Thursday, February 23, 2017

Days 2 and 3: Chacras de Coria, Mendoza

Day 2: Chacras de Coria

Weather: Very hot

Medical Update: Blood drawn on Feb 18 results are in and THB's cpk count is down to 457. It was in the 6500s at the highest, normal is less than 200, so this is very good news. THB will up his immune suppressant drug, methotrexate, from 4 pills once a week to 7 pills once a week (4 in morning, 3 in evening). 

Quotes of the Day:

·       I am going to die. The person who succeeds me also would die. But elections, you won't have.
·       There is no worse thing than a brute with restlessness

At the Mendoza airport Eduardo, our transfer guide (there’s always a guide and a driver); is waiting. First thing THB takes pesos out of the HSBC ATM. This was a struggle for us when we were in Argentina some years ago. BofA won’t sell you pesos in the USA for delivery at your local branch (THB’s preferred method of getting local currencies before departure). At the ATM, THB also misunderstands that the peso symbol is the $ sign. Two transactions later, THB has taken around $150 out, all in $6 bills. 

As we drive towards our hotel, we take a brief city tour (see pics from the prior post). One feature: tons of trees, with an irrigation system that runs under the sidewalks. This is ingenious, and clearly has been in place for a long time: the trees are huge. Several large parks and a small lake for the regatta club (really, a regatta club?).
Eduardo and DB

The front entrance at Finca Adalgisa

As we pull up to the Finca Adalgisa Hotel, Eduardo explains it is behind the gate. Can’t tell: where is the hotel again? Ahhhhhhhhhhh, the gate hides an 11 room resort, a gorgeous pool, several two story building used to entertain guests, and a hectare of grapevines that go into making their own vine. It is enchanting!!

We unpack and THB takes a quick dip, showers, and off we go strolling three or four blocks away for lunch at El Mercandito. Our concierge/desk person explains that they serve “fresh” food: vegetarian meals.

With glutens

Those three or four blocks are not to be taken lightly: it is nearing 100 degrees out. THB orders the gluten free pasta except today is no ordinary day: they are out of Muerte Glutens pasta. And artichoke hearts. No problema: extra fresh mushrooms, a nice tomato sauce, cheese, accompanied by a fresh-made (vegetarian) ginger / pear concoction. DB goes for the chicken sandwich with fries, and a brewski. With a bottle of agua sin gas, $500. That’s 500 pesos, around $30. Paying by credit card turns into a slow process as it takes 3 Mercanditos to get the process to work. At least it wasn’t as long as it took to eat lunch.

Brave the heat back to the hotel, checking out a local bakery as well, to rest up for our 6pm free glass of wine and the 7pm cooking class at the hotel we’ve spur-of-the-moment signed up for at check-in.
Poolside tree

a hawk on a chair

View from bathroom towards living room

Fire place not needed

The pool calls…to all the guests, there are 12 others in the afternoon heat (some sitting in the sun, amazingly). While there, one of the hawks used to control the pigeons (meaning: eat the pigeons before they eat the grapes) lands on the porch in front of the rooms. It is tame enough that you can get quite close for a picture. Meanwhile a pigeon is in the trees above the rooms. At least the pigeon isn’t on the vineyard.

Then THB decides it is time to get the first blog post done. Wifi doesn’t work well in the room and the hotel has called someone to come and fix it. It still doesn’t work well in the room so THB goes to the front desk where the new concierge/desk person says the tech was here and it is fixed. Nope! We try it again, several times. THB is now at the front desk using the “lobby” connection site. Pics are loading ever-so-slowly.

6pm happy hour site

House wine

The hotel has a happy hour in the winery/entertainment/kitchen, a lovely building nestled in the corner of the vineyard. THB and DB are the only ones there at 6pm, and another couple, mom celebrating her 60th with her son, show up closer to 6:45. We enjoy a very nice glass of Malbec from the hotel’s vineyard. 

Cristina the cooking demo chef

Empanada prep

Potato prep, to be cooked in wood burning oven

Tapenade topping for baked potatoes

A third couple, from NY shows up for the cooking class, which is more accurately a cooking demonstration. He graduated from Wesleyan in 2005, making him a contemporary of LB’s!

Chimichurri prep

Rolling for empanada dough

THB crimp, not quite right

How it looks when done by a professional

Using a huge wood burning grill and a wood burning oven, Cristina shows us how to make: beef and onion empanadas, giant steaks with veggies and chimichurri, baked potatoes, and caramelized fruits with a ton of sugar (served with ice cream and bit of drizzled chocolate). Our only hands-on is in folding the filling inside the empanadas, otherwise we are involved viewers drinking more and more of the Malbec. Fortunately THB is on a restricted alcohol limit or he wouldn’t have been able to stay seated on his stool for the over 2.5 hour demo.

Dessert: fruit pan roasted with ice cream and nuts

Starting around 9:15, we get to eat the demonstration. THB does a yeoman’s lifting and finishes his entire dinner up to the half-way point of dessert. The food is terrific! $130/pp including a never-empty glass of terrific Malbec (a few of the attendees got their money’s worth in wine).

Back in the room at 10:30, in a food stupor.

Day 3: Chacras de Coria

Weather: Very hot, 100 appears to be the new norm

Quotes of the Day:

·       I have a sour face. Maybe that's why they say I'm a dictator.
·       When the people exhaust their patience, they make the punishment thunder.

Chacras means small farm, so there must be a connection to the Coria family here (THB is making this up).

Buffet breakfast, with the buffet spread over enough niches and corners that THB misses the butter and yogurt. No problema: THB is really only capable of dry toast, coffee and water this morning. Probably not even that. Included.

Today is spent with Pedro, the owner of a small specialty tour company. They do tours of local wineries, hiking in the Andes, and some other stuff, and Pedro also is in the process of making ceramic camphor vessels in a kiln that he and his ceramicist wife are researching and building.  He’s a great companion: articulate, friendly, full of local knowledge, and very deeply wine-literate.

We depart at 9:15am (THB is not so sure about this as starting time for wine tasting) and have two long winery visits, one a more upscale tasting (fewer wines, older vintages) and the other run by a young winemaker of Lebanon descent (we meet him, he also consults for other wineries) where they feature his and other winery’s wines.
Benegas winery: large room

Lynch is Swiss winery partner

Basically, every winery makes a pretty to very good Malbec and lots of other esoteric varietals and blends. We taste reds for the most part, and both THB and DB do a good job of sipping and not gulping. Pedro tastes and spits. Benegas (as does our hotel, Finca Adalgisa) offers free shipping to the US if you buy a premium wine nearing $1,000 (US, not Argentinian). No purchases.

The second stop: Bodega Alandes. The winemaker, Karim Mussie Safie, is of Lebanese descent, and along with his own wines he markets wines for wineries where is the chief consultant.

tasting wines from a range of wineries

The last stop of the day is lunch at Ruca Malen (chef Lucas Bustos), a 5 course meal with wine pairing. 

These are "hail" nets, seen over a few of the vineyards, hardly enough to cover the huge acreage of vines and orchards

The food is very good to excellent and extremely delightful to look at, the wines range from just okay to decent. Basically, the local chefs are locked into making sure beef and pork dishes are on the menu to accompany the local wines, which THB thinks cuts down on creativity. Pedro gives us the option of including him at lunch and THB says yes, please!  We have gained a lot from spending more time with the guides: the sharing of cultural norms (and, in this case, wine knowledge) is a huge asset.

It's fall and the gourds are in season (they do have Halloween, THB isn't exactly sure when)

The meal: THB and Pedro go with meat, DB with vegetarian

  • ·      Amuse Bouche of a smear of corn meal on glass (all courses served on glass)
  • ·      Carpaccio of beef and capirs, DB with beets and capirs
  • ·      Soft boiled egg and accoutrements
  • ·      Pork on potato puree with small potato bread, DB with gnocchi (though it didn’t look like any gnocchi we know)
  • ·      Filet mignon and chimichurri and veggies including great tomatoes (THB does not finish his meat) and lasagna for DB
  • ·      A puff of cotton candy on top of a piece of tart in a bit of soup
  • ·      Coffees and petit fours for DB and Pedro
  • ·      Wines: Chardonnay, Bonarda, Malbec, Petit Verdot
  •       (also tasted at winery #2), Cab Sauvignon, Ruca Malen brut (sparkling wine)

a back dining room (we are in the front of the house)

a small potato "bread"

Sugar puff

Hiding underneath...

Back to Finca Adalgisa and THB is amazed at how good he felt all day and how easy the time spent with Pedro was and how fast the day went by. Is this cure for overeating the night before?

Another dip in the pool and a brief nap; most of the rest of the guests are now standing in the pool chatting, maybe 10 others.

Dinner is a “bbq” at the hotel, 11 guests attending and being served an endless array of cuts of meat and the house Malbec, green and potato salads, grilled veggies and caramelized figs cooked on the grill for dessert, $50pp.

Same spot we ate at for cooking demo

Dessert: cooked figs


  1. WOW WOW WOW. Thank you so much for sharing this Ralph! Sounds like a fantastic trip. I'm getting hungry...

  2. Glad you're enjoying the blog!