From Santiago, one can enjoy the 6 to 7-hour drive by car over the Andes to Mendoza, or take the one hour flight and view the snow-capped Andes from above. Mendoza is a man-made oasis built on a desert, and the heart and soul of Argentina’s wine production.
Visiting downtown Mendoza this May, in fall season, was to be engulfed by an amazing vista of trees overhanging the boulevards. Over 500 kilmetres of channels run through the city providing irrigation to green spaces, including five charming squares within the city, popular as a gathering spot, particularly for young couples.
Where else can you find a Modern Art Museum built below the main fountain of the city's main square? The other four squares are equidistant from Independence Square, with Spain Square noteworthy for its colorful tiled benches and fountains. The colorful pedestrian street, Peatonal Sarmiento, is full of shops, cafes and more fountains. Certainly one of the joys of the city of Mendoza is to stroll its boulevards and enjoy its squares.
The Park Hyatt is on the edge of Independence Square, providing an excellent location with shopping and restaurants close by. Once the Plaza Hotel, the Park Hyatt sports the original neoclassical façade, but was otherwise mostly gutted and rebuilt as a contemporary and hip resort, with a casino attached. Service was top notch throughout: geniuine and attentive. Rooms are contemporary and comfortable, with large marble bathrooms and wonderful amenities including the wine-based shampoos (both white and red). For dining there's Q Grill, offering traditional Argentinian asado, and perhaps the best empanadas; or M Bistro, offering international cuisine. A wine bar offers indoor and outdoor seating, and an extensive collection of local wines by the glass or bottle. The fitness area was small but very adequate, and an outdoor pool completes a city resort at which one can be totally comfortable in.
There are about 800 wineries in Mendoza, I'm told, and over 1,000 in Argentina. Since the 2000's, and with many of the owners from abroad, there's been a concerted focus on quality. That's obvious when you sample the wines. Here Malbec reigns, though production includes Cabarnet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a other varietals. Given the scarcity of water in what was a barren desert, irrigation has to be carefully managed. Though it was interesting to note the extensive netting covering the vines, to protect them from the huge hail storms that can occur in January/February. Some of the wineries have their own restaurants on premises, and it was delightful touring a few like LaGarde, one of the oldest, Norton, one of the largest, and Sottalo, a smaller boutique winery.
There's more to the region than wine, however, and options for ziplining, horsebackriding, river rafting are all within an hour or two's drive from Mendoza.