At the foothills of the majestic Andes mountains in Argentina lies Mendoza, one of the highest wine growing regions in the world. The highest and newest wine region within Mendoza, at above 3280 ft., is the beautiful Valle de Uco (Uco Valley). Mendoza is known as the land of Malbec, one of our favorite types of red wine. In fact, we served Malbec at our wedding. Malbec led me to Mendoza, but the breath-taking scenery made me fall in love!
I spent a lot of time trying to research and book the best wineries to visit in the Uco Valley, as well as find an affordable but gorgeous place to stay. There are so many wineries, each requiring you to book your visit in advance. Literally every blog post (that also happens to be sponsored) recommends staying at Casa de Uco, which costs a cool $500 / night for the cheapest room type. I’m very excited to publish this post, because I know it will be useful to anyone who wants a spectacular visit to Mendoza that does not break the bank!
The name Mendoza is shared by an Argentine province and its capital city. The Uco Valley is one area in the province of Mendoza, so don’t get confused with the city of Mendoza. It is about an hour and a half drive from Mendoza city.
Here is how to get to the Valle de Uco, step-by step
- Fly into Mendoza Airport – Santiago Chile is technically closer to Mendoza than Buenos Aires, so you could fly from either major cities. Our flight from Buenos Aires on LATAM was super chill and under two hours.
- Rent a car from Localiza – it was hard to find automatic cars in Mendoza, so we took a leap of faith and rented one from a Brazilian company. We had a great experience, they have a rental car office at the airport and the cars are parked right outside. For three days, it cost us about $160 USD
- Drive to the Valle de Uco – Google Maps works well, download offline maps for ease of use. On the way, stop at a white truck called Jamon Crudo on Route 40 (sometimes seen on Route 7) for fresh ham sandwiches on homemade bread.
Where to Stay
We chose to book a private house in a vineyard on Airbnb called Dolce Vita. It came with a private pool(!), stunning views of the Andes, and full access to walk around on the property. We loved getting away from city life, breathing in the fresh mountain air, watching gorgeous sunsets and twinkling stars. Communicating with our host, Andrea, was very easy through WhatsApp. Overall, I would highly recommend staying at Casa Dolce Vita. A word of caution to those who panic easily – it feels quite remote, especially at night, so might be more fun with a larger group.
If this house is not available, search for places on Airbnb in Tupungato, Argentina or Tunyuan, Argentina. If you search in Mendoza, Airbnb will first show places near Mendoza city.
The advantage to booking a house was that we could eat breakfast and dinner at home, thus feeling less guilty to spend on four course meals for lunch. One evening, we simply ate our leftovers from lunch, which were delicious! It was also fun to check out the markets and the village life in Argentina, an experience you won’t get if you stay in a hotel.
Book in advance, the best houses on Airbnb fly off quickly!
The Best Wineries in the Uco Valley
In Mendoza, you need prior reservations for tastings and tours at wineries. You can’t just show up, most reservations are checked at the gate. If you are going at a busy time, make sure to reserve at least a couple of weeks in advance. I found WhatsApp very convenient to communicate with people in Argentina. Alternatively, you could also email the wineries, but expect slower responses to emails.
Two wineries a day is perfect in my opinion, offering the necessary balance of tasting multiple wines without getting wasted. The idea here is to truly pace yourself! Most of the wineries offer decadent four course lunches with wine pairings, so opt to eat lunch in one of them.
PSA : Please don’t bring your kids, especially babies on winery tours. They are unhappy, you are unhappy, and the rest of the group is unhappy.
Here are my suggested four wineries – these balance small and big, stunning architecture and delicious food. I have arranged them into the order in which you should visit given their English language tour times, lunch etc. However, if you only have time to visit two wineries, my top favorites are Zuccardi and Domaine Bousquet.
|Good For||Tours (10 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm), Tastings, Lunch|
|Prices||Premium wine tasting – $17|
|How to Book|
|Watch out For||Google Maps directions only get you to the main gate of Clos de los Siete. Add ten minutes to your time, and ask DiamAndes for a map of the winery while booking.|
DiamAndes has been making delicious wine since their first vintage in 2007. It is one of the four wineries in the Clos de los Siete. DiamAndes offers tours of their winery in English at 10 am in the morning, contact them for up to date information and to book. After the tour, you can sit in their gorgeous tasting room to enjoy four different wines, and a stunning view of the vineyards stretching out to the snow capped Andes.
Wine Tip – Try the Viognier (so flowery and beautiful!) and the DiamAndes de Uco Malbec (of course, since Mendoza is known for Malbec)
I didn’t find DiamAndes responsive to email. I think WhatsApp is a better means of communication to make reservations. Note that you will need to send them your credit card number to reserve a spot, but you pay when you visit. Our story with DiamAndes was a bit unfortunate. We reserved the 10 am English tour followed by a tasting. Google Maps suggested that DiamAndes was about a 15 min drive from our airbnb, so we thought we had plenty of time to get there. However, Google Maps only maps to the entrance of Clos de los Siete. Once you get past the first gate, it takes at least ten more minutes to figure out how to get to DiamAndes and then where to park. I think it took us over double the time suggested by Google Maps.
Long story short, we did not get to tour the DiamAndes winery. We did the tasting which was really nice, but I was a bit miffed that they did not send us a proper map earlier. Word to the wise – ask them for a map of the property when you reserve your tour.
|Good For||Tours (12:30 pm English), Tastings, Lunch|
|Prices||Tastings starting at ARS 900 pp – ARS 3500 pp ; Four course lunch with wine pairing at ARS 3700 pp ; only tour ARS 450 pp|
|How to Book|
|Watch Out For||A bit further away from the other wineries mentioned in this post, but well worth the visit|
If you visit only one winery in the Uco Valley, make it Zuccardi. The architecture is stunning, in fact, Zuccardi Piedra Infinita won the Best Winery Award in 2019 for its architecture. Believe it or not, the wines are even better!
We did a guided tour of the winery followed by lunch. The tour was amazing, the guide explained the wine making process in great detail. We even got to see the different types of soil in the Valle de Uco, and how the soil changes every 5 meters!
Their wine is aged in concrete vats (instead of wood or steel), which looked like something out of Star Wars! I also loved seeing and hearing about the ancient stone they found while building the winery, and how they housed the private wine collection around it.
Kilka, the restaurant at Zuccardi, is gorgeous! Wrap around windows open up to views of the vineyards followed by the snowcapped Andes. We chose a table in the corner, and I was in love! I highly recommend the four course meal with wine pairing. As we had learned painfully the evening before, please don’t drink the entire glass of wine paired with your dish, or you will be drunk before dessert! Instead, savor each sip, and drink responsibly.
My favorite wine was the Concreto Malbec, which is only aged in the concrete vats. We loved it so much that we brought a bottle home to enjoy with our friends. The meal was exquisite, one of the best lunches of my life. Vegetarians, don’t despair while visiting the Valle de Uco. They customized my menu to my liking since I don’t eat beef, and it was simply perfect!
|Good For||Tour (11 am and 3 pm), especially to see the Barrel Room and the Art Museum|
|Prices||Special Varietals Tour (including tasting) for $22 pp, Four Course lunch with wine pairing starting at ARS 3000|
|How to Book|
|Watch Out For||Commercial Winery, expensive tastings|
Bodegas Salentein is one of the first wineries in the Uco Valley. It is also the most commercial, producing in total 10 million liters of wine per year! Bodegas Salentein has guided English tours at 11 am which include a tasting of four wines. The tours are usually large groups, and unfortunately we didn’t enjoy our noisy co-tourists as much as they enjoyed themselves. However, you learn a lot about Bodegas Salentein and viticulture in the Uco Valley during the tour.
The highlight of Bodegas Salentein for me was the absolutely stunning barrel room. This room was designed for concerts and has great acoustics. It also has a piano, so you can delight the rest of your tour group if you play! Tip to get a pic with just yourself in it is to linger around for just a little bit after everyone else leaves for the tasting.
Wine Tip : Honestly, none of the wines we tasted really stood out to me and seemed quite expensive. Maybe you’ll fare better.
Bodegas Salentein also has a very cool art museum. The tour price includes entrance to the museum, so don’t forget to check it out! Even the entrance displays some art work – the excellent flow of the art, the stark buildings and the mountains is a feast for the eyes!
|Good For||Tours (English and Spanish at 10 am, 12 pm and 4 pm), Lunch, Glass of Wine by the Lake|
|Prices||Tour is ARS 220 pp; Four course lunch with wine pairing (includes tour) is ARS 1650 pp|
|How to Book|
|Watch Out For||Your steak might be a little overcooked (as they tend to do in Argentina), so order medium rare if you usually order medium|
The cutest winery we visited in the Uco Valley is just a five minute drive from Bodegas Salentein. Domaine Bousquet is an organic winery, based on the French winemaking concept. It is located in one of the Uco Valley’s (and thus Mendoza’s) highest viticulture region. I loved the homey, non commercial feel of this winery, especially after Bodegas Salentein.
We did not have enough time to tour Domaine Bousquet, but they offer English tours before or after lunch. The four course lunch was delicious, and sitting out by the lake with a glass of sparkling wine was just lovely! I enjoyed a vegetarian lunch, while my husband of course, enjoyed his steak.
Wine Tip – Try their Premium Chardonnay-Torrontes blend, it is delicious! I don’t usually care for chardonnay but this wine is beautifully floral due to the torrontes grapes.
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Here are a few more that were on my list that we did not get to visit during our short two days there. If you go, let me know how they were!
- Solo Contigo – small batch winery
- Winery at Casa de Uco – some cool experiences like a blending session
- Bodega Andeluna – known to serve a good lunch
- Monteviejo – also known to serve a good lunch
Driving in the Uco Valley
We rented a car from Mendoza airport and drove to and around the Valle de Uco. I highly recommend having a car if you want to plan your own Uco Valley adventure. If this is not possible, you could check out tours that leave from Mendoza city to visit a few wineries in the Uco Valley.
We got an international drivers license from AAA, however, it does not seem necessary. The highways are well maintained, but some of the roads to the wineries are dirt roads. Wineries are pretty far from each other, so plan well! Don’t be late for tours.
I loved having our own car so that we could pull over whenever we wanted to admire Argentine horses, or swift condors. That being said, if you plan to drive, you need to drink very responsibly and designate a driver. Most of the wineries let you linger on after your tours and tastings, so enjoy a nap and sober up!
In conclusion, whether or not you are an oenophile, Mendoza is one of the loveliest places in the world. The Valle de Uco is a relatively new wine region, so the excitement and interest of the wine-makers there is palpable. Add to that, the fact that you can carry up to 6 bottles of wine back from Mendoza in your hand luggage on domestic flights makes it easy to enjoy their delicious wines in your own home for months.
Do you have any more questions about planning a trip to the Valle de Uco (Uco Valley), Mendoza? Leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to help as soon as possible!
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