec and sauvignon blanc. Our guide told us to get a red blend which we did not try since malbec wine is very common in the area but blends are not. She also threw in a corkscrew which we appreciated since that is something that we had been talking about getting as it would be useful on the road.
After we finished our tour at the other 2 wineries, but didn’t purchase anything else, we actually asked the driver if we could return to buy a bottle of the sauvignon blanc. We were not able to backtrack but the guide gave us the name of a wine shop which sold it in town. We didn’t make it to the wine shop but were happy to find it at a grocery store near our apartment.
Stop 3 – Bodega Septima
Our 3rd stop is where the others from our tour peeled off to return back to Mendoza and where we ate lunch. Before we ate lunch, we took in the amazing view with the vineyards with the Andes mountains in the background.
We knew that anywhere we ate lunch would be expensive, but Bodega Septima waives the tasting fee of 100 pesos or $8 if you purchase lunch. The menu is a set 4 course prix fixe menu with wine pairings for every course. While I would have liked to have a standard menu in addition to the prix fixe, everything that we had was really good and the waiters kept pouring more wine for us throughout the meal which was a nice touch. While it was still an expensive lunch, the waived fee helped offset the price.
After we finished up, we waited a short while for another table to finish their lunch before we began the tour. The guide started with the history of the winery and how the building was constructed. Just when we finished our first wine of the tasting, our driver arrived and told us it was time to head to the next winery.
I was a little upset since we weren’t able to try more wines but would have been more upset had I liked the wines more. I don’t know if I didn’t like the wines much because we came from Tapiz where we liked everything, or if it was just not my preferred type of wine. Either way in my opinion it was mediocre.
Stop 4 – Otaviano
When we arrived, we were greeted by an English speaking guide who gave us a personal tour around the winery. Similar to Tapiz, where we also had a private tour, we told our guide that we had been on a number of winery tours and asked if she could adjust the format for us. Our guide skipped over the basics which we appreciated. In addition, we were able to taste from the tanks again which I liked, but was sad that we weren’t able to do barrel tastings as well.
The tour was good and the wine was fine, but again not our favorite. I’m really curious if we had made it to Terrazas as planned how we would have liked that wine.
I’m not quite sure why our guide changed the last winery for us without consulting with us first. I assume it is because the tour was in English, but we had told him numerous times that we didn’t mind if the tour was only in Spanish because we were most interested in tasting the wines. Either way, if there was a winery that got mixed up, I’m happy that it was our last stop when our palates were shot anyway.
Discovering a Theft on the Bus
When we arrived back to our apartment, I took the Chandon bottle out of the bag it was in so we could put it in the fridge to chill. We were shocked to see the the bottle in the bag was a less expensive bottle than we had purchased, one which I know the couple in front of us had bought.
Andy ran down to the Cata tourism office with the bottle and our receipt to clear up the issue. The woman at the office was extremely embarrassed of the situation and apologized. She called the hotel where the couple in front of us were staying to see if they had our bottle, but they had since checked out. We were assured that the next day, they would return the incorrect bottle to Chandon and replace it with the correct bottle which we could pick up at their office when the bus returned at 4pm. True to their word, the next day everything was at their office.
My annoyance mostly stemmed from the fact that I had thought about putting the wine in my backpack instead of leaving it on the bus. Since it was a small group and carrying it around would add a great deal of weight to my bag, I kept it on the bus. Our guide put everything in the upper racks above our seats, our wine being separated from the couple in front of us by a divider in the rack.
While it is entirely possible that it was a mix up, we don’t believe that was the case for a number of reasons.
- The husband of the couple in front of us liked the Chandon wine that we had purchased more than the less expensive bottle that they purchased
- Had the couple in front of us taken our wine by accident, they would have had to move the Tapiz wine, a winery which they did not visit, to get to the Chandon bottle behind it
- We discovered the our corkscrew that Tapiz gave us had been taken as well
I wish that the Bus Vitivinicola tour was better promoted as it really is a great way to see the wineries. Since we were the only ones that booked a full day tour, we had the bus to ourselves at the last 2 wineries which made it feel like we had a personal chauffeur.
We had a lot of fun visiting the wineries and we got excited to see the wineries in Cafayate, a stop that we had planned later in our trip would stack up.
Our guide, while he switched some wineries up, did what he did to try and give us the best experience possible which we can’t fault him for. The driver was great as well, even allowing me to attempt to drive the stick shift bus down a driveway at one of the wineries. As you can imagine, it wasn’t great. I stalled the bus before we moved at all.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get around to several wineries when you’re in Mendoza, I highly recommend Bus Vitivinicola. While we only did one day, with their rotating winery schedule, you could go several days in a row without repeating any wineries. To avoid any possible mix ups or theft, I would recommend taking any wine you purchase off the bus. While I am sure it is a rare instance, it was an annoying thing to have to deal with.