Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Day 11


Day 11  January 14, 2008      


     Last night we ate at a sidewalk café on Civit street.  Governor Civit loved trees and as Mendoza is in the desert, he challenged the people to plant trees.  He then challenged the world to send trees as gifts to the city.  This all happened over 125 years ago, after the terrible earthquake of 1861 destroyed the entire city.  A thousand years before than the Inca's built an amazing system of canals to irrigate the city and farm lands.  We sat under tall trees, many different kinds, trees from northern latitudes share space with towering palms and walnut, elms, pines and maples.  It is a garden of Eden of trees.  As we ate the fine Argentine beef water flowed past us in the two foot deep open canal just a few feet from our table. Without the engineering feat of the Incas, the political persuasion of old Governor Civit, the civic pride of the modern Mendozans, this oasis would not be possible.  It is a great city of 1.6 million people, it is growing and prosperous.  The unemployment rate is only 3%.  The big money is coming in from Europe to develop vineyards, orchards and tourism.  Hotels are being built.  The wine is flowing and times look good.

     Our driver picked us up at 9 sharp.  We paid our bill (I am trying not to emphasize money on this trip, but the comparison with our new hotel is so great I have to memorialize it.  Last night 750 pesos plus 21% IVA tax ($322)  tonight in Tunuyan 130 pesos plus tax, cost about $50)  But wait until you see the photos.  As I write these words Gail has gone across the street to the Internet café to send emails to the kids as there is no Internet here in our hotel.  The room has no chair, just a double bed.  The bath has no tub and is only 36 inches square.  There are no carpets on the floor.  They are painting the hall so there is newspaper spread over the entire hallway and it smells of fresh paint.  The one employee, a receptionist, is very friendly but speaks not one word of English.  The restaurants in town are closed on Monday.  He is phoning around now to try to find somewhere we can go to eat as there is no restuarant in the hotel.  This town, Tununyan is 80 K south of Mendoza.  It is as sleepy and undeveloped as Mendoza is booming. Actually the hotel is very clean and friendly, just quite humble and a screaming bargain. We are here to see the apple and pear orchards as the vineyards are to the north.

     On the way were we did stop at two world class wineries,  Clos de Los Siete and  Salentein in the Valle de Uco. They were very different, both modern and stunning.  The first owned by seven Frenchmen, including Michel Rolland, jet setting winemaker, and Eric de Rothschild.  It is 800 hectares and growing 10 varieties of grapes, mostly red, for a $20-30 wine to be exported to Europe and the US.   This was only planted in 1996 and will expand as their market does. The Salentein  vineyard is owned by a family from Holland. He bought the land in 1992 for $500 per hectare.   Today bare ground next door costs $10,000 per hectare.  A hectare of planted vineyard is worth at least $25,000 and may be more depending on location. It is 1000 hectares, but only 600 are in vines, the rest in apples and pears.  Their wine is superb and is already well known and appreciated worldwide.  Their top label, Primus, sells for $150 + per bottle.  We took some great photos of these operations and tasted their second label which was excellent and sells for about $28 in the US.

     Tomorrow we will spend the day with  Ariel Salinas looking at orchards.  The next day we will be with Alberto Carleti looking at apple and cherry orchards.  The weather is still very hot, over 35C here and 36C on the beach 1000 K to the east at BA.  We are actually a little nervous about the next few days.  We will be traveling over 1000 K south to San Rafael and then to General Roca and that is a long way to ride in a bus.

      Just had an earthquake too, they say the ground shakes here every day, so nothing to worry about according to our driver: Peter (Pedro) Quiroga  spent 30 years living in NYC and Florida. His two children still live in America.  In fact his daughter is an officer in the US Navy and just returned from duty in the Middle East.   He speaks great English and was full of stories, some a bit colorful.  His best came when I asked him about his politics and what he thought of the new President.  Agentina just elected a female President, Cristina Kirchner.  He said all the guys are saying :  Oh it's just like before only better.  What does that mean?  (I asked, walking right into his punch line).  He replied:  Oh, we always get screwed by whoever is president, but at least now it feels better because the president is a woman.

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