Saturday, October 23, 2010

Experiencia Del Fin del Mundo

So, here it is the final entry for the South America sojourn. It's our last full day in B.A., the Big Apple, Buenos Aires and we had a few matters that still required attending to.

Other than shopping for gifts throughout the day, we needed to get back to the Casa Rosada. We'd previously driven by on our tour and we saw it all lit up at night but we couldn't get close enough for decent pictures - primarily because of all the fencing and military guards as there was one of the seemingly endless protests going on in the neighbouring Plaza de Mayo and the near-by streets.

Missing a full-on viewing of one of the world's most famous balconies just wasn't an option. After all, it's not only historical but it's been front and centre in both stage and film versions of "Evita" and it's played actual centre stage for both Eva Peron AND Madonna. Not to mention that I'd seen Patti Lupone perform the iconic stretch of arms during the original production of the musical on Broadway. I was afraid that, if I didn't get back to pay my respects, I might have to return my "gay card."

Another iconic location in the city was today's daily stop to re-caffinate Boo. Cafe Tortoni is perhaps the most famous coffeehouse in Buenos Aires and that's saying something because there is no shortage of coffeehouses here. Established more than 150 years ago, the Old World decor and feel is simply an integral part of B.A. lifestyle - whether you're a local Porteno or a tourist. It's not exactly the place to go for high end dining but it served the goods for people-watching and as a last chance to finish off postcards for the gang back home.

Despite the welcome rest and coffee, there were t-shirts to be found and leather to be located. Naturally, there were some additional monuments and statues passed along the way, but we'd pretty much reached the realization that, if we haven't seen it by now, whatever we were missing was going to stay missed.

One thing that wasn't going to be passed up, however, was our dinner that evening. I'd mentioned, in an earlier post, that I would have dearly liked to visit Bodega Del Fin del Mundo - the winery at the end of the world. I'd enjoyed meeting their rep at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival last spring but there just wasn't going to be any chance to make it down to Patagonia on this vacation. Diego had mentioned that making it to the "end of the world" can be a bit of a trial for many a visitor, so the winery came up with the idea of bringing a bit of Patagonia to Buenos Aires.

Many wineries - both in Argentina and throughout the world - now feature on-site restaurants as part of the whole vineyard adventure. Del Fin del Mundo has tweaked that concept and brought their winery to the people. They are the first winery to open their own restaurant in Buenos Aires. Featuring all levels of their wines and serving up specialty foods from the Southern province, Experiencia Del Fin del Mundo gives everyone in B.A. the chance to taste what Patagonia has to offer - even if they can't make their way out of the actual city.

Diego was going to be out of the country on business but he lined us up and we were heartily greeted at the restaurant by the manager, Federico, and by four glasses of wine from the end of the world. We decided to simply let the sommelier and restaurant take us where they wanted to - and it was pretty much heaven. There must be something to the fact that the New York Times identified Patagonia Wine Country as the second entry on an adventure travel list of "The 31 Places to Go in 2010."

I've mentioned previously that Bodega Del Fin del Mundo is a relatively new kid on the block. Certain parts of Patagonia have long been home to grapevines but those regions were better known for tree fruit than wine. Any wineries that were in the area were more experimental than commercial. Realistically, it's only the last ten to fifteen years that have seen the introduction of modernized wineries and - despite the continual appearance of new vineyards at a rapid pace - there's still only a handful currently operating. Del Fin del Mundo pioneered the new region of Neuquen and its first vintage was in 2003 - after years of establishing the vineyards.

Located in one of the Southernmost wine regions on the planet (Chile, New Zealand and Tasmania also make claims), the area is constantly windy. This helps keep the vines dry and more disease resistant, but it also meant that the winery had to surround all their vineyards with windbreak screens and even protect each plant with its own individual shell. It also helps create a climate that allows the wineries to successfully grow varietals - such as Pinot Noir and Semillon - that aren't regularly associated with Argentina.

Despite its recent arrival Del Fin del Mundo has already established itself as a major player. It has become one of Argentina's largest exporters and is estimating that total capacity may eventually hit 8 million litres. They already produce a full spectrum of commercial through premium wines - but, tonight, we were visiting the higher end. We were particularly pleased with their Extra Brut bubbly and the Pinot Noir and how they paired with the house pate and Patagonian prawns that we dined on.

We were rather thrilled when our entrees of lamb ragout and lomo beef were accompanied by a couple new glasses and a bottle that just happened to stay behind at our table. Good thing too, because we were highly motivated to keep refilling our glasses.

628. 2007 Bodega Del Fin del Mundo Special Blend (Patagonia - Argentina)

The Special Blend is one of Del Fin del Mundo's premium wines and was one of the wines that I got to try at the Playhouse Festival last spring. It was also a prime reason for my attraction to the winery. A "traditional" Bordeaux or Meritage blend of Cab Sauv, Malbec and Merlot, I didn't see a breakdown for this vintage but I did see online that the 2006 was apparently 40/40/20. I do know, however, that the wine was a smooth and wonderful last bottle on our trip.

We've done a lot of wining and dining throughout the vacation, but this was definitely right up there at the top. We were told that the restaurant has become a place for Portenos in the know and I can certainly understand why. Stunning decor, great food, friendly service and impressive wine. It was a great night - particularly after our cab ride home. In a city of countless cabs, our last trip home was perhaps our wildest. Maybe it was just a Friday night vibe, but our cabbie was as much a character as we could imagine (while not being able to understand him). He was bouncing away, having a grand old time, as he weaved through traffic, playing an endless assortment of remixes of Pitbull's Bon Bon (We No Speak Americano). I'd never heard the song before but it's now one of those tunes that will forever be associated with a particular place and time.

I wish we could bundle the whole Experiencia up and take it home with us. I guess we'll have to settle for some wine and memories for the time being. With any luck, we might make it back down here and maybe to Patagonia itself in the days to come. In the mean time, I guess it's back to reality.

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