Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wine Country

Ah, Mendoza. Lovely part of the country. Beautiful weather,

It's an incredible change of pace. None of the congestion and chaos of Buenos Aires. Out by the wineries I was told not to even worry about locking up. Sounds like small town living.

Mendoza is actually in the middle of a desert, so it's quite dry this time of year. Surprisingly, I did seem to come here on one of the rare weeks where it is cool and rainy. It makes it a bit unusual, but damned comfortable after the heat and humidity of BA.

In an even more surprising lucky accident, it is also harvest festival time The week is filled with evening activities, such as markets, live music,street performers (they like their jugglers here) and, of course, a beauty pagent (what farm-related festival would be with out one).

I hopped a bus out to one of main winery areas and rented a bike for the afternoon. Given that is was cool and breezy, this was the perfect day to tool around in the wine country. I only made it to two different wineries, and this incredibly fancy delicatessen (in the middle of nowhere - with a huge, remote gate). Learned quite a bit about wine making, but not a whole lot of tasting. Still, I don't think there is a better way to tour about a wine making region.

The brilliant thing is that it is harvest time. The grapes are ripe on the vine, ready to be plucked. At the first winery I visited, they were loading truck loads of grapes into the processors to begin pressing. They have enormous pnuematic presses for juicing the grapes - no feet here.

The second winery was basically a private tour. I was able to ask more questions about wine making then I ever thought I could even ask[1]. Go forty-five minutes before close on a Thursday, and it's no wonder that there was no one there. The winery, Tempus, was more of a research vinyard for their full operation. There they were five years into a fifteen year project of breading better Malbec grapes. They had more then 250 varieties of Malbec in the 2 acres of land.

Language Limbo

I've hit this odd stage in my ability to communicate. I starting to feel pretty comfortable with the basics of ordering food, buying tickets, and generally how to get where I want to go. My understanding of Spanish is impressive by my standards, in that I'm getting the drift of most of what's being told to me. The problem is still one of constructing sentences.

Here's the real crux of the problem. If someone startes to speak to me in Spanish, I switch my brain into Spanish mode. It's working overtime trying to peice together the whole concept trying to be conveyed. What happens on numerous occasions is that I fumble trying to respond in Spanish - I just don't have the words.

Now, occasionally, the person I'm talking to realizes that I speak English and will switch. This catches me off guard and, suddenly, I can't speak in either language. Here's where I look and act like a total idiot. I seem to only be able to point and grunt[2], and eventually the financial transaction is completed[3].

I always want to return to those people and try and convince them that I am an intelligent person, if only I could talk...

[1] Ok, so it was probably the wine. I had drank about three glasses of wine at this point. Those of you who know, you'd understand.

[2] Thank you, Logical Positivism.

[3] Now in the case most fresh in my mind I was trying to buy popcorn. I had no idea that in Spanish is Palomitas (according to google translator, that is).

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