Our travels have taken us to some beautiful places around the world and I have to say that Cafayate, Argentina deserves a place amongst the most tranquil and romantic of them. The bus ride from Salta is a short 4 hours through scenic mountain terrain and if you wish to splurge just a little more you can organize a round-trip tour, which stops at all the best scenic locations along the way. People come here from all around the globe to taste the wonderful wine of this region and explore the numerous picturesque fincas that surround the town.
Our time here began with a short taxi ride from the bus terminal to our amazing accommodations at Finca el Retiro, lovely residences in the middle of the vineyard with only a few rooms primarily kept free for family friends but they also allow guests to rent the residences when they are un-occupied. The hacienda is adorned in every aspect with cultural specific items from the tapestries to the beautiful paintings and out of every window all you see are the grape vines and a small swimming pool for when it gets a little warm. We gave ourselves a personal tour of the hacienda and discovered an amazing parrilla out on the back patio along with a gorgeous hardwood bar.
Once we were settled in our room we were beat from the long day so went for a short walk into town to see what the local restaurant scene had to offer, before we even made it the 3 blocks to the main square we came across Pacha and the menu looked delectable. The quaint venue with only 18 seats inside really drew us in, first with the great friendly service, then with a good bottle of albarossa Torrentés and once we thought the evening couldn’t improve our meals arrived and it only took the first bite to really press home that we had made the right choice. Watching the food arrive all around us I’m sure that there isn’t an option on the menu that wouldn’t be amazing but we ordered the sous-vide pork and bacon along with the goats cheese stuffed chicken to pair with the wine and it was the epitome of perfection.
Although we were tired heading into dinner, after a bottle of wine and with full stomachs we weren’t yet ready to call it a night and wandered into the main square where we found El Terruño and sat in their wine room. The wine list seemed great and as with most places, extremely reasonable though not wanting another bottle we settled for a glass of the house red each. Luckily for us it was near the end of the evening and the gentleman taking care of us found a bottle of malbec in the cellar with only a glass poured out and decided we should finish it off. So one glass each quickly turned into 2 and to keep us balanced he kindly offered up some complimentary cheese and bread and left us to imbibe. We eventually realized we were the only remaining customers but our kind server had politely waited for us so we quickly paid and made our way back to the finca to rest up for the following day.
The second day began with a simple breakfast prepared by the delightful staff at Finca el Retiro before we set off in search of the local goat cheese farm where we opted not to take the tour but instead purchased some cheese and sweet figs then set ourselves up on one of the many picnic tables around the factory. The walk to and from removes any guilt about indulging and is quite tranquil with the sounds of a stream on one side and acres of vines on the other. The hours here are weird though so we were lucky it was open. If you intend to visit the Cabras de Cafayate factory, I strongly recommend calling ahead to make sure someone will be there.
With our appetites sated we made our way back into town and sat down at one of the many restaurants around the square; Confiteria el Sol for a much needed coffee and to catch up on some writing and photo editing so we could relax for the evening. After a few hours we were “up to date” with work and able to continue on with our day; although there is so much to explore we opted instead to head back to Finca el Retiro and sit around the pool and take in the breathtaking scenery around us.
We were fully rejuvenated when we finally made our way back to town but it wasn’t time for dinner just yet so we had some time to kill. Luckily for us amongst the restaurants surrounding the main square there is La Cafayateña that offers quite good beer made in house and as all venues in town they also have a hell of a wine list. While enjoying our drinks we watched the towns people passing by doing this and that until finally the chef caught our eye when he bought in a whole goat to roast on the parrilla. We didn’t hang around to taste it but with the amount of preparation the chef put in I bet it was a great meal.
Instead we found a seat at Macacha, where we had scoped out earlier in the day and decided dinner tonight was going to be pasta and steak. This venue looks quite small to begin with but as you walk through the converted house you see that they have found space in every room for dining tables and the back patio is set up as a bar space with plenty of seating around it. It would take some time to identify all of the different pieces mounted on the walls, as it is such an eclectic collection of antiques with no discernable pattern or common origin but that is what makes it so great. We spent a good deal of our evening discussing certain pieces and what they way as well as admiring the obvious pieces like the old Fernet Branca poster hanging above our table.
With the evening coming to an end we found ourselves back at Finca el Retiro on the back deck enjoying a bottle of their delicious Laborum Cabernet Sauvignon while appreciating the peaceful ambience of Cafayate.
That last bottle of the evening may have been a little much for us as we woke on our final day completely un-prepared for a wine picnic and tasting; but that’s what we are here for so we sucked it up and decided copious amounts of coffee would freshen us up. After we consumed our fair share of caffeine we walked back to the finca in time to pick up our picnic basket and find a place amongst the vines to enjoy a quite little lunch. We savored the most delicious home cooked empanadas along with an assortment of salads and cheese washed down with a bottle of Amauta Absoluto Torrontés produced from the same grapes we were sitting amongst.
After spending our afternoon amongst the vines consuming the impeccable picnic it was time for our final wine tasting at the El Porvenir manufacturing facility. We met our guide Adriana here and began our tour at the front of the facilities where the old structure is beautiful and open with a multitude of barrels sitting around and then we moved on to the new space where the real magic happens. Once the tour was over it was time to drink some delicious wine from the El Porvenir product range. As we had the torrontés earlier with our picnic we opted to taste the Rosado de Malbec instead, which was phenomenal, yet it somehow only got better with the 2 following varietals, the syrah and cabernet sauvignon.
Earlier in the day we met a really nice American expat, John who is heavily invested in a local wine community on the outskirts of Cafayate who kindly offered to take us on a tour of some local vineyards we had not yet experienced. So, we spent the rest of our day exploring the local countryside with John and you can read all about the other vineyards, hotels and restaurants in our separate article, Exploring Cafayate with John.