mercredi 5 septembre 2007

Dear Claire (Maipu)

Dear Claire,
It's me again, writing this time from Argentina. Right now, I'm in a bus groupo 10 numero 182 heading to the town of Maipu, in the Mendoza province. I'm still in the city of Mendoza itself, where I've just boarded the bus, on calle Rioja.
Big trees cast shadows over the streets here, and I find it a blessing with the sun way up in the blue and cloudless sky of this dry part of the country, even if it's end of winter here.
I'm in Argentina for a month or so now, and I have to say that I love it.

Incredibly breathtaking landscape, tasty cuisine, strong and sweet wines and beautiful people, what more can I ask for, other than sharing it with you, dear?
Speaking of wine, if I'm heading to the small Maipu today, it's because it's located in the heart of wine country. The Mendoza province is producing roughly 75% of all argentine wine and it's well-known all over the world. If you go to a good wine store in BC, ask for the Trapiche. Their Malbec is the most well-known grape, but I have to say that they're also producing a really honest Cabernet-Sauvignon and a great and fruity Chardonnay, among others.
So wine country it is, this afternoon. I'm planning to hit a couple of bodegas and might take a look at an olive plantation while I'm in the aera.

I've done the wine tour and tasting a few times before - the sweet, strong and complex Porto, at Sandeman in Portugal still being a lively memory - and I'm starting to get the twist of it.
Actually, all that tasting of different wines, from different grapes, provinces and countries is not so far from our shared experience at tasting the coffees of the world, dear ex-partner and coffee master!
That is one of the reasons I thought of writing to you about it today. That and the fact that some of my favorite Chardonnay is produced in your Australia. Besides, I so often think of you, dear, but I'm also often too busy adventuring (or winetasting) my way to write to you on a more regular basis.

Heading south-east, now, an avenida Colon, slowly leaving la ciudad behind me. La ciudad is what they call the city of Mendoza, here, since the city shares its name with the entire province.
The sunlight is piercing through the bus window and starts burning my left ear and part of my neck. I guess I'll have to put sunscreen once in Maipu. These dry wine plantations are always really hot places, winter or no winter. Anyway, with winter temperatures reaching over 20-25 degrees, I wonder how the grapes survives their summer!
And since Mendoza is also like the Cafayate area (up north), it's raining like a milimeter or two every year or so...
It still amazes me how you can get such a difference in weather and landscape so near to the Andes. Yesterday, I went for a two hours bus ride west of Mendoza, to the cordiliera de los Andes to have a look at the Cerro Aconcagua. Aconcagua is the highest peak of the Americas, among other titles, and if the summit is really impressive, it's all the surroundings of the many levels and snowcaped peaks of the cordiliera that blew my mind away.
Best is it's not my first time in parts of the Andes - far from it - but it's still an amazing wonder to see and an amazing journey to travel in the heart of the cordiliera.
Anyway, yesterday was all about cold and high-white peaks, and today, less than 175 km away, I'm burning under the sun and going to have a glass of Cabernet-Sauvignon really soon.

And my bus is now reaching Maipu - we are following the old railroad, which shows empty hangars and rusty containers here and there. I'll have to let you go, then, and put away my pen and paper.
But I'll tell you what; that first glass of wine, I'm gonna take it for you, my beautiful friend, then I'll have the feeling that we'll share it in a way you surely understand and appreciate.

And I'll take that wine with love, dear, as I always do whenever thinking of you.


Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina
September 4th, 2007.

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