June 2, 2009
Walking through the gates of Molino La Tebaida, I was given almost a hero's welcome. The estate is situated on acreage once belonging to Argentina's liberator General San Martin himself, so named after the city of Thebes of Homeric epics because of the river running through the property–I imagine El General wanting Argentina in its infancy to be correlated with history's great civilizations.
Fast forward to the present. Miguel Angelich leaves his ancestral hacienda to go to Spain to study the art of olive oil making. He returns to Argentina with not just an olive oil press, but a Spanish wife– Isabel. They re-build and convert the family estate to house an artisanal olive oil press, and a small pension.
The olive oil press produces a small quantity of oil made in traditional, small batch style. The outbuilding housing the press is painted a terra cotta red that almost matches the bright red paint of the press itself. Antique oil filters, rounds made from woven wicker and darkened woven wire, hang on the walls. Bottles of oil are stored in racks of faded unfinished wood, a worker's straw hat hangs on a protruding nail. Large earthen pots frame the tall wooden doors inset with glass windows bearing the press monogram.
The pension includes four rooms, each with the unadulterated homeyness that is seen everywhere on the estate: white linen bedspreads with crocheted edges, antique bottles used as vases, vintage suitcases that double as nightstands. Across a lush, shady courtyard in the otherwise unforgiving Mendoza sunshine, a family-style eating area. On the other side, a colonnade with outdoor seating, and a little further on, the ubiquitous Argentinean clay oven and asado pit, and a swimming pool–a welcome break from summer's hotter days.
The nearby town, on the land of its former owner, is named San Martin. It's just a short drive from Mendoza. Its proximity to the city makes it the perfect weekend getaway for city dwellers; despite its closeness, there is an air of simplicity and countryside not found in town. A place to rest, recuperate and get away from it all.
Molino La Tebaida is an oasis–a beautiful estate surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Isabel's hand can be seen everywhere, and it seems no detail has been forgotten. To see many more photos, please visit my flickr page, From Argentina With Love.
The olive oil is sold at several places in Mendoza, even if you aren't able to get there in person, you can bring home the flavor–Las Viñas is one place it's sold. Isabel herself will happily give a tour of the press and olive oil tasting with a little advance notice. June and July are oil season, when the press is in production.
One final note: the day we visited, Isabel and Miguel's daughter had a birthday party, even as Isabel was due any day with baby number three. However, a good time was had by all :
(It seems the dog, party hat and all, had the best time, then went to sleep it off under the table, accompanied by his good friend, the rooster!)
MOLINO LA TEBAIDA:
Soldado de la Independencia 650
San Martin C.P. 5570