Hi, wine lovers! How are you doing? Very well, I hope. Today, I have a lot to tell you about. I’ve been on another adventure: this time I went to try the wines of Cafayate in Salta.
On the recommendation of several different people, I decided to prolong my trip and head to the next province. Everyone said that a true Argentine wine route wouldn’t be complete without a taste of the wines of Cafayate, so I hopped onto a bus and here I am!
Located in the middle of the Calchaquí Valley, the area is famous for two things: mountains and wine.
The zig-zagging roads and majestic, colorful landscapes like the Quebrada de las Conchas make the area a unique place to visit. Sunny days, cold nights and low rainfall mean it’s also an ideal place in which to tend to high altitude vines.
I’m going to share some tips to help you enjoy this magical region to the max. Buckle up your seatbelt and let’s go!
The wines of Cafayate, high altitude flavor
El Esteco: comfort and tradition
After stopping off in the city of Salta, I journeyed 120 miles to Cafayate and settled in. My first visit in the province was to the winery El Esteco. Surrounded by mountains, cacti and vines, El Esteco is a true oasis.
It’s located at the crossroads of Routes 40 and 68, at an altitude of 5600 feet. The winery currently has 800 hectares under vine and produces 7 million liters of wine a year, making it the largest winery in the region.
It’s a beautiful estate, with a hotel and restaurant called La Patios de Cafayate. Its oldest buildings date back to the early 18th century and blend colonial Spanish art with Salteñan tradition. As you wander through it, you lose yourself among picturesque sights, flavors and aromas, it’s a real journey back in time.
The winery offers several different options to visitors. For instance, you can take a guided tour and learn how the wines of Cafayate are made, or, if you prefer something more adventurous, you can take a horse ride through the vineyards.
If you’d rather venture out at night, the starlight experience of dinner on local cuisine by a campfire is a dream. And, of course, they all involve tasting the best the winery has to offer.
I know, I know: you want me to recommend wine. Some of El Esteco’s essential wines include the Old Vine line, which features one of the most delicious Torrontes I’ve ever had, as well as a very expressive Criolla. I also loved the Blanc de Blancs featuring Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Chardonnay and Torrontés.
El Porvenir: innovation and identity
Continuing with my wine tour of the wines of Cafayate, we got to our second stop: El Porvenir. It’s a family winery that is part of a new wave of establishments that appeared at the end of the 20th century.
El Retiro is their main headquarters and is just a few blocks from the central plaza of Cafayate and the bus terminal, so you can walk there easily. But don’t let that fool you: it’s still very rural.
Today, 60% of El Porvenir’s wines are exported. The winery works with French and American barrels and has about 35 lines, a mind-boggling number!
There’s plenty to do on the estate. You can tour the establishment, learning about all the different steps of their production process, the secrets of their grapes and terroirs before a lunch of regional cuisine. But if you’d rather, there’s always the option of a picnic on which you can really enjoy the countryside and the spectacular landscape.
There’s another exciting attraction: empanada making classes. Carmen teaches you to make the irresistible regional delicacy accompanied by a glass of Torrontés, one of the stars of Cafayate.
No winery visit would be complete without my recommendations, so here are a couple of El Porvenir’s stand out wines: Laborum de Parcela Torrontés Finca El Retiro and Laborum de Parcela Tannat Finca Río Seco, which are both fantastic.
Amalaya: sustainable, high-altitude wines
To bring an end to the first part of my Salta adventure, I visited Amalaya, a winery that specializes in sustainable, high-altitude wines. It began in 2010 as an off-shoot of Bodega Colomé.
Larisa and Cristoph Ehrbar, its founders, are the heirs of the pioneers Donald and Úrsula Hess. They saw something magic in Cafayate and fell in love with the place, which they say has “wonderful vibes”.
In the local indigenous language, Amalaya means “hope for a miracle.” As among these ancestral peoples, here, care for the environment and the preservation of the terroir is extremely important.
The winery’s fundamental principles are respect for the environment, people and culture of the valley and it helps them to produce fresh, fruity wines with an intense color and great personality, all under the supervision of the oenologist Jorge Noguera.
The winery has been open to tourists since 2022, and a visit is well worthwhile. I recommend their excellent wine bar, which is an ideal space in which to taste some of their best glasses along with tapas at the foot of the majestic San Isidro mountain.
The wines I suggest you try from Amalaya are, among the whites, their Blanco (90% Torrontés and 10% Riesling) and, among the reds, the Gran Corte, which is 85% Malbec and 15% Tannat and Cabernet Franc.
So, there you have some of my travelogue in Cafayate wine country. Back in the city, don’t forget to visit the plaza, church and craft market, three essential aspects of the local culture of this wonderful region. I’ll see you after my next adventure!