In Mendoza, we set out for quality, not quantity. Our goal was to enjoy a winery or two, then enjoy lunches with mountainous vineyard views. At first, figuring out logistics here was overwhelming. In our research, many previous backpackers blogged about how they splurged by succumbing to a private tour. We even considered it! However, <private tours> here are ungodly expensive ranging from $160-$190 USD per person! And with two weeks in this area, and 3 wine regions to cover, we had the time to figure out how to be a bit more budget savvy.
One of the biggest tips we can offer is to go to the Information Center at the corner of San Martín and Garibaldi. The English speaking agents offered information on where to get buses, the preferred bodegas, and many logistics that helped us plan our time here. Mendoza is comprised of 3 major wine areas; Maipú, Luján de Cuyo, and Uco Valley. Here are our reflections on each.
Many on the backpacking circuit come here to rent bikes to get to as many bodegas as possible. Mr. Hugo Bike Rental is across the street from the bus stop. It is a less expensive area and some bodegas are even free. Reservations are preferred, but not typically necessary. We took a local bus using our Airbnb host’s pass (4,50 pesos per person, $0.50 USD) with the plan to enjoy lunch at Pie de Cuba and tour a few wineries nearby. We chose to walk and not to bike. (Most people do. We chose not to because 1) we were more so looking for quality lunch experience and 2) it was so hot that it just didn’t seem fun at the time.)
Briefly, we had a difficult time in Maipú. We came in the early afternoon and discovered the gate to Pie de Cuba restaurant shut and it wasn’t opening until next month. All the bodegas in walking distance were all closed for siesta. In addition, much of the scenery where we walked was uninspiring to say the least. In addition, there was not a taxi in sight to take us to the other/southern side of Maipú.
With one last bit of hope, we went to the information center near the bus stop, in which they were NO help and offered incorrect information. A last ditch effort, we attempted to try Casa de Campo for lunch. We sat down to uncomfortable outside seating, crappy street views, and an expensive menu (~$20-30 USD per person).
After 10 minutes of waiting for the waiter, we left. So frustrated with the whole area we even attempted to rent bikes but weren’t willing to pay anywhere near the asking price. We tried to negotiate a much better rate than 80 pesos per bike. Mr. Hugo only wanted to come down to 70 pesos per bike. We really didn’t want to bike so we said, “no thank you” and took the bus back to Mendoza city. Total cost for the excursion, approximately $2.
💰 B$ Tip – The man at the main Information Center (in Mendoza) said everything is open ALL DAY! Not true! Make sure you pay attention to the hours on the tour map. Conclusion – Unless you are really looking for that bike riding experience and you are on a quest to visit as many bodegas as possible, I would recommend to avoid Maipú. Spend your time, and money, in the other two areas that typically come with more individualized experiences and more amazing views and wines.
Luján de Cuyo
We purchased tickets at the local bus terminal (go to the Cata International service window and they’ll sell you tickets on Mitre) to get to Luján de Cuyo. It cost 11 pesos ($1.30 USD).
To get the most of the area, we stayed overnight the highly recommended <Luján de a Cuyo Bed and Breakfast>. The reviews are really true. The host, Nacho was wonderfully helpful in arranging our time in the area. He sits with each group upon your arrival to assist in planning your time in the region. So in addition to a wonderful B&B stay, he serves as a tour organizer.
Our first day he helped organize a vineyard lunch at <Primula Catina Ferraviarua> and tasting at <Dante Robino> (even driving us one way at no cost!). The second day he recommended a great tasting and tour at <Roberto Bonfanti> which was free and one of the best tours we had in Argentina as it was a personalized tour by the founder’s grandson.
Another perk is that his B&B offers an outside, home cooked dinner (by his mother) with endless wine with the other guests. At $19 USD per person we felt it was a nice, opportunity to have a more personalized Argentine dinner experience with other guests.
Valle de Uco
Considered the top wine growing area of Mendoza, with the highest altitude producing quality grapes, this area gave us the wine experience we were looking for! With help from the Information Center, we purchased tickets at a small bus agency near our apartment (you can buy tickets at any location that sells bus tickets) at approximately $7.00 USD per person to Tupungato.
We tried to secure a taxi driver in advance from a contact given to us by a winery. However, our Airbnb host told us he never answered his phone. So with fingers crossed we arrived with one single taxi waiting outside the bus terminal. (Our plan was to go inside the terminal and see if there was an information center that would call. We never made it inside though to find out if there is one.) This taxi driver stayed with us the whole day.
Reservations are mandatory in this area. I emailed and made reservations with the two bodegas that responded back, <Andeluna> and <Domaine Bousquet>. Andeluna cost 240 pesos (~$28 USD) for two tastings. Domaine Bousquet has various pricing based on individual tasting preferences. We paid 210 pesos (~$25 USD) for 2 tastings. Although a beautiful setting, Andeluna did not include a tour of the winery and felt very impersonal (Note : We really enjoyed Domaine Bousquet’s tour and tasting of their organic winery.)
After two winery visits, it was time to for lunch. We made reservations at <La Azul>. It was a great experience and we highly recommend dining here with views of the mountains and a choice between a 3 or 5 course lunch, with wine pairings. We chose the 5 courses with wine pairings that cost ~$90 USD.
After lunch, we made our way back to the bus terminal and made it back to our apartment. The ride to Tupangato to Mendoza is about an hour when the bus is non-stop.
By doing this area ourselves, we cut the typical Uco de Valle tour price in half. We ended up paying approximately $190 USD total. This included bus tickets, cab fare, premier tastings, and a fantastic gourmet lunch with wine pairings.
💰 B$ Tip – To set the tone for an enjoyable day, one tasting and one lunch with wine pairing is really more than enough (at least if you’re planning on drinking all of the wine, spitting the wine out = substance abuse!). If you really want to do an organized wine tour, head to the hostels for the most budget friendly options since they cater to backpackers on a budget. When we inquired, we were quoted 650 pesos (~$76 USD) per person. This included a simple picnic lunch and tours in Maipú.
While in Mendoza, head to the town hall which offers a 360 terrace view of the city. It’s beautiful and a hidden secret. Hours are from 10-1 pm and 6-8 pm and the cost is free!
To get a nice wine tasting experience in the city center, head to the <Vines of Mendoza Wine Bar>. The staff is very knowledgeable and there is a great selection of wines at varying costs. Research the days they have a happy hour specials for even more value. We tasted 4 wines before selecting one that we preferred.
A great place to enjoy a bottle of wine indoors in their swanky tasting room, or take advantage of their outdoor seating. All wines included in the pricey tasting experience can be purchased by the bottle. In other words, skip the tasting menu and instead purchase a bottle of wine. Have any budget savvy tips to share about Mendoza? Sound off and share in the comments below.