We wrote it off as just another funny but exaggerated story told by our hosts: sure, Argentines are notoriously loco for their fiestas, but there was no way a parade would actually have beauty queens hurling fruit into the crowds.
To our hosts – and Vendimia – we apologize for doubting you.
Friday night, Josh and I followed the excited throng to Calle San Martin in Mendoza capital. We wedged ourselves between two little girls decked out in sparkles and crowns and waving baskets adorned with “Señorita Agostina’s” picture.
Every summer, each region of the Mendoza province elects a queen, and in the weeks preceding Vendimia, pictures of these regional queens pop up everywhere: in store windows, in the newspaper, in our host family’s kitchen (where the kids then demanded that Josh and I pick our favorite queen…) The reina madness culminates in Via Blanca, a procession of regional floats each bearing their queen and all her attendants decked out in prom dresses and hair that would do Dolly Parton proud. While the queen graciously waves to her adoring public, her attendants have the task of hurling regional delicacies into the crowd. Apples, grapes, bottles of Mendocino spring water, bottles of wine, melons, and in the case of one float, bits of asado meat are all chucked with gusto into a sea of outstretched hands and (for the Vendimia-veterans out there) baskets on tall poles.
It felt a bit like the Winnipeg Hydro Santa Claus Parade I attend every year with my mom… Just put Santa in a sparkly dress, and have cantaloupe exploding at your feet instead of pieces of candy cane.
To further celebrate Mendoza wine, we took a day trip to Maipu, a tiny town about an hour from the capital, where we spent a gloriously sunny afternoon biking around town and exploring its countless wineries and olive groves.
La Bodega Rural (Est. 1885)
La Trapiche (Est. 1883)
* Fun fact: The main man at Trapiche was originally in cahoots with La Rural! *
For all you wine enthusiasts out there, head to your nearest LC (or gas station, you crazy Yanks), pick up a bottle of La Trapiche, and think of us!
FYI: Don’t waste time worrying about “good” or “bad” vintages of Mendocino wine. Mendoza has near-perfect growing conditions 363/365 days of the year, so every year is a good year!