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.
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.
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.
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.