the urbanist

A Winemaker’s Guide to Mendoza

Life-changing steak, intimate hikes in the Andes, and where Bono stays in Uco Valley.

“The Vines of Mendoza offers luxury villas surrounded by vineyards with some of the best views of the Andes mountains,” says winemaker Susana Balbo. Photo: Courtesy of The Vines Resort & Spa
“The Vines of Mendoza offers luxury villas surrounded by vineyards with some of the best views of the Andes mountains,” says winemaker Susana Balbo. Photo: Courtesy of The Vines Resort & Spa

It’s commonly understood that the best way to explore a new place is to go straight to the locals. Each week in the Urbanist, we take that wisdom one step further by seeking out not just locals but local experts — those who are especially well versed in their cities’ newest and most noteworthy scenes — to give us insider tips. This week, we asked Pablo Gimenez Riili and Michael Evans of the Vines of Mendoza Winery & Private Vineyards, and Susana Balbo, of Susana Balbo Wines, for their recommendations in the heart of Argentina’s wine country.

“Mendoza is a beautiful city with amazing weather we have over 330 days of sun each year. A desert oasis originally settled by the Spanish, the city is full of central plazas, tree-lined avenues and canals carrying meltwater from the Andes Mountains. Our location in the foothills of the Andes gives us both stunning views of snow-covered peaks and incredible access to nature and outdoor activities. And our long history with winemaking has given rise not just to wines that today compete with the best in the world, but also to a rhythm of life centered around long meals, shared moments, changing seasons, and creation. Mendoza’s City Center is a great place to start. Arístides Street is the most popular for locals and tourists to eat and drink here you can find a wide variety of restaurants, bars and shops. Chachingo (Av. Arístides Villanueva 383) or Ground (Av. Arístides Villanueva 347) are great for beer and bar food, while El Mercadito (Av. Arístides Villanueva 521) and Josefina are favorites for lighter, healthier fare. Maria Antonieta (Av. Belgrano 1069) located on Belgrano Street just a couple blocks from Arístides is one of the best restaurants in Mendoza and worth a visit. The same chefs also have a pizza place called Orégano (Av. Belgrano 1007) on the same block it was inspired by Roberta’s in New York and all pizza is made in wood-fired ovens.” —Susana Balbo

Their Other Musts


Clockwise from top: The Vines Resort & Spa, Siete Fuegos, and Finca Adalgisa. Courtesy of The Vines Resort & Spa; Michael H. Evans; Courtesy of Finca Adalgisa.
Clockwise from top: The Vines Resort & Spa, Siete Fuegos, and Finca Adalgisa. Courtesy of The Vines Resort & Spa; Michael H. Evans; Courtesy of Fi... Clockwise from top: The Vines Resort & Spa, Siete Fuegos, and Finca Adalgisa. Courtesy of The Vines Resort & Spa; Michael H. Evans; Courtesy of Finca Adalgisa.

“I really like Finca Adalgisa (Pueyrredon 2222). It’s a small boutique hotel in Chacras de Coria — they have 11 rooms. It’s kind of like a bed and breakfast. The owner will be there with her dogs to meet people. They have a little winery on the property on a quiet, tree-lined street. It’s a great experience to get a sense of what life is like in Mendoza. The hotel feels like someone’s guest house, like if a friend were to invite you to their house in the mountains. The Vines Resort & Spa (Ruta Provincial 94), which Pablo and I began in the Uco Valley in 2005, is where Bono stays when in the Mendoza region. It has great views, 22 rooms, tremendous wines, and a Francis Mallmann restaurant. He really is the iconic chef in Argentina. To miss that opportunity to eat at Siete Fuegos with the views and his food would really be a shame. He cooks everything over open fires. My favorite dish is the skirt steak called entraña in Spanish. It’s fabulous.” —Michael Evans


Chacras de Coria. Photo: Pawel Toczynski/Getty Images

Chacras de Coria is a more suburban neighborhood just outside the city — it is beautiful and worth a visit. You can rent bikes and cruise around the charming tree-lined streets and residential neighborhoods. It is home to a thriving artists’ community, with great shops for paintings, handcrafts, ceramics, etc. The main square also has an artists’ fair every Sunday. For dining, the boutique winery Clos de Chacras (Monte Líbano 1025) has a nice pairing lunch, or nearby Brindillas is a great option for dinner. For more formal, sophisticated cuisine, Brindillas (Guardia Vieja 2898) is a great option. Its décor and the menu are modern, with an emphasis on quality and local flair.” —S.B.

Photo: Miguel Mendez/AFP/Getty Images

Local Restaurant

“At Restaurant Don Mario (25 de Mayo 1324), it’s going to be 98 percent locals. It’s a classic Argentine steakhouse for locals and the best and biggest steak you can imagine. Argentina is renowned for its beef and its meat grilling techniques — it’s a key component of traditional Argentine cuisine and a part of the culture. There, order bife de chorizo. It’s giant sirloin strip, but it’s twice as big as any New York sirloin strip you’ve ever seen at 20 percent of the price. I go there all the time. The level of texture, juiciness, and flavor — it’s just outstanding. Trying to describe how it tastes is like trying to compare the difference from regular grocery store tomatoes to those tomatoes you get the end of summer that are perfectly ripe. It will ruin other steaks for you.” —M.E.

Wineries in the Uco Valley

Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images

“The Uco Valley is about an hour drive from Mendoza city. It’s where all the best wines in Argentina are made. Zuccardi is one of the larger wineries. They have this really beautiful new place called Piedra Infinita. They make phenomenal wines, but they also have a wonderful restaurant there. The building is an architectural wonder. Piedra Infinita means infinite stones; you can imagine the stone building is just stunning. You’re not going to get in and out of there in less than three hours, but it’s worth every minute. The restaurant is definitely Argentine food: meat-focused, empanadas, but also nice salads. La Azul is a small winery. In some ways, it’s the opposite of something like Piedra Infinita. At La Azul, there’s maybe 15 tables with a family running the restaurant and cooking up meats on the grill with dogs and kids running around. You’ll be sitting outside, looking up at the mountains. It’s a very local experience. There you usually get what’s called a parrilla, where they’ll just keep bringing you different grilled meats, ribs (or costillas), chorizo, and, of course, empanadas.” —M.E.

Wine Shop

Photo: andresr/Getty Images

“For people staying in the city, there’s a nice wine shop called Sol y Vino (Av. Sarmiento 664). It’s right in the center of town. Certainly you’re going to want to bring back bottles of Malbec. That’s a good place to start. When you’re having a steak, pizza, or burgers, go for the Malbec. For people that like white or lighter wines, I also would recommend Torrontés, which is a grape that’s really only in Argentina. Rosés are also really nice now, like rosés made from Malbec, Granache, and even Pinot Noir are doing really well here. An Argentine rosé or Torrontés would be great for an afternoon by the pool or the beach. It has enough acidity, so it’ll be very refreshing.” —M.E.

Local Bar

Photo: Beatrice Murch/CC BY 2.0

Calle Arístides is the place to go for drinks — it’s a six-block stretch of bars and restaurants to see and be seen. Two of my favorite local bars are Chachingo Craft Beer (Av. Arístides Villanueva 383) and Cachita’s Bar (Av. Sarmiento 784). Chachingo has fabulous bartenders. You sit outside and watch the people go by. On a warm spring or summer night, it’s very nice. Cachita’s is smaller, really Mendoza’s first cocktail bar. There isn’t really a history of cocktails in Argentina. It’s just been developing over the past few years. If you want a really nice, handcrafted cocktail, Cachita’s is the place to go. Everyone must try Fernet-Branca and Coke — it is the drink for locals. People say you drink an equivalent amount of that and other alcohol, you’ll be less hungover. There’s something magical in it. And if you are a night owl, the discos open about 1 a.m. and you can dance all night like at Black Jagger Club.” —M.E.

Museums and Galleries

Bramido, 2018. Plus + Arte. Photo: Ariel Larriba/Courtesy of Plus+Arte

Museo Carlos Alonso (Mansión Stoppel), for its beautiful architecture and the work of an artist who represents Argentina’s contemporary art movement. La Pausa (Alberti 477) in Luján de Cuyo is another artists’ space in a beautiful old Spanish-style house centered around a patio and open garden. They host workshops, visits, and Friday happy hours to encourage interaction with local artists specializing in ceramics, painting, weaving, and jewelry-making. There are also various wineries that host art exhibits: Monteviejo in Uco Valley has a small gallery, Plus + Arte, and in April and May of each year they host WineRock, a festival of wine, art and rock music that attracts top artists and culture hounds from all over the country. Casa Vigil, a local winery and restaurant that is itself a work of art, hosts exhibits of local artists in its cellars and patios.” —S.B.

Day Trip

A view of the Aconcagua mountain in Argentina. Photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

“Compared to the national parks in the United States, the ones here aren’t too polished. The coolest thing about hiking here is that you really get a sense of nature. You won’t see too many other hikers or parking lots full of cars. You might see one or two people out there or someone out herding their sheep. You’re able to get a more intimate experience of the mountains. There are three great options. If you’re a real hiker, Vallecitos is where you’ll want to go. This would be a day hike. It’s not that intense, but it’s likely a six-hour hike there and back. Another is in the Uco Valley, Manzano Historico, which is an old traditional area where General José de San Martín crossed when he liberated Argentina and there’s nice trails back through the mountains and rivers there. The third would be to drive up to the base of Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak for a sense of the immensity and beauty of the Andes.” —M.E.

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A Winemaker’s Guide to Mendoza