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Tim Foolery

Wine Tasting in Mendoza – Uco Valley

Planning the Tasting

The main reason we decided to visit Mendoza was for the wine.  We wanted a full day of tasting and we didn’t want to end up at the big producers – we wanted to see smaller operations.  Two months before our trip, I started reaching out to various wine tour operators and was very disappointed.  Of the six groups, only one ever responded to my several emails.  I found these tour guides through general internet searches and through TripAdvisor.  The one who did respond offered us a tour option that wasn’t a good fit.  Their suggested tour included a large 45+ person tour bus.  We wanted a more curated experience.

I then reached out to the Park Hyatt Mendoza for guidance. Within the hour I had received a quick questionnaire to help tailor my experience.  The following day I had received a proper quote for a private tour including driver/guide and vehicle.  The tastings and meals were separate and would be paid at each stop.

The price for this experience was AR5270 or 137USD.  Considering the alternatives, this was a really great option. A much better fit than the massive tour bus option.

The Tour

The day of the tour arrived and we met our guide in the lobby of the Park Hyatt.  Our guide was a retired energy consultant who spent most of his career acting as a mining consultant in Argentina, Peru and Bolivia.  He was a round and jovial man, who laughed with nearly every sentence he spoke.  He was welcoming and very knowledgeable about the region, its history and the people.  Like many people we interacted with in Argentina, their dislike of Bolivians wasn’t hidden.  I was taken aback by the near immediate and frequent racist comments about Bolivians.  It was awful.

Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
The breathtaking views of the Andes

As we left Mendoza, our guide told us of the history of the region, including the original Spanish settlers and the more recent Italian and German immigrants.  Our first stop was a gas station about 20 minutes outside of town – we needed to get water, lots of water for the day.  Because of the altitude, the temperature and the relative dryness of the area, we were quite parched.  Plus an entire day of drinking wine wouldn’t help us in that regard.

We continued on to our first destination in the Uco Valley.  We chose Uco as we really wanted to step outside of the city and being only an hour away, it wouldn’t eat up a large portion of our day just getting there. 

La Azul – Tasting

Our first stop was La Azul.  A small family producer that greeted us very warmly upon our arrival.  This wasn’t a tiny producer – there were several other tasting tourists there.  We sat down with a group of Americans, who were also staying at the Park Hyatt Mendoza.  It is such a small world. The guy who sat in front of my on the flight from Buenos Aires to Mendoza was part of this group.  He was much nicer today, when he wasn’t slamming his seat into my knees.

We worked our way through a couple of tasting with a member of the winemaker’s family. She was a bit robotic and on autopilot, but she was able to provide us some fun details on the wine, the vineyard and production. 

After tasting a few bottles we moved on to their production facility where we were able to do a barrel tasting.  This was definitely more for show and offered no real substance, but it was fun nonetheless.

We enjoyed the wine at La Azul and picked up a few bottles to take home.

Gimenez Riili – Tasting and Lunch

Our next stop was Gimenez Riili.  It took us about 40 minutes to travel between the vineyards.  Again, like at La Azul we were greeted very warmly – like old friends.  Perhaps it’s because our guide did indeed know everyone we were meeting with.  By extension we were family.  As with any proper family visit, you should be greeted with some sparkling wine, right?

Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
Enjoying the sun while we wait for lunch.

The views at Gimenez Riili were utterly spectacular.  The Andes Mountains looming like giants in the distance.  Purple mountains majesty never felt so real than in this moment.

Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
Bottles all prepped for our lunch tastings
Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
Prepping plates for lunch at Gimenez Riili.

Our tasting was also our lunch for the day.  We dine alfresco at small tables under trees in the vineyard.  This meal reminded me so much of our time at IPNC.  Honestly, even the Argentine weather in November reminded me much of Oregon in July.  The sun baking down on our skin, dry, but not drying.  It was one of those battery recharging moments for me.

Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
Enjoying bubbles while the beef ribs cook

The Meal

The meal was spectacular. Not surprising, but it was a very meat centric meal.  Our slow and casual lunch was filled with beautiful wines, stellar views and such warm and welcoming service.  The food was no slouch either.  We ate and ate. 

Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
The alfresco table setting at Gimenez Riili
Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
Starter spreads for our lunch tasting
Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
River Trout ceviche with mustard
Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
Bring on the meat!
Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
A simple, yet flavorful pot de creme for dessert

The one complaint I do have was the timing. I do love a slow and casual meal, but this was a bit extreme.  The service fell off a bit and at one point our dessert was delivered before our entrée.  We had another vineyard to visit before the day ended and the slowdown here was starting to impact our plans.  A quick reminder of timing and plating helped get us back on track.  Honestly, I could have stayed here all day, eating, drinking, relaxing, but not if we’ve got another vineyard to visit.  Chop Chop.

Corazon del Sol – Tasting and Tango

We picked up a couple of bottles at Gimenez Riili as well and quickly headed off to our final stop of the day.  As we arrived at Corazon del Sol, the sun was hovering over the Andes and providing such a warm embrace, I couldn’t have been happier.  We sat outside and listened to a local tango group.  Tango. Spanish Guitar. Flamenco.  I loved it.  As we lounged outside we were given some rosé.  This part of the tasting was purely entertainment. We were given no guidance on the wine. We were to site back, bask in the glory of the Andes and let the music flow.  It was so relaxing.

Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
The sun blazes down upon the vines.
Mendoza Argentina Wine Tasting
Tango performance at our final tasting

After the concert we made our way into the tasting room.  Our friends from the flight, and the first winery ended their tour at the same winery as we did.  We ended up chatting with them a bit more during the proper tasting.  There wasn’t much of a program at Corazon del Sol.  It seemed more like a mad rush for them to pour wine and make sales.  We didn’t end up buying anything at this stop.  There were a couple of items that we really did want to buy, but nothing was available at that time.  The next vintage would be released soon and we could order and have it shipped home.  We opted not to do that.

End of Day

We hopped back into our guide’s Jeep and made our way back to the Park Hyatt.  Our tour of the Uco Valley took about 7-8 hours and was absolutely worth every penny we spent.  Not only was the landscape breathtaking, the wine stellar and the winemakers so welcoming, the weather was perfect.  Closing out November in the southern hemisphere allows us to kick winter down the road a little bit. 

While the initial planning of this day was quite frustrating – I guess these tour companies have so much business they can turn down customers – I’m so pleased with the help that the Park Hyatt gave us.  Our guide – despite his blatant racism – was a generous and welcoming host.  The price was perfect for what we received – we would have HATED to been on a tour bus with 40 other people, making our way through the factory style wine tasting rooms.

Have you visited the Uco Valley before?  Which wineries are your favorite?  When we return – and we shall – where do you recommend we visit?

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Stitch Fix Review – February’s Men’s Box

The email notifying me of my February box hit my inbox more than a week ago, but the box itself didn’t show up on schedule.  I assume the awful weather we were having in Chicago had something to do with it.   I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat this month. Despite having kept everything from my past two boxes, I was feeling a little blasé this month. Remember, I returned EVERYTHING from November, but kept everything in December and January.  While I wasn’t in LOVE with the January items, the 25% savings you get by keeping EVERYTHING made it worthwhile. 

Unlike in the past, I didn’t take the time to properly comment on my fixes. I was busy and I just wanted to move on to something else.  Well, let me tell you, that was a mistake. 

As a reminder, my focus for Stitch Fix is more casual clothes.  My office transitioned to a fully casual environment last year and after years of building up a solid business and business-casual closet, I needed some help.  I get all of my dress shirts custom made from a tailor in Hong Kong and they are perfect.  My pants are mostly from Banana Republic.

With a much more casual dress code now, I need to revamp my closet.  Enter Stitch Fix.  I’ve been using the service off and on since last summer, with relative success.  Read more about my previous boxes herehere and here. My fix arrived this week – let’s jump in, shall we?

Stitch Fix Men's Box
Anticipation and excitement. What’s in the box?

In The Box

  • Boconi – Barstow Casual Vegan Leather Belt – $38
    • First off, what’s a Vegan Leather Belt?  Secondly, the belt wasn’t sized right, it said it was a 36, which is the perfect size for my 33-34″ waist.  This belt was a bit tight, but I really was diggin’ the color and style — and the price.  Undecided
  • 01ALGO – Interval Stretch Poplin Shirt – $64
    • I love this shirt.  The sleeves and the waist fit perfectly. I loved this shirt when they sent it to me over the summer, just in a different color.  I don’t need the exact same shirt in purple. Return
  • GRAYERS – Falmer Vintage Flannel Workshirt – $88
    • This shirt reminds me of growing up in rural Oregon. I dig a warm flannel.  This one fit very well too.  The colors and the pattern were really rough though.  This was actually the first thing I saw in the box and I knew I’d be returning it immediately.  WOWZER. Return
  • 7 Diamonds – Siena Pique Patch Pocket Blazer – $150
    • This blazer was quite nice and fit very well.  The problem, I have a ton of blue blazers, plus, Stitch Fix just sent me a blue blazer last month.  Return
  • Mavi – Zach Straight Leg Pant  – $98
    • These pants fit great and the color is not like anything I’ve got in my closet now.  Keep
Men's Stitch Fix Box
My February Style Box from Stitch Fix

Initial Impressions

I wasn’t impressed initially.  So much of the same stuff. You’ll remember last month I got a hoodie that looked almost identical to the hoodie from the previous month.  I always say, you can’t have too many blue blazers, but I think I’m at the point where I have too many blue blazers!  Plus, sending me a shirt that I love in just a different color seems a little lazy.  The belt and pants really sang to me though and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have selected those pants on my own. 

The Decision

This month, I decided to KEEP the belt and pants while returning the shirt, blazer and that flannel that I find to be just plain ugly.   I’m not getting the 25% discount this month, but I’m OK with that.  I wasn’t digging several of the items this month and while I can imagine them working into my wardrobe (except that flannel), my goal with Stitch Fix isn’t to provide slightly different versions of things I like.

My results aren’t all that consistent with StichFix, but I’m still digging this whole process.  I was offered free styling for a year for $49.  Without this offer, each month, you must pay $20 styling fee, even if you return everything.

Do you use Stitch Fix?  Give me your Stitch Fix Review. Guys – what other services like this do you use and recommend?  Or do you just prefer to walk into your local Banana Republic and grab stuff off the racks?

Travel Advice: Power Cables

How many electronic devices do you travel with? If you’re like me, you’ve got phones, tablets, cameras, battery packs, laptops – the list goes on and on. Also, if you’re like me, sometimes you forget a certain charger or power cables. Have you ever opened up your suitcase at a hotel and realized you forget a USB cable, or a wall plug adapter? Frustrating as hell right?

Well, generally, I’ve fixed that problem. I keep a separate small bag in my suitcase all the time. This small bag has my travel only power cables and adapters. These items live in this small travel bag and only come out when on the road.

In this bag, I keep the following items:

  • Three two-prong wall plug to USB adapters
  • Two Type-A USB Adapters (these are the older style that work for my 3-year old Samsung Tablet
  • Two Type-C USB Adapters (these are the new ones that connect my Samsung Galaxy S8)
  • Two Type-A to Type-C USB Adapters – just in case
  • Small battery pack with enough power to charge my phone 1.5 times
Power Cable Travel Kit
My always stocked cable kit

I personally keep these items in a 5+ year old Lufthansa Business Class Amenity Kit. I was pissed when I got this kit while en route to Vietnam. The small canvas bag is strong and has held my most important power cables for years. I love this setup.

The Gift

At work, we’ve got a couple new people who just started traveling more frequently. Deciding to outfit them each with one of these little kits, I popped over to Amazon and bought some Amazon Basics Power Cables for either their Android or Apple products. I even snagged enough wall adapters to open up my own shop. I found small canvas bags on Amazon too. Take a look for makeup bags – they work splendidly.

I also snagged this gift for my better half. It seems right before a trip he’s always running around the house looking for something. Now this just lives in his suitcase. For him, I splurged on a nice leather bag – some moderately overpriced, handmade pencil bag from a little shop in the neighborhood.

Power Cables
Gifted cable kit. Everything you need to leave in a hurry.

When he opened the box at Christmas, the look on his face was..well…disappointed. After I explained it to him, he seemed a little more pleased. It wasn’t until his first trip, when he was frantically looking for things that this gift made sense. I had already filled the bag with his needed cables and adapters. Since he travels internationally for work, I also threw in a European and UK converter. Easy breezy.

Now I always know where my cables are and I know that I am NEVER to remove these cables from the simple canvas bag if I am in Chicago. Hard Stop. Don’t Touch. It works great!

What little travel tip or hack do you have?

Park Hyatt Mendoza – Standard Room

Since we first started talking about visiting Argentina, we knew we wanted to visit Mendoza. Situated at the base of the Andes and one of the world’s best-known wine regions, this area was a must visit. Several friends had stayed at the Park Hyatt Mendoza and while it wasn’t the most modern hotel, it came with the best recommendations.

After finally making it to Mendoza, after flying in from Buenos Aires (and not realizing we needed to change airports) we made our way directly to the Park Hyatt Mendoza. The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was about 25 minutes with limited traffic until we got very close to the hotel itself.

The Arrival

Stepping out of the taxi, we were approached by several bellhops offering to take our luggage. Since we were traveling light, this was a service that we didn’t need. We continued on into the grand lobby and directly to the check in desk, where there was no line.

Park Hyatt Mendoza - Main Lobby
The main lobby at the Park Hyatt Mendoza was very grand and welcoming.
Park Hyatt Mendoza
Park Hyatt Mendoza Lobby

Check-in was very quick. We have no status with Hyatt so there was no discussion on what sort of welcome gift we’d get. WiFi was included with all room as was the breakfast each morning.

The elevators up to the guestrooms and spa were near the casino entrance, which was enticing for me. I do love to spend some time at the craps table, when time allows. This trip, we just walked through the casino, not even slowing down to see what games were available.

The Rooms

The standard room had two twin beds, which is what we requested. The room was nicely sized for a standard room. We didn’t end up spending much time in the room itself as we were out wine tasting or exploring the area. I wouldn’t upgrade to a larger room or spend more money on a room at this hotel. The standard was perfectly acceptable.

Park Hyatt Mendoza - Sleeping Area
The bedroom area in our Standard Room
Park Hyatt Mendoza - Sleeping Area
The bedroom area in our Standard Room
Park Hyatt Mendoza Welcome Gift
Welcome Gift
Park Hyatt Mendoza - Vanity
The small vanity in our standard room
Park Hyatt Mendoza - Separate Bathtub
The separate bathtub in our large bathroom
Park Hyatt Mendoza - Shower
Next to the separate tub was the shower
Park Hyatt Mendoza - Bathroom
Toilet and Bidet

Breakfast

The breakfast was served in the first floor restaurant each morning. While not on par with a standard Asian hotel breakfast buffet, the Park Hyatt did a nice job. Lots of meats, cheeses and pastries to be found. A manned omelette/egg station offered a nice selection of custom ordered eggs. Plus, the key to any proper complimentary hotel breakfast: a nice sparkling wine. There was never a line for any of the food nor to grab a table.

Park Hyatt Mendoza - Breakfast
The breakfast buffet
Park Hyatt Mendoza - Pastries
Park Hyatt Mendoza Pastry Buffet
Park Hyatt Mendoza
Champagne, pork, tomatoes and cheese, a standard Tim Breakfast while traveling

The Park Hyatt Mendoza Pool and Spa

Since this was vacation, we made sure to build in some time at the pool and at the spa. We each had 90 minute massages, which were embarrassingly inexpensive. My masseuse was very strong and worked out kinks that I didn’t know I had. He was so good, I felt sore for the next day and a half. Maybe a little too aggressive.

The pool was located on the main lobby level and while it was a bit small, it was beautiful. The weather was stunning during our visit, so the pool was quite popular. We managed to snag some loungers pool side, near the bar, no less.

Park Hyatt Mendoza Pool Deck
The beautiful outdoor pool at the Park Hyatt Mendoza

While we knew we wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt Mendoza, our initial plan was to stay with points, but I completely forgot to book this hotel.  It wasn’t until about eight days before our departure that I realized we had no place to stay!  Unfortunately there were no award nights available during our stay.  We planned on transferring some Chase Ultimate Reward Points over to Hyatt.  Each night at the Park Hyatt Mendoza cost us 342USD.  I’d have rather spent points, but that’s what happens when you fail to plan. Considering we were using points for the rest of the trip, this high price tag didn’t sting so badly.

Final Thoughts

The Park Hyatt Mendoza wasn’t a stellar property.  It did remind me a bit of the Park Hyatt Zurich, but wasn’t as sophisticated.  That being said, I’d definitely stay at this property again.  The clean rooms and attentive staff made for a great first stop on our Argentine Adventure.

Have you stayed at the Park Hyatt Mendoza?  Did you think it was a bit dated?  Would you recommend this property to a friend or would you stay again? 

Workout Tips – No Really

I’ve written a few times about my journey on the Peloton. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Peloton, it’s a high end stationary bike. It has a large tablet attached which allows you to take live and on-demand classes. There are hundreds of classes on-demand and dozens of live classes each day. Peloton is more than a bike, it’s a community.

While having this bike at home makes it really easy to workout regularly, I still struggle. The easiest excuse I use to have for skipping a workout was that I didn’t want to go to the gym. Perhaps it was too cold. Maybe it was too hot. Too rainy? Really, I was just too lazy and hate working out. Now I just have to go to the basement. It is still very easy to find an excuse.

As I mentioned in my recent milestone post, I have been trying to workout each morning before work. I can’t bring myself to getting up early enough to take a full 45 minute class, but I push myself to take a 20 or 30 minute class before work.

Peloton Exercise Bike
The Peloton Bike! A beauty, isn’t she?

My mornings are very tightly organized. I maximize sleep and when adding a fitness regimen into the mix, I can be thrown out of sorts. I’ve come up with some tips that really cut down on my excuses and have really helped me maintain my morning workout routine. Take a look:

My Workout Prep Plan

Each night before I go to bed, I fully prep for my next morning. I find that if I can just get out of bed, make zero decisions, I can get a ride in. For this, I make sure these four things are set:

  • Filled water bottle in the fridge. I love ice cold water while riding.
  • Bluetooth headphones are charged. After my rides, I check the charge and plug in. Nothing is worse than not having proper headphones for an early morning ride. That’s just a way to piss off the entire house with you blaring spin music at 05h30.
  • Charged heart rate monitor. See above. While not as annoying to your household, it’s just as frustrating to me. I love metrics and heart rate is important to me.
  • Workout Clothes. I set out my workout clothes the night before. Actually, I set them out on the floor right next to the bed. I get up and actually step on the clothes. Just one more reminder not to be a lazy ass.

I keep my cycling shoes right next to the bike too, so there is no frantic searching for gear. That would be an easy excuse for me. I allocate about 30 minutes in the morning for a ride. That includes waking up, changing, grabbing water, gearing up (shoes, headphones and heart rate monitor) and a 20 minute ride. Then it’s off to the kitchen for breakfast.

Without these simple workout tips, I’d really have an easy time skipping my rides. What tips do you have for people like me who aren’t really fitness junkies?