I'd saved the biggest treat of my Mendoza stay for the final two days. Over the Internet, I'd found Finca Adalgisa, a private bodega and finca (estate) about five miles out of Mendoza, that takes guests. Arriving at the finca in the morning, I was stunned to find myself in a private villa, with a main house, large cottages with porches, and a big swimming pool, all surrounded by golden vineyards. "Please feel as if this is your house," was the warm welcome from Gabriela Furlotti, the owner who had converted the house to an inn two years ago and lives with her mother, Adalgisa, in a house on the property.
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I took a look around my enormous cottage, with its king bed, fireplace, separate living room and small kitchen, and wondered when I'd be able to enjoy luxury like this again for $61 a night.
Furlotti's two capable assistants acted as concierges, helping me arrange my activities. On one afternoon, I hired a car and driver (for about $24), and visited some nearby wineries. At Dolium, the genial Mario Giadorou, an Italian engineer-turned-winemaker, guided me through his small bodega, which is remarkable for its modern Italian architectural style, as well as for the fact that it produces some terrific white wines, not generally considered a specialty of the region. Dolium's unusual, fruity 2002 sauvignon blanc had enticing hints of mangoes and citrus in its bouquet. In the restaurant called 1884 Francis Mallman, which is adjacent to Escorihuela, one of Mendoza's oldest bodegas, I savored a terrific lunch ($24) of steak, simply grilled and served with chimichurri, accompanied by a dazzling cabernet, the best they had. It was so wonderful that after lunch I hurried next door to the bodega to buy a bottle of Escorihuela Gascón 2002 cabernet ($14.50).