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Mar 13, 2007 08:47 AM

Mendoza - Dinners near Cavas Wine Lodge?

My husband and I will be staying at Cavas Wine Lodge March 26, 27 and 28. We purposely did not purchase all inclusive meal package that was strongly recommended to us by our travel agent, because we really don't like to be 'forced' to eat from the same kitchen three meals a day every day -- we would much rather explore. We were told by our travel agent that Cavas is far from Mendoza proper (like 45 mins) and it would be very difficult to find places to eat in the area. See link for map of location of Cavas in Mendoza:

I would imagine (and I could be totally wrong) that at least some wineries in the area have restaurants where we could make reservations at for lunch or dinners. Or maybe there are some really fantastic stand alone restaurants hidden amongst the wineries? We really want to enjoy a lot of great wine while in the region and don't necessarily want to have to drive 45 mins to Mendoza for a meal twice a day. Does anyone have any experience dining in this area and have some recommendations? Philip and I love all food -- high end to holes in the wall -- so bring it on!

Thanks in advance -- Mimi

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  1. I just got back from Mendoza and stayed in a small hotel/winery called Fincas Adalgisa which is near a small "village" called Lujan. The best MEAL we had was at Carlos Pulenta's winery, VistAlba -- the restaurant called La Bourgogne. In the village, we wandered and just ate at where there seemed to be a larger group of people than others. I'm sorry I can't remember specific names. Honestly, the best FOOD I had were the frequent side-trips I'd ask drivers to stop at for empanadas. I had a number of high-end meals, but nothing was quite so good as those afternoon snacks!

    1. I was delighted to read your post. We are recent visitors to the Mendoza Region (February), and I'm ready anytime to return. You are absolutely correct to choose independence in your dining choices. For great recommendations you may want to look at the newsletter from The Vines of Mendoza, a tasting room in the city. At the very top of our dining experiences and winery visits were: A visit to Salentein Winery with lunch at their ultra-modern, sleek dining room. Don't miss their art gallery. Another DO NOT MISS experience is lunch at ALMACEN DE SUR. It is billed as a "delicatessen", but do not let this term fool you, it is an extraordinary meal presented in great style, with products made in the region. It was an unforgettable experience for us. When you visit the winery RUCA MALEN, you will also have an amazing lunch overlooking the vineyard. It IS best to explore the wine restaurants for lunch, and you may want to have your dinners closer to Cavas. We found, on most of our touring days, that our lunches were so filling, a light dinner was very much the order of the evening. Let me know if you need other info about the area...I'm a BIG FAN!

      6 Replies
      1. re: parzakonis

        I'm happy you both loved Mendoza -- I think my husband and I are going to want to move down there! If you have any recommendations on wineries or specific wines (is this w/in chowhound rules to discuss wines not food?), I'd appreciate!

        1. re: Stickies

          I don't think it is a problem - there IS a full wine board...

          Top on my list for wineries was Achaval-Ferrer. The Fincas Adalgisa hotel I mentioned earlier is also the smallest winery in the area. What was nice about the hotel was that there was a tiny restaurant; nothing over-the-top, but simple charcuterie plates or cheese plates to accompany the wines. I also bought wine at Luigi Bosca and VistAlba. There's a handful more, but I am still going through all my buying notes and pictures from our trip...

          1. re: Stickies

            For a very professional introduction to the Wines of Mendoza, again I recommend a visit to the Vines Tasting Room in Mendoza. You can do an interesting flight of wines, guided by a most professional oenologist.

            1. re: Stickies

              The website for The Vines of Mendoza is Enjoy! I'm jealous!

            2. re: parzakonis

              Was in Mendoza this past fall, and I have to agree with the Ruca Malen recommendation. We had lunch there, and it was the most memorable dining experience during our trip to Argentina. A fabulous meal paired with fabulous wines - with an amazing view to boot! You must make reservations ahead of time, though. We also really enjoyed the restaurant at Club Tapiz for dinner (the name escapes me now) - but it it a small hotel/winery, and there is a great resto there which we ate at a few times during our trip. There are many options for great food in and around Mendoza - - so you'll never have a lack of choices. It just might be a small drive from where Cavas is. Have a great time!!

              1. re: foodseeker

                Thank you for reminding me about Tapiz -- I was there for lunch and made the *slight* mistake of only ordering a charcuterie plate; it was very good but a tad expensive (like $40) for just meats and cheeses. Silly because I should have tried their prepared foods for lesser prices and I can have meat and cheese anywhere.

            3. Hi Mimi. I am from Mendoza but I live in Minneapolis. I suggest to also visit restaurant Las Negras, Francis Mallman 1884, and an italian restaurant in downtown called Trevi.
              If you ever want to go back to Mza we can offer you renting our home down there
              It is located in Chacras de Coria which is a very nice and quaint village outside mendoza Good luck

              1. Thanks to all for the fabulous recommendations. I wanted to report on our trip and where we drank and ate, particularly because I thought it was a bit difficult to research the area.

                We arrived in Mendoza and ate our first meal at the place where we stayed - Cavas Wine Lodge. I must say that, when we booked our trip, I was totally against booking a package with Cavas bc I didn't want to have to eat every meal in the same restaurant that might not be so fantastic. Well, I would have had nothing to worry about, because the food at the restaurant at Cavas was some of the best food we ate our whole trip and we chose to eat there three times during our stay. A couple of dishes were very memorable: a hand made parpadelle with a light sauce made with mushrooms, I think. Wow - it was really good. And, the cheese plate was very good -- with Argentine cheeses and local honey, walnuts and membrillo (which I love). Another dish I really liked was the grilled goat. I wish more restaurants served goat, because it can be very tasty. Portions were large (sufficient) but not grotesquely so, like so many other restaurants in Argentina. I can tell you one thing - you won't go hungry in this country! The other great thing about eating and staying at Cavas was that if we didn't finish our wine from the night before, we could simply save it for the next meal or for happy hour.
                We ate during the day at wineries -- first at Ruca Malen, then at Salentein, then I arranged a private winery tour and catered lunch at Chandon. Ruca Malen was very good, but not outstanding. We started with a truely fantastic quinoa salad with corn and fresh lemon juice -- it was nice and light. Then an empanada that was tasty but not spectacular and then a filet mignon -- again very, very good meat (far superior to anything state side), but not super creative or spectacular. Salentein was worth the treck - it is located in Valle de Uco about 90 kms from Lujan de Cuyo (where Cavas is). The place is a bit bizarre, as there is a ticket booth at the entrance and you can't even enter the gallery w/o paying your entrance fee. We actually skipped wine tasting and the required tour here -- we more wanted to see the fantastic architecture and eat in the beautiful restaurant. The restaurant was gorgeous -- clean and simple lines, lovely view out to the vineyards and onto some sculptures. The food was fantastic. The dish I remember well was a stewed lamb in a merlot sauce - yummy! We also had a big fresh salad and charcouterie plate. Finally, Chandon -- I didn't realize when we made the reservation that we were going to be all alone and the lunch was to be catered. It was a welcome surprise. The food, however, was just par. The chef seemed to try really hard, but the dishes were oddly combined and over flavored - for instance, our starter was a dish with sauteed small shrimp and crab sticks that were very overcooked and way too salty and they were served with fresh guacamole. Hmm....We also had a filet that was slightly overcooked served with salted ham, which was also overcooked and turned into a hard hat for our beef. The desert was a triffle of sorts with a dried out cake and 'cooked' ice cream. It was pretty soupy, which was good because the cake needed a little rehydrating! I will say, however, that the tour of Chandon was fascinating, as being one on one with someone knowledgeable allowed me to ask some very pointed questions about the winery, it's history (it's amazing how Chandon came into Arg 30 years ago and has completely capatilized on the sparkling wine market there - in all the fabulous restaurants we ate at over ten days in Arg, rarely did we see another Arg sparkler on the list and it was rare to see anything other than Veuve and Dom as the top-priced imports), where the grapes are sourced, the differences between the different wine lines, and what is for the domestic market vs export. Also -- the private tour and catered lunch with wines was a whopping 72 pesos per person, which was less than $25 each.
                Two of our dinners were at Cavas (partly because the rain was so strong the whole time we were in Mendoza and we didn't want to drive 45 minutes to Francis Mailman 1884 near Mendoza) and the third was at a "restaurante sin puertas" - a private restaraunt in a home in town. This place was really bizarre. To avoid it -- if the address is Calle Gato Negro (or something like that) - that's the one. The chef used to work at Ruca Malen and was touted as being the next Thomas Keller. Um, no. We had 12 or 14 courses that were each about one bite big and most of them were, very oddly, made with cheese! The cooking was really simple and nothing really grabbed us. For instance, the first 'bite' was a fork with a grilled peach on it that had been wrapped in salted ham and arugula. Ho hum. I can do that. The second was a very plain cheese and leek spread. Tasty, but not exciting. The third was a hot and fresh empanada with, guess what? cheese inside of it. A think there was another cheese spread or two in the mix of bites. We left slightly hungry and upset that we 'wasted' one of our few precious meals at this odd house.
                As for wineries -- we loved winetasting in Mendoza. I really loved the oportunity to speak with a lot of the winery owners and winemakers and to barrel taste. All wineries require that you tour the winery before you can taste. This task seemed daunting to me, as I know how grapes are grown and wine in made and didn't want to hear it five times a day before I could taste the wine. I will say that most tours we went on, we were the only couple of were one of two couples -- which, again, gave me the oportunity to ask a whole ton of questions about more detailed parts of the establishment or processes. We tasted at Archeval-Ferrer, Catena-Zapata, Chandon, Carmelo Patti, Vina Cobos (Paul Hobbs' winery), Fabre Montmayou, Niento Sententiner, Carlos Pulenta and a few others. I did a fair amount of research before we left and tried to pick some of the more quality oriented wineries. I arranged all the tastings in advance through Cavas. And, I knew specifically what bottles I wanted to taste and buy (If we liked the wine) before we got to the wineries. I think this was great, because most wineries start you tasting their most basic and poorest quality wines and often don't pour the better wines unless you ask (and, by the way, we often had to pay to taste these wines). By far, Acheval Ferrer and Vina Cobos were our favorites -- both for the quality of wines produced and for the graciousness of the people that spoke with us about the wines. The single vineyard Malbeca from AchevalFerrer were spectacular. We got to barrel taste these, too, which was fun. It was wonderful to taste some single vineyard, very low yeild Malbecs, as I never see them often enough in US, though each winery informed us that the expensive and best quality wines are almost all exported to US & UK. I wonder where?
                An interesting thing to note is that Mendoza is a dessert. The only reason wine can be made is that irrigation is allowed and there is plenty of water available sourced from the Andes. Winemakers in Mendoza say that wine is very "made" in Mendoza -- the irrigation in the winery gaurantees a great vintage.
                A couple of things to note: 1) you don't need a driver - you can drive yourself. Although, if you really think you'll drink too much (between the long tours and big lunches, this wasn't a problem at all for us), then hire a driver because they are very inexpensive. There are very good winery maps available in Mendoza (although I had trouble finding one in US before our trip) and 2) Don't underestimate how long it takes to travel between wineries. Granted, it rained for much of our trip, however we ended up having to scrap a winery or two each day from out list. Also - if you are flying in and out on Aerolinas Argentinas, don't anticipate that your flights will be on-time or your flight will even fly you. We spen two entire days in airports in BA and Mendoza waiting for planes.
                That's all - I hope this is helpful for some people. We loved, loved, loved Mendoza and can't imagine a more beautiful wine region. We had one glimpse of sun one sunset and saw the snow capped crags of a portion of the Andes on morning and woke up to a veritable wall of the Andes another morning. Incredibly beautiful place. We even looked into real estate....

                6 Replies
                1. re: Stickies

                  Just returned from a stay in BA and Mendoza. Cavas was wonderful and don't hesitate to have the food there - they have a nice menu and the food is very good. Francis Mailman 1884 was very good but the drive is rather long.

                  1. re: Stickies

                    Stickies, How did you tour so many wineries in 3 days if you had to do a tour and tasting at each one? How did you find the rental car experience, and if you had it to do over again would you have gone with the package plan?

                    1. re: Stickies

                      So did you purchase the "all inclusive" or make the plans on your own? I've heard that the "all inclusive" includes a variety of restaurants?? Which would you recommend?

                      1. re: DFD

                        If I had to do it over again - I would do the same thing - Stay at Cavas (and eat there a lot bc the food is so GOOD) and rent a car and drive ourselves to all the wineries w/o an all inclusive package. Honestly, we tasted a bit at the wineries, but we also had breakfast at Cavas (yummy) and a HUGE lunch at one of the wineries each day - so I never felt like I was drunk during the day. Renting a car was just fine. I do think, tho, that you have to be a good explorer and not mind getting lost, bc the wineries are not the easiest places to find even w the maps. As for getting so much done in three days -- we got up around 8:30 each day and were at wineries by 10 or 11 and drove around and tasted until they closed. Sometimes tours and tastings ran late or we couldn't easily find the next winery - in these cases, they tour people let us join late (which was fine with us).

                      2. re: Stickies

                        Hi Stickies,

                        My husband and I enjoyed your comments about your trip in 07; we are planning a very similar trip in late March/early April 09. We are thinking about staying at the Cavas WIne Lodge for 2 of the 6 nights we plan to spend in Mendoza; would love to stay there more but kind of pricey. We are wondering about your comments re. the all-inclusive rates. What exactly does this cover, and for approx. how much $? I see that you chose not to do the all-inclusive rate, but did have meals at the Cavas. Would it have been more economical to have done so? Any recommendations you can make would be helpful. It sounds like you are very similar to us in terms of wine travel style: I am in the wine business and a day spent roaming around at wineries is exactly what we like to do.

                        1. re: Shooley

                          My husband and I spent four of the most glorious nights ever at Cavas two years ago. Our travel agent persuaded us to take the all inclusive package, which wasabsolutely the right choice. I was,at first, apprehensive at being 'forced' to eat at Cavas or around and about it, but once we arrived we were enchanted by the rooms,the food at Cavas,and all the wine and not-wine activities we encountered. I remember with great fondness a superb dinner we had at Francis Mailman. We requested a special table in the courtyard and dined under a glorious tree at a table for two. We spent one of the days white water rafting and horseback riding-a nice contrast from all the wineries. We have returned to Argentina two times since then and travel quite extensively, but we remember with great warmth the days we spent at Cavas.

                      3. We are going down there toward the end of the year and staying at the Cavas Wine Lodge...can anyone tell me the difference between the "corner room" and the "luxury room"? There is a $500+ difference for 4 nights between the 2 and we can't discern the difference we might be buying by going with the corner room..

                        Any insight would be appreciated!


                        2 Replies
                        1. re: galch

                          Hi galch,

                          I have been reading every little peice of information on this place and have read that if privacy is really important to you, that you should get the 'corner rooms'. They have a better view as well. Another review I read said that the difference, though nice, was minimal..

                          That being said, I have stalked the cavas website for hours/days and decided to book the luxury room... the reasons being:

                          Price difference
                          Rooms are already stand alone cabains- that is plenty of privacy for us.
                          All rooms have a terrace with a beautiful view... again good enough for us

                          Hope that helps!! I will review our meals and the overall experience when we return in June.

                          1. re: galch

                            We went for our honeymoon back in November. Cavas is definitely the nicest hotel we've ever stayed at. We went with the All-inclusive package just because it was easier that way.

                            The all-inclusive package basically covers all of your wine tours and a 3 course meal (no restrictions) at every restaurant. We were able to eat at all the places we wanted to eat at so you're not going to feel as if you weren't able to try a place using the all inclusive.

                            The breakfast at Cavas really is great and it was hard not to stuff ourselves silly. I would highly recommend you skip out on a reservation if Cavas is doing an Asado. It was a fantastic dinner.

                            Every meal was pretty good but La Bourgogne and Mallman were not as amazing as some of the reviews claim on this board. In particular, the ribeye dish at Mallman was disappointing. It wasn't that flavorful (La Cabrera's was much tastier) and the potatoes while very nicely presented, were greasy.