As we took our time over this soulful lunch, I couldn’t have cared less about moving on to the next winery tour. It was a moment to savor.
When traveling, I often prefer a relatively quick midday meal to maximize the time for sightseeing. But when in wine country, I frequently toss that rule into the fermentation vat and happily linger over lunch well into the afternoon. The winery restaurants of Mendoza are especially beguiling, set amid vineyards backdropped by the Andes.
After touring the winery of Finca Decero, we sat down to a three-course lunch in a sprawling Mediterranean-style villa overlooking the vineyards and distant snowy mountains. Created in 2006 from an empty plot of land — hence the name Decero, “From Zero” — Finca Decero served a flight of three wines simultaneously, so that we could try pairing each with a course of food. A rustic Syrah chimed with some beef tenderloin and chimichurri sauce, and a trifle of strawberry, passion fruit and cream brought out vanilla notes from the Decero Cabernet Sauvignon.
Even more memorable was our lunch at Ruca Malén, near Cavas Wine Lodge. Each table in its indoor-outdoor restaurant looked festive, set with seven glasses per person. The five courses on the menu all came beautifully presented, especially the local Malargüe trout preserved in lemon juice with spinach, vegetable sprouts and olive cream. It paired perfectly with a creamy and spicy Chardonnay. We also indulged in quenelles of Spunta potatoes and candied tomatoes with goat cheese ice cream; braised pork loin from San Martin with prune chutney, carrots and smoked cream cheese; and flavorful beef tenderloin from Alvear with crispy potato puffs and grilled vegetables. It was a delight to sip hearty Merlot, savory Cabernet Sauvignon and ripe Malbec with these dishes, sitting beside the vineyards from which they came.
My favorite lunch, however, was at the Gimenez Riili winery, a five-minute drive from The Vines Resort & Spa in the Uco Valley. Here, much of the cooking happened at a grill a few feet away from the outdoor tables, which were shaded by individual pergolas made from trimmed grapevines. It felt stylish but unforced and relaxed, the elusive balance that country restaurants in Provence seem to be so adept at striking. Similarly, the five-course lunch looked pretty but unfussy — an upscale version of Argentine home cooking.
A floral and spicy Torrontés brought out extra sweetness in a corn empanada, and a fruity Merlot paired surprisingly well with some briny trout with beets and capers, disproving the notion that you shouldn’t drink red with fish. A rich Cabernet Franc worked wonders with a bowl of pollo al disco, a stew of chicken in a savory broth of wine and peppers. And a jammy Malbec had more than enough power to stand up to a board of grilled ribs, skirt steak and pork.
As we took our time over this soulful lunch, paired expertly with wines made just a short walk away, I couldn’t have cared less about moving on to the next winery tour. It was a moment to savor.