Saturday, January 9th: Farewell Mendoza

When we woke up this morning, it was surreal to acknowledge that today was the last day of our amazing study abroad program in Mendoza. Though the last day of a trip is always bittersweet, our last day was the perfect finale.

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Today, we traveled into the foothills of the Andes and spent the day relaxing at Cacheuta Spa in its natural hot springs. This relaxing day was the perfect way to unwind after two weeks of hard work and celebrate a successful day of presentations to our clients. The group spent the day floating in the refreshing water, getting massages, or attempting to give themselves mud baths.

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The scenery around the hot springs awed us throughout the day because as you see in the picture below, the hot spring pools were nestled inside the foothills of the Andes. This immaculate scenery only further made us believe we had step into a dream.

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After our relaxing day, we arrived back the hotel and began preparing for our travels the next day. This bittersweet necessity was counteracted, however, with an incredible last dinner at Josefina Restó. With our last toast of Mendoza’s famous Malbec wine, we began reminiscing about all we learned and our favorite trip memories. Looking around the table, it is unbelievable to think that we arrived only two weeks ago as relative strangers and now feel that we have become a small family. Though our journey has come to end, all of us have created memories that will truly last a lifetime.

And this was the last entry for the UVA in Argentina class blog.
All students and the professor are traveling back to Charlottesville,
where the school semester is about to start…

 

Friday, January the 8th: Showtime!

Friday was a very busy day for everyone, as it was presentation day! The Vistalba teams spent the morning practicing their presentations and went to Vistalba in the afternoon to present their recommendations to Julieta, Paola, and many other Vistalba employees. Everyone loved their ideas about starting a wine club and changing the tour to make it more memorable. The Vistalba tourism group surprised everyone with an unorthodox presentation—instead of presenting a PowerPoint, they gave their own modified tour of the vineyard! Afterwards, many students purchased wine and olive oil from Vistalba—so much that we are worried we skewed their sales data for this month!

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At Bodega Lagarde, the two teams presented on social commerce and data organization to Carolina and Francisco, as well as to members of the marketing team in Buenos Aires. Both presentations were met with excitement as we demonstrated how to use their market data to improve online marketing campaigns via social media and email. After the presentation, we toasted with a glass of Lagarde’s exclusive sparkling wine, which is only sold at the vineyard!

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After a well-deserved siesta, Tess’ dad, Dr. Kamauff, a consultant with The Hackett Group, gave a talk about international business. One piece of advice he shared is that a consultant should always try to convince the client that they came up with a solution on their own. The consulting talk was followed by a short discussion during which everyone shared differences they had noticed between Argentine and American culture. After the meeting, we all headed to Francesco’s for our farewell dinner with the clients.

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At Francesco’s, we heard from the owner, an Italian woman who has been cooking there for 65 years! She told us her story and shared with us a wonderful poem she had written. Dinner included homemade pasta, which was amazing, and some wine from Lagarde! Before dessert, each student gave a small toast and shared some of their favorite things about the trip. Bill gave two toasts—both got many laughs and a few cries!  It was great to have one last group dinner with our clients before leaving Mendoza!

But having grown accustomed to Argentine culture, we could not end the celebrations there. We all decided to go to a boliche, or dance club, so we could step out all of our stress from working so hard to finish our projects. Most of us stayed into the early hours of the morning, meeting locals and learning how to dance to Cumbia, a South American music genre. Early on in the trip, David English taught us a common phrase by which the Argentines live, “No se quite lo bailado,” which translates to “They cannot take away that which you have already danced.” This last day was truly a culmination of an excellent experience during this January term.

 

Thursday, January 7th: Adventures in Speaking Slowly

Thursday’s work at the hotel involved each group looking to put the finishing touches on all their work from the past two weeks. For the two Vistalba teams, preparing to present Friday afternoon, the remainder of the day was spent working on the two main deliverables – the report and the presentation. The Vistalba Wine Club team (Andrew, Katie, Kelly, Sally, and Thomas) wrapped up their work on their concept’s presentation slides, while the Vistalba Tour team (Bill, Emmett, Eric, Morgan, and Tess) continued to finalize their report on proposed tour changes. The Lagarde teams also worked to wrap up their project reports and presentations in time to present to their clients on Friday morning.

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In the early evening were rehearsals, and the teams presented for the first time to an audience. The Lagarde Social Media team (Alexis, Allen, Connie, Malou, and Zach) pitched their creative recommendations regarding how Lagarde can revamp their social channels. The Lagarde Business Intelligence team (Avery, Hagan, Jake, Matt, Susan) then presented their ideas to the class regarding how Lagarde can better collect, organize, and use their customer survey data with the email marketing platform MailChimp.

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Very helpful feedback was given to each group from instructors and fellow students on how to better communicate their final set of recommendations to their clients.

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All found that working in cross-functional teams has been a much more efficient and effective experience than other teams we have worked with in the past. Each of our teams are made up of a mixture of Engineering, Commerce, and Arts & Sciences students, and we all bring very different but complimentary skill sets to the table.

We have loved this educational experience and look forward to its culmination tomorrow! Here’s hoping the clients love our ideas too!

Wednesday, January 6th: “Life is so hard”

The two teams that have been working at Bodega Lagarde visited the Vistalba vineyard today. This vineyard, built in 2003, boasted much more contemporary architecture.

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We began the morning by practicing our olive oil and wine tasting critique. We are very much enjoying this Argentinian vineyard lifestyle. We sarcastically joke that we will begin a brand of “Life is hard” merchandise. However, tonight will be a late night of work as groups prepare for final presentations.

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The tasting room has an underground wall that is incredibly beautiful and unique. However, this would be the last place that we should be during an earthquake (one happened four days ago)!  We also made it onto Bodega Lagarde’s Twitter account, as we all celebrated them being bumped up to #1 Mendoza restaurant on Tripadvisor!!

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Today the Vistalba groups worked at the winery for the last time before the final presentations on Friday afternoon. We made sure to ask all of our final questions of our clients, and we are all looking forward to showing them our final product on Friday. After work at the client site was complete, many of us decided to try the local cuisine at “Mr. Dog” restaurant for lunch. Although deemed “fast food,” we were not surprised to find that our meal lasted for over an hour!

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After taking siesta at El Portal, all groups met up again to work on our projects and discuss our progress with Professor Grazioli; we are all making headway going into the final day of work tomorrow. After completing our group work, our advisor David English held an interactive session on how to present for a foreign audience. Although many best practices for presenting are universal, there are some additional strategies that we will all have to use when presenting on Friday. For instance, David stressed the importance of speaking slowly and clearly, as well as avoiding any metaphors and business jargon that could become confusing for foreign clients.

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Finally, the majority of the group went to Picardo restaurant for a family-style tapas dinner to prepare for our early rise tomorrow morning!

January 5th: Lunches at the Clients’ Restaurants

While here in Mendoza we have been extremely lucky to get to experience some truly excellent meals!

Today, each group got the chance to enjoy the step course menu at their respective vineyards for lunch. Both vineyards, Bodega Vistalba and Bodega LaGarde, proudly operate restaurants on site that they value as highly important pieces of the customer experience. Visitors that come for a tour and tasting are able to relax and enjoy the beautiful view of the vineyard, accompanied by fresh food paired with wines made on site. Of course, each team had to give this experience a try to analyze it for our projects!

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The pictures above come from the meal Bodega Vistalba. On the right is a risotto with prawns. The other entrée options were a beef ribeye and a salmon dish. The meal included empanadas, a cheese plate, and multiple dessert options. This was a powerful experience for the groups because it was first hand insight into the products of the vineyards where we are working. A major key to the success of our projects here is to understand the experience of a customer from their perspective.

At Lagarde, teams have been working hard to improve the customer survey process and social media accounts. We spent our morning editing and printing the survey, walking through our work with our point of contact Carolina, and analyzing sales data and social media analytics. By 1pm, we were ravenous, and very excited to experience the #2 restaurant in Mendoza on TripAdvisor. Even better, after our meal we got the chance to fill out the restaurant feedback forms that we had created, and take pictures for Instagram!

Below is a picture of the Lagarde teams at lunch today in the restaurant Fogon! It was an exceptional meal complete with five different courses.  We attempted to practice the tasting skills we have learned this trip including checking the color, spinning the liquid with exaggeration, inhaling deeply, and then finally taking a sip. We have learned never to judge one another’s taste reactions, as two people can taste the same wine and experience completely different sensations- ranging from “clearly oak-ey” to even “sausages”.

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After a grueling afternoon of post lunch work, we readied our stomachs for another meal at the beautiful Grill Q at the Park Hyatt in Mendoza. The hotel is located on the historic Plaza Independencia at the center of the city. There are five plazas in Mendoza originally constructed as a place for the people to go during an earthquake. People could wait out the shock in these plazas without the danger of anything collapsing on them.

 

January 4th – A Flood of Good Times

Today, the Vistalba teams got to explore the Lagarde vineyard in order to compare tours and experience a different winemaking process. Although Hagan and Malou spend their days at Lagarde, their late arrival to Mendoza meant they missed the original tour. They were enthusiastic to finally walk through the rest of the winery and share their experience working at Lagarde with the Vistalba group.

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The Point of Sale and wine bar at Bodega Lagarde

The group had a lovely and welcoming guide. She focused on the process of making and bottling sparkling wines, which was something the Lagarde teams had not yet learned about. It was interesting to compare the boutique winery design to the multiple, large production rooms we had seen Sunday at Bodega Familia Zuccardi.

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The Vistalba teams (plus Malou and Hagan) prepare for a Lagarde tasting experience.

The Vistalba teams spent some time analyzing specific parts of the tour in order to compare experiences. The tourism team (Bill, Eric, Tess, Emmett, and Morgan) took careful note of the way Lagarde branded their wine over the course of the tour. They tended to be more inclined to mention specific aspects of their vineyard (such as DOC wines – which are made in the most traditional manner) over the general winemaking process.

The team made note of the different aspects of the tasting experience, which took place at the point of sale for Lagarde, whereas in Vistalba it was a very separate process. Bill continued affinity for hugging big barrels through the tour as he explored Lagarde:

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Bill continues his hugging streak of big barrels.

The restaurant/wine club team (Katie, Thomas, Sally, Andrew, and Kelly) finalized their plans to meet with travel agencies in order to further examine relationships with other local companies.

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“Shh… Our wines are sleeping!”

As the Lagarde team is still finishing up the logistics of their visit to Vistalba, we decided to include a comparison of our workspaces for their reference:

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Vistalba looks in on the Lagarde Team Room

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Vistalba returns to their team room (the “Lounge”)

In the Lagarde conference room, the teams connected with Carolina to discuss some ideas we developed over the weekend. They spent the rest of the morning designing a social media content calendar. During siesta they met with Lucila Pescarmona via Skype. Lucila, currently in San Francisco, manages Lagarde with her sister Sofia. She offered helpful suggestions and feedback about our project ideas, and we look forward to presenting to her later this week.

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The beautiful buildings walking out of Lagarde.

Back at the hotel, groups continued to work on their deliverables and presentations. The Vistalba team began printing drafts for some deliverables for the client, including a wine guide and updated quick sheets for shipping to the United States. Teams met with the client (Julietta) to go over recommendations from the updated Executive Summary and get a read. Using the feedback received from the client, they began construction of their final presentations.

Most of us spent the evening at a local restaurant, La Marchigiana, but were in for a bit of a surprise when our night came to an end. The country that never rains ended up flooding! After sheltering in the Hyatt for about an hour, we made a run for it. There were certainly some slips, falls, and wet passports:

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A flood of good times

– Malou and Eric

Jan 2nd – 3rd: A Tale of Rock, Fire, and Friendship

Argentina is a country inspired by nature, with great mountains, rustic culture, and outgoing people. Events of these two days perfectly illustrate this fact, presenting us with a tale of rock, fire and friendship.

Mendoza’s existence as a wine production center is largely due to the blessing of the Andes mountains, creating a dry climate and perfect temperature for the vines to prosper. On the 2nd, we climbed on the foothill of the Andes, experiencing the scenery created by Mother nature several million years ago.

The climb was hard and difficult, but the group’s spirit was high. Step by step, hill by hill, we marched forward. We didn’t say much to each other, but from everyone’s eyes, I saw spirits of determination – a spirit as hard as the very rock lying beneath us, the rock that has been standing in this very place for millions of years without surrendering.

An hour and half later, we reached the peak. The view at the peak was stunningly beautiful. The hill we have just climbed extend away into the horizon, like a green dragon made of stone swimming into the vast ocean of clouds, flying up high, sending a message of blessing to every visitors and residents of this city.

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After another hour of descent, we went back to the basecamp, where we were greeted by a full meal of asado – the traditional Argentina grill feast. Inheriting the rusty linkage of the Andes mountains and wilderness of Patagonia, Argentines are known for cooking with the most primitive instrument – fire.

Cooking with fire is so much different than other methods of cooking. During an asado, the chef’s job is not to cook, but facilitate the connection between fire and meat. Large pieces of meats, salted with large crystals of sea salts, lying on the grill over the embering charcoal. The oven is blazing with flame, constantly feeding the fresh wave of energy under the grilling rack.

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When the food is on the table, we don’t see the sophisticated plating and taste of French and Italian cuisines. Those polished beauties are replaced by the rugged presentation over a grill rack and a taste of primitive satisfaction. Take a bite of the fatty short-rib, the taste of crystalized salt, juiciness of the fat, and sour oily sensation from the chimichurri (oregano, olive oil, and vinegar) all mingled together, forming the perfect symphony of deliciousness.

With mountain and food accompany our journey, only essential part was missing from this tale – the wine. This void was filled when we visited Bodega Familia Zuccardi the second day. With its modern wine-tasting gallery and the energetic guide, our visit as the winery was both informative and experiential (see Allen below with the large fermentation tank). But the highlight of the trip was our 6-course lunch.

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Situated in the middle of a beautiful vineyard, our entire group sat together on top a blanket of perfect grass, enjoying a aromatic sip of Torrontes, and enjoying each other’s companionship. Filled with that delicious food, I laid down on the grass, bathing under the intense sun of Mendoza. People were still laughing and cheering in the background. A group of strangers a week ago we might had been, but now we are all best friends, enjoying each other’s companionship in this city of wine, asado, and fun. My mind starts to drift away, experiences of this trip mingled together, like Mendoza itself –blessed by the good wind from the Andes, baptized by the intense fire, and most importantly, infused with the precious essence of companionship – has all come together and become the finest vintage of our lives.

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Thursday and Friday, December 31 and January 1: Day five and six

After a week of hard work on our projects, we had the day off to finish our executive summary drafts and enjoy the laid-back Mendocino life. Many of us spent the morning relaxing sleeping in and going on morning runs. And then the groups met together in the early afternoon to finalize our executive summaries to submit before breaking for our afternoon siestas and tanning on the roof pool.

For New Years Eve festivities, the group went to Club Regatta which had been reserved for us at 10:30PM, where we had dinner and dancing to finish out 2015 together. There was an amazing buffet spread and salmon or steak giving us plenty of food to get us ready for the night festivities. At around midnight there was a firework show, followed by celebrations and dancing until 2AM in classic Mendocino style.

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To start out 2016 with a bang, the group went zip lining and rafting after our very own Bill was the hero of the day and arranged the excursion for us. Argentina Rafting Expeditions arranged for transportation to pick us up at noon, and after sleeping on the ride along the way we made it to the zip line at 1:30PM where we all took some amazing pictures and had some Go-Pro action while zip lining over the river.

Then we all took a much-needed lunch break and did some tanning (or burning) on the lounge chairs until we were ready for rafting a few hours later. It was quite an event for all of us to get on our super stylish wetsuits, especially with the previously mentioned burns. After extensive safety instructions we were ready for action. Everyone had a blast rafting through category 2-4 rapids, and we didn’t lose anyone so it was quite a successful trip all in all…even if our guide led us to travel through some rocks we were definitely not supposed to and thought that was where it was going to end. We finished out the trip eating ice cream and taking pictures of the beautiful view, and then traveled back to the hotel sleeping the whole way back after the long day, finishing out our first day of the New Year.
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Wednesday, December 30: Day four

Today was our third day at our client sites, Lagarde and Vistalba. Each of the groups was able to really solidify their concepts and talk to each of the clients and receive beneficial feedback regarding the recommendations. We were there once again for four hours this morning and are now feeling comfortable with everyone at the wineries and knowing our way around.

We then returned to the hotel for lunch and our daily “siesta.” Some took advantage of the siesta more than others as Katie and Alexis slept the entire time! Afterwards, feeling rested and energized, we met again with our groups in the hotel’s fourth floor conference room. Here we began to craft and draft the formal recommendations and executive summaries. Following these meetings we had an hour and a half talk with David English about the “Argentine Experience.” We discussed Argentine and American cultural, economic and behavioral differences and how we can recognize and accept these separation on site and while working.

From this talk we were able to further distinguish this unique experience from other consulting experiences (those consulting internships and opportunities in the U.S.). With our experiences so far and the resulting week we will have experience and exposure to working on a multidisciplinary team, and developing professional intercultural competencies such as working with a foreign client, presenting to a foreign audience and code-switching and mirroring.

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Fun Facts of the Day:

We learned that in the opinion of the presenter Argentine citizens do not obey traffic regulations: they are rough guidelines, not hard rules. They may speed up towards cross-walking pedestrians; get road rage like people back home in the states, and generally do as they please on the road.

 Our lost luggage total has decreased from 4 unlucky souls to 1. Poor Emmett is still sporting his lovely burgundy checkered dress shirt from day one. Keep on going Emmett, we’re with you in spirit J

 The Lagarde group continued their daily fight against the AC unit. We were victorious… finally. 

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Tuesday, December 29: Day three

Tuesday was an exciting day for the two teams at Bodega Vistalba, as the winery and restaurant were not open on Monday, so we were able to see the problems we are trying to solve in action today. My (Emmett’s) team was charged with solving an issue where the checkout process for people buying wine or merchandise, which takes too long for people in a hurry to make it to other winery tours. We left the hotel after breakfast and had an hour to ask the tour guides questions about the processes associated with their tour and checkout before the first group got to the winery. Once the group arrived, a few team members went off to shadow the tour while Eric and I remained to get a complete understanding of how things work in the wine bar. We spent the rest of the day making observations of tourists’ interactions with winery employees, purchases of wine, and general movement around the wine bar. This revealed that the checkout process is not nearly as inefficient as we originally had thought, forcing us to look at the root cause of the problem, which may lie in the actual tour itself. We also had the opportunity to see the two beautiful hotel rooms at the winery (seen in the picture below)

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At Bodega Lagarde, all project groups are picking up traction, as teams become more familiarized with its cases and client expectations. After a productive morning, we returned back to the hotel to catch a few Zs before getting together to continue working on our projects.

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Around 7PM, we heard thunder and all went outside to watch the weather. Mendoza, a city in the desert, rarely receives rainfall so this weather was a bit out of the norm. After a few minutes, it actually began to storm, so we all headed back inside. We learned that hail often falls with storms like this and has the capacity to destroy 25% of vineyards’ harvest, so we were all worried if this storm would affect our clients. Fortunately, it didn’t hail and the rain cleared up just in time for dinner!

We headed out to a great dinner at Praga, one of the best seafood restaurants in Mendoza sporting an open-ceiling concept! The class enjoyed a wide selection of appetizers, entrees, and delicious desserts, with the seafood paella and the dulce de leche wrap being two of our favorites. We ended the night over great wine and conversations.