In area of Lujan De Cuyo, the winery Achaval Ferrer is the standard setter. The winery is are known for single vineyard Malbecs. Achaval Ferrer's high-scoring wine is credited in part to grapes it selects but also to its gravity-fed cement tanks. The winery's operators believe the temperature enabled by this system allows open fermentation, which encourages the personality of the wine.
Another favorite vineyard here is Tapiz, where a tour of the vines covers everything from the shape of leaves to the characteristics of the different grapes. The walk-through includes a barrel sampling of the wine to understand the fermenting process.
Maipu is known for its restaurants, and a great place to go for lunch is Almacen del Sur. Here they grow specialty produce for their line of food products like olive oil, sundried tomatoes and roasted eggplant. It started as a winery in the 1800s and has been converted into a restaurant that serves five-course lunches.
For dinner, the restaurant 1884 Francis Mallman has won national awards. Their Patagonian lamb and empanadas are grilled over outdoor fires and for dessert they roast sugar glazed seasonal fruits in their wood-burning oven.
Maipu is home to Trapiche winery, a large producer that offers several different types of tastings, ranging from a basic flight to desert wines, to a premium that includes cheese pairings. Trapiche offers a popular dry, sparkling rose, and a crisp, white Torrontes, another signature Argentinean wine, though the grapes aren't usually grown in Mendoza. Though these two are popular, according to the Trapiche sommelier, Gaston Re, Malbec is still the signature wine.
The Bodega Familia Zuccardi winery is known for its unique and experimental blends, such as Malbec from France and Tempranillo from Spain.
"Argentina is a country of immigrants who have blended together for great results. Why wouldn't this work for wine as well?" said winery director Jose Alberto Zuccardi.
Since the devaluation of the peso in 2001, many of the wines in Argentina are being produced for export, and are a very good deal.
Aldo Sohm, wine director at New York's Le Bernardin restaurant and named World's Best Sommelier 2008, predicts that Argentinean wines fit in the perfect price range that Americans are attracted to because many of them retail from around $15 to $20. He predicts that Malbecs will become better known and more popular in the United States.
Events: The wine harvest festival, Vendimia, runs through March and into April in Mendoza. There's lots of folk dancing, wine tasting and blessing of the grapes.
Serious Foodies should attend the Masters of Food and Wine sponsored by the Park Hyatt Hotels in Buenos Aires and Mendoza. The packages include five days of tasting menus prepared by Michelin Star chefs from around the world and the top sommeliers, along with cocktail parties and winery visits and tours. For more information visit www.mfandw.com.ar.