What’s better than wine? Particularly good wine, in this case from Ruca Malen, paired with absolutely delicious gourmet food. And if that pairing happens to come in a stunning setting, with views of the Tupungato volcano and other Andes peaks, so much the better.
We took a tour of Ruca Malen before lunch, which we found somewhat basic. This would be a good introduction to winemaking in general and the specifics of the Mendoza wine regions, but if you already have some knowledge, I wouldn’t say this tour is a must.
Lunch, however, is another story. It’s a definite must! We chose to sit in the nicely cooled summer house. The slight reduction in views due to the glare on the windows was well worth the major reduction in temperature on such a hot day.
Our five-course meal began with zucchini ravioli with lemon and herb flavors. On a hot day, this was a wonderful start to lunch and kept things from feeling too heavy. This paired with the Ruca Malen chardonnay, which we all enjoyed.
Next up, more pasta, this time filled with grilled eggplant and covered with cheese and beet sauces. I am not usually a beet fan, but apparently I enjoy them in fancy meals because this was yummy, and I found myself sopping up the leftover sauce with some bread. Don’t you judge me until you try this for yourself. This dish was accompanied by my first bonarda, which is a lighter red wine typical in Argentina.
The third course was all of our favorite. Just look how fun it is! Having earned full points for presentation and put our expectations sky-high, could Ruca Malen deliver on flavor? Yes. The various components of this dish – corn and quinoa salad, cabernet sauvignon sausage, roasted butternut squash – worked together to offer a smoky yet fresh counterpoint to the fruity, spicy cabernet sauvignon.
I had no complaints about the main course, a nicely cooked steak, even if it didn’t have the whimsy factor of the previous dish. Here we got to the main course of Argentine wines as well, with two different malbecs. One was too rich and fruity for my taste, but the other was tasty, especially with the hints of cinnamon in the food.
Last but not least, a chocolate and pear crumble, paired with whatever we had left in our glasses and a much-needed coffee. I didn’t think this was quite up to the standard of the savory food, but that is more a comment on how great everything else was than it is a criticism of this dish.
All of the Ruca Malen wines that we tried were good, although none in particular was a real standout for me. Then again, this may be a result of generous pouring – perhaps if I had sipped them all before just downing them, I might have more distinct impressions of each one. But I have no regrets.
While lunch doesn’t come cheap (about US$75 per person), it’s well worth the splurge. Especially if you can use my personal brand of financial math to convince yourself that you’re really saving money since something similar would be much more expensive in other internationally renowned wine regions.
Lunch at Ruca Malen was beautiful, in terms of both visuals and taste, and it was the perfect way to end our time wine tasting in Mendoza. Once again, a vineyard lunch was the highlight of my family’s weekend in wine country, this time on the other side of the Andes.