Despite being relative newcomers to the international wine scene, Argentine wines actually have a long pedigree. The industry began shortly after the arrival of the Spanish way back in the 1500’s and quality wines have been produced in the country ever since. The 19th and 20th century mass immigration period from Europe saw French, Italian, German and other newcomers expand production and now the country has a respected and established international reputation for good quality products – the Malbec varietal probably being its best known. More detail on the history of winemaking in Argentina can be found here.

Driving through the wine route, Maipu, south of Mendoza

Guided by the extremely helpful staff at the Mendoza tourism office we chose a few different wineries to visit and set out south to explore. Domaine Bousquet, founded by a Frenchman, was highly recommended so we started there. A wonderful Andean backdrop setting, superb wines and staff who could not be more obliging. Would recommend this one to anyone heading to Mendoza.

Wine tasting, Domaine Bousquet Winery, Tupungato, south of Mendoza.
Enjoying the view of the snow-capped Andes, Domaine Bousquet Winery, Tupungato.

The staff there recommended a smaller, more rustic, local, “boutique” winery as our next stop to contrast the Domaine Bousquet experience. Atamisque Winery fit the bill perfectly – in fact their Pinot Noir was Lois’s favorite wine. Got to spend some time with their adorable, but aging, German Shepherd dog, Adolpho. He’s been trained ( it seems ) to approach every seated guest and nuzzle his head on their lap.

Lois, enjoying a Sauvignon Blanc at Atamisque Winery. A small, boutique winery.
Lois at Atamisque with “Adolpho”.

Our next day was spent relaxing at and enjoying the delights of Posada Cavieres, a similarly small, winery/lodge run by Hans Devloo from Belgium. Hans has been in the wine business for 15 years and compliments his wine production with a Tuscan style accommodation lodge and restaurant. He has a soft spot for overlanders and invites self contained folks like us to stay on the property while exploring the area. Spent a most enjoyable, relaxing and educational couple of days with him.

Posada Cavieres Winery, Maipu.
Malbec grapes at Posada Cavieres winery.
Lois, relaxing in the pool, Posada Cavieres Winery.
Posada Cavieres Winery
Hans had the cutest little dog………with the most unlikely name, ”Rambo” !
Grapes at Posada Cavieres Winery.
A winery near San Carlos, south of Mendoza.
Saw lots of horses – horse riding is a popular activity in the wine regions.

One could, literally, spend weeks ( even months ! ) touring the many wineries around Mendoza – there are so many. But we had other sights of interest further north and Route 40 would take us to most of them. First up was the desert sand dunes near Lavalle, supposedly the only true “dunes” in South America. Not quite the Sahara of course but definitely worthy of a stop given we literally passed right by. For the next couple of days it was simply a series of long hauls and getting miles ( or kms ) under our belt as we headed towards Salta, our next major destination. Fortunately the long journey was broken up with a couple of reasonably notable sights, changing scenery and an interesting rest stop.

North of Lavalle on Route 40 we stopped at this rest stop and admired some Argentine motorbikes.
On closer inspection we noticed the flags on the motorcycles made reference to the Falkland Islands War ( Islas Malvinas in Argentina – NEVER call them the Falklands here ! ). It says “Never Forgotten”. Conscious of the word “British” on our plates and the bikers checking us out, we discreetly (but quickly) drove away !
Like so many remote rest stops there were stickers everywhere – seems Argentine travellers like to leave their mark.
Scenery as we were heading north of Mendoza on Route 40.
Entrance to the Reserva, near Lavalle.
Sand dunes at Reserva Natural Bosque Telteca, near Lavalle.
Head north, in the southern summer, in desert conditions….and it gets hot !

Ishigualasto Provincial Park is renowned for its panoramic views, colored rock formations and dinosaur fossils ( the on site camping facilities were impressive too ). Sadly, due to rain the day before we could not do the self driving tour. What we could see from the viewpoint and in the museum was impressive but definitely missed the full experience.

Selfie, at Ischigualasto Provincial Park.
Dinosaur display at Ischigualasto.
Deluxe camping at Ischigualasto Provincial Park – panoramic views, shade cover, power, wifi, and super clean bathrooms and showers ( not something we usually get on the road in more remote places ). This was quite a treat.

Beyond Ischigualasto we took route 76 through Talampaya Provincial Park ( much the same offerings as Ischigualasto), then on through La Union, east to Chilecito via the scenic Cuesta de Miranda before turning north again through to San Blas, Belen and on towards Cafayete, an historic town famous for its colonial architecture and nearby wineries.

So similar to our Australian emu. The flightless bird shown is the Rhea that we have seen all over southern South America
The landscape has started to become more “rocky” than “sandy” desert like. A nice change !
The beginning of the landscape transition, here as we approached Jachal on Route 40.
Red rock outcrops on the Cuesta de Miranda, a famously windy and scenic section of Route 40 up north.
One is regularly reminded that “The Malvinas Will Always Be Argentine”. Such signs are on every highway.
Now well into the north, here on the way to Belen, on Route 40…….and still the roads are long and seemingly “endless”. Measured this one and determined that we could see straight road for 16 kms.
Not far north of Pituil we crossed the 4,000km marker on Route 40. No surprise, many others marked this milestone with a sticker.
In many places near San Blas on Route 40 the road was covered in red mud – comes down from the hills after heavy rain and needs to be graded away. Keeping it clear is a constant work in process
There was a beautiful red hue to the rock formations, seen here near Hualfin on Route 40.
More of the same. It made the desert driving much more interesting.

Only realized as we were pulling into Cafayete that there is an extensive wine industry in this area as well. Nothing on the scale of Mendoza but some impressive operations nonetheless. Will definitely need to explore this further – but will save that for next week’s blog.

Last week’s wanderings. We actually hit two milestones – 4,000kms on Route 40 and just passed 50,000 kms since we originally left home in Kelowna back in May, 2019. Seems soooooooo long ago !