Of wine and olive oil

I love wine. I really, really love wine. I blame my father who thought it a reasonable idea to give me little sips of the good bottles as soon as I could hold a glass. Among my very small crowd of mostly beer-drinking friends here there is one young woman who went as far as to call me la reiña del vino. I’ll take the title merrily, particularly considering my recent trip to Mendoza.

The region is beautiful. It sits at the foot of the Andes and it’s warm and dry. It is best known for Malbecs. I visited several bodegas, or wineries, that make exceptional malbecs (though some of the best stuff we drank was made from other varietals, even whites–a sauvignon blanc from a big industrial winemaker called Lopez comes to mind).*

The city (Mendoza is the name of both the city and the region) is equally wonderful. There is an enormous park, which we only began to explore. What’s best, if you have a little dough to spend, is the food. I hate to say it (sorry, porteños) but they out-foodie Buenos Aires by leaps and bounds. Every dinner I ate was fantastic–as good as the best meals I’ve had in Los Angeles. My top restaurant pick is 1884. I had a mushroom risotto that was ridiculously delicious. The place is gorgeous as well, and in a bodega in the city itself (as apposed to Maipu or Lujan de Cuyo where most of the vineyards one travels to Mendoza to visit are situated). If you are ever in Mendoza, make reservations, pay for the taxi, let the sommelier pick something for you and be stunned at the glory of your dining experience. Also: the whole shebang–bottle of wine, appetizer, two platos principales, a desert and a cafe cortado–was less than 100 U.S. buckaroos. My god. I may need to move to Mendoza.

You’ll be happy to know (especially so if you are my liver) that in addition to wine, Mendoza produces some amazing olive oil. My olive oil standards, mind you, are particularly lofty. I’m constantly chasing the epicurean high that was the olive oil from a little farm in Lesbos, Greece. While the stuff I found in Mendoza doesn’t quite match the artistry of the oil I had the pleasure of drinking (yes: for a week all I sipped the stuff, dipped bread in it, poured it over everything I ate) on that fair island, I’d still probably be willing to try directly injecting it into my veins.

It also made me rethink the whole ‘getting a PhD’ thing. Why not just drop everything, move to the tranquil outskirts of Mendoza and learn to press olives? I might be a little tipsy at work after the three-glass lunches, but if I was pressing olives instead of writing esoteric marxist materialist critiques on contemporary urban practice, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. Also: they still take siesta in Mendoza. From one to four or five o’clock each afternoon businesses close and people actually nap! For now, let’s just say that it’s a very strong Plan B, maybe strong enough to displace the functional unemployability that will very likely come with my Plan A.**

Needless to say I’ve come back bearing a few extra pounds and a pickled liver (plus three bottles of wine and two of olive oil). Good thing the vacation is over and I’m returning, today, to high-paced (does it count as aerobic?) city life.


*Here are a list of the bodegas we visited, in no particular order: Trapiche, Lopez, Carinae, Finca Flichman, Palo Alto.

**My friend Angie also has a good saying for this. I’ll give it to you in Spanish once she can confirm for me that I have the phrasing right, but it’s more or less something like “you’re better prepared than the chicken and we can’t even eat you.”

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