Uh Oh, Uco


We found a small premium wine tour with Ampora Tours to the Uco Valley, the supposed “next Napa Valley” and home to the highest vineyards in the world at 1,100 to 1,300 meters. The sandy soil, sunny days, cool nights, lack of rain, and abundant spring water all create perfect conditions for great grapes with concentrated sugars and thick skins. After picking up the three other tourists we visited three vineyards of different sizes with our guide.

The tour was nearly continuous hilarity from the beginning and wine only added to the Canadian humour. Upon finding out the other tourists in the group were staying at the Park Hyatt, we started hypothesizing who would stay at this elite bastean of elegant class. I guessed Americans and Janet guessed Germans. Both wrong: two youngish Canadian women, Sharon and Linda from Vancouver, travelling on their oil and gas money. They vowed revenge if we published this picture of them. So be it.


The first vineyard, Estancia Ancon, was the smallest vineyard with a production of 90,000 bottles. The Grande Reserve de la Familia blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec and pinot noir, a limited edition of 6,000 bottles, was our favorite wine of the day, although our palettes were still fresh at the time. The atypical blend had a pleasant smoothness from the pinot noir and oak. The property’s villa can also accommodate tourists for an undisclosed sum.

cimg5495-320.jpgAndeluna, the second vineyard, was a little bigger. The suburban-country tasting room was warm, though a little contrived. We tried five wines with the 2005 Malbec and the 2003 Pasionado Blends being our favorites.
The last vineyard was O. Fournier. The owners told the architects that visitors should either hate it or love it, but never forget it. The ominous concrete structure fulfilled that mandate; it kind of looks like an airport terminal. To avoid pumping the wine, the lowest level is 20 meters underground. Whole grapes are crushed at the top level, then slide down to the fermentation vats on the next level, and then are aged in oak barrels on the last level. We toured the cellar on catwalks where we also viewed enourmous pieces of art from a local artist.

A highlight of the tour was the four course lunch at the winery’s by-appointment-only-restaurant. A colourful trio of warm soups—potato, pumpkin with pepper and greensquash with spring onion—were served in shot glasses and followed up with a few simple treads of julienned peppers and eggplant with oil and salt. We were surprised to find the Malbec held up to the red wine vinegar in the salmarejo, a cold gazpacho-like soup, which followed. Alfa Crux, a wine we tasted at Vines of Mendoza, accompanied the requisite beef entree. The dining room’s six meter high windows were intended to provide grand views of the Andes, but instead the clouds provided a white backdrop which only partially cleared.

After a day of wine we were noisely cracking jokes and laughing and the two Canadian women setting the pace. As the only male in a party of six, I couldn’t offset the natural tendency of the drunk women to get rowdy and talk about men. Somehow, one of the owners’ father at the next table managed to fall asleep over the ruckus at the next table. Fortunately, the ladies directed most of their interest to the driver, the waiter and the security guard, who one hoped would require sexual favors in place of a lost receipt.

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