Wine in Mendoza – a Jurassic point of view

Dear Nicalai,

I take after Nona.  She doesn’t drink tea, coffee, beer, or wine, and neither do I.  Why?  Nona just doesn’t like the taste of those drinks.  I’m a plastic Jurassic, and I’m pretty sure that we Jurassics never did drink those things.  So I guess, in an odd way, we Jurassics and Nona have something in common, right? Of course, I’m not saying that Nona is an old fossil.

On the other hand, there’s Papa.  He likes tea and coffee, but coffee more and always black, no sugar.  He likes beer and wine.  In fact, he used to make his own beer, but he never tried making wine.  So, when Nona found a tour of vintners (that means wine-makers) here in Mendoza, Papa was all for it.

At our first Ampora Wine Tour stop, we saw old ponchos and new bottles of wine, symbols of two old traditions in Mendoza.

At our first Ampora Wine Tour stop, we saw old ponchos and new bottles of wine, symbols of two old traditions in Mendoza.

We walked into the Benegas Winery. The collection of old ponchos on the wall reminded us that this region was cattle country with gauchos (cowboys), and those gauchos used ponchos.

You can think of ponchos as sturdy blankets with a 1-foot slot in the middle.  The slot lets you put your head through it, and, guess what, the blanket is now a coat!  Take your head out of the slot, lay the poncho flat on the ground, and you can have a ground cloth or a blanket!  Nona taught me a new word. She said that these old ponchos were “versatile.” Versatile means adaptable or having different uses. (Caution: better check your dictionary to be sure I got that definition right.)

The collection of the different bottled wines told us that we were in a wine making region, too. I guess you could say the gauchos are becoming winemakers, or maybe winemakers are replacing gauchos, or maybe the region is big enough for production of both cattle and wine. It is a big region.

You should have seen the smile on Papa’s face when he saw all those bottles of wine. He probably expected to drink a lot of that wine.

Wooden barrels made from oak trees (those are the ones that make acorns for the squirrels to eat).  Why, I wondered, do they have barrels at this winemaking place?

Wooden barrels made from oak trees (those are the ones that make acorns for the squirrels to eat).  Why, I wondered, do they have barrels at this winemaking place?

Did you know that wine doesn’t start out in bottles?  I didn’t. I’ve only seen wine coming from bottles at home.  Of course, Nona and Papa knew.

Our really wonderful tour guide, Sabrina, explained that the wine starts out as grape juice.  The winemaker puts a lot of juice into a barrel along with yeast. Yeast is a tiny creature that makes bread rise and ferments grape juice into alcohol.  When I look at a spoonful of yeast, it just looks like powder.  I wonder how can it do all that work?  How does it know what to do? Amazing!

After adding yeast to the barrel full of juice, the winemaker closes the barrel.  The yeast actually does all the work of making the wine after that, but I don’t think it gets as much credit as the winemaker.  Not fair, huh? People talk about “working behind the scenes” but what about those who “work inside the barrel?”

Well, also, maybe the oak barrel should get some credit too, because our guide said that the oak wood helps to flavor the wine.  She also said something about a difference between American oak and French oak barrels, but I don’t remember about that.  I guess French is better for wine.

Grapes grow on these vines in a place called a vineyard — get it? — “vine - yard.”

Grapes grow on these vines in a place called a vineyard — get it? — “vine – yard.”

Speaking of getting credit for making the wine. Grapes deserve a lot of credit. Grapes provide the winemaker with the grape juice that is used to make the wine. Not just any grapes.  Winemakers use different grapes for different tasting wines.

Now about tasting wines on the tour that we took.  Everybody got to have a wine glass and something called a “spittoon.”  I learned that, when you taste wine, you don’t actually drink it.  No, instead, you follow the 3-S rule: See, Smell, Sip. Papa would look at the wine, smell the wine, and then take a small sip to taste it.  Then, he didn’t swallow the wine but spit it out into the spittoon – it looked like a little bucket!  I think it should be called the 4-S rule: See, Smell, Sip, and Spit! On the other hand, I noticed that several people who were on our tour with us did not use their spittoons.  I think maybe they were thirsty.

Our tour took us to 4 wineries in one day.  We had lunch at the last place.  That’s when Papa actually drank some wine.  Nona and I had tonic water, really good tonic water.

You don’t have to leave the town of Mendoza on a wine tour to taste wines. You can also go to a place like this in town.

You don’t have to leave the town of Mendoza on a wine tour to taste wines. You can also go to a place like this in town.

One evening, Nona, Papa, and I went to Wine Not to taste different wines. Well, Nona and I didn’t taste them.  Papa did that, but Nona and I could do the 2-S’s: See and Smell.  Even that was fun.

Bye!

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

September 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Home is wherever we are, and Mendoza is where we are now

Dear Nicalai,

We moved to Mendoza, Argentina in mid-September. That’s where they make a wine called Malbec. That may be Papa’s favorite wine, and that may be why we came to Mendoza. I don’t know.  What do you think?

Anyway, Mendoza is home now, and I’m not complaining.  In fact, I’m very happy here.  Nona found us a very comfortable AirBnB apartment to live in while we’re here.

Doesn’t Nona and Papa’s bedroom look appealing?

Doesn’t Nona and Papa’s bedroom look appealing?

Our apartment is a very modern place, but it has a homey feel to it, with kitchen, a roof top terrace, and easy walking to the shopping district and parks.

Speaking of homes and parks, they are just loaded with birds, and one type of bird has a strange name. The hornero (that name means “oven”)  has one the nicest homes in the park. You’ll see why it’s called an “oven bird.”

Doesn’t this hornero bird nest look very modern but also very homey, all at the same time?  Also, doesn’t the nest look like a little wood oven?

Doesn’t this hornero bird nest look very modern but also very homey, all at the same time?  Also, doesn’t the nest look like a little wood oven?

It’s spring here, so birds were making their new nests.  The hornero makes its nest out of mud. We watched a couple of horneos bringing mud up into a tree one beak-full at a time to build one of these beautiful nests.  Imagine how much work that takes them.

Where you are in North America, the fall season has begun, but, here in South America the seasons are reversed.  So, when September comes, spring arrives here.  We saw evidence of spring all around, and we smelled it too.

The many flowering trees, bushes, and vines provide the park and the city with lovely fragrances . Papa says that “fresh air is always better than airfreshener.”

The many flowering trees, bushes, and vines provide the park and the city with lovely fragrances . Papa says that “fresh air is always better than airfreshener.”

I especially feel at home when we walk in our neighborhood. The trees create arches over our street, and I feel like I am walking in a living room with a vaulted ceiling.

Imagine getting to walk down this street everyday.  That’s what we do here at home in Mendoza!

Imagine getting to walk down this street everyday.  That’s what we do here at home in Mendoza!

Oh, hey, another thing that we do is to go out for breakfast sometimes.  We go to a special place not far from our apartment. It’s called Anna’s Bistro.

Anna’s Bistro serves french-type pastries in the morning. Mornings are when we like to go there, but they have good lunches and suppers too.

Anna’s Bistro serves french-type pastries in the morning. Mornings are when we like to go there, but they have good lunches and suppers too.

I like to pretend that we’re visiting our own Auntie Anna in California when we go to this bistro. It’s homey and has a pretty interior design, just like Auntie Anna would have.

So, now you know about our new home in Mendoza.  I wish you could come for a visit, because I know you would like it, and you could practice your Spanish too. Bye! I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

September 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”