Mendoza has a habit of helping unwitting foreigners find love. It’s the romance of the place, the social lubrication of wine, the impulsive spirit of travel and the willingness to suspend conventional wisdom in the pursuit of unconventional happiness that ensnares the hearts of those who had planned on just passing through.
And the stories are many. Among the circle of expats that call Mendoza home and those that work in tourism, there is never more than one degree of separation to the nearest couple that unexpectedly met in Mendoza and fell in love. Here are just a handful of romantic anecdotes to get your heart a flutter for Valentine’s Day:
Love at Altitude
Cassandra came to Mendoza not in search of love, but in search of another high: the Aconcagua summit. Having traveled from Australia to make a run at Argentina’s famous peak, the last thing she needed was a distraction. Enter: Pablo.
Just before the start of her climb, Cassandra met Pablo, owner of the climbing company she contracted. And just as she descended the mountain, Pablo was there waiting for her. Cassandra spent what was left of her trip falling in love with Pablo and Mendoza, and the two embarked on a relationship held together by Skype calls and airline miles.
But geography wasn’t the only obstacle they faced, the language too proved to be a challenge. “He wanted to tell me how much he liked me,” says Cassandra, “but he kept getting his English scrambled, telling me ‘you like me,’ ‘you like me a lot!’ And though it at first seemed an arrogant display of confidence, it turned out Pablo was right all along.”
“I came to climb a mountain,” Cassandra said, “I ended up leaving without the summit, but with the man of my future. Mendoza is my new home.”
Two Expats Cross Paths
He: A Man from Montreal, studying wine making in Argentina and moonlighting as a wine guide, and She: a US native working in Buenos Aires on vacation in Mendoza. It should have been a day like any other, but a special look, a little laughter and some friendly flirtation changed the course of more than just the tour.
What started with a stolen kiss outside of Ruca Malen winery slowly “developed into something amazing,” said the Man from Montreal. The two traveled to visit each other in Argentina, and then internationally when she moved back to the States.
But what was it that made the difference between a kiss and a keeper? “It is the romantic notion of falling in love around the vines that sparks these romances for a lot of people, starting with the first sip of Malbec,” he admits.
The Canadian and the Wine Guide
And then there’s Zach and Virginia, the whirlwind wine guide meets tourist romance. Zach, a Canada native, decided to celebrate his last day traveling in Mendoza by booking a wine tour. And as any seasoned wanderer knows, a traveler must always be prepared for the unexpected: and meeting Virginia certainly qualified, as she stepped out of the tour van and into Zach’s life.
After the tour, the two weren’t ready to part ways. So, Zach changed his flight plans, rented an apartment and shuddered at the thought of moving back to Ontario and “back to the grind and my life without Virginia.” So he did the only thing he could think of and got down on one knee. Today, Zach and Virginia are planning their upcoming wedding in Mendoza and “couldn’t be happier,” says Zach.
“We always say that Mendoza is a special place because it is where the heavens meet the mountains, the water runs and the desert sits. If you slow down enough to appreciate a glass of wine you will find that the surrounding beauty melds into a wonderful setting for a love story,” he says.
When asked what makes Mendoza the vacation equivalent of Match.com, many are quick to site the usual suspects: exotic appearances and copious amounts of vino. But it’s really not that simple.
Yes, it’s true that Mendoza and Rosario are internet-ionally recognized for their beautiful women with sun-kissed skin and sleek dark hair. But what is truly responsible for Mendoza’s magnetism? “Well,Rosario doesn’t have the wine. They have soya, which just isn’t quite as romantic,” says Charlie O’Malley, owner of Trout & Wine Tours (which has seen a couple love connections in its time too).
Yet, wine-induced attraction isn’t the caliber of romance that kept Zach and Virginia, or Cassandra and Pablo together on the same continent. No, the difference is not as simple as a playboy rating of hot to not, or exotic enchantments in a foreign land. This is not Cancun. This is a quiet, conservative town, at the foothills of the Andes, under the Argentine desert sun.
It’s a town that beckons foreigners to share in the potential of the wine industry, to test their limits outdoors, to stare, wide-eyed at couples in plazas tangled up in intimate embraces and to fall, more than a little bit, in love.
Finding love in Mendoza is about as surprising as finding water in the desert. But that’s exactly what Mendoza is. An oasis, built by people who believed it could be done and that it was worth doing. And thanks to them, snowmelt from the Andes travels across massive stretches of gutters and canals to keep a city in the shade of leafy trees and filled with vineyards. Mendoza is an oasis, filled with the sound of trickling streams and stories of people in love.
By Madeline Blasberg