Most Recent Study Tour

    The Chicago Farmers Argentina Study Tour 2020

    Twenty-two Chicago Farmers members and guests arrived at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the morning of February 9, 2020.  The group was greeted by Gustavo and Alejandra Miroglio, our Argentinean hosts for the following two days. We boarded two comfortable "combies" (coaches) and departed for San Andres de Giles, about two hours northwest of Buenos Aires.  

    After checking-in to the Hotel Bianchi, we had lunch at the hotel’s restaurant and took a break to recover from the 10.5-hour overnight flight, before leaving for the Miroglio's home for our first Argentinean asado (cookout) that evening. Gustavo, Alejandra, their children and their families showered our group with their warm and generous hospitality. After a delicious asado, Gustavo gave us an overview of his farming operation and of the heavily taxed agroindustry in Argentina. Our group had ample opportunity for Q&A with Gustavo.  

    Early Monday morning our busses took us to the Miroglio farm, where we saw first-hand the amazing operation the Miroglios run, growing wheat, corn and soybeans on 20,000 acres, and raising 3.5 million chickens a year. Most of their grain is processed on the farm for feed for the poultry enterprise. 

    Next on the schedule for the day was a bus tour of the Santa Catalina feed lot, neighboring the Miroglio's farm.  A 10,000 head family-run facility takes grass-fed feeder calves and finishes them on mostly grain. They sell the beef locally and to Buenos Aires province.

    Early in the afternoon we all enjoyed a delicious meal at a local Italian restaurant, we thanked and bid farewell to our wonderful hosts, familia Miroglio.

    We arrived in Rosario, our next stop, around 7 pm.  A major river port and one of the largest cities in Argentina, Rosario, Santa Fe province, sits on the western bank of the Parana River, about 180 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. Worth mentioning, Hotel Puerto Norte, where we stayed, is a beautiful, wonderfully comfortable hotel ingeniously and tastefully built within a repurposed grain elevator located at a bend alongside of the Parana River.

    On Tuesday, February 11, we visited the family owned Bertini planter factory. It was founded by Ing. Enrique Bertini senior, who in 40+ years turned this once garage-size one-man-dream into one of the most solid precision-planter factories in Argentina. With 120 employees, the factory produces their machines from design to final product practically without outsourcing. It has a product design and development department, an assembly sector with cutting-edge technology such as laser cutting and robotic processes, and an electrostatic painting department. Recently it added a shed of 22,000 m2 to optimize the logistics. The Bertini planters are sold throughout Argentina as well as in Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Belgium, Italy, Spain, England, Finland, Romania and France.  Once more, the warm Argentinean hospitality was at its best as, Ing. Bertini, his wife Mercedes, son Enrique and daughter Vanina fed us a wonderful asado prepared right there at the factory.

    In the early evening we attended an interesting presentation on the Grain Market in Argentina by Patricia Bergero and Emilce Terré, Economists from the Rosario Board of Trade. Their talk confirmed the picture presented by Gustavo Miroglio regarding the heavy taxation on the Argentinean farmers. Considering all taxes paid, including income, value added, property taxes etc., the resulting tax rate amounts to 83%.

    Our visit to Rosario was cut short due to a change of our flight to Mendoza. Early Wednesday morning, February 12, we boarded our flight to Mendoza, via Buenos Aires, instead of taking a river tour of the Port of Rosario. But the long two-leg trip was soon forgotten when we arrived in the beautiful city of Mendoza. We began our stay with a visit to the Antigua Bodega Giol and mansion. Formerly touted as the largest winery in the world in the early 1900s, Bodega Giol boasts a unique and fascinating history that comprises it all, even—as legend has it—champion bull blood in the Giol wines. The tour included a light lunch and our first wine tasting.

    We enjoyed a City Tour of Mendoza on the way to our Hotel Montañas Azules. The city of Mendoza is located on the plain east of the Andes mountain range. Founded in 1561, it grew to be a cosmopolitan city due to the large number of Italian and Spanish immigrants who settled there in the 1800s-1900s. Two of the main industries of the Mendoza area are wine and olive oil. The region around Greater Mendoza is the largest wine-producing area in South America. As such, Mendoza is one of the nine Great Wine Capitals of the world, and the city is an emerging tourism destination and base for exploring the region's hundreds of wineries located along the Argentina Wine Route

    After checking into our hotel, located in the business district of the city, we had enough time to go shopping or just for a walk before dinner.  The group, minus a few, went to La Lucia restaurant, a walking distance from the hotel, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and some of the great Argentinean wines.

    On Thursday, we boarded our bus and left for Lujan de Cuyo for our tour and wine tasting at Catena Zapata Vineyard and Winery. Arriving at our destination, we were surprised at the large Mayan-pyramid style building in front of us. An Italian immigrant planted his first vineyard here in the Mendoza region in 1902. The winery has remained in the Catena family for over a century and is one of the few family-owned wine industries remaining in Argentinean hands. Now in its fourth generation, the family takes great pride in carrying on the tradition that began over a century ago. We enjoyed a very interesting, guided walk through the main barrel room, the bodega, and an educational tour of the vineyard. The tasting consisted of four high-end wines: Catena Alta Chardonnay, Catena Alta Malbec, D.V. Catena Vineyard Designated La Pirámide Cabernet Sauvignon and D.V. Catena Vineyard Designated Nicasia Malbec. All were excellent, unfortunately none are sold in the United States.

    At noon we headed to Bodega Norton Winery, Perdriel location. A beautifully presented, very tasty and abundant lunch carefully paired with the various dishes was served for our group at the Norton’s Restaurante La Vid.

    After lunch we proceeded to the guided tour and tasting. Bodega Norton has five vineyards spread over the main terroirs* of the province of Mendoza, in foothills of the Andes Mountains. It is not just geographical location that influences the quality of their wines, but the age of the vines. Their vines average age is around 30 years, but they also have many hectares planted  that are more than 80 years old.  Our tour was at Perdriel, the original Norton property, where the winery is located. With a hundred years of continuous cultivation, it consists of 100 hectares almost entirely planted 950 meters above sea level, with vines aged between 30 and 50 years old, which produce aromatic and concentrated white and red grapes, perfect for making powerful and elegant high-end wines. It excels in the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec varieties.

    *Terroirs: the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character.

    To end our tour and tasting, we were directed to the Cova where we were given the opportunity to make our own blend by combining varietals and discovering aromas, textures and complexity. We even designed our own label! All had a good time and went home with three or four bottles of our own wines to enjoy at our next group dinner.

    On Friday, February 14, our bus took us to Maipu, Familia Zucccardi. This was a bicycle or “back-of-the -pickup” tour of the olive orchard, the processing plant, and an olive oil tasting.

    Eighty hectares of olive trees are cultivated at Finca Maipú under an organic production system. The cultivation of an extensive varietal collection of more than 90 varieties of olive trees from different parts of the world allows them to research how well each of these varieties adapt to the region, allowing them to obtain quality oils with different profiles and flavors. Extra virgin olive oil is a natural food that we consume in the same original form as it is produced in the olive tree, with all its qualities, aromas and flavors, which is why it is considered an oily juice of olives. Preserving all these natural qualities and attributes requires careful handling at each of the stages of the production process, which consist of harvesting, transportation and washing, grinding and natural separation at low temperatures, ending with filtration and storage.  At the olive oil tasting we tasted Changlot (delicate and complex), Picual (aromatic and fresh), Corantina (intense and herbal) and Arauco, extra virgin (fresh y fruity).

    The tour ended with a magnificent meal at La Casa del Visitante, Bodega Santa Julia, perfectly situated so that guests can take in the scenery of the vineyards and the mountains. The menu was a combination of traditional dishes with perfectly paired Santa Julia wines and varietal olive oils from Familia Zuccardi.

    On our return to Mendoza, we stopped for a visit with the Corporación Vitivinicola Argentina, (COVIAR), the Argentine Wine Corporation, a public-private entity, like our corn and soybean associations in the US. They work to promote Argentinean wine, concentrated grape juice, raisins and table grapes on the domestic and world markets. Worth mentioning is the work that COVIAR is doing in the development of small grape producers to integrate them into the wine and concentrated grape juice business. Another interesting bit of information we learned at this visit was that in 2014, small producers across Argentina came out with a special and unique blend of wine, Todos, to be used by Pope Francisco in the celebration of mass.  Pope Francisco is Argentinean. In the evening, the group enjoyed a relaxed late dinner at Anna Bistró Restaurante, Cuyano- Mediterranean cuisine, a treat by Eric and Maria to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Eric's birthday!

    On Saturday morning we flew back to Buenos Aires to spend our last two days in the Capital of Argentina.  Our bus took us from the airport to the Claridge Hotel and after checking in, we went to Puerto Madero for lunch.  Puerto Madero is a revamped dockside area. Its converted redbrick buildings contain upscale steakhouses and trails that loop around several lakes at the wildlife rich Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve.

    The group scattered in different directions after lunch for a free afternoon in the city.  We met back at the hotel at 6:30 to board the bus that took us to Las Barracas for dinner and to a tango show at Señor Tango. Buenos Aires is widely recognized as the birthplace of tango dancing, so no visit to Argentina’s capital would be complete without watching a tango show. Señor Tango is a spectacular Broadway style show, the biggest in town, with large-scale sets, a live orchestra, professional dancers and outstanding performances that include horses, visual effects, and the latest generation technology.

    Sunday morning was free to relax or to explore the surrounding area, attend a service, or finish shopping for souvenirs. After lunch we met at the hotel lobby and boarded our bus to take a three-hour tour of the city including Plaza Naciones Unidas, Barrio Palermo, Plaza Evita, Avenida Alvear, Recoleta Cemetery, Evita’s Tomb, Barrio El Retiro, Teatro Colon, Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Barrios San Telmo, La Boca, y Caminito. Then bidding farewell to Argentina our tour bus left us at Ezeiza Airport for our return flight home at 9 that evening.

    We are thankful we made it back home just ahead of COVID-19, which could have really put a damper on an otherwise great trip.

    Maria and I would like to say how much we enjoyed traveling with the Chicago Farmers group. You are a naturally curious group, and you value traveling, not just for its entertainment value, but as an opportunity to expand your knowledge of the world and its peoples. Thank you, all.