Our Vineyard Wine Tasting Tours in Mendoza – Lujan de Cuyo

August 17, 2023

Paul Kay

Lujan de Cuyo

If you’ve been looking at our Mendoza posts, you’ll know we think you should add Mendoza to your vacation destination list. If you love wine and beef, you’ll be even more excited. This post is all about another region of Mendoza for great wine – Lujan de Cuyo.

Madeline and I traveled to Mendoza during the harvest season. We wanted to see the different areas within Mendoza including the Uco Valley, Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu. We stayed at the Mendoza Park Hyatt hotel and worked with the concierge to arrange tours. The hotel provided a private car and driver who could speak both Spanish and English. Patricio also could speak Portuguese and Italian and perhaps a few others. 

A normal wine tour day included visits to three vineyards for tastings and concluded our day with lunch at the final vineyard. Lujan de Cuyo is the 2nd largest region in Mendoza. The Uco Valley is the largest and Maipu is the smallest.

Snow capped Andes Mountains in the distance at Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza Argentina

Lujan de Cuyo is both a region and a town. The photo above shows the beauty and proximity of the Andes mountains. The town was established in 1872. When the Spaniards were in control, they found a very effective artificial irrigation system which the local population used to grow potatoes and corn.  The local people had created the irrigation system from a channel that pulled water from the Mendoza river and directed it to where food was grown.

The irrigation was central to food and is now key to producing some of the best wine in all of Argentina. Lujan de Cuyo produces some of the best Malbec in all of Argentina. The area is also known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Torrontes.

Lujan de Cuyo was the first in Argentina to be officially recognized as an appellation controlee in 1993. Maipu lies directly east of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley is to the south.

Beautiful trees providing shade for our journey to Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza Argentina

Lujan de Cuyo is known for its high altitude with the average vineyard being over 3,300 feet above sea level. The snow melt from the Andes mountains brings an abundant source of water for irrigation. We traveled through town and were impressed by so many mature trees providing shade.

Colorful houses shaded by mature trees on our journey to Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza Argentina

The colorful houses were all around us as we made our way to our first stop, Vina Cobos.

Vina Cobos

Costa Flores s/n y, RN7, M5509 Perdriel, Mendoza, Argentina

Vina Cobos Vineyard Madeline and Paul Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

This winery is owned by world famous US winemaker Paul Hobbs. He was a winemaking consultant previously and spent a lot of time on different projects in Argentina. Vina Cobos was created with two Argentine partners in 1997 originally in rented spaces in other wineries. Hobbs introduced sustainable farming methods in the vineyard which have contributed to consistent yields of healthy fruit.

With the inaugural vintage of Cobos Malbec in 1999, Vina Cobos marked a milestone in viticulture, helping to position Malbec and Argentina on the international wine scene.

Wine tasting bottles at Vina Cobos Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

This vineyard was on our sommelier’s recommended list, so we made it our first stop. We tasted a variety of wines there. We started with a Bramare 2017 Chardonnay from the Marchiori Estate in Lujan. The next was a Bramare 2016 Malbec from Rebon Estate. Then we had a Bramare 2016 Malbec from Zingaretti Estate. This was followed by a Bramare 2016 Malbec from Lujan. The next was a 2017 Pinot Noir from Uco Valley. We finished with a 2015 Cobos Malbec from the Marchiori Estate in Lujan. The Malbec varietals, to our taste, were very good but we found them very expensive as compared to other Mendoza vineyards. Perhaps his wines deserve their high prices but for us, we did not purchase any wines here. There was more Malbec discovery that was waiting.

Storage barrels at Vina Cobos Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

At the end of our tasting, we had a small tour of the barrel room and some of the storage tanks. The entire facility is very modern.

Production area for wine at Vina Cobos Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

Even the production area was spotless with stainless steel tanks. Paul Hobbs is quite famous, not just for this vineyard, but for his consulting practice both in Argentina and the USA. This vineyard is worth a look, but you may not be purchasing his wine since there are so many other vineyards with high quality wine that are less expensive.

CAP Vistalba

Roque Saenz Peña 3531, Mendoza, Argentina

Entrance to Bodega Vistalba Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

Madeline and I were a little confused by the CAP portion of the name. The entrance simply said Bodega Vistalba. What was this CAP thing? Bodega Vistalba was founded by Carlos Pulenta. The name CAP Vistalba comes from Carlos Alberto Pulenta’s initials.

Carlos Pulenta was the oldest son of Don Antonio Pulenta who was one of the founders of the Bodega Penaflor, 80 years ago. Bodega Vistalba was built between 2001 and 2004 on family-owned land at the heart of Luján de Cuyo. This is where Carlos Pulenta developed his personal viticulture project, involving members of his family, consultants, enologists and a valuable group of people who really know this land.

The winery uses innovative technology and pays homage to traditional winemaking. It has been designed so that the entire winemaking process is completed using gravity and without pumps. Their first wines were produced in 2003, and they were first placed on the market in the year 2005. Today, the wines are sold in over 20 countries.

Entrance to Vistalba in Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

We arrived at the vineyard for our tasting but there was a mix-up. They said we did not have a reservation. We had our driver call our concierge and there was a problem with our tasting. After a bit of research, our driver took us to a new tasting location at another vineyard. Afterwards, when we got back to the hotel we spoke to Esperanza, our concierge. She, of course, knew of the mix-up and came with emails confirming that the screwup was on behalf of the vineyard! In fact, I received a handwritten apology with a bottle of wine from CAP Vistalba later that evening. What great customer service from both Esperanza and the Park Hyatt Mendoza and from CAP Vistalba!! When we return, we will definitely visit CAP Vistalba. The bottle of wine was delicious.

Caelum Vineyard

RN7, M5507 Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

Logo and sign at Caelum Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

This was the replacement vineyard since CAP Vistalba was not open for a tasting. In the photo you can see their logo and another sign has their name. Caelum Vineyard is quite close to Ruca Malen, so we chose it as an interim stop. This is another family vineyard that began in 2009. Initially, the owners grew pistachios as their crop. They made enough money to keep afloat and then planted grapes. After over ten years devoted to farm work and selling grapes to neighboring wineries, the owners decided to start winemaking. This is a boutique vintner. They only make 70,000 bottles a day, which is quite a lot but is a boutique vineyard. Quality has nothing to do with quantity and we were impressed with the tasting.

The Pimentel family created Caelum after deciding to move from Buenos Aires to Mendoza. The sister and brother team of Constanza and Hernan put a great deal of passion and energy into the endeavor. They recruited Italian winemaker Guiseppe Franceschini and started making European style wines, including classic varietals such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Andes mountains in the distance at Caelum Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

The view of the Andes from Caelum is stunning. Come for the wine and stay for the view and conversation. This is a very high maintenance, hands-on vineyard. Everyone is willing to do a little bit more to get the harvest in. We saw them making labels by hand and putting them on the bottles personally. This is such a personal vineyard and our host, Nuria, was delightful.

Wine tasting bottles at Caelum Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

Our tasting was very fun and Nuria was very knowledgeable about the wines. She came from Uruguay and still misses it but acknowledged that her view of the Andes on a daily basis is still very nice. The wines we tasted included a Torrontes, a Reserva Chardonnay, a Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon and another Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon from a different year. Then, we had a Gran Reserva Malbec (2013). 

Madeline and Paul at Caelum Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

All of them were very good but we purchased a Caelum Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon

Ruca Malen

Ruta Nacional 7 Km. 1059, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

Closeup of Sign for Ruca Malen Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

This vineyard had one of the highest rated wine pairing lunches in our itinerary. We saved it for last on our tour. Ruca Malen is the history maker of this vineyard. His dream began in 1998 when Jean Pierre Thibaud and Jacques Louis de Montalembert confessed to each other the desire to build their own winery in Mendoza. Back then, Jean Pierre was leaving the presidency of Chandon Winery Argentina after 10 years and Jacques Louis had gained a solid knowledge of winemaking in the Bourgogne region.

They have a wide variety of wines to try in their different lines, such as Yauquen, Ruca Malen and Kinien. The single varietal Petit Verdot was quite unusual and hopefully you will get a chance to test it on your visit.

Lunch table reservation card for Kay at Ruca Malen Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

One of the greatest delights of Mendoza is a leisurely winery lunch, with multiple courses paired with exquisite wines, and a gorgeous vineyard and mountain view. This was the place that was recommended. The meal is set right in the vineyard, but we had a roof over our head. 

Outdoor dining at Ruca Malen Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

There was a nice patio a bit more in the sun, but we were seated with a roof.. You look out at the snow-capped mountains in harvest time. Courses such as crisp apple chips and salad with Sauvignon Blanc, and hearty Argentine Filet Mignon steak with juicy Malbec made for a delicious gastronomical experience, and the wines were terrific.

Champagne at Ruca Malen Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

We were greeted with Champagne. We then had a Ruca Malen Terroir Series Chardonnay, 2017. It was very crisp and paired with a salad. The next was a Ruca Malen extra Brut paired with beetroot, quinoa and ricotta.

Sliced ham with bread and olive oil at Ruca Malen Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

The third course was a Ruca Malen Malbec 2018 paired with bread, ham and fermented vegetables which tasted like sauerkraut. Our next wine was a Ruca Malen Terroir Series Cabernet 2016 paired with corn, piaco, zampa and bell pepper. The corn was served in a corn husk atop a tray of river stones. 

Filet Mignon at Ruca Malen Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

The next was a Kinien Malbec 2014-Kinien Cabernet 2014 paired with Filet Mignon, potato, carrot, and Salicornia. The next was a cocktail which was a Ruca Malen 2016 Chardonnay mixed with quince, Malbec, matico which was served with petit fours which were called mignardises and Nespresso Ristretto Origin India.

Delicious white wine at Ruca Malen Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

Every course was served on a plate or a large slab of tree trunk on top of a stone. You can see the stone in the photo above. They never moved the stone, so it served as a placemat. 

Hanging bread at Ruca Malen Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Argentina

Fresh bread was served in a handmade wooden trough with wires so that the bread was placed on the wires much like you’d hang your laundry in the old days. Quite unique.

The restaurant has been open since 2004 and the simple goal is to offer the best pairings for the wines. However, wine isn’t the only featured player. All the ingredients used in their kitchen are produced in Mendoza. Ruca Malen was one of the wineries that pioneered the concept of tasting menu. Nowadays, they are known as one of the most successful winery restaurants in Argentina.

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