Friday, January 15, 2010

Worthy side trip

We arrived in Salta and enjoyed one day, only to leave again the next on a 4 hour bus trip to the small community of Cafayate. We were a little road weary at this point, having already spent a significant portion of the previous 48 hours on buses, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to join our friends Gill and Ruth on this excursion to Argentina's second most significant wine region that is also the home of our new favourite little grape, the Torrontés.

The drive to and from Cafayate is one of the most unforgettable and breathtaking trips we have ever taken. The road splits the bright red mountains and winds around lush green valleys. I find the varying red mountains to be more spectacular then the snow covered peaks of southern Argentina and Chile, perhaps because they are so very different from what we have at home.

After dumping our bags and enjoying a quick lunch on the edge of the center plaza, we hopped in a cab for a short ride outside of the city to the first winery. By now, you would think we would have learned the lesson to follow through on our gut instinct of skip-tour-and-taste-only-please, but no...we suffered through another dry explanation of the process which only differs slightly from winery to winery. Would it hurt for them to hire tour guides that have even an ounce of enthusiasm for their job? Anyways...

We tasted four different wines with the majority of us favouring the white Torrontés, which is grown only in this region of the world. It has a very fruity aroma and carries through some sweetness to the otherwise dry, clear wine. It has replaced my previous favourite Pinot Grigio!

Winery entrance

The second and third wineries were without tour - taste only! More favouring of Torrontés, and a few bottles were purchased to enjoy later. After all of our wine touring thus far, we do now believe ourselves to be quite the experts. Except for maybe Gill, who on different occasions when inhaling the aroma of the wine, has claimed to smell hints of "tar", "seaweed", and my personal favourite: "rose hand cream on a tea cup". Hmmm. Perhaps she should keep her day job and give up her dream of becoming a sommelier (wine expert).

Next in order was a siesta before dinner! This was no normal siesta for me - apparently my body decided that a two hour nap was not enough, and I slept for 17 hours, straight through to the next morning. My road weariness caught up with me, and I missed out on the dinner of fine cheese, salami, grapes and of course, wine. Thankfully though I recovered in time for the next day and our next destination.

Another cab, this time for an hour out of Cafayate to see ruins from the Quilmes indians - an indigenous tribe that fiercely fought the Inca invasion of the 15th century before finally falling to the Spaniards in 1667. It was restored 30 years ago and is quite remarkable - it is one of the most important archeological sites in Argentina.

Pete atop the ruins

Back to Cafayate for ice cream and a bit of shopping, just enough time to soak in some of the quiet beauty of the town before getting back on the bus to the big city. We wished we had planned to stay a little longer as it is becoming clear to us that one of the greatest charms of Argentina is the many small, vibrant communities throughout, especially in the north west.

But, back we are in Salta for a few more nights, before a mammoth bus ride to see the Iguazu falls. We have a couple of these style bus trips coming up, which may result in a couple more mammoth siestas for us road weary travelers...

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