White, rabbit

One final fling with Salta, Jujuy, the northwest, goat‘s cheese and Torrontés. Actually I don‘t believe I ever got to the most important part of being in the Calchaquíes Valleys, albeit in my humble opinion. But let it be known that in the genuine, absolutely real reason of research, I did visit numerous wineries on the Salta Wine Trail, so clearly signposted that even a blind-drunk fool could turn up for a tasting.

Although Cafayate is essentially a small town and has plenty of wineries located in its centre, reaching some of the more interesting wineries which are more esthetically pleasing, such as Domingo Molina or San Pedro de Yacochuya which is owned and run by Arnaldo Etchart, and have more interesting blends can be tricky. And although I would never condone drinking and driving, well, perhaps hiring a chauffeur for an afternoon so that you can drink and be driven could be a worthwhile investment.

Both these wineries are on Route 40, heading north in the direction of Cachi, and are near the village of Yacochuya. While Domingo Molina, sister bodega to the better-known and more established Domingo Hermanos, is shiny, new and welcoming, the latter was less so, in line with its rather grandiose reputation.

With old hands coming in from the Hermanos branch of the family, Domingo Molina is slowly getting its act together with visitor activities — after all, it’s thirsty work when you drive so far to get around to these places that you might require something rather more substantial than a quarter glass of wine.

It offers up your classic reds of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a rather successful Tannat, which I just can’t get into. Too harsh on my mouth. And also a delightful, fresh Torrontés, classic Cafayate.

And it was a delightful, fresh Torrontés under the Ciclos label of El Esteco which was also a winner for my humble little palette. The only thing that soured this lovely moment at the Patios de Cafayate Hotel & Spa was precisely that. That I was dining at the Patios de Cafayate Hotel & Spa and the wine’s mark-up at the restaurant was devastatingly high — 120 pesos — and given that it has only come from next door, it seemed rather pricey.

Still, dinner was divine, with plenty of those Inca-flavoured ingredients such as quinoa thrown into the mix. Both tucking into juicy, succulent rib-eyes, we finished every last scrap too.

I’d like to make an aside, and that is that Brazilians are the new Germans, certainly from a British standpoint. Once marauded for saving the best sun loungers with a towel around hotel swimming-pools in The Algarve or perhaps the Costa del Sol, the Germans have never so much as popped up on my north-western travels. The French are big on Salta, and the Belgians on Jujuy. But the Brazilians are absolutely everywhere, taking over hotels and snapping up cases while I decide on a bottle as a souvenir. Oh, to have a strong currency…

More Torrontés
At my next port of call, Viñas de Cafayate Wine Resort, there was plenty more of the Torrontés on offer, and one with which we were familiar, the Colomé 2010. Although it was dark given that we were going for dinner, I am reliably informed this colonial-style hotel is surrounded by vineyards, and I can definitely tell you it has a cellar with some bottles I’d like to get on my own.

Despite the previous night’s steak, my reasoning indicated some more of the same after, dare I say it, too much goat’s cheese, so I started off with some wonderful lemon-doused mollejas (see photo). Some may find it odd that I dared to take on a white next with a meaty meal. But my drinking and driving companion (although not, of course, at the same time which we have already established) was having such a good time with it, it just made sense. Actually most of that Torrontés was gone between the pair of us by the time my slow-cooked rabbit main course came (and that is not a criticism).

Bookings should be made for these delightful top-end, ergo, pricey hotel restaurants, mainly because they may not let you onto the premises without one.

Patios de Cafayate Hotel & Spa, www.elesteco.com.ar
Viñas de Cafayate Wine Resort, www.cafayatewineresort.com

Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on December 4, 2012

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