So, if you’ve been reading for a while, and especially if you are on twitter and follow me there, you will know that this trip to Argentina has been delayed twice.
I was supposed to go last November, after I won a trip for a piece published on Bibendum Times, sponsored by Argento Wines with my friend Denise, The Wine Sleuth. I watched from the sidelines (through wet Irish windows) as Denise explored, extended and eventually stayed for 3 months. Pure torture, I couldn’t wait. I had to postpone to January, and then had to postpone again. But, finally I am here, and it’s almost winter, but winter here is like Spring in the UK and it’s lovely.
I finally caught up with Argento Wines in Mendoza, and visited the Bodega, Casa Argento and had a wine tasting (more on that later, for now my favourites, as – almost – always, were the reds, especially the reserva Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbecs). The absolute highlight of the 2-day trip to visit them was a trip to Walter Subillo at his estancia, Estancia San Pablo at the foot of the Andes. I say the foot of the Andes but it’s actually at 1200 metres, which is higher than Ireland’s highest mountain (no great claim I know!).
Walter is a real life gaucho, farmer, and winemaker and lives self sufficiently here with his family. He takes people out on gaucho days, horse riding and fly fishing the traditional gaucho way. So, my crash course in being a gaucha began.
We started with a terrific breakfast of hot crispy gaucho bread with jams – one a lovely stringy melon one and the other cherry – with walnuts before progressing to some horse riding in the Andes.
Horses are notoriously big and cranky, and I am a bit unpredictable myself, so I was nervous but I really wanted to do it. After loading my carcass on to the horse we proceeded and I was thrilled to see that my horse was as lazy as me so we plodded along gently, always behind the others. I was afraid to use the accelerator (by kicking him) with much force.
We rode through the river, up a steep mini mountain, back down, up another, you get my drift. For about 2 hours. I was very proud of myself on my return until I saw a 3 year old get up on my horse. I know my place.
The day really kicked into gear with a terrific lunch. The Andes can be a harsh environment so food is preserved as much as possible, and mostly in Walter’s case it is homegrown.
In his cave were lots of preserved peaches in jars, brined olives, sun or woodoven dried tomatoes with herbs, a leg of ham, homemade salami, lots of jams including cherry. And lots of wine too.
We started with olives, homemade salami and tomatoes and – WOW. Those tomatoes were some of the best that I have ever eaten. The salami and olives were terrific too. Two plates towering with empanadas were too attractive to resist. We washed it all down with some Argento Malbec and proceeded to the next course.
Walter cooked up some trout he had caught in the river and some vegetables over an open fire and served it with a gorgeous fresh salad, more tomatoes with his own vinegar and bread. Delicious and so fresh tasting, it was nice to get a break from the meat.
And then the kid goat was served. Again, Walter’s own animal. Everything was served and I was very impressed to see the kids run to the wood oven and request the chitterlings. Walter’s 9 month old daughter was teething and nibbled on a warm goat bone. Argento Cabernet sauvignon accompanied me as I chowed down on some gorgeous kid goat ribs.
And then the beef. A big plate of beef. I was almost defeated but could fit a bit more in. It was – you guessed – terrific. New adjectives please.
Then to the fire where we had dessert of homemade fresh cheese, with some of those conserved peaches, homemade membrillo, Walter’s walnuts and preserved cherries. Beautiful and fresh, I was grateful for it, and left my coffee sit next to the fire to stay warm as I ate it. I envied the cat and dog sleepy underneath it. But they don’t have tv, eh?
And that was it. Not quite a gaucha (yet) but what an experience.
Estancia San Pablo http://www.estanciasanpablo.com.ar
I did: US$150 per person horse riding or fly fishing with breakfast and lunch
Also available: US$250 per person for a full day horse riding /fly fishing / breakfast / lunch / dinner / accommodation