Being from California and spending much of my post 21 year-old years tasting wines from Santa Barbara to Napa Valley, my move to Argentina meant a whole new wine country I was excited to start exploring. My first month living in Buenos Aires involved a long weekend trip to Mendoza to begin dabbling in Malbecs (a heavy, fruit-forward red wine perfectly paired with the Argentine meat culture). And now, I have finally reached Cafayate whose land is home to the lesser known Torrontes (a summery, crisp and refreshing white wine that even I, a devoted red wine consumer, truly enjoyed). Discover my wine tasting Torrontes experience in the stunning village of Cafayate in northern Argentina
The ride from Salta to Cafayate, through the brick red mountains and contrasting tree-lined rivers, was well worth the twenty plus hour bus venture from Buenos Aires alone and I hadn’t even tasted any wines yet!
I was welcomed to the colonial village of Cafayate by a brilliant sunset illuminating the surrounding red-clay mountains. I stopped by the tourist information office in the plaza to pick up a wine tour map and begin planning my route of attack. To my delight the map was like a starry night sky with a constellation of bodegas circling the central plaza. Within only a couple hours I had sampled some local wines and thoroughly enjoyed a steamy tamale (corn dough stuffed with meat or cheese and boiled in its corn husk) for dinner on the steps of the Cathedral.
The main plaza is a bit touristy with over-priced steaks, served on linen-draped tables, accompanied by live folkloric music. Non-the-less, it captures well the romance of this quaint wine town. Two Mercado Artisanales (local craft markets), located on opposite sides of the plaza, are a good option for picking up some souvenirs of gaucho woven blankets and clay ceramics to keep the memory alive back at home.
The 10km circumference around the town of Cafayate is packed with all ranges of bodegas for sampling the local wines. On foot or by bike, you will find family-owned, organic bodegas that sell their love-filled wines from their living room, and highly developed, 100-acre bodegas that export their wines all over South America and offer well organized tours and tastings for a small fee (like Bodega La Banda and Etchart). A bike is handy for getting to some of the more secluded family-owned bodegas where you´ll ride up to find the owner sipping mate with his feet up (Bodega Utama and Celedonio). There are plenty of bodegas, however just a stroll away from Cafayate´s city center, so a bike is not necessary to get a good variety of tastes in (Bodega Nani was my favorite).
On a hot day step into one of the heladerias (ice cream shops) and keep your wine tasting buzz going with a scoop of Torrontes or Malbec ice cream. They literally take bottles of the wine and pour it into the ice cream churn, no extra sugar or cream added…pure wine helado!
Stroll through the lavender fields to the ¨Cabras de Cafayate¨, an eco-friendly bodega also home to over 200 of the most tranquil and happy goats you´ll ever meet. On the tour you learn that the goats are milked to the classical music of Mozart and Bach. You can taste their blissful existence in the six different cheeses (from creamy Gouda to sharp cheddars) you get to sample, and will have a hard time not buying. Happy goats truly do make delicious cheese and a happy me!