January 10, 2012

Chillin' in Cafayate with Canyons & Wine Flavored Ice Cream

As if the scenery in Salta wasn't enough, we headed south into what is easily the most beautiful canyon I have ever seen in my life! Our 3.5 hour bus ride south from Salta to Cafayate took us through the Quebrada de Cafayate and I didn't have to spend more than five minutes looking out the bus windows before I knew I wanted to spend more time there. But first, some wine... (Obvio, it is Argentina)

Those are just the bodegas super close to town...there are hundreds in this region!

After arriving in the small town of Cafayate, we headed to the Museo de la Vid y el Vino (Museum of the Stem & the Wine). Since one of my life list items was and is to learn more about wine, this was an essential stop and I am so glad we went! This newly remodeled museum is gorgeously decorated, well presented, and photogenic in every aspect. I learned a lot about the wine made in Cafayate and wine-making in general. Also, thanks to the English and Spanish descriptions throughout the museum, I learned some new vocab words too!

Here is what I learned:
  • Red wines are bottled in green glass and white wines in dark amber to protect them against contamination from light
  • The longer the cork, the nicer the bottle of wine is that it came from
  • Bigger bottles are better for long-term storage (and long-term enjoyment)
  • You should always store wine on its side so that the cork is constantly in contact with both wine and air
  • The vineyards in Argentina are the highest vineyards (altitude-wise) in the world
  • The local wine made in Cafayate is a white wine made from torrontes grapes
  • The types of grapes produced in Cafayate include: chardonnay, chenin, torrontes, sauvignon blanc, syrah, malbec, tannat, bonarda, merlot, temperanillo, cabernet sauvignon & cabernet franc
  • The Jesuits began the first vineyards in Cafayate, in order to make wine for church
  • viticultor = winemaker
  • mosto = must
And my favorite quote from the museum by a man named Eduardo Galeano:
A man from the vineyards spoke, in agony...before dying he revealed his secret: "the grape is made of wine, and I thought: if the grape is made of wine, maybe we are the words that tell what we are"
When we finished the wine museum we led ourselves on a little walking tour to three of the local bodegas right in Cafayate. They were all within blocks of each other and the museum!
  • Bogeda Nanni - an old family-style bodega that makes the only organic wine in Cafayate and exports to the United States, here we tried torrontes, malbec, cabernet sauvignon & a dessert wine
  • El Transito - here we only tried free samples of malbec & cabernet (note - if the wine is free, it is most likely terrible...keep walking)
  • Bodega Salvador Figueroa - here we spoke with the owner's son at a small bodega where we tried a delicious, spicy & rich tasting malbec wine

After the vino, we made our way to the main plaza to sample some more local vino, and then ended our night with more vino at Helados Miranda, home of wine flavored sorbet. Yes, ice cream combined with wine, AKA happiness in a cone. The flavors were pretty intense on their own, but paired with dark chocolate - fabulous!

Dinner in Cafayate's main plaza at the restaurant La Estancia.

Helados Miranda!

Our second full day we made our way back to that gorgeous canyon! Renting bikes from our hostel and catching a bus back to the canyon, we got dropped off with our bikes about 50 kilometers from Cafayate, at a formation called the Devil's Throat. (Yes, same name as a waterfall in Iguazu...not sure what the Argentinian obsession is with devil's throats) Despite the daunting task of biking back into town all 50 of those kilometers, the scenery was outstanding and the day could not have been nicer. So after some initial confusion about which tires went back on which bikes, we were on our way!

Quebrada de Cafayate - a nice place for a 50 km ride!

 In the beginning there were 4...starting off at Devil's Throat.

View from the amphitheater, naturally carved in rocks, where we witnessed a few travelers playing guitar.

  Just me, my trusty (???) bike, and the open road.

As gorgeous as the beginning was, it didn't last long for Kelsi, as her bike chain broke in half 2 km into the ride. Sadly, there was no fixing it and we (thankfully) were able to flag down a passing La Posada tour bus for her to ride back to town. We didn't realize at the time how lucky it was that we were able to get this bus to stop for her....

And then there were 3. Narissa, Rob and I enjoy our snacks/lunch under some much needed shade at mile 24.

Halfway done and refueled with our lunch time snacks, we headed out to complete the second half of the ride. Narissa and I started out in front, because we knew Rob could easily catch up at any moment. We got about 2 km into our post-lunch ride before a man came biking up behind us and explained in Spanish about our friend with the broken bicycle. After a lot of initial confusion when I thought he was talking about Kelsi, we figured out that Rob's bike had also broken. Note - rent bikes from bike companies, not your hostel.

So now Rob is 2 km and one giant hill behind us. Since it was so easy to get Kelsi on a bus back to town, we decided to press on, knowing that he would be find fending for himself. The last 22 km were pretty difficult, especially when we didn't see any markers from km 12 to 4 and in my head I imagined we were biking about five times faster than we were. The knowledge that our bike success rate was now at 50% and Rob had the tire pump was not helpful either, but we made it!! 

HOORAY!! Now if only we didn't have two more km to go to get back to the hostel...

We arrived back in town smelly, tired and hungry, but happy with our accomplishment for the day. We spent the next hour showering, drinking lots of water and waiting not so patiently to hear from Rob. He walked into the hostel about an hour and a half later, after walking his bike (and coasting on the downhills) all 24 remaining kilometers. Turns out, not that many buses pass through the canyon, and the ones that do are not willing to stop for a young gringo man on the side of the road. Disaster. But he made it back all in one (sun-burnt) piece and we had excellent stories to tell at dinner that night!

Besides...what is there to worry about when you are city-bound??? Buenos Aires here we come....

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