Wining and Dining

Lavish, boozey, and educational are three words that perfectly describe this day.

On March 28th 24 years ago a miracle happened and Leah Kathleen Germain was born. To celebrate this momentous occasion, Leah’s mom, Jill, planned a special day of wine touring through the Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo Valley in the Mendoza wine region. Our goal was five vineyards with a minimum of three tastings each. This would take stamina of the liver and mind, but we were up for the challenge.

We considered renting a car to explore the vineyards, but as experienced wine tasters, we quickly scrapped the idea knowing that Mendozian Malbec does not pair well with cruising the open road. So we hired Carlos, a native Mendozian who has lived in Richmond Hill, Hollywood, and Barcelona. His English was excellent and his Chevrolet, spotless.

Our first stop was a boutique winery called Familia Bonfanti, smartly showcasing its wines in an ultra modern building with personalized attention. Senior Bonfanti himself proudly toured us through his vineyard and introduced us to his Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. He was so passionate about sharing his craft with us that we nearly missed our next reservation.

The modern Familia Bonfanti winery

Senior Bonfanti sharing his passion

Familia Bonfanti 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Germain ladies taking in the view at the Familia Bonfanti vineyard. Olive trees are grown alongside the grapes.

Jill and Brittany enjoying the passion that Senior Bonfanti puts into his wine-making

Alta Vista winery was our next stop – a large wine-maker with six different vineyards throughout Argentina. The grapes differ in each terroir due to the soil and climate conditions and give each grape variety the best chance to make a great wine. The tasting room was located in one of the hundred-year-old original concrete tanks with a floor made of used oak barrels and doors made of iron barrel bands. Very cool.

The view of Mount Aconcagua from Alta Vista

Gillian, the official "Leah's Birthday" photographer standing in front of the door made of barrel bands

Olives, lavender, grapes, and roses abound at Alta Vista

Delicious 'eating grapes'

The smell of lavender was everywhere

At the third winery we were once again given a personal tasting by the wine-maker. This time it was at the Carmelo Patti winery, a small but well-known institution in the Mendozian wine scene. We were privileged enough to taste wines harvested when Leah and I were in high school. A 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2006 Malbec, and a 2003 blend were all so perfect, we were lusting for more. Seeing how much we enjoyed his wines, Senior Patti let us try the 2009 harvest of his blend just so we could taste the difference. This was by far our favourite wine-tasting experience.

Carmelo Patti was using a mobile bottling truck when we arrived

The ladies with Senior Patti. Photo Credit: Carlos

Leah and Brittany enjoying a sisterly hug

The fine wines we were lucky enough to try

Senior Patti revealing his secrets

Gillian enjoying her education in wine-tasting

For lunch we stopped at Belasco de Baquedano winery where we would taste five wines while we ate. At this point, we were desperately in need of some sustenance to soak up the 10 tastings we had already enjoyed. Our lunch turned out to be a five course meal with each course perfectly paired with a wine.

The menu is as follows:
1. Spiced provolone with regional first-press olive oil and country bread
2. Rice and leek pilaf dumpling with a herbed aioli
3. Savory pumpkin pie topped with mixed greens
4. Bife de Lomo (filet mignon) with papas and a balsamic vinegar reduction
5. Chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream rolled in walnuts with fresh lemon sorbet

Drool.

Course number 3

Leah and Jill enjoying some Malbec Rose

Course number 4

Four tastings later...

Course number 5 served with a late harvest Malbec

Our view of Mount Aconcagua during our feast

Our last stop, which is admittedly difficult to remember, was at Achaval Ferrer winery. The atmosphere was pretentious as Achaval Ferrer is the proud producer of the 2008 Finca Altamira, which retails for some ridiculous price.

The day ended with a stop at a bakery where we picked up a selection of cakes in honour of Leah’s birthday. If this day is any indication of what Leah can expect in her 25th year, she is certainly in for a wild ride.

A little love for the birthday girl from Mama Germain