Wining and Dining in the Land of Malbec

Mendoza, Argentina, is emerging as quite the food destination

Wining and Dining in the Land of Malbec

Entre Cielos Wine Hotel & Spa

Courtesy of Entre Cielos Wine Hotel & Spa

Thanks to pioneering winemakers, talented chefs, and a growing number of luxury vineyard hotels, Mendoza, Argentina, is living up to its sobriquet as the “Napa Valley of South America.” Here are some delicious destinations for food and wine lovers when visiting the Land of Malbec.

The Vines Resort & Spa

The Vines Resort & Spa is home to celebrated Argentine Chef Francis Mallmann’s Siete Fuegos restaurant. Here diners can get a taste of the grill master’s signature open-flame cooking prepared seven distinct ways, from the plancha (cast-iron griddle) to the parrilla (barbecue grate). During harvest season, the Uco Valley resort hosts weekly Siete Fuegos Experience Dinners where diners gather around a large table in traditional Argentine style to sample each of Mallmann’s techniques in one meal ($150 USD with wine pairings).

Pairing Suggestion: Order the boneless Wagyu steak from La Pampa with smashed potatoes, chimichurri, and criolla sauce. Pair it with the Vines’ bold but elegant Recuerdo Gran Corte blend.

O. Fournier Winery

O. Fournier Winery is an ultramodern winery in the Uco Valley owned by former Spanish banker José Manuel Ortega and his celebrity chef wife, Nadia Harón. Her award-winning restaurant, Urban at O. Fournier, blends Argentine and Mediterranean-Spanish flavors and traditions. Oenophiles who want to linger longer on the 700-acre estate will be able to rent one of two new villas launching this April, the perfect time to sample the winery’s first vintage of sparkling wine: Alfa Crux Cuvee NV.

Pairing Suggestion: Pair Urban’s twice-cooked oxtail served with polenta and truffle oil with the Alfa Crux Blend, a combination of tempranillo and malbec that highlights the tenderness and delicate flavors of the oxtail.

Entre Cielos Wine Hotel & Spa

Entre Cielos Wine Hotel & Spa in Vistalba debuted a Beef Club that hosts traditional Argentine asados (barbecues) in the resort’s freshly built quincho (dining pavilion). Every Wednesday and Sunday at 8 p.m., the resort welcomes guests and locals to enjoy an evening of marantal wine, produced with grapes from the resort’s vineyard, served with wood-fired empanadas and typical Argentine cuts of meat including sausage, tenderloin, ribs, and giblets. For dessert? A classic flan made with dulce de leche.

Pairing Suggestion: Pair the various premium beef cuts with Entre Cielos’ recently released Gran Marantal 2012, made in a more traditional European style. Round and fruity with notes of blackberries and plums, its tannins complement red meat.

Susana Balbo Wines

Acclaimed winemaker Susana Balbo offers an array of culinary experiences at her winery in Agrelo, where visitors can sample all five of her signature wine brands. The main dining room, Osadia de Crear (which is currently being refreshed), offers seasonal dishes representing regional Argentine flavors, while Espacio Crios serves up gourmet tapas with wine pairings in a more casual space or on picnic blankets in the garden with an impressive mountain view.

Pairing Suggestion: Osadia de Crear is the only restaurant in Mendoza that serves the cut of meat known as ceja de bife (eyebrow steak). Pair it with the intense, well-balanced Susana Balbo Brioso, a Bordeaux-style blend made of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, cabernet franc, and petit verdot.

Cavas Wine Lodge

Named after its 3,000-bottle wine cellar, Cavas Wine Lodge in Lujan de Cuyo was Mendoza’s first boutique hotel completely dedicated to the art of making and experiencing wine. Owned by Argentine husband-and-wife team Cecilia Diaz Chuit and Martin Rigal, the property’s 17 villas are set amid their working 55-acre vineyard. Each villa has its own wood-burning fireplace to sit next to as you enjoy a glass of house wine and views of the Andes. The restaurant features farm-to-table cuisine using freshly picked produce from the garden.

Pairing Suggestion: Pair a bottle of Cavas’ signature Bonarda wine with the rib-eye steak served with chimichurri, Andean potatoes, and salsa criolla for a delicious blend of fruity and savory flavors.

Casa de Uco Vineyards & Wine Resort

A 16-room luxury resort surrounded by a 790-acre vineyard in the Uco Valley, Casa de Uco is one of Mendoza’s most recent additions. Designed by Argentine owner-architect Alberto Tonconogy, the property puts an emphasis on sustainability. Chefs Pablo and Carlos Torres source seasonal ingredients from neighboring farms and prepare them with a range of organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown in the garden. The duo aims to surprise diners by serving traditional regional recipes with a modern, creative twist.

Pairing Suggestion: The beechwood smoked trout with carrot hummus, beetroot emulsion, and fresh greens pairs well with the subtle and spicy Casa de Uco Salvaje Malbec 2013.

Maria Antonieta

Vanina Chimeno is the chef behind Maria Antonieta restaurant, a favorite among locals and travelers for its menu of homemade pastas, succulent meats, and delicious salads, all served with freshly baked bread. She’s passionate about cooking simple, quality dishes built around in-season ingredients from local farmer’s markets. In November, she and her husband, Francis Mallmann, will open Oregano, an upscale pizzeria featuring specialty cheeses from around the country, a chef’s kitchen, and two massive green walls (a first in Mendoza).

Pairing Suggestion: Maria Antonieta’s menu changes every season, but the pastas are outstanding. Pair the maltagliati with Patagonian king crab and grated onion with a light and elegant Rutini Pinot Noir from the Uco Valley.

>>Next: Where to Eat in Canada’s Pint-sized Culinary Captial

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