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.