I left my heart and sobriety in Cafayate
Next we made our way to Cafayate, where the wine country begins which makes Argentina famous for its delicious reds and whites. From Salta your only option is going with Flecha Buses which leaves Salta at 5:50am, 10:30am, 1pm, 5pm, 7:30pm and 9pm daily. The three-hour drive was incredible and we jealously observed plenty of tourists which were in hired cars littering the viewpoints to take photos along the way.
We hired bikes for a full day (10 hours) at AR$90 and took off for a day of wine tasting. First out of town we found Vasija Secreta where we joined a full Spanish explanation about the vineyards (bodegas) range of wine (I am assuming) which lasted about 20 minutes, finally we tried a white, Torrontés which Cafayate is famous for and of course a Malbec. (Opening hours below)
With siesta upon us and everything closing down over lunchtime until early afternoon we took off to the medanos (sand dunes) which were worth the 8km ride but not astounding, good to stretch the legs however and make use of our bikes.
By the time we had made our way back to town it was 2:30pm which was perfect as El Esteco bodega was just opening its doors to tours and tastings so we stopped in there. A tour (in English) cost AR$40 and included three wines to taste at the conclusion of the tour. Instead we chose to simply purchase a glass each of one of their wines, I had a sparkling for something different and Rob had a Don David Torrontés both AR$22. We sat out in the garden and lapped up this absolutely gorgeous bodega. (Opening hours below)
We then headed for a late lunch which included a ½ liter of local Malbec, empanadas, a baguette for Rob and a quinoa salad for me which came with goats cheese and walnuts – I was over the moon to be served such a decent salad, this meal cost us AU$18 and was lovely. They are basically giving the wine away in this part of the country.
After lunch we headed out of town and found some more incredible bodegas which were unfortunately closed already for the day, even though they were only just coming off siesta they weren’t accepting visitors so we came back closer to town and stopped in at Domingo Hermanos. We approached the front desk, and in our practiced Spanish asked if they spoke English. No was the reply, so we looked at each other and scratched our heads. However the same man then told us (In English!!?) for AR$10 ($1.50) we could take a tour of the winery and taste three wines. We could not believe our luck when we were then personally taken around the factory walking amongst the wine being made, watching the wine being bottled and labels hand pasted on, it was such an amazing experience. We then tried three lovely wines, one being an exclusive Tannat variety which we enjoyed. We made our way back to the front desk and then purchased a bottle of Malbec to take back to drink in the lovely garden at our hostel, with our tour ticket in hand we were given a discount and we gleefully walked away with our AR$18 (AU$2.80) bottle of Malbec.
We enjoyed our wine in the garden and then headed out for dinner at a popular empanada restaurant, La Casa de las empanadas. Most commonly empanadas come in meat, chicken, cheese or cheese and ham but this place has 12 versions to try. We took advantage of the AR$89 promotion which included 12 empanadas and another ½ liter of Torrontés. We also ordered the locro which is a local vegetable and meat dish which is like a thick winter soup, it was delicious and I can’t wait to try another soon. This meal cost us AU$19, Cafayate was delightfully cheap and it feels fabulous to eat and drink like a king just for a couple of days.
Day two saw us visit the a goats cheese farm, Cabras de Cafayate which is about 2km out of town and an enjoyable walk if the weather is nice as it was for us. You can do an English tour for AR$10, but we chose the short explanation about the farms range of cheeses and a tasting that was significantly generous for a free tasting, we tried six different cheeses each and after choosing our favorite we trotted back to town with our wheel of natural goats cheese which set us back AU$4.80. (Opening hours below)
We visited our final bodega right in town, Nanni. It is a fully certified organic winery and once again we couldn’t believe our luck when we were offered an English tour for AR$20 each which included a tasting of four wines. This is a boutique bodega, which also has a lovely looking restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner. Although it is organic it is not vegan nor as they use egg whites (!!?) in the filtration process instead of the usual chemicals and preservatives. (Opening hours below)
Our last indulgence was a visit to Heladria Miranda, an ice cream shop with vino flavors such as Torrontés and Cabernet which they are infamous for. We had half Torrontés and half dulce de leche and the lovely lady working there also gave us a taste of the Cabernet for good measure. I am not usually an ice cream/sorbet fan but these were lovely. Another must see in Cafayate, although the Torrontés gave Rob a “tingly” tongue for the afternoon.
We were thrilled to have had so much luck with our time in Cafayate, fellow guests at our hostel weren’t all that lucky and I suppose if you are on foot and you take the time to make your way out to one of the bodegas and you are turned away you will have a completely different experience. Cafayate for us was simply a pleasure and I felt sad leaving it behind.
Bodega is open from 9am-1pm, closed for siesta then opens again at 2:30pm-6:30pm. This is a pretty bodega which also has a very small museum to visit if you do miss a tour. The tasting here was free of charge and their website does mention you require a reservation, perhaps try your luck as we did.
This bodega is open 10-11-12pm for visits and opens once again 2:30pm-3:30pm-4:30pm-5:30pm, they are very strict about their hours and you will need to sign in at the front gate with passport number.
Nanni is open Monday to Saturday from 10am with last tour given at 6pm, tours offered on the half hour. It is closed for siesta between 1pm – 3pm (but still open for lunch). Sunday it is open 11am with last tour given at 5:30pm, and is also closed for siesta (but still open for lunch) 1pm – 3pm.
Cabras de Cafayate: (Goat Farm)
Cabras de Cafayate is open Monday to Friday with tours given at 9:15am – 10:15am – 11:15 am – 12pm, then closed for siesta and reopening at 2:45pm – 3:30pm – 4:30pm with last tour given at 5pm. Saturday tours are given at 9:15am – 10:15am – 11:15 am – 12pm and closed for the rest of the day whilst Sunday tours are given at 10:15am – 11:15am with last tour for the day given at 12pm.