Mendoza, Argentina is the wondrous capital city of the Mendoza Province of Argentina. Its claim to fame is its fantastic wine, organic olive oil, and its gorgeous and charming populace.
My love affair with region started when I saw Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 7 Years in Tibet. This Brad Pitt machine was based on a book of the same name. The book followed the adventures of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer in Tibet during 1944 and 1951.
When I learned that the film was set in the backdrop of Mendoza’s Andes mountain range I knew that I had to visit this amazing region.
I arrived in Mendoza via a 6 hour connecting bus ride from Santiago, Chile. Mendoza is the cultural hub of the province and this is reflected in the architecture and culture of the city. I visited the Case De Fader, a mansion-turned-museum that was once owned by Fernando Fader. This gorgeous mansion contains many of the artist’s paintings, and while a bit south of Mendoza (about 7 miles) it’s well worth the trip.
My favorite part of the trip and the whole reason for visiting Medoza (apart from my love of the 7 Years in Tibet) was the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (The National Grape Harvest Festival). And my-oh-my do Argentineans know how to grow and celebrate the grape!
The Festival’s main event is celebrated in the first week of March, it attracts about 200,000 tourists and visitors, features hundreds of dancers and performers and a gigantic fireworks display. It also features the Benediction of the Fruit, blessing of the grape, which occurs on the last Sunday of February. On the 1st Friday of March, a beauty contest is held. The prettiest girls and women from each of Mendoza’s departments (sub-regions of the province) get all gussied up and parade through the streets and celebrate and cheer for the wine made in their departments.
The next morning, yet another parade is held where some of the same gorgeous women ride decorated horses through the streets. The horses are trailed by dancers from Argentina and other countries. The main act or the “Acto Central” takes place in the Frank Romero Day Amphitheater. It features fantastical light and sound shows and features local music and dancers. The finale event is an ear-shattering and eye-pleasing fireworks display that rivals any that I have seen in the United States.
Throughout the Festival and my trip to Mendoza, I sampled the local faire, drank the wine, and celebrated with warm, charming people. I highly recommend visiting during The Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia and drinking nothing but 2006 Mendoza Altamira Nicasia Vineyard Malbec if you can afford it or 2007 Luján de Cuyo Golden Reserve Malbec if you can’t. Cheers!