What makes a meal unforgettable? Sometimes, it is merely ambiance: the toast my Mom made for us when we camped as children is still the most deliciously buttery bread I’ve ever eaten. Sometimes it is the experience: I will never forget the first time I tried uni in Japan; my first street taco in Mexico; my first pasta in Italy. At times it is the company: traveling seems to place you next to tables of people you’d never expect to meet at home, and you bond as much over the new experience of a foreign food as you do the mere experience of being alone–and foreign–together.
Sometimes, setting, flavors, and company meld to make the perfect meal. Such was the case during our lunch at O. Fournier in Mendoza, Argentina. I’d like to revisit this trip not just for the wonderful memories, but as a guide for anyone touring the Mendoza wine country and looking for a memorable meal alongside their wine tasting. This meal was a highlight of our three weeks in Mendoza and remains, years later, one of my favorite wine-tasting/dining experiences.
Drive over an hour from Mendoza City (a beautiful hour, I might add, with views of sprawling vineyards) and you will arrive at O. Fournier. The impressive snow-capped Andes, located just 15 km from the vineyard, first catch the eye, but it soon wanders to . . . something that seems to be coming out of the ground. Something almost UFO-like with its flat top and angles. This, my friends, is O. Fournier. It is also what is about to be an incredible winery tour and tasting experience.
When wineries boast of being “modern” and “technologically advanced,” this often seems to translate to “sterile” and, at times, “overworked” wines that are overpriced. At O. Fournier, the word “modern” takes on a much different meaning. The entire winery is designed around the idea of a gravity-flow system, putting wine making at the forefront of the building’s design, and beautifully melding form and function.
Case in point? Walk up the hill to O. Fournier, and you are actually walking above the majority of the vineyard, which is built underground. What are you walking over? A glimpse underground reveals large vats. Juice is poured into them from above ground, saving time and energy typically used to pump the juice into the tall vats.
From ground level, the tops of these vats are giant “lids” that resemble manholes. Genius.
The massive cellar, also underground, requires less energy thanks to its subterranean level.
After a wonderful and informative tour, we were ready for lunch. O. Fournier offers a coursed lunch with wine pairings, and we planned our day of wine tasting this event. It was certainly worth the planning! Guests dine while overlooking a lake and the Andes.
The meal began with two appetizers: split pea foam with ham salt, and an eggplant kebab with yogurt and mint sauce. Foams find their way into haute cuisine menus quite often; I’m never one to turn it down. I love sampling a flavor I am accustomed to . . . served with a very different texture!
The meal continued with the first course, an “ecalibada” (vegetable mix) with a focaccia ring. Necessary, considering what was coming next . . .
It wouldn’t be an Argentine meal without a heavy dose of meat! This classic rib-eye was grilled with mushrooms and served topped with blue cheese. On the side, au gratin potatoes. Very Argentine. Very delicious.
Each course was paired with one of O. Fournier’s beautiful wines. After three weeks in Mendoza, we had had our share of Malbec: I was ecstatic to find varietals like Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc among the wines offered. (The crisp Sauvignon Blanc was a beautiful pairing with the sweet pea foam, and although I lamented about having “too many Malbecs,” theirs was a beautiful accompaniment to the rib-eye.
After such a delicious meal, I was reluctant to leave. However, a tour of the unfinished grounds beckoned: especially a stunning view of the Andes from across the winery’s lake. Mendoza’s infamous winds got the better of me!
For those planning a trip to Mendoza, O. Fournier is a must. Our three weeks in the region were spent researching the area’s wineries, and while most were spectacular, we found that many wineries are the high-production, Chateau-esque vineyards you would find in “new Napa.” If you are anything like me, then you prefer smaller, more intimate bodegas, or something like O. Fournier: new, inventive, fun, and (perhaps?) the future of wine in Argentina.