Cafayate: Exploring Argentina’s Lesser Known Wine Region

A meal without wine is breakfast.  We wholeheartedly live by this slogan.  Being from the Bay Area, we have been spoiled by the close proximity to Napa Valley and the wonderful wines it produces.  Because of this, when we first arrived in South America, we admittedly were disappointed with the limited selection that was available. 

We remained optimistic, however, because we knew that Argentina was home to the Malbec heartland, Mendoza!  Finally – a great selection of wines to be consumed meal-in and meal-out! 

Unfortunately, despite ALL effort, we just couldn’t seem to fit Mendoza into our itinerary.  Things just don’t always go as planned.  Ah, the joys of long-term travel.  But, as they say, things happen for a reason, and this is what led us to another wine region in Argentina: Cafayate.

This small, dusty, town is about 3 hours south of Salta by bus and is the birthplace of Torrentés, a dry but fruity white wine that pairs perfectly to the hot climate.  We spent 3 days sampling wines from the various bodegas and have compiled a guide to moving through them.

Winery Bodega El TránsitoCafayate Mural of WineWinery Nanni Wine Bottle WallDrinking garden of Bodega NanniCafayate Painting of Native Wine DrinkerCourtyard of Bad Brothers Wine

Tasting Rooms in town

  • Bodega El Tránsito: We found the staff to be a bit unenthusiastic but considering how cheap the tasting was we were not affected by it that much, plus we did enjoy their Pedro Moises Red Blend enough to buy a bottle, which waived one tasting fee.
  • Bodega Nanni: We opted to skip the tasting/tour and just buy a bottle of the Torrontés and enjoy it in their courtyard because the scenery is beautiful
  • Bad Brothers Wine Experience: More of a wine bar than traditional winery but offer their own label to taste in a flight; we loved the outdoor patio area and the tapas are delicious!
  • Bodega Porvenir: This winery was closed when we were visiting, but we did have the opportunity to try their wine later in our trip. We heard positive reviews from fellow travelers about their in-person visit, so we feel confident in recommending them to others. 
Exploring the wine trail of CafayateRelaxing at El Esteco winery in CafayateSoaking up the sun at PiatelliEnjoying the wine at El Esteco Cafayate Argentina

Outside of town, there are a handful of wineries that demand either a bus, taxi, or bike.  We opted to go the bike rental route and would recommend it but be forewarned, it can get pretty challenging – especially in the heat!

We’ll be honest, this wasn’t the romantic, picturesque bike ride we had originally dreamed up in our heads.  We were on mountain bikes (not cute little beach cruisers), the ride there was a gradual incline (yay, sweat!) and it was post-harvest, so the vines were all bare.  But because of all this, the product waiting for you at the end is much more rewarding.

Recommended Winery Route

  • Dominga Molina: Tasting includes 5 wines of your own choosing (except for their sparkling, and premium labels) along with cheese/crackers; This was our favorite winery because the service was great and super private, likely because it was the furthest distance from town.
  • Bodega Piatelli: Two tastings offered, premium and standard, and must be done with a tour. The tours in English run every 2 hours starting at 11am.  Since the location here is gorgeous, we just decided to have an appetizer and drink a bottle outside.  This spot, though beautiful, is much more touristy.
  • Bodega El Esteco: Short hours on the weekend, so make sure they are open before heading out; we arrived after the tours were closed but were able to do a tasting in their courtyard (you pay based on the wine you choose).  Lovely setting and there is a hotel on the property if you want a full vineyard experience.

If you don’t have time to visit many wineries but want to try a variety of local product, head over to Chato’s Wine Bar.  Oscar, the owner, is incredibly knowledgeable about Argentinian wine and he has an extensive collection for you to choose from.  Plus, he’s adorable and provides excellent conversation.

Bonus Treat: Ice Cream & Wine

The last (and arguably most important) thing for us to mention about Cafayate is the helado de vino.  Yes, wine ice-cream.  In a wine town as hot as Cafayate, it makes perfect sense that this delicious treat would exist.  And we have Heladería Miranda to thank for this.  She was the first to create the local Torrentés and Malbec sorbets.  Make sure to get the both flavors side-by-side in a cone but be careful – these babies are like having two full glasses of wine!

Cheers!

 

Is Peru’s first hop-on hop-off bus worth the price? Read our review to find out! 

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