How to Get Lost in Argentina

Gwendolyn Elliott finds wine travel sometimes requires breaking the rules. A harvest festival in Mendoza leads to a bumpy ride and plenty of memories.

Gauchos at Mendoza’s Vendimia grape harvest festival / Photo courtesy Jeffrey Tanenhaus, flickr

My husband and I were visiting Mendoza for a milestone birthday, and the icing on the cake was Vendimia, the city’s annual celebration of the grape harvest. Plaza fountains flowed red, and it seemed a parade was around every corner. Perhaps a little chaos in the air, too.

Upon the recommendation of a friend we decided to visit Cepas Elegidas, a winery in nearby Maipú. She knew the vintner, Brennan Firth, and helped arrange a tour for us.

According to our guidebook, Maipú was a “feasible” cab ride from our homestay in downtown Mendoza. En route, we realized “feasible,” or any other point of reference, is rendered useless in the backseat of a speeding taxi in rural Argentina, with no hope for a Wi-Fi connection or a cell phone enabled for international calls. After circling the few scattered bodegas (wineries) twice and querying a handful of locals, it was clear we were lost.

The meter ticking away, our driver sweating and frustrated, we got desperate and motioned for him to stop at an olive farm we had passed a few times. He dropped us off, and as he peeled out of the gravel drive,…