June 16, 2009
Bodega Achaval Ferrer is another of Mendoza's hidden gems. Driving down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, (as Chile-based food and wine writer Liz Caskey told me–the true litmus test of Mendoza driving is navigating those wine country roads!) you suddenly find yourself on an olive-tree lined lane, with huge red rose bushes in-between that seem to blush under the gaze of the adjacent grape vines, akimbo on trellises.
A patterned, painted patio and enormous mirrored door invite you through the looking glass. On the other side, there's a tasting room, where a bottle says "Drink Me!" Only it doesn't make you smaller, or bigger (though after a few glasses, you may give that impression), it just slides across your palate and you are, indeed, enchanted. And when you go around to the back, there's no croquet death match, there is an incredible process of winemaking going on! (Well, I guess the photo below is a little bit Mad Hatter–love the DIY hat from a wine box!)
The photos above are of the workers there on the day I toured, part of the bottling production line. They spend hours on their feet, carefully packing bottles into boxes, or bottling. The best part of our tour was the behind-the-scenes view. I couldwrite about how Archaval Ferrer is a boutique winery that only produces a very special 150,000 cases of 5 different wines per year, and how pretty the bodega is, much like all the other bodegas in the area that have been fixed up to welcome tourists.
But what I really loved about the tour was that each and every bottle is labeled by hand, by 3 women, who according to our adorable guide, Agustina, do the labeling better than the men because women have more delicate sensibilities. I loved that the bodega was in full production, and that a lot of the process takes place outside, in a bottling trailer. Many times I've gone to a bodega and instead of the nitty-gritty, all you see on the tour are the fancy, clean parts of winemaking. I was always left wondering, "When and how does it all happen?" I loved getting the full picture.
As I sat down that evening to an elegant wine-tasting dinner, I thought about all these workers on the line, who make it all possible. They work hard, and with loads of joy and pride in what they are a part of. Today's wine industry in Argentina has made Argentineans proud. Lots of work goes into the production of wine, from the growing to the tending of vines, the back-breaking harvesting, turning juice into wine, and even the part I saw that day–all so I could sit back, have a drink and relax. Gracias a todos!
I just have one last thing to say about Archaval Ferrer, besides telling you to go there–our guide, Agustina, was just the cutest thingever! She probably weighs 100 pounds wet, and was so sweet with her thoughtful English, tapered jeans and little flat shoes. She had spent the year before in Colorado, working at Vail, teaching kids how to ski. I seriously wanted to take her home to be our nanny, but alas, she has other plans–she's studying graphic design at university . Thanks, Agustina–you made my day!
Bodega Achaval Ferrer(wines available for purchase in the US and elsewhere)
Calle Cobos 2601, Pedriel
261 488 1131
tour information available on website