Argentina – Provincia de Mendoza – Uco Valley – a cycle ride with the gauchos

I was desperate for some exercise so on the first morning of my stay I hopped on one of the finca’s mountain bikes and headed north on Route 90. My map here.

It was a beautiful sunny day and I had a really clear view of the giant peaks of the Andes towering over the vineyards, a very memorable sight.

The long straight roads were quite peaceful with only the occasional truck passing me on the long, straight roads. At the Villa Seca crossroads I came across a group of gauchos sat on their horses chatting, drinking beer and comparing knives.

As I continued up the road I encountered more and more gauchos, all riding in the same direction. They were all in high spirits and more than happy to have their photos taken. Videos here and here.

It turned out that this large group of over a hundred gauchos were heading to the Los Arboles des Villages crossroads where they were meeting other groups coming from different directions for a big communal Asado (barbecue) and celebration of gaucho culture.

In reality that culture ceased to exist in the mid-nineteenth century but the gaucho remains a very romantic figure in Argentine folklore, so I’m sure it’s fun to dress up at the weekends and pretend you still are one. I wish I could have joined them but I travelled with them as far as Los Arboles and then continued east on Route 89 to my own lunch destination.

Tupungato Divino (Intermediate B+), Ruta 89 y Calle Los Europeos,

The name of the restaurant, and the nearby town, comes from the Tupungato volcano of the same name that is part of the Andes mountain range just adjacent to the district.

According to my research, and my host John, it’s the best restaurant in the Uco Valley after Siete Fuegos.

I had to walk up the drive as my bike couldn’t get any tread on the gravel. After a three-hour cycle ride in the hot sun, arriving in their tranquil garden felt like I’d reached an oasis.

It’s a lovely spot with a great view of the Andes…

…and the vineyards that surround it (video here).

The three course set menu (€620) had four options for each course. I began with Scons (sic) Salado con Pesto de Remolacha y Crocante de Nuez (savoury scones (?) with beetroot pesto and walnuts).

For the main, Lomo con Reduccion de Malbec (beef loin with a reduction of Malbec wine).

To finish, a mixed dessert of Granita Frutal (fruit granita), Fondant de Chocolate Blanco y Romero (white chocolate and rosemary fondant), a Crema Catalana (creme brûlée) and something else I don’t recognise.

I just had a glass of good Torrontes with my starters and main but in response to my request for something to go with my dessert, the friendly proprietor dug out a bottle of local late harvest Sauvignon Blanc, a rarity in an area with virtually no sweet wine production.

The food was nice (B) and the wine was great (B+) and generally the service was good (B). The location is what I particularly recommend this restaurant for though. It’s a lovely spot.

Thankfully most of the bike ride back to the finca was a gentle downhill descent.

Back to work next unfortunately…

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