You want big distances, eh? Welcome to Argentina! Cafayate, the main wine growing area of Salta lies three hours south, not by plane, but by van along a windy and bumpy road. Across the fertile valley floor, we passed multiple small-holdings of tobacco and corn—as well as many stray dogs that often made the driver apply a skilled brake-and-swerve maneuver. A quick pit stop at a small goat farm and we entered the Lerma Valley, with dramatic scenery that might have been Utah. A murky river, reddened by the soil, ran the length of the valley and yielded a floor of green that gave way to more arid hillsides and stunning rock outcroppings. It took about an hour to cross this desolate but stunning valley and we encountered only the occasional person or llama before arriving in Cafayate (see topo map).
After the 60-mile long deserted valley, vineyards suddenly appear. The first building is the large colonial style winery of Michel Torino, which we fly by only to return to later.
Cafayate boasts 360 days of sun a year. We got one of the five other ones. Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time we arrived but the ground was wet and muddy and the clouds hung low over the mountains. A narrower valley than that of Salta, it is more dramatic as the steep hillsides rise up from directly behind the vineyards.
Our first stop was El Lavaque. There was an enormous oak with 100 bikes parked. The workers need some way of covering the 600 acres of the property after all. We approached the arcaded winery and had a lunch on their stunning terrace. Sadly, I forgot my download cable so photos will have to wait til I return.
Then we headed over to Patios – a stunning, 30 room hotel in a hacienda style on the adjoining property to Michel Torino. Originally started by the Torino family as a small hotel, a renovation completed in October 2005 has yielded a small luxury resort managed in the Starwood portfolio of hotels. (site).
The whole hotel was designed with feng shui in mind, the manager told us on our brief tour upon arrival. The spa boasts a range of treatments that includes “wine therapy” or beind submerged under the skins and stems of the grapes (there’s a white or a red option). This one is only available at harvest time. They do have other bottles of grape applications available all year round.
Sadly, time again was too constrained to put such treatments to the test. But it is testimony to the high quality of travel that is available now in Argentina, even in such a remote region.
After a tasting of the wines from Michel Torino, a meal in the restaurant, and a final nightcap of coca tea with a band playing music inspired from the Bolivia and Salta, I hit the hay on the 700 thread count sheets. It’s a real testimony to the current state of tourism in Argentina that this isolated town has such luxurious accommodations.